A pilot, unfamiliar to me, a captain, was sitting in the doorway and cried bitter tears. I asked him, "What is the reason?" - "My arm is injured but the wound isn't the reason. I'm crying because of what takes place at the front: losses, losses, losses! No rescue. As a new regiment arrived - it exists just for two hours of fighting. Terrible losses." I asked some injured soldiers who passed us if Karmanovo was already seized. "What is Karmanovo?" - was the answer. They didn't know anything but blood and death. Burned villages, burning villages. Some soldiers being shot there fell into the flames...
It is impossible to get used to the deaths of your fellow-soldiers. It is completely different from a death of some elderly person. Here, at the front, you see the death of a young man who just a moment before rubbed shoulders or socialized with you and you understand that you could be in his place:
After one of these fights I almost lost my mind. I killed three Germans. And when the fight was over and I calmed down a bit I noticed that there were only two dead bodies of those whom I killed. I started to run in the trench: where is the third German??? Where?? I was turning german bodies and was looking for "my german", the red-haired one. As I was killing him I noticed that he was red-haired. I was worried that he survived and crawled away, in which case I should find him and kill this f.... bastard. I was like a wild beast. Anyway, usually, even if we would manage to capture the first trench, then after few hours Germans would get it back. They would shoot at us from mortars, would bomb us for a long time and then counterattack. We would not have enough people to try fight for this trench and we would have to retreat.
As soon as the first echelon burst ahead, it came under a strong direct fire, both the tanks and infantrymen were beaten. Our echelon entered such a zone where only the shells' hisses were heard and the explosions took place far behind us. However, one shell fell to our share: I heard the hiss and: lost consciousness. I lay like a log: didn't budge, didn't hear, and didn't speak:
I remember how we were on duty guarding the truck loaded with bread. It was in December already, frost! But we wore thermal clothes: quilted trousers and jackets, short fur coats, sheepskin coats and valenki (kind of felt boots). So you looked as a Santa Claus pacing back and forth with a rifle in his hand. And all your thoughts were only about something edible. Daydreams were – smoked sausages and hams…
In the burning village I was visible to everyone and as soon as I dove into one of the trenches, the shell exploded on the breastwork. The breastwork was swept off and private Ivanov and I were stunned. The second shell didn't follow. Perhaps, the Germans thought that we were killed.
The loading took a long time, German and Russian swearing poured, polizeis' whips struck, prisoners moaned, fell from the beam unable to take the shoving, Germans shot those too weak without pity, and so, settling near the wall in the corner, we even felt cozy, since there was no danger of being executed anymore.