Wednesday, May 25, 2022

In the East, On the Soviet Border

The border between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from September 1939 to June 1941,
somewhere in the occupied territory of Poland.

"What the Hell is the name of this place again?" Gefreiter Ernst Paulus asked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun crew.

"Samowicze, Herr Gefreiter!" Schütze Kazimir Dutka barked out, coming to a rigid position of attention as he did so.

Schütze Jan Kołodziej nearly choked as he tried to stifle a laugh. It got worse when he saw the look on Paulus' face.

"Verdammte Polacken!!" Paulus yelled, then burst out laughing.

He actually liked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun team, Dutka was a real horse when it came to schlepping ammunition and Kołodziej made a superb assistant gunner. The man swapped out belts as smooth as silk so that the gun never missed a beat.

The two Poles had been discussing just how beautiful this section of Poland was, not far from the border with the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Dutka had mentioned slipping over the border and stealing a cow, "It will be like the old days Jan!"

Jan had laughed and said they shouldn't do that as their new masters, the Germans, might not understand them starting a war with Russia before Hitler was ready.

Paulus had never seen a bleaker landscape, endless sandy fields interspersed with woods. Even the people of the region seemed a throwback to medieval times, he doubted that they even knew what electricity was.

As they laughed, manning their post at the border crossing, Leutnant Spahn came up with their squad leader, Unteroffizier Werner Baumbach, "I'm glad you boys are having a good time. Any sightings of our 'allies' across the way?" The lieutenant had had a smirk on his face when he had used the word "allies," they all hated the Russians and couldn't wait to cross over and destroy them.

But for now, they lived in an uneasy coexistence, both sides understood the need for separation, the nearest Soviet border post was a good kilometer to the east. Jan had mentioned that it wasn't far enough, "You can still smell the bastards when the wind is in the right direction."

"Don't like the Russkis, do you Jan?" Paulus had commented after the lieutenant had left.

"Nope, dislike them even more than Germans."

Though Jan had smiled when he said that, Paulus wondered. It hadn't been quite a year since Germany had marched into Poland, both of his erstwhile comrades had been in the Polish Army then, no doubt they had both killed Germans while wearing a Polish uniform. Though both men seemed to like him alright, he wondered if they would just as soon kill him as look at him.

It was then that Dutka had clapped him on the back and said, "My dear Gefreiter, you shouldn't worry, ever. You're almost a Pole yourself, being from Gdansk¹. Er, I mean Danzig ..." Dutka grinned, he actually liked Paulus.

Jan nodded, "Yes, you would make a good PolackGefreiter Ernst."

"You two make me nervous, you know that right?" Paulus had hissed at the two as Baumbach came out of the small guard shack next to the road.

"Okay, you three, knock off the grab-ass and get on your gun. According to Leutnant Spahn, the Commies are sending over some officer to talk with our colonel. Don't shoot the Russian bastard, but keep an eye on them while I check their papers."

"Do you read Russian, Herr Unteroffizier?" Dutka had asked.

"Just enough to get in trouble and seem like I know what I'm doing."

Jan mumbled to Dutka, "Sort of like your German Kazimir."

Dutka gave him an evil look before grinning, "Better than your Polish, you half-German mongrel."

Both men stopped when Baumbach stood in front of them, "Something you two would like to share with me?"

"No, sorry Herr Unteroffizier, we were just commenting on the weather. It seems dry this year.. We should see the dust from the Russians' vehicle when they're approaching." Dutka answered.

Baumbach just shook his head, "Verdammte Polacken." Then he walked back to the guard shack.

Jan mumbled in Polish, "We get that a lot from the Niemcy, don't we?"

Dutka smiled and said, "Yes, not everyone has the honor of being Polish, makes 'em jealous I think ..."

¹ The Polish name for Danzig, and the name that fair city bears today.


  1. Poles and so many others were treated as "sub-human" by the Nazis, so much for "racial pride". Like to see the interaction between the Germans and the Soviets Sarge.

    1. Well, they will be interacting a lot shortly! (At least until the Russians take Berlin that is.)

  2. Most times, reading the story, I feel like an eavesdropper: this time like a third Polish Schütze at the barrier. TNX.

    1. Wow, thanks Boron, that's how I want the readers t feel, not watching but being right there.

  3. Fighting German invaders as Polish solder, then drafted into the German army and fighting everyone else in Europe while wearing a German uniform. Odd odd odd....I guess a I missed a lot of history tidbits?
    Great characters!

    1. Eastern Europe is a jumbled sort of place and the Poles are a very adaptable people. Many Poles wound up in the Wehrmacht, many of them deserted to the Allies at the first opportunity.

  4. Poland is an endlessly fascinating historical treasure. I would suspect that most Americans have no idea that at one time the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the Great Powers of Central Europe (with a really confusing political system to boot).

    That description of the scenery reminds me other flat plains I have been in: West Texas, Wyoming, Kansas: The Flat And The Wind.

    1. The Poles are a tough bunch, no matter what, they survive.

  5. Excellent story. You do have a talent for making it real.


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