"Well, if I get blown to pieces, at least it'll be in paradise". Meyer looked around him in wonder. The approaching dark of the Moldovan evening has thrown blue haze on the hills and the valleys. The tiny silver ponds shivered in the breeze. The alabaster lillies danced on their surface under the clouds of gnats. The heather and the grasses gave off a head turning aroma. The frogs, the cicadas, just began their nightly song. And thousands of stars looked down at the Earth with consternation. Even the mud on the road, where the soldiers walked, was glistening with unerring beauty.
The two soldiers plodded on, Meyer carrying the spool of telephone wire, about four feet in diameter, his comrade, Wolfzon - loaded with the tent, tools, wooden poles and the cooking utensils. He was also unreeling the wire from the spool on Meyer's back, laying a communication line for the approaching army. Usually, Lt. Serov would stride unburdened in front of them, giving instructions and feeling important. Today he walked a quarter of a mile back, and the soldiers knew why.
|Red Army soldier|
Meyer and Wolfzon helped each other to pick up their loads and set off walking again, Meyer praying to God in whom he didn't believe and Wolfzon getting quietly high. In addition to smoking pot, he also dug out a bottle of hooch, and Meyer heard the musical sounds of the alcohol pouring into Wolfzon's mouth. No one could find drugs or booze better than Wolfzon. No matter, where the telephone unit was: how far in the countryside or in the most ransacked city; Wolfzon would lay his hands on anything that he could sniff, snort, take, drink or cook that would bring him the desired oblivion. It was a testament to the desperation of the Soviet government that a known drug addict and a flat-footed, 18 year old boy, chronically suffering from severe sinus infections, were drafted at all!
As Meyer walked off, he heard the thuds of the lieutenant's fists smacking into Wolfzon. Wolfzon just grunted and giggled in response to the blows.
The night became darker. Walking backwards with a heavy spool and unreeling the wire was hard work. Even so, from time to time Meyer looked up at the stars and mouthed prayers that his grandfather taught him.
|Yakov and Hannah,|
|Lev later in life.|
|Meyer's family later in life. He is the third|
from the left in the back row.
As he worked, the fear gradually dissipated. The spool was getting lighter. Meyer saw a crumbling wall of the abandoned village. He took a short rest in the club building, left everything there that he wouldn't need on the way back and set out to help Wolfzon and Serov. They had to drug Wolfzon between them, while Serov kept on a steady stream of dire threats and racial slurs. He insisted on putting unconscious Wolfzon in a separate hut for the few hours before the dawn.
In the morning, he wasn't there. Usually, after drinking and doing drugs, Wolfzon would be miserable and limp as a noodle, in withdrawal. They went out of the hut and looked around. The morning was quiet and ordinary. They saw Wolfzon, moseying toward them through a small apple orchard, chewing on an apple. He was weak but unharmed. Wolfzon finished the apple, spat the seeds and made a show of throwing the uneaten core back into the trees.
The blast of the explosion flung all of them to the ground, the earth clods and the pieces of the tree pelting them as they writhed in mortal fear. Afterwards, they sat there, digging the dirt from their eyes and trying to hear through the ringing in their ears. Wolfzon was pointing at what used to be an orchard and stuttering: "I w-w-walked through there j-just n-now!" Serov's pants were wet and sagging in the back and he smelled like shit.
|The Soviet soldiers walk through Hungary, 1945.|