In Memory of all Veterans
Before me I have an open, slightly faded, thin green notebook. The yellowing pages are covered with fairly neat, but hard to read cursive writing in a foreign language. Tucked into the flyleaf, a small black-and white photograph of a man with a brave open face looks at me with determined eyes.
The notebook and the picture belong to the father of one of my family members and is kept as a memory token. The man on the picture wears a civilian jacket, a white shirt, and a tie; obviously the picture was taken much later than the events he describes in his notes.
During World War II he served as the commander of the anti-aircraft installation on the battleship Merciless, which was destroyed during the bloody fights for the Crimea Peninsula (Black Sea). The man on the picture, then about 21-22, 46 years later wrote down his reminiscences of the battle operations in a thin notebook. I want to quote few last pages describing the day when his ship was sunk by German air forces in my translation.
“The attack of Crimean Ports, occupied by the German army, on 6th of October 1943 was the last for the Merciless. On this day, three other ships were brutally destroyed by the Nazzis.
Without a cover from the air, the ships appeared to be helpless, as the Germans sent hundreds of planes coming in waves of 30-40 at a time. They resembled flocks of crows. The airstrike was going on without stop, finally sinking all three battleships. Finding themselves in the water, the tired, defenseless sailors were subjected to a fire from the aircrafts’ machine guns. Fascist planes were aiming at individual sailors and in case there was a group of people, they dropped bombs. This merciless massacre lasted throughout the whole day. To make matters worse, oil spilled from the drowned ships’ tanks on surface of the water got ignited by fire bombs, and the sailors were now in the midst of roaring flames. A storm which started by the evening swallowed the majority of the exhausted people who survived the airstrike.
The memory of that day now for 46 years haunts me as a ghostly dream. Only 50 of about 750 people reached the hard ground.” (not counting a bear who happened to be on one of the ships.) “It seems that those who survived were born under a lucky star.”
That war has already passed. The ones who survived have long passed away as well. No more sufferings, no pain. But that war wasn’t the last, and none of it is a “nice” war; whether it is led in the sake of a beautiful ideal or material gain, it is always as brutal and terrible as ever, shattering lives and hopes, bringing tragedies to either side (victors and losers). It has no compassion.
I am sure that anybody who was in the action can tell stories of human suffering of equal degree. Therefor I quote this veteran in memory of all and everyone who experienced the atrocities of wars.