Sunday, February 22, 2009

Recalling Military Memories

Note: Dad asked me to resurrect this post that he submitted to a blog focusing on the Margheim Family so he could offer his readers another story from his past. He thought it would be nice to take a break from posting only hospital-related news! By the way, he said today they're taking real good care of him at Parkiew Medical Center and he's healing nicely.--Becky Jamison

I bet a lot of our generation of Volga German descendants wish a greater effort would have been made to record stories of our parents' and grandparents' experiences. Not only of the immigration and USA adaptation, but how it was in the old country of Russia.

My Mom’s dad, George Koleber, served in the White Russian Army. Now that would have been interesting to learn of the details regarding Red Russian Army vs. White Russian Army. I had a conversation with one of the auditors at the meat packing plant who was from Wichita, He told me his Grandfather also served in the White Russian Army. So there must have been a decided difference. I remember talk of the ruthlessness of the Bolsheviks. And as I told you before, I remember Grandpa Koleber reading a letter (in German) from his relatives in Russia saying they were starving in the early and mid 1920s. Apparently the Bolsheviks permitted our people to send mail to the USA. I looked up Bolshevik in the Webster Dictionary and it includes the comment it was a faction of government that formed the Communist Party in 1917. Mom’s folks came over in 1904, so probably they experienced living during that political turmoil. It is a wonder they even permitted the Volga Germans to leave, from what we know of the Russians during the Berlin Wall.

Growing up during the 1930s and 40s, heritage of family was the last thing on my mind. Visiting with others now, I understand that some of our immigrants did not want to talk about the subject. It was treated much like the WWII combat Vets who do not want to open old wounds and memories of their horrible experiences. I know I still had realistic nightmares ten and fifteen years after my discharge. Phyllis, my wife, had to wake me up, and I was wet with sweat.

For Several years after I came home, the sight or mention of SNOW took me back to the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg and Belgium Dec 1944 to Feb 1945. I shall never, never forget the body parts and blood stained snow. I could hardly sleep at the time. My lips were swollen, crusty with scabs from biting them to bleeding in my sleep.
I had to tell our officers that I could not continue to be their interpretor, for telling folks they had to evacuate their homes so our officers could use them for billets, upset me. One such house already had 30/35 occupants, (most homes in the small town had been bombed out) and one lady just had a baby that night when I went in the house to tell them "HERR-ROUSE" (Evacuate). They took me to the upstairs room where the mother lay on a blanket on the floor with her newborn infant. How inhumane can you get to force someone like that into the streets. (Our CO consented to let them stay). With my experiences in talking to those folks, they explained how they were not Nazi, that they were part of the underground that helped our downed Air Force personnel get back to Britton. They talked the same language I spoke, how could I not believe them. Speak about “Unser Lueit.” I lived the exposure.
Well, you know Ernie. Get me started and I don’t run out of words. My fingers just keep clipping away at these keys as though my brains were in my finger tips.


Harriet said...

Becky, Thanks for the update on your Dad and the post. My Dad's brother, Eugene Kelly, died in Luxembourg March 22,1945. He was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. All of his brothers and sisters are now dead. None of his nieces and nephews knew him but he has not been forgotten.

Amy (We Tree) said...

What a nice surprise to see a "new to me" story from Ernie today. Glad to hear you're doing well. Hope they spring you soon!

Greta Koehl said...

Ernie and Becky - I'm so glad you posted this story. It was fascinating to learn that you served as an interpreter; I work as a translator! I will never forget your description of those events.

Terri said...

We haven't seen any updates on Ernie lately - I hope all is going well and let you know that all you fellow bloggers miss you and look forward to your return!