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When God Looked the Other Way

Wesley Adamzyck: When God Looked the Other Way: An Odyssey of War, Exile, and Redemption (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2004) Look for this book at Amazon.com

"A half-dozen soldiers rushed through the rooms, knocking down lamps, crystal vases and decanters, paintings and furniture while two soldiers with fixed bayonets stood guard over us. They all looked alike--short and stocky with round faces, drab-looking green uniforms, and hats adorned with red stars..... It took the invaders fifteen minutes to ransack our house. Then they left through the front door, leaving us huddled together in the middle of the room. A minute later, two of them returned with an officer, a captain of the Soviet secret police. He was dressed in a bluish-gray uniform with red stripes running down his trouser legs and a round hat with a blue band around it and a red star in the middle." p.27

"Between forty and fifty people were crowded into each [railway] car. At each end of the car, the Soviets had built two wooden shelves to serve as bunk beds.... Straw was spread over the bunks and on the floor of the car.... Those who did not have a space on one of the bunks had to lie on the floor." p32

"Often boiled water was not available because the stoves at the stations were broken or there was no fuel; at these times Mother and I would get boiling water from the locomotive's boiler. Even if it had a foul odor and taste, at least it was hot and sterilized." p35

"The major problem with these [communal] baths was that they very often lacked soap, had no fuel for the heaters, or were broken. As a result, they were themselves a good place to pick up lice." p51

"Shortly afterward, we moved into Ivan and Natalia Petrovich's straw-roofed, clay-brick hut. They were an old Russian couple whose stooped posture, wrinkled faces, and worn hands showed not only their age but also years of hardship.... [Mr. Petrovich] tended a garden adjoining the hut, using human waste taken from the outhouse for fertilizer, as most of the locals did. He asked us all to defecate in his garden during the spring and summer to feed his crops, but we declined." pp68-69

After the German invasion in June 1941: "The Soviet government began to confiscate most of the food supplies from government farms to feed the Red Army and the war-zone population, leaving next to nothing for the people they robbed. Except for tempting displays of ham, sausages, fish, cheese, and bread all made out of wood and painted to simulate the real items, the stores were empty almost all the time except for miniscule portions of rationed bread and flour." p73

"Bartering for food during the war was an illegal and therefore dangerous propositon.... Mother always sought out the Kazakhs, who were trustworthy people with sympathy for our plight.... From them, Mother was occasionally able to obtain rye flour." p80

"Our second winter on Soviet soil was much worse than the first.... Lack of food drained whatever energy we still had to perform our simple daily chores.... [O]ur gums bled, we developed boils, abcesses, and rashes, our stomachs were distended and there were discharges from our eyes and ears." p95

"Mother poured coarse brown flour into [boiling water] and stirred the mixture. Minutes later, when the paste thickened a bit, she poured a portion into a soup bowl.... I ate it very slowly to prolong the sensation of eating...." p98

They joked that NKVD stood for Neisvestno Kogda Verioshsya Domoi meaning "You never know when you will be allowed to go home." p105

Trying to find a train south: "After making our way to the station platform, the first thing we saw was excrement and urine stains all over the platform.... One could not take two steps in any direction without stepping into a mess, and the stench was horrible.... No one knew when the train would arrive." p117

"With troops, supply trains, and civilians going in every direction, chaos reigned at each railroad station. [M]any people became separated from their families--little children stood crying and alone while parents searched frantically for their lost children." p120

"The orphaned children were led off the train to get what fresh air they could in the blistering heat. All had shaved heads, sunken cheeks and chests, and bulging eyes.... Pus dripped down their faces. Flies and bugs crawled over their bodies." p122

"About three weeks from the time we left Semiozersk we arrived in Krashnovodsk." p121

"The Kaganovich carried almost forty-five hundred Polish soldiers and civilians, dangerously exceeding its tonnage capacity.... During the night most people simply headed for the railing closest to them to relieve themselves. As a result, both sides of the ship were soon covered with urine, excrement and blood from those who had dysentery. Many who were too sick to move were lying in their own exretions, covered with flies." Took nearly two days to cross the Caspian Sea. pp131, 133.

Pahlevi, Perisa: "We arrived with little more than our unwelcome baggage of lice, bugs and disease. We were stripped and sent through special showers with disinfecting and delousing sprays. People found to have lice and nits had their hair shaved off. What we had been wearing was burned, and we were issued new clothing." Two weeks' quarantine. Palm-leaf shelters on the beach, each occupied by 50-60 people on army cots, head to foot. "We were close enough to the sea that the sound of the waves washing up on the beach lulled us to sleep." p137

Tehran: "modern buildings, elegant shops, and well-dressed people. Men wore European suits, white shirts, and ties; most women wore chadors." p151

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