By October, 1944, the Nazi army was in the midst of, effectively, a fighting retreat. They had been pushed out of Russia, and were fighting the 1st-3rd Belorussian Fronts to hold gains in Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania.
October 6th, 1944
Met Gudkov, who was with Sergei1 in the Bryansk forest in Belarus, he asked to reprimand Sergei for the town of Kosina [suburb of Minsk], where he was found drinking during the bombing. Now with the newspaper editor. Odd to see such foolishness on the advance (Olga), even though they are only 25 kilometers from the front. Yes, it’s hard to live in such a situation!2
Roza’s brother Sergei in his NKVD uniform, 1943.
October 8th, 1944
With Gudkov rode on a plane for the first time in my life. Now we are in the 215th Rifle Division with Kazarin.3 Miss the 338th. People, it seems, are not the same there. I can’t do bad work, it hurts my conscience, but well, this newspaper rigmarole4, the girls got jealous and spread rumors; morale is ruined.
October 10th, 1944
The German retreat is going forward, to the left. Met Kazarin. Everyone says: he’s not good for the good girls, and not just a “womanizer.” I remember Gorodovikov,5 no comparison, how difficult…
Basan Badminovich Gorodovikov
That may be the case, but I won’t be that stupid. Waiting (silly). I saw in a dream my brother Fyoder. My heart is heavy, I’m 20 years old and do not have a close friend, why? And lots of children, but my heart does not trust anyone. I blame this scum that comes with army life, wrecking everything, not caring about a girl.
Roza’s older brother Fyoder, who she had lived with when she first moved to Arkhangelsk. He was killed in action sometime in December, 1942.
It is said that the girls won’t be allowed in to Germany6, but we are already on the border. Where will fate take us? I remember Misha Panarin. What a good guy. Killed… He loved me, I know, and I him. Senior Sergeant, 2 years in the institute, educated, polite, humble, decent, nice guy. I felt very sorry for him. He was not allowed to keep company with my superiors. From Major on up given only one ration, supposedly, but I am not so low. Friends help each other, and it pays off.
Before Blokhin, Solomatin. I liked them, but I knew it was only temporary, left, and did not write letters – there’s the proof. After the 338th Infantry Division I was in the corps. In the 184th ID no one knew me, or only a little – superficial and comradely.
Yashka Gudkov could be good for me. Oh, how much injustice! Take the girls. Sasha Ekimova, my friend, and a fellow sniper. When I have success, she is friendly. When I have none, she is gone. I am now enjoying great prestige, and she is with me. I don’t like this. I want friends like Agnes in grades 5-7 and Valya Chernyaeva from courses 1-3 in technical school. Can’t find them, no. A negative trait of mine – this evil enemy in my character. Dusya Kekisheva. Everyone greatly admires her character, but she will not make friends with me, inasmuch as when we tried earlier to make friends, I betrayed her, and Sasha made an effort to be a good friend, but with Kali I believe there were dirty tricks, and now it shall never be, alas! Dusya hates me for betraying her. Kalia Petrova. Refuses to make any other friends. Shares everything, they have no secrets, everything she tells to Sasha, everything in the whole world.
1 Sergei Shanin, Roza’s brother.
2 Sergei had been fighting on the Sesupe river, which at that point separated the Soviet Union from Nazi-held East Prussia. He was head of a special intelligence unit for the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB). Unknown to Roza, he had been arrested in Moscow on September 26th, 1943. At an NKVD trial on March 18th, 1944, he was found guilty of failure to carry out orders, abuse of power, and misconduct in the presence of the enemy. He was sentenced to 10 years hard labor.
3 Andronik Abramovich Kazarin, Hero of the Soviet Union.
4 Roza had already become something of a celebrity by this point. She had won her first “Order of Glory” medal barely two weeks after her tour of duty began, for actions in the village of Kozyi Gory, and had been featured in many army and civilian newspapers.
5 Basan Badminovich Gorodovikov, Hero of the Soviet Union.
6 German held territory, not Germany proper. Sidenote: in Russia, all women are referred to as “dea-voch-ka” (girl) until they are clearly elderly, at which point they immediately become “babushka” (grandmother). Using the tern “zhensh-ch’na” (woman) is considered disrespectful.