We're Matt and Mouna, and we'll be typing out the answers for Mouna's Opa (German for grandfather), Michael Mirson (born Mikhail Mirsayef - or as other family members in Azerbaijan write it Mirzeyev). We'll answer the questions in the first person (and where possible we will quote him verbatim to give you a feel for his level of English), and get to as many as possible. Opa gets tired pretty easily, so we will take breaks throughout the day, and if necessary we'll answer more tomorrow. Here's our summary of his story:


Born on a farm in Armenia, my father was taken to Siberia never to be seen again when I was 10 years old. The Soviets used the farm as a collective farm, killed our honey bees, and confiscated all of the livestock. At 16, I escaped from the farm and fled to Yerevan, Armenia. I managed to enter veterinary school, attended for three years, and was conscripted into the Soviet army in 1941.

War in the Caucasus

The Germans soon pushed into the Caucasus Mountains, probably heading for oil-rich Baku, Azerbaijan, and the Soviets defended fiercely. While fighting in the mountains I was injured from a hand grenade explosion, with over 26 shrapnel pieces in my body. I was transported to Sochi on the Black Sea to a hospital and in November I was sent back out to fight back in the mountains.

While fighting again the Germans surrounded our battalion, with fighting on all of our sides. I remember an explosion while I charged with my rifle and I was knocked out, awaking to a German kicking me in the back. My finger was hanging from my hand and was bandaged. Germans took our overcoats, and we suffered heavily through the night, with nearly half of my fellow soldiers freezing. Somehow I survived. We marched for four days into a valley that separated Georgia from Russia.

I was marched to a prison camp in a small city in southern Russia called Maykop, where I stayed for about three months. The Russians were advancing on the German position and we were given the choice of marching with the Germans or facing our Russian comrades who would, in our eyes, most definitely kill us for surrendering. Most chose to march towards German lines, though many died during that march. With so many wounded horses I was given the chance to show my veterinary skills and was given a position as an assistant veterinarian for almost three years with the German veterinarian.

The War Ends

Eventually we ended up in Austria, where we were fighting the oncoming Russians. A high ranking German officer came to speak to us. He told us the war was over. He told us we were on our own, and that the American line was about 50km west. He warned us that the Russian line would be more dangerous, but we only had about 5 or 6 hours to make it to the Russian line.

Fleeing to the American Lines

Taking my time and giving my horse plenty of rest, I made it to the American line and was put into a camp as a German prisoner. With other Soviets, I convinced the American commander that we were not Germans, and just like that he let us go. I found work on a farm in Austria. When we learned that the area of Austria we were in was possibly part of Czechoslovakia, which would be Soviet territory, and fearing for our lives, we fled to an UNRA refugee camp in Germany and sought work.

Post-War and moving to the US

As a free man, I eventually met my wife in Amberg, Germnay, married in 1946 and had two children (including Mouna's mother). After that we came to the US by boat in 1951 in hopes of something better (my first choice was actually to move to Australia, but at the Australian consulate I was rejected because I am a Muslim). We had another child, lived and worked on farms, lived in New York City, worked any job necessary, moved to Boston, owned a diner, had a stroke, and live happily with our three daughters, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

here is a photo of me when I was conscripted

(Whenever someone asks Opa how he's doing he says "I'm doing OK - I'm an old soldier," hence the account name!)

EDIT: Proof of identity sent to mods

EDIT: Formatting

EDIT: Taking a break for lunch. This is amazing. Lots of tears shed from all parties over here, especially when he's describing his mother and thinking he was dying. Opa is so grateful for all of your questions. He loves answering them. He said, "I'm all over the world? Great!"

EDIT: Taking a nice long break, Opa needs a nap! Keep them coming though, he wants to answer them all. EDIT: We're back (6pm EST) EDIT: Taking the night off, Opa's off to bed. See you at 7am EST

EDIT: Hey guys! We're going to look at a few more questions this morning, but Opa has requested a lighter day. He is loving this, and is eager to catch up with you all, tomorrow! EDIT: 9:45am EST and we're done for the day. He'll be back on tomorrow morning. Thank you all!

"Thank you all very much. I appreciate your interest. If you have more questions, I answer tomorrow (saturday)."

Comments: 460 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

MsBostonLee69 karma

What were your initial impressions of America upon arrival?

Thank you, in advance.

OldSoldierOpa157 karma

Very good. In America, there is freedom. I had come from countries of dictatorship. In America I found freedom and love (as in the people were very friendly and loving). I found a job, and plenty of food! I love America.

Eversmot130 karma

We love you

OldSoldierOpa138 karma

Oh thank you! Thank you, I'm grateful! I'm honest, hardworking man.

GatorsWearingJimmies60 karma

Thank you for the AMA. What was the soldiers moral like fighting first for the soviets, then for the germans ? Did they differ ?

OldSoldierOpa170 karma

Russian side was terrible. No prepared food, not prepared with uniform, clothing. Very harsh, they treat you like slaves. You march day and night, no proper shoes so your foot is blistered. You come to front line almost half-dead. Everyone was very unhappy, nobody wants to fight really. They force you to fight. Nobody fights from their heart. Before they send us to the front line, the guards with good food and good shoes, they said "if you come back and not fight good, we shoot you." If you turn back, they shoot you.

First when I was on front lines the German was hiding, we go like sheep, the Germans shoot for 15, 20 minutes, almost half the battalion gone. I did not see the Germans. We can't go back because the guard shoots at us. We wait until dark, and we are calling out "hey, is anybody alive?"

We talked about going back, and went back and the commissar asks "comrade soldiers, how many Germans did you kill?" I said comrade commissar, I did not see the Germans" He almost beats me, he is so angry. Next guy, he says "comrade commissar, I killed 6 Germans." He lied, he was with me, he no see Germans.

Later I said "you son of a bitch, how come you said you killed 6 Germans, you did not see Germans." He said, "hey, use your head: commissar called you coward, called me hero." There is no discipline. No morals, no morale, many lies.

The German army was very disciplined, very good fighting strength, food was good, morale was good. Much difference.

GatorsWearingJimmies69 karma

Thank you for the in-depth reply. I am a history student and your story sent goosebumps all over my body. I am so grateful you made it out and you have a family to love. War is so tragic, hearing a first hand story is an inspiration.

Do you know why the soldiers were trained/treated so differently between the Soviets and Germans ? Do you think it was leadership, beliefs, the contrasting dictatorships ?

OldSoldierOpa86 karma

Okay. Russia and German was both dictatorship, but Russia was very poor because of collective farm. Not enough food, not enough nothing, a lot of propaganda. But German was much, much better condition than Russia. Soldiers have good food and discipline. Germany was just in better condition than Soviet Union.

Really, the Soviet Union people, all no one really liked the Communist Regime. When the war starts, everyone thought 'thank God we be free.' But when the German come, they were not better. They were very harsh to Russian people.

GatorsWearingJimmies32 karma

This is so fascinating. I often hear/read/observe people who have lived in an oppressive regime and they loved their leader, such as Mussolini or Hitler. Written all over history books they explain the harsh conditions of Soviet Union I just always believed there must have been love/commitment towards Stalin or even perhaps hope or faith that he would do whats best for their country. So it surprises me people thought the war would "save them".

How were the conditions in the refugee camps when you finally fled to Germany, especially not being of German decent? Did you feel animosty? What was life in post-war germany like once you left the refugee camps?

OldSoldierOpa83 karma

Very few in Armenia loved Stalin. Nobody loved Stalin, not in the army. Forcefully, you got to show you "love" comrade Stalin. When the war first start people was glad, everyone was happy, they said war starts, Germany wipes out communism because everything was shortage, people don't know what is sugar anymore, meat anymore, shortage of clothes, they think Germans come, everything will change.

But the Germans were very harsh, Germans was worse than communism. They treat people like animals, they were "German! The German race is the best," they treat people not too good.

GatorsWearingJimmies34 karma

Thank you for all your replies. I am so grateful to be able to hear your story !! So, how were the conditions in the refugee camps when you finally fled to Germany, especially not being of German descent? Did you feel animosty? What was life in post-war germany like once you left the refugee camps?

OldSoldierOpa53 karma

Well, was not too bad. It's crowded with people crowded in one room, 2 or 3 families sleeping together. Food was okay. Big army barracks! There was a group called UNRA. They help us with food and clothing.

I have no hostile feelings for nobody. I am only hostile to the Communist Regime. For Nazis, I had not too many contact, but I do not hate German people.

In Germany, after the war, life was very poor. Everything was destroyed. All houses were destroyed. People had very little food. We had very little job. People were not happy. They hated the war. Lot of woman lost husbands, son, brother. I liked to emigrate to another country.

imagineyoung38 karma

Is there anything you miss from Azerbaijan? Pre-war? I only ask because I've recently discovered Azerbaijan music, and it's magic.

And deep respect for such a life that you've led.

OldSoldierOpa67 karma

I miss my family, and my folks, my language, my roots. I returned in 1972 to Baku, Azerbaijan where my people had moved from Armenia. It was little better than Stalin regime. It was still communist but not too harsh like Stalin area. I never was in Baku when I was young, I lived way in the mountain, grassland, all surrounded by mountains, mostly the farmers there are animal farmers. I knew it was different because people had more freedom than during Stalin's time. During Stalin's time they would kill me if I go back, but after Stalin I can go back and see my family safely.

Still I love Azerbaijan music, it is in my blood. I love to hear that you listen to it! It almost makes you cry when you really listen to the music.

greyham_g34 karma

What happened to you mother? After you went to Yerevan did you ever see her again? Did you see any of your family? Do you know what happened to them?

Were you alone on your journey to the American lines? How did you convince the Americans that you weren't German?

Do you have anything from your time in Armenia or from the war? I would love to see pictures of anything you've kept for that long!

Thanks for doing this AMA, and thanks to the two of you for putting the effort in to get his story out there.

OldSoldierOpa67 karma

I see her in 1940, and I did not see her until 1972. She moved from Armenia to Azerbaijan after the end of the war, when the Armenia-Azer war started, 1965 or something. She almost starved on the farm. She worked on collective farm almost for nothing, half-starvation, just a little dried bread, no sugar, no milk, nothing. Everything the government takes. The people almost work for nothing.

I sent a letter to Armenia, and did not know she moved. After Stalin regime. I let them know I'm still alive, I sent in 1970 I think, but they moved. They sent the letter to her in Azerbaijan, I don't know who sent it, I had no connection. They thought I was dead. They can't believe I'm still alive. I visited them in 1972 near Baku, and she died in 1975. The family, I help a lot to my family, because they were very poor. I visited 5 times and bring gloves, clothes, packages, money. They live ok now. Life start to get a little better in Azerbaijan. They living ok.

I was not alone. There were several thousand people crossing. The Americans did not ask anything, they just bring thousands of people into big, open field. A couple days later I went to an American commander and I talk to him in Russian. I told him I had 20 or so Russians with me who marched with me. He picked up the phone and called the guard and they let us leave. We stopped marching in Austria because we heard that when Russians found their own captives in German uniforms they killed them right away.

I have nothing from that time. I speak Armenian! (Mouna has photos from her visit to Azerbaijan from the family - we will try to upload them later).

greyham_g17 karma

This is so interesting :)

I'm really glad you got to see your mother and your other family members again! Have they ever considered moving to the US as well?

OldSoldierOpa58 karma

Everybody like to move to the US, but hard to immigration. They really not tried hard to move here. Some my family come visit me. My great niece was disabled, I bringed here to Mass General Hospital, they tried to cure here. A woman made fund to raise money for expense. The American people very helpful, warm people. Always, I am grateful to American people. My brother come. He taked a lot of clothing, stuff, some many. He was very poor. Thanks to America, I helped them lot. They are in good shape now.

3dglados30 karma

My Opa also fought in Caucasus (on the german side though). Speaking of that, how did you feel about the Germans/ how did your view change throught the war or through your wife? Also thanks for this AMA :)

OldSoldierOpa65 karma

Tell the truth, I'm very thankful to German people. German soldiers very good people. Few was fanatics, but mostly people like other people. They was friendly, not racist. I no see in German army.

German people very hardworking people. Lot of good people. They very creative people. Same as my wife's family. I nothing have gripes to Germans.

Peralton26 karma

Thanks for the AMA. What an amazing story!

Have you thought about writing a book or perhaps having an interviewer record you? There are so many stories from WWII worth preserving and your's has some unique perspectives.

After moving to the U.S., what was your favorite job?

In the U.S. did you live in an area with other Azerbaijani? How well were you accepted in the U.S.?

OldSoldierOpa65 karma

Well, I like write the book from beginning to end. It's long story, interesting story, but my language not too good. If somebody help, I like tell my story in a book.

I looked not on my favorite, I looked on necessary to make a living. New England Insurance because nobody pushed you, we worked very easy in a good atmosphere. No stress. We did our job good. That's all. People was nice. Pay was okay. What can I do? I can't work veterinarian because I don't know language. I work though. I'm okay, I'm not fussy.

I had a restaurant. It's hard work job. You gotta work almost 16 hours. Not my favorite, because very hard work. Stress and nerve. Farm was good too, but little pay, long hours. Upstate New York, Saratoga Springs. I'm farm boy, I grow up on farm. I like work with animals. My sponsor was a good man, but he's poor farmer. He can't pay too much. In Germany we was displaced person. The Church war service, you have to have a sponsor to come to US. Promise you a job, a shelter. One farmer liked the picture of me and wife and daughters. He sponsored me.

No, I find few Azerbaijani here in Boston. Then we meet, we talked. On weekend we come together. But not a big population here.

Yes, American people right away just like I am American. They no difference. I'm very grateful for American people. As soon as I come in America, I like Americans. Everybody treat me not different.

AndyRooney59 karma

If somebody help, I like tell my story in a book.

Somebody help this guy!!! There have to be dozens of Redditors at Boston area universities who are aspiring writers or have an interest in history.

Bad_Karma2126 karma

What I do have is a very particular set of skills; skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a dream for people like you.

It's 12:48 a.m., and I have to get to bed soon, but I may be able to help. I'm a court stenographer living in Boston, and we have a program where we write down veterans' stories to record history. I looked into it when I started out, but you're supposed to find veterans and they didn't give much detail about what/how to do it. I can look into it more if there's any interest, but I'm only in Boston until the end of August. Sir, if this would interest you, feel free to private message me or respond to this, and I'll see what I can do.

Edit: Did a quick search and found the program -- http://www.ncra.org/Foundation/content.cfm?ItemNumber=10498 It says it's for US veterans, but they'd probably make an exception. Like I said, I can look into it more if there's enough interest, but my time left in Boston is limited. I'm sure there are other stenographers who would step up if I can't.

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

I will absolutely present this idea to him and to my family! I will be in touch soon! Mouna

throwawaycan1907125 karma

do you consider yourself a Soviet, Azerbaijani and American or something else?

OldSoldierOpa121 karma

I am real American. I love America, I love people, I am citizen about 60 years, I die in America, I am American.

My roots from Azerbaijan, but I am American, believe me. My grandchildren here, I made my life in America. If something happened, I go fight for America. Believe me, I love this country.

(Note: this man had conviction when he said this. We asked him if he would say the same thing to his family in Baku if he were there with them visiting, and he said yes, then rattled off the second half of that answer.)

Chrispy_Reddit11 karma

If only we could appreciate our freedom this way. It's truly unfortunate that you have to endure the kind of struggle and suffering that Opa has to feel as passionately as he does.

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

I know what is freedom, what is slavery. I appreciate this very much. A lot of people don't know what is freedom, what is slavery. This is why I tell my story, tell about suffering. Let the people know how bad the war is, how bad is dictatorship.

AndyRooney9 karma

Just out of curiosity, did he keep up with politics and issues once he got here? Or was he so burned out and disillusioned with it all from his experience of being under the thumb of a dictatorship?

OldSoldierOpa40 karma

Yes. I did not know too much the language and I struggled. I just arrived US 1951, I did not understand too much, but little by little I learned. "The communist here in the US wants to spy on us". I wanted things all cleared up, I wanted the communist spies arrested and put in jail. This is free country, you can believe the communist party, but not the communist to forcefully take over country. If you communist, ok, vote, don't forcefully try to take the country over. Yes, I am very interested in politics, I am very interested in news.

AndyRooney8 karma

Thank your grandfather for all his thoughtful answers. You don't get to hear too much about the Caucuses and how they were mistreated by Stalin and in WWII....and then for him to live in post-war Germany followed by his move here. If he lived in NY I would follow him around with a camera getting it all down. You guys should definitely consider doing that.

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

I'm sorry, if you want to see me, come visit me! I can't go to New York, I am old man. Thank you very much.

(We have filmed some of these answers, but there is an incredible amount of footage. It sometimes takes a while to understand what he means, or to get him to understand the question, and also sometimes he will not dig deep into a subject until we prod him, so there is quite a lot of footage. That said, the family has other videos and is planning more. Opa loves telling his stories, even the sad ones!)

MooMorris23 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA. What sort of training were you given when you were conscripted, and how long was it before you first saw action?

Were you treated any differently by the Germans because of your Muslim faith?

OldSoldierOpa59 karma

Almost no training. They showed us how to shoot the rifle, no training for orders - "just go shoot the Germans". They gave me a gun with 5 bullet and some ammunition to put in our pockets. Russian Army just herds us like sheep into front line. First I was veterinarian for six months. Then everybody was marched out to fight, all of the young people.

No. I tell you now... the Russians were very racist. They called us "black ass" or "yoldazi", all the people from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc. They gave trouble to the Jews. In Germany really they never tell us this or that about ourselves, they just tell us to work and give us food. I'm not very religious, so I did not bring this up, and mostly heard racism for my dark skin.

vsal22 karma

What did you have to do mentally to survive both the grenade explosion and through the freezing nights after being captured? Thanks Opa!

OldSoldierOpa116 karma

Well, I was in the farm, hardworking boy. I was not big man, but I was very strong, very able man. I always tried to survive.

I was crying and thinking of my mother. I was thinking I was dying. I was thinking to my mother. 'My poor mother, she don't know where I died.' I tried to survive. I think 'I got to see her.'

I was nothing to think because my stomach was empty, my hand was wounded, I was losing blood. I was not thinking too much. I don't know how I survived, this part I don't know. I survived. But, I know a lot of people died from cold and starvation. Half of the prisoners died but I survived. I don't know, really, I don't know. I survived. It's some miracle.

Several time I come from almost dead, almost died. One day they come from mountain, down on the valley. In valley is several thousand prisoners working for the Germans. They hungry too, but there's one skinny, sick horse. Germans shoot this horse for the working prisoner. I'm so hungry. I eat nothing for days and weeks. I'm dying. I go to German soldier and say so many days I no eat, I'm dying. With a big stick he says get out of here son of a bitch. I sit down and say my eyes not see too good, I'm dying from lost blood and from starvation. We have fire, I sit and I think 'poor my mother, she don't know where I died.' Somebody poked me on shoulder. I opened my eyes. The same soldier I asked for little meat had head and lung from the horse and said 'here for you, wounded people.' Lot of people there hungry, but he chased them away and said 'here, for wounded people.'

We put on fire and we eat it like wolves. In a minute, the lung is gone. Then the head, someone eats lip, other parts. From the back of the head, I reached the tongue of the horse. I take the tongue, good piece of meat and I hold on fire a little, one cooked end. I eat and eat. Gee, my eye site comes alright, I come alive. Almost I died. It's all true.

Thanks God and thanks this country. I made a life, I helped my people. That's all my story. But believe me, I not did harm to no body. In army lots of people did bad things. Raped, robbed. But not me, not me.

edit: he added to this a few minutes later

xboxbaby15 karma

Thank you so much for doing this AMA, Opa! What were the daily struggles and ordeals you faced as a soldier, if you don't mind my asking? Also, how accurate do you think this time period is portrayed throughout history books, movies, the like?

OldSoldierOpa43 karma

Food. If you hungry, you just think about food, put something on your stomach. In the Soviet Union, it was like hell. Today it is like heaven. From farm to the army it was like hell.

In southern Russia when we were marching, the roads are not like here, there is nothing but dirt roads, and the tanks, trucks, horses, wagons, people, rain, snow, the road is so like glue, the mud. You put one foot like in glue, takes couple minutes to take another step.

You march from Maykop back to the Black Sea, you can march 3-4 miles a day. Mud, hunger, a lot of people can't march anymore, falling in the mud, bullet in the head, dead people every couple yards. Mud, mud, worst enemy than anything else. I can't describe it. Same for horses, can't walk, a lot of horses died. In Russian armies horses are so skinny. In German army, large horses died but small horses survived like me.

Well, mostly American side is mostly true. In American movies they show real fighting. Soviet films show all the Russians killing Germans, that's not real.

(Note: he's having trouble understanding what you're getting at. He's very focused on propaganda movies from the Soviets. We'll add to this later if he offers anything else.)

ap200215 karma

What's most important in life?

OldSoldierOpa91 karma

Mostly, be honest and hardworking. And help for people. Don't do harm to nobody. Because, if people honest and hardworking, be life good for everybody. Friendship, and helping each other.

Don't get hooked on tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Eat normal.

And peace. Peace in the world. No war, no killing, no burning. Peace in the world.

yummyjewbabies14 karma

Why did you want to move to AUS?

OldSoldierOpa32 karma

Because no job, nothing. Germany was destroyed and I want to work and raise the family, I want a free country. I was thinking Australia is a good country with a lot of sheep, lot of animal, and I was thinking maybe I could find work as a veterinarian. It sounded like a great place with so much open land. And it was free. A lot of people were choosing Venezuala, Argentina, Brazil, etc. I just picked Australia first.


I'm sorry they said no because of your religion. Our government, like many others, can make stupid mistakes.

OldSoldierOpa25 karma

I don't know if there was mistake or not, but they don't take me. American consulate, they don't ask my religion. They look at my family, they ask if I want to take my citizenship. I say "I don't know, I don't know how I'll like America." He says, "You will like it, it's ok." So we decided to go.

(Does anybody know if the US asks religion nowadays?)

jimboishere14 karma

Did you ever come across a concentration camp?

OldSoldierOpa39 karma

No, I no see. I see prisoner camp. Terrible. First, food was terrible. They give us soup like sawdust. Lot of people eat, have diarrhea. A lot of people died from diarrhea. I don't know what it was, but not right food. Then lice, full body, so much lice. No sanitation. It was very poor. Lot of people, dozen and dozen, overnight died. In the prison camp they was digging big ditches, throwing every prisoner died there. It was terrible. People was so skinny, so hungry, like concentration camp. The prison camp was worse than concentration camp.

ojsimpsonn14 karma

worlds most interesting man!

OldSoldierOpa12 karma

Thank you, thank you!

BuckeyeJay13 karma

Why did you decide to not pursue veterinary medicine in the states?

OldSoldierOpa43 karma

Because I have no money, two children and wife, my family. I had to work, I could not afford to go back to school. In the US I had to go back to school to do that. I choose to just work to support my family.

TurboSS16 karma

But you sure had an overload of moxy and gumption. I wish I was half as manly as you

AboveTheRadar17 karma

These are not terms an old Armenian would understand.

OldSoldierOpa68 karma

(You're right, he says:) "What?"

(We explained Moxy) I am 92 years, still I am shoveling snow!

[deleted]13 karma


OldSoldierOpa29 karma

Sure, I'm glad to answer.

1) When she was teenager, send from hometown to another place to work on a factory or farm, in Wertheim. In the wartime, her family moved from where she lived, now Polish occupied to West Germany, in Bavaria. They don't want the Russians to rape the girls.

They was not too bad like Soviet Union. They had food rationing, but they were not starved. Her two brothers were in the war, and her father died when she was young. Four sisters, six children. Her mother was hardworking woman.

2) After the war, she comes to her mother in Amberg, in Bavaria. I meet her in Bavaria. In Germany after the war, there was a black market. I used to take from the farm, the meat or something, or cigarette to the black market. I was going to one farm, and on the way I see two girls and one boy sitting down on the shade. The two girls waved me, and I waved in the hand. The boy said "hey uncle come talk to us." So I talk to her and her sister, and we liked each other. We meet again, and I take some food and chocolate or something, I always gived her. We meet for six months or something, then we married in September 1946.

3)In Soviet Union, lot of Propaganda. No radio, newspaper only. Mostly lie, always they show the good side of the Soviet Union, not the bad side. Said "fascist attacked our homeland, we defend every inch, we no give to Germans. In America and Germany people are starving and have no food. In Soviet we are good."

In truth, we are starving. Working everyday, Saturday and Sunday. Everything, government takes and nothing give to the people. In couple weeks, German marched just like nothing and take half the Russia. We know this, the Soviet Union in bad shape. Thanks America, helped lot with food, weapon, with airplane, with tanks. If not helped, Russia be "Kaput."

4)We'll be back :)

AndyRooney11 karma

If not helped, Russia be "Kaput."

So do you believe that Russia would have eventually held off Germany without America's help? This has been a controversial subject here on Reddit.

Also, there has been some controversy about how much killing and raping went on when the Germans captured Soviet territory and the other way around. You mentioned above that you witnessed mass rape and robbery...was it really like that? Just German and Russian soldiers raping and killing any citizens in their way?

OldSoldierOpa37 karma

Answer to your previous Question #4: Stalin and Hitler both dictators. They fight the war, but they gained nothing. They killed millions of people for nothing. This was useless, this war.

No, no. Russian tanks from Caspian sea, from Iran. So far I know 5,000 American tanks. Lots of boots and shoes from America. Without, nothing left in Russia. No food, no tanks. If not for American help, Russia will be gone down.

I saw once in the German army. Two prisoner officers, one Russian, one Caucasian sneaked to a house, to a woman, and they raped her. The German army was very strict. They punished soldiers if they raped. They punished the two guys. I no see useless shooting and killing, no. I see lots of burning from bombing and artillery to lot of the civilians, but no shooting.

manutebowl212 karma

Did you see conscripts who tried to sabotage those who took them hostage?

OldSoldierOpa23 karma

No, I no see. But I heard some in Russian army, a lot of kitchen poisoning Soviet soldiers. I heard people talking, but I never experienced myself.

tigga_stole_my_bike11 karma

May be somewhat off-topic, but considering you were born in Armenia, how do you feel about Armenians in general and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in particular?

OldSoldierOpa27 karma

Armenian people, I have friends and love. I grew up in Armenia, and I am very friendly. I have no hatred to Armenia. I speak the language, and have many friends with the Armenian people.

The conflict was made from Russia. The Russian politics divide them, to govern them. The territory, Azerbaijan claims it belongs to Azerbaijan, Armenia claims it belongs to Armenia. It's senseless. They should sit down and resolve peacefully.

MilesColtrane11 karma

What was the training like as a Soviet soldier?

I've read about penal companies being used to clear minefields. Did you see that? Did you run into any prisoners forced into service?

Did you fight with a Mosin Nagant? How much ammo would you typically carry?

I read a post where you said you didn't see Germans when asked by a superior. Did you ever run into any German soldiers in battle? If so, how close were you to them?

OldSoldierOpa24 karma

Almost no training. They showed us how to shoot the rifle, no training for orders - "just go shoot the Germans". They gave me a gun with 5 bullet and some ammunition to put in our pockets. Russian Army just herds us like sheep into front line. (quoted from above)

I no see minefields where I was fighting. Just mostly the rifles and artillery, and the tubes, mortars.

(Note: he did not recognize the name but recognized the rifles on the wikipedia page) Yes, I fight with that, a 5 shooter. You carry maybe 30 rounds ammunition, but you go on front line and maybe half falls from you pocket.

I no see the Germans until I was prisoner. Oh maybe couple hundred yards, but they were hiding well. Officers never explain where the machine guns are, we no see nothing, only we see smoke from the machine gun and grenades, and in 15-20 minutes almost half of the people are dead or wounded.

One day on front line they come with bag of flour. They say "take off your hat" and put one cup in the hat. What you do with flour? Two men go to river and make dough, find flat stone and make bread, and cook over fire. That is front lines.

manutebowl210 karma

Did you see conscripts refuse to fight? If so, what happened to them?

OldSoldierOpa25 karma

No, not such thing. If someone refused, right away shoot them right there. Everybody have to go to frontline, fight. Not such thing, refusing.

ilamaaa10 karma

Does frost bite suck as much as people say it does?

Also how was it treated at the time?

OldSoldierOpa26 karma

I had no frostbite, but I saw many people freeze to death. I don't know what happened, some people can't stand freezing and cold, especially the city boys. Mostly the farm boys, they survived like me. The Germans took our coats to cover the German wounded. The Russians mostly had two shirts under their long overcoats.

drcface10 karma

Awesome AMA. I have a question about your life on the farm and those on "Collective farms." Was this style of living the same as serfdom during pre-USSR?

OldSoldierOpa45 karma

The communists occupied the republics in 1923. In 1930's, they start the collective farm. This means there is "no yours, no mine's, it's everybody's." If you were rich, you had not right to live in Soviet Union, and you have to go to Siberia. You were called a "Kulac." All of the good farmers were "Kulacs," and were sent to Siberia. They came on horseback, called my father a "Kulac," and take him to Siberia. Why? He was just a hardworking farmer, not a politician. Not an enemy of the Soviet Union. I never saw him again.

People from the city come to work on the farms, but they don't know how to work there. The animals were put together and the people had to work together. Everybody worked bad-hearted. The animals got so skinny. There was no food produced, nothing. What you produced, the government took. Nobody take care right, but there was propaganda.

For instance, few people had honey bees in the village, same as my father. He had 15-20 boxes of honey bees. We have so much honey, we eat for breakfast, with milk, give to the neighbors, take to the market to sell. But in 1932, oh no, not yours anymore. You have to give to collective farm. The first year, there was plenty of honey. Next season, everyone is sharing the honey. I am the son of a "Kulac" Rich farmer, so I am like a black sheep. I asked a woman for just a little honey in my cup. Everyone walks past me, and no one will give. Finally one woman told me to take just some on my finger. I looked at her and just cried. The next year, not one single bee survived. No bee, no honey, no nothing. You have to take care of bees in the winter.

Before, everybody had their own farm, own land, own animals. Everybody worked hard, no starvation. If you were a good farmer you might hire someone to work on your farm. You give them food and shelter. Maybe 50-60 years before, was feudalism. But in my time, it was not such a thing.

rockytopreb9 karma


OldSoldierOpa22 karma

First they force little, not much. They realize people no want to go back. I see many hang them self, or cut they wrist. Americans realized people have reason and no want to go. They gave choice, you want to go you go, you want to stay you stay. I had German uniform, I left with German uniform.

After American camp, we are walking, we have our horse. American soldiers stopped us "hey, stop!" We told them, "we are Russian, we go back to Russia." We talked in broken German. I learned a little bit, not too good, in German army. They laughed, and they gave us cigarettes and gum and said good luck. Our plan was to stay in Austria, we slept a a barn, and I spoke to the farmer and ask for job. I had a good horse, he let us stay.

I am not smoker, I have saved all these cigarettes, and I bribe police chief with couple pack German cigarettes, and he gives us pass (note: this is possibly a passport, we're having trouble telling) to Germany from Austria.

cmykris9 karma

Inchpes es, Opa? :)

OldSoldierOpa9 karma

Sad lawem!

whatsup609 karma

What is it like living in a country in which communist / dictatorship Propaganda is all around you when you have no access to the outside world to figure out what's true or false? Do people generally suspect what they are hearing is propaganda/false? Are they privately suspicious about what they hear? Or are people greatly influenced by it, thinking it to be true? For example, I wonder what the North Korean (or any other such country) citizen's view of the world is... Thank you for sharing your history and story with us!!! Very helpful...

OldSoldierOpa21 karma

People know this is lying, but you can do nothing, you just clap for it and say "hooray". We know it is lies because how are we living good if we have no food in stomachs? What is good life? They force you to believe it. People was living in fear, maybe tomorrow they throw me in Siberia. They say America and England have no food, and Soviet Union is better, but we have no food, how is that better?

Well.... some people, very very few people believed the communism because they had good life, good job, maybe party member. Russians said, "Somebody eat for nothing, somebody eat nothing." Which one eats everything? Communist was good for them. Which one is hungry, working hard? Communism is no good for them. Dictatorship, everything was in them hands.

SOAR218 karma

Wow, thanks for doing this AmA. I have a couple questions.

  1. Did the Germans treat you just like other Slavs? You mention you had an assistant veterinarian job, so that's awesome, but what about other Azerbaijanis or Caucasian (from Caucasus, not white) prisoners? Were they just treated like the Germans treated the Slavs?

  2. How did the Soviets treat you guys? Were you treated worse than the Russians or other ethnicities?

  3. You mentioned you were Muslim. (Sucks that Australia didn't let you in because of that). Since Stalin's regime was atheist, did that ever get you into any problems before the war?

  4. Just curious, why Australia over America? I thought in those days America was very well-loved and had a great reputation.

OldSoldierOpa23 karma

1)Well, in beginning, German treat us very badly. Then little by little, the people talked and they treated us very well. It depend on the men you were with. Some good treated, some bad treated. Specially, the older veterinarian, like my father. He treat me like his son and never let me go to frontline, never let me do bad jobs. I'm thankful to the Germans.

But, mostly everyone suffered. This is the war. Some people have luck. Lot of Azerbaijani, Armenians, Georgians died in war. The Russians say "for somebody war, somebody heaven."

2) Yes. Russian was dominant, not Azerbaijan. They treated Caucases people very badly. All of the big officers were Russian. They treated Azerbaijani, Armenians, Georgians very badly.

When I was wounded in hospital, we have a big hall for eating. The girl was serving the food from the kitchen, all Russian. Five or six Caucasian people sit down at table. They serve only to Russian. I yelled at her, I lose my patients. A Russian said "why you yell at this girl." I say because you eat twice, I wait one hour, she's not serving us." We almost had fight.

3)Not really. Religion was not a big role. Religion really had no role in Soviet Union. It was propaganda to say everyone equal, living a good life. Not true. Russians and Georgians lived better. Stalin was Georgian. Other republics, people were treated badly.

4) I was thinking in Australia, there are lots of animals, maybe I get veterinarian job. So, I apply to Australia.

Wadatah25268 karma

When actually in combat, what was the organization like? You said in another comment that the orders were basically along the lines of go there and fight the germans. Were you organized into squads? Or were you all more or less left on your own?

Thank you so much for sharing your story. World War 2 has fascinated me since I was younger, but as an American it's rare to hear about the Eastern Front. Everything I've learned about it has been incredible and heartbreaking and I'm glad you found a happier life.

OldSoldierOpa14 karma

There was no organization in the Russian Army. People just marched for days, and then told to go to the frontline. No training, no discipline, no morale. There were battalions, and divisions and other units with commanders. They did not follow it. There were standard military organization, but nobody followed. It was chaos.

Not organized, they bring so many people from so many villages, no training, nothing, just march day and night, you are almost half dead, hungry, your foot is blistered, they give you a little cabbage soup, maybe dry bread, maybe one hour rest, the Commissar comes and says "Comrade soldiers, we go to fight the Germans. If you have no weapon, beat them with fist! Go fight!" You got to go, everybody marches to the front line like cattle. You got to go or they shoot you.

Wadatah25265 karma

Did you organize yourselves into ad hoc groups to look out for eachother? Again, thank you so much for answering.

OldSoldierOpa14 karma

Every man for himself. You can say nothing, everything is so strict. Right away they shoot you if you say offense against commanding officer or the regime. No explain where the Germans, or where the machine guns are. "March!" After attacking the German line, they killed us more than half. I was hiding in a shell-hole until dark. Then, about 15-20 men come together after some call out quietly "hey, who is alive?" and we go back to our unit. The commissar is ready with paper and pencil to ask how many German we kill.

Chrispy_Reddit8 karma

I would imagine the frozen nights, malnutrition, and pushing your body to its physical limits, would have resulted in permanent damage or have had some sort of detrimental effect on your body for the rest of your life.

How do you think living through the war, including sustaining your injuries, have effected your overall health years after it ended?

(I have read every word of this AMA. Thank you so much for doing this.)

OldSoldierOpa17 karma

Well really I don't know how I survived. I can't understand; millions millions people died. How I survived, I don't know.

I have hip surgery, 22 years ago. Still like baby, no bother me, nothing. Doctor did good job. I have two knee surgeries, I have one mild heart attack.

But worst is stroke. I have bad stroke, affects my swallowing, I struggle to swallow food. I was so depressed, so sick when I had stroke, had plastic tube to feed me for 6 months. Stroke was the worst. Worse than anything else, worse than the grenade - I was young, not bothered me too much, worse than losing my finger. Worse than hunger or cold. The stroke affect me so badly. But I survived.

I had a lot of friends, a lot of visitors, they helped a lot. Especially my family.

haitham18 karma

Thank you for the AMA, I won't lie to you the part of your story about not seeing your mother for 30 years almost made me cry.

OldSoldierOpa14 karma

Yes, for 30 years they think I died. From Russia, they sent my mother information that I died on the frontline. Everyone cried for me. After 34 years, when they received my letter, they can't believe I'm still alive.

haitham13 karma

I can not imagine their reaction when they found you are still alive.

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

Reaction when I send my first letter to Armenia - but they wasn't in Armenia, they was in Azerbaijan, but somebody take my letter to my mother. They can't believe I still alive, because Soviet informed them that I died in front line. They made funeral. They can't believe when I send my letter.

They was very exciting, very tearful, maybe couple hundred people was waiting in airport. When they saw me, women, children, everyone was crying, screaming, people I never knew, seen before. It was very exciting. It was still communist regime, but not too bad. I had to stay in hotel, can't go nowhere. My people come from all over Azerbaijan, they saw me, they kissed me, they come from couple hundred miles away. I was cry, they was crying. Very exciting.

redditisphuntiems7 karma

No question merely a statement. Opa reminds me so much of my own grandfather who was living in Austria as a child (I think he was around 10 when it started) during the war. I never got the chance to talk to him about his experiences as he passed when I was very small. Opa needs to know that he is a true hero and a demonstration of all that is right with humanity. I want him to know that his story truly moved me and that I am so very happy that he has been able to share these experiences with his family. Also, I appreciate so much that he is doing this AMA.

OldSoldierOpa7 karma

Thank you. All suffered, all Germans, Russians, everybody suffered. I am sorry for your grandfather.

throwawaycan190716 karma

in all your years. what do you feel as a man is the point of a mans life? what should a man focus on and what should a man avoid?

OldSoldierOpa5 karma

Man's life is hard work and honesty. (See above)

Chrispy_Reddit6 karma

You had mentioned that when the war started a lot of the Soviet citizens were happy because they thought that it would bring an end to their poor way of life. In a way it did that for you in eventually leading you to ending up in America. How do you feel about something so tragic having a positive impact in your life? If that is how you view it.

OldSoldierOpa7 karma

Like from hell to heaven from Soviet to America. War made good for somebody, but bad for most people. Somehow I am lucky. It's a miracle in my life that I survived, and found America.

zazzafraz6 karma

You mentionned that you didn't smoke and used cigarettes to bribe guards, my question is what other things did you have to do (ration food, trade) to survive? Thanks for this amazing ama!

OldSoldierOpa17 karma

After the war? I made black market in Germany. I made homemade vodka, I sell, made [a] little money. I went another town and get tobacco from the farmers. I bring clothing or shoes and buy the tobacco. Guy had machine, he sliced for me very thin. I cured and I put in small packages, sold this and made [a] little money. I got the clothes and the shoes from the Americans, they send lot of clothes and shoes to the refugees, called the Displaced Persons. We made little black market.

CallMeFierce5 karma

Beautiful story, I'm glad you lived a good life. My question would be, what are your thoughts on the hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan? Thank you.

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

(This was previously answered!)

Armenian people, I have friends and love. I grew up in Armenia, and I am very friendly. I have no hatred to Armenia. I speak the language, and have many friends with the Armenian people.

The conflict was made from Russia. The Russian politics divide them, to govern them. The territory, Azerbaijan claims it belongs to Azerbaijan, Armenia claims it belongs to Armenia. It's senseless. They should sit down and resolve peacefully.

(He adds) We lived very good with the Armenians. I grew up with all of the children, no fighting. They were mostly city people.

FineShrine5 karma

Did you see combat while you were with the Germans? Also, why was there such vehement hate for people who surrendered?

OldSoldierOpa13 karma

Yeah I see lot of combat. German was almost three months in a Russian circle, six German division. Right and left, always fighting. I see lot of combat, I was in transport on horseback, you see shooting and artillery. They're always shooting, everybody, every hour.

Because they called us traitors. Say "traitor, you know fight, you supposed to kill yourself, not go as prisoners." You take an oath when joining army, says "I will fight to my last drop of blood, the Soviet enemy." Something like this.

(I asked: do you think you were a traitor?) No, I am a survivor. I did not surrender, they captured me. I don't know how long I was unconcious, but I open my eyes, my hand is full of blood, my head is going "wooorrbb" like this, I was miserable, cold, and a German has his foot on my back saying "get up, get up".

ElixirCXVII5 karma

Where in Boston did you move, and where was the diner located?

OldSoldierOpa5 karma

I moved from Saratoga Springs to Boston, West End. From West End we moved to Jamaica Plain, I buy the house. I move to Canton, from Canton I move to West Roxbury, in 1970.

The restaurant was in Wellesley right on Route 9 near Natick line. It was called "Lantern Grill," I sell this after 6 years, I buy in Canton, it was called "Jelly Chef," I keep a year in Canton, then I start working at New England Life in Boston.

Chrispy_Reddit2 karma

Very interesting. Why did you change jobs so much? Was it just that each opportunity was better than the last?

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

Yes I looked always for better, good paying job because not like Soviet Union, here is free - you don't like, you look for another job. Nobody forced me to work one job. I changed, I liked to try new things. No problem to change jobs. Always I worked hard, but always I looked better job.

whatever9975 karma

thanks for doing this AMA! my grandpa was a korean-american soldier in WWII and i wish i had talked to him more about all this.

  1. what do you think of modern european socialism? i know it's a lot different from soviet communism, but i wonder if you have a different perspective on it than the rest of us.

  2. what were your and your wife's reaction when the berlin wall fell?

  3. what has been the happiest moment of your life?

  4. if you could go back in time and change or relive anything, what would it be?

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

1) Well, I like democracy in Europe, not socialism. I like no war, people living peacefully, that's all. (He's having a bit of trouble with this one, sorry).

2) I was so happy. That's the shame wall, not the Berlin wall. The wall comes down, this means the end of communism. I was so happy, tears come to my eyes. My wife, too was happy. She agrees with me always on politics.

3) My happiest moment when I come to the United States and take American citizenship.

4) I'd better the people's lives, and make misery disappear from people's life. I want to go back to my village, with my family, on my father's farm. Still I am dreaming of my village, my mountain. When I was young I played. I was happy.

argonaut9425 karma

Hi Opa! Thanks a lot for taking the time and making such a good effort answering all these many questions. It's a pity your story hasn't drawn a greater reaction from the Reddit community. It's absolutely fascinating! All the best, and greetings from Austria.

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

Thank you.

hyperbagel655 karma

Did you ever see or use a PPSH-41?

OldSoldierOpa13 karma

Yes, I saw in Russian Army. This is automatic rifle. I use just a long barrel rife, a 5-shooter.

Jakthegreat4 karma

how did it feel when the Germans captured you? Defeat? Sorrow? Etc.

OldSoldierOpa15 karma

I was sad, sick hungry, wounded. I had not too much thinking - everything on my mind was just food. I was so hungry, days and days, eat nothing. Nothing was on my mind, no politics, no defeat, no nothing. I dreamed I was eating, but your stomach is empty, you feel miserable.

When the German gave the head and the lung from horse (see above about being fed for the first time as a prisoner) and I feel normal I think of defeat, but really I wanted the communist regime wiped out. The communist regime wiped out too many families, too many people sent to Siberia. Russian, Ukranian, millions died. I hate the communist regime, I wanted to defeat this.

[deleted]4 karma

I live in Boston, I am a student here. What diner do you own? Is it still here? I would love to go.

My grandfather fought in WWII. I call him from school just to hear his stories, and some of the things you have said here are so similar to his accounts that it gives me chills, like I am reading his words. I would like to hear what you thought of American soldiers during the war. What kind of reputation did they have and how were the relations being nationalities, beliefs, etc? I cannot wait to tell to my own Papa about your response!

Thank you so much for doing this, and you have my deepest respect. It makes me so proud to know that you were able to settle in this country and have a wonderful life. Sometimes it seems difficult to love America, but I hope your story will inspire patriotism and national pride in many.

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

I sold the diner long time ago. I own nothing! I made good muffins, they were famous.

American soldiers was very good-hearted people. They come in Germany, not like animals. Americans come very gentle. The Americans behaved very well. They offered chocolate, gum. They never hurt the people. The German people really liked American soldiers, especially young girls!

Thank you. I am thankful to you, and to America.

selfprofessedPCnewb4 karma

What languages can you speak? And where did you begin to learn each one?

OldSoldierOpa17 karma

I speak Azerbaijani I learned from my family (like Turkish), I speak Armenian I learned from neighbors, children.

I learned Russian language in army, very hard to learn, not like English language. I speak Russian well, somehow I learned.

I learned German in the war, and knew some, but I don't speak well now.

I come to America in 1951 and now English is my main language.

Chrispy_Reddit4 karma

Did you keep in contact with the older German veterinarian that treated you like his son? Did you keep in contact with anyone you met during the war?

OldSoldierOpa10 karma

No. He was old man, I think he is dead long ago. I bring the horse wagon with him and others to American line. We were in camp for a while, I was with him. I said goodbye, I'm going back to Russia. He said "Mike, you make mistake, going back to Russia, they kill you." I said, I know, but instead from the camp I go out to the village on the farm, not too far from Czechoslovaki. The American camp was in Austria, I don't know where, not too far from Czechoslovaki border.

I did not stay in touch with others, rest went on to Russia, I don't know what happened. My friend (not the veterinarian) stayed with me on farm. We bribed the police chief and went to Germany, and I come to America. He goes to Turkey, I don't know where. [Historically] A lot of Azeri speak the language, and a lot go on to Turkey, so he did that.

rockytopreb4 karma


OldSoldierOpa13 karma

Well some people think that in the war time German and America and England would ally against the Soviet Union. Always the talk, the people, the Germans, or Russians like me, we talk freely, not like communist Russia. For instance, not all German was nazis. Sometimes they talked against Hitler, they don't like Hitler. Some Germans think America and England will ally with Germany and attack Soviet Union.

(Did you believe it?) I was not too big politician. I wished this happened, Germany and America and England. I hate the Soviet Union.

(Do you think that being in the US during the Cold War affected how you think?) I no want America losing in Cold War, I hate Soviet Union, not Russian people. Russian was very racist, some is very good, but they are good people. The communist regime destroyed the Russian, destroyed everybody.

a-ko4 karma

This AMA is absolutely amazing. Thank you for doing it. I'm glad you were able to make a good life for yourself in the US. Your story has reached many thousands of people.

In your homeland, where you grew up, could you name an area that you can remember so that one day I can visit it?

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

Amasia, northern Armenia. It's very beautiful. Mostly grassland with mountains that are not too steep. In summer it's a beautiful land. Lots of flowers and lots of animals grazing there. But I don't know if people live there anymore. With the war between Armenia/Azerbaijan, lots of people moved.

CaisLaochach4 karma

Why do Azerbaijan affiliate with UEFA for football, rather than the Asian equivalent?

On a more serious level, does this indicate teh Azeris perceive themselves as being European rather than Asian? Or is that a product of the Soviet Union's rulership?

OldSoldierOpa13 karma

More European. Because not many women put the veil or something. I was five times in Azerbaijan, women they don't cover the head, they drink the vodka, they go to movie. Like European. No Difference. It had nothing to do with Asia, Iran. It is more open country.

I think the Soviet rule was more European. They don't like religious people. They try to make people hate the religious. I think the Soviet Union helped a lot of change in Azerbaijan's culture.

Bene_Austria3 karma

You are a very very interresting person sir! As my name tells I'm from Austria and I would like to ask you if you know in which part of Austria you have been. I assume Salzburg or Tirol or Vorarlberg because the rest was in russian hands. Thank you in advance and sorry for my bad english.

OldSoldierOpa6 karma

Ohh thank you! Northern part of Austria near Czechoslovaki border. I forget the name the town, the city. We had crossed from Czechoslovaki with German army before war ends, so I know we were in same area.

brunameowmeow3 karma

Thank you so much for doing this AMA, it has been truly an honor to be able to read these answers and get a glimpse of your life! My question for you is after everything you've been through, what has been your most favorite memory and what has been your most poignant or memory you'll never be able to forget? Thank you so much once more, Opa!

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

My boyhood in the farm, before collective farm. A strong memory was when they take my father to Siberia. I cried and chased the agency.

Thisisyoureading3 karma

I'm going to bed now, but I so want to read this and ask some good questions. I hope this is still going when I get back. Here's a, slightly stupid (I think) question.

What surprised you most about being captured by the Germans? Was there any event, person or really unusual thing that sort of grabbed your attention?

OldSoldierOpa8 karma

Well, what can I say. How well organized, disciplined and well-fed the German army. How many civilians killed, destruction, houses burned, catch my attention.

I was prisoner, working for the German. There was a 50 years, tall, skinny German man. He was soft-spoken. First time, I was afraid to talk to him. But maybe he help me because he was veterinarian. I went to him and said I'm veterinarian too. He asked me something, I answered good, and he believed that I'm veterinarian. He take me to my officer and said "I need this man." He like my father. He never let me go to frontline. From the Caucasian mountain to Germany, I come on horseback with him and his wagon.

Chrispy_Reddit3 karma

From what I understand most people at the time were in the dark as to how a lot of the events leading up to the war transpired. Do you read any books, watch any documentaries, or have any interest to learn more about those events? Or are you content putting that time in your past and focusing on your future?

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

I read books and watched documentaries on television. I read a lot of books about communism, fascism, Hitler, Normandy. I am very interested about the war. I am still wondering how the communist took over. Why people let Stalin come in power.

mcquintessence3 karma


OldSoldierOpa3 karma

Oh, the German! Bitte schoen!

Voraxia3 karma

First off, this is a really interesting thread.

Secondly, reading that Australia would not admit you because you are a Muslim threw me for a loop a bit. Was this a common practice for many countries? Did it apply to only Muslims, but to any non-Christian religion?

(Sorry if this question is a bit dumb, but the discrimination of anyone baffles me)

OldSoldierOpa13 karma

No, he said, "we have quota for Muslims. I'm sorry." America had quota too, only so many people allowed to come into country. I have sponsor to come to America. I don't know really, but he tells me this, that's all.

numpad_ninja3 karma

Sorry for all the questions, but this is pretty interesting stuff.

1) After you waited for dark and linked up with other survivors from your assault to return to the commissar, were you afraid of being executed if you had not killed enough Germans? What were you doing in between assaults? What did you think of your leaders?

2) What were you thinking and talking about when you were beginning your assaults? What was interaction with your allies like during battle?

3) Did you ever think about fighting for the Germans against the Soviet Union after you were captured?

4) Did you ever have any successful assaults or did you just witness a few survivors from the attack wave before yours come back and repeat the same thing? Would you search bodies upon moving up for anything useful?

5) What was it like knowing that the German enemy was so fearful of being captured by you, and you by the Germans? What was typical of the POW's of both sides upon being captured?

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

1) I killed nobody, because my mother cried and told me "please don't kill nobody. Killing is no good. All mothers have son, and they want their son back." Always when I shoot, I remembered my mother, and I killed nobody.

I was afraid that I killed nobody. If Russian know I no killed anybody, they kill me. The first time they ask, I no lie. I said "I see no German." The commissar called me covert. Other times, lucky no one asked me nothing.

We march day and night when we not fighting.

When the battle, the commissars or officers send you to the front line, but they hiding. They don't want to be killed. I know, they don't want to die. They follow orders too, but they want to save their lives. But sure, I hate them because they did not fight with us.

2) In battle, I just thought 'if I die, let there be one bullet to my head, not explosion. I'd be glad if a bullet killed me.' It was everybody for himself. You really just think about yourself.

3) They mostly made us work for the Germans, before I did veterinarian. They made us take small horse wagon, ammunition, and food the the frontline. They never made us go on the fighting.

4) I shoot at nobody, and killed nobody. I shoot my rifle towards the air, not on the people. Special soldiers called "grave diggers" come and take dead people, ammunition, weapon. We did nothing.

5) I feel bad. I feel bad for myself. I feel bad for the Germans too. I know, they are just young boys, forced to kill.

(He mentions again, as above, that the Soviet POWs were used as laborers at the frontline). The Russians was very harsh to the German prisoners, because they are mad that German occupied. They made hard work to the Germans. For instance, in Azerbaijan there is aluminum mine. They made thousands of Germans soldiers work in the mines. They gave them some food, to make propaganda that in Soviet Union there is good life.

nefarious4202 karma

What do you think of the current wars going on and war in general?

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

My opinion is this is useless. The people don't have to fight. But human nature. They lived in a cave, they fighting. They lived in the space age, they still fighting. There's no need to fight. People can dissolve any differences peacefully.

People not have to be greedy. They have to be reasonable. They don't have to grab everything, and let another side starve. People have to understand each other's suffering.

Provocateur02 karma

I'm surprised by the answers you gave about the German Army.

Regarding mass rape and other types of war crimes, who was worse? The Soviets, or the Germans?

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

Soviets the worst. They did lot of crime in East Germany, and everywhere. They raped, take things forcefully from the people. Like wild animals. German was very strict, like if they raped. Germans did take cars and horses from the people, and food and hay to feed the horses.

thisissonecessary2 karma

Are you happy? In general, with how your life turned out, with your living situations now, etc.

OldSoldierOpa4 karma

Yes, I am very happy. I have a good family. My daughter is a very nice person, she takes care of me very good. I'm well fed, well cleaned. I can listen to the radio, watch television, go for a walk. I have freedom!

deprivedchild2 karma

Do you have any resentment towards the Germans despite what they did during the war?

OldSoldierOpa3 karma

Not really. I have bad feelings for the governments, German and Stalin. But just the governments.