Do Svidania (See You Again)

Two months in Kazan was really long although itmaysoundlike ashorttime.  One night during that time, I was told to depart the next morning.  The order that camefrom the Soviet army had no advance notice.  However, the sudden order was not only for us but also fortheRussian soldiers as well.  Army actions are conducted in secrecy in any country, so one could explain it was the same as withany other country.  In fact, it happened to us while the Japanese commanding officers in the military headquarterswere told to head for Harbin when we left Hankou, but in the middle of ourjourney, in Beijin, the real destination was changed to North Korea.  

Anyhow, we received the order to depart from Kazan, but did not know where we were going.  Soviet soldiers with Mandolingunskept saying, “Domoy!  Domoy! (going home.)” However, we were tricked by the same words so many times. We thought they were trying to trick us again, but we all had a vague hope that it might be really the time to go back home to Japan.  The reality of being hostages wastruly sad.  

The internment camp in Kazan was new, but it was as crowded and tightly packed as the one in Yelabga since six hundred of us were packed into it.  We were all feeling busy and rushed afterlearning ofthe early departure of the following day even though we had only a few belongings to pack into a backpack.  

Until I was interned intheSovietUnion, I thought there were various things I needed for daily living, but while being taken to so many places, I began to realize there were very few thingsthat were really necessary.  They were ajacket with fur inside, military uniform jacket and pants, shoes, socks, cooking utensil and a spoon.  Even tissue paper was not really necessary.  We could do without it.  

The Soviet soldiers don’t use tissue paper.  Even after they finish Number 2, they just wear their pants right after that. They are not wearing underwear either. Japanese really like cleanliness, so we could not do things like that.  So we used newspapers which we could getonce in a while.  When we did not have it, we picked straw laid on top of the roof of the bathroom, rubbed it between hands to make it soft, and used it. When it did not do a good job, feces were left on our hands.  Then we just rubbed it against a pole or something around there.  

After falling to the lowestpoint,we become relaxed.  Even the food was the same way, and we accepted that the food was bad,anything we could put in our mouthwas OK.  Some went to work in the field, grabbed a wild rat and ate it raw.  Snakes were very nutritious, so no one missed it.  

The material of my backpack was sturdy because it was made of good quality militarycanvasI brought from middle China with care.  With one needle, I made it.  For the shoulder areas, I looked for remnants in the sewing factory and somehow made them look appropriate.  Some skillful people were gaining income from making it for others.  The spirit of “art brings bread” was alive.

About eight o’ clock in the evening while the internment camp in Kazan was getting excited with the news of “damoy (going home), ”I was informed that the first lieutenant Kreutzer wanted to see me.  I visited her office at the corner of the internment camp in the Soviet armyoffice.  She was sitting on the other side of the table.  Her round eyes shining from the other side of thick lens, she asked me to sit down.  

There was nothing in the room.  Not to mention even one flower.  Ms. Kreutzer said, “you are going to depart for Japan tomorrow.  You are very good at resistance, but I counted you into the group to go home. “ She smiled and continued, “The investigation proved that your statements were true. Therefore, my responsibility is over and I can leave for East Germany tomorrow.  This must be the last time we meet, but I will be praying for you to go home in a good health.”

I felt her friendship so strongly at that time. I was so used to the Soviet soldiers who would notmention anything about the destination, or tell a lie.  On the contrary, she clearly stated I was going home, and even though I did not ask, she told me she was going to East Germany.  After three years of internment in theSovietUnion, I felt as if I forgot all about human care, but her kindness reminded me of it.  Tears flowedinto my eyes.  I could not say anything in words, and just kept bowing to her many times.  

She extended her skinny hand.  (She had thick arms but her fingers were thin.)  We said, “Do svidania    (See you again) “ to each other, shsook hands firmly and left the room.  We both knew we would never meet again however.   

As I was rolling on the shelf inside the cargo train that departed Kazan the next morning, I was thinking about her kindness again.  “I was good at resistance” was her joke.  I had a firm belief she tried very hard to prove I was not guilty.  

A long Siberian railway trip began.  It took twenty days to go back just like how we came, but our hearts were upbeat with the joy of damoy (going home.) However, when we finally believed it was really “damoy” was not when we got onto the boatinHyotoku, but the time the boat arrived in Japan and when we stepped on to Japanese soil.  We were madeto beso suspicious.  

I have no idea how Ms. Kreutzer is doing since that time.  Even if it may be possible to search where she is, I am hesitant to do that because it is within the system oftheSoviet Union. She is in a way someone who saved me. I wanted to make sure to state it.