If we go outside, the severe cold weather is waiting. As a leader for providing food, I had to go out for every meal. Probably when I was in Irkutsk, I had a moment that I took off my gloves in order to calculate something for the sake of providing food. At that time, my pinky got the frostbite, and lost the sense of feeling.
I did not feel pain. When I rubbed it with the right hand, the left side pinky was frozen like a cold rock. The nerves were paralyzed. At the time like that, it is not appropriate to make it warmer all of a sudden. The affected area may become rotten. Some said rubbing with snow would work, but it was the best to rub with a cloth or with a finger. I did not stop rubbing for more than one hour, and finally, my finger started to feel a bit itchy—the sense of feeling came back. However, I had to suffer from the sequelae--the pinky always lost the sense of feeling first whenever I had to stay in the cold weather after that.
The temperature was often twenty or thirty degrees centigrade below zero, but once in Khabarovsk, I experienced as low as 55 degrees centigrade below zero. I think it was the coldest temperature we experienced.
There is a way to feel “sensible temperature.” For example, when wind blows, our bodies feel much colder than the real temperature. That is “sensible temperature.” Therefore, we often felt our “sensible temperature” was thirty degrees centigrade below zero when the actual temperature was twenty degrees below zero.
Here is another example of how cold it was. When we peed onto the rail that was completely cold, the yellow urine became instantaneously frozen. There was not even a second to smell it.
We were wearing cold caps, but our faces, which was in the open air, were vulnerable for the frostbite. The ears were in danger first, so we made sure to put down the ear covers of the cold caps. It was often not easy to feel the senses quickly, so frostbites on the ear were sometimes hard to be noticed. Once it was hit by the frostbite, the ears became frozen white, then became black. Even if it healed, think skin came off as if we had strong sun burn.
Cheeks and nose were next. We were wearing masks that looked like nose covers, with fur in the back. The fur became frozen because it caught our breath. A small amount of breath that escaped from the top of the mask hit the eyelashes. Then the eyelashes became freezing white. Our hair in the nose also became tightly frozen. The mucus that keeps our eye balls also become almost frozen—how cruel the truly cold weather can be! We all had to go through such realities during the following three years. It was far more difficult than the cold weather in Northern land in Japan.
During the so cold “death march” from Keeznier station to Yelabuga, some of my comrades died of frostbites. So many of them lost their fingers and toes. A second Lt. who belonged to the same army commanding office had to lose as many as eight fingers out of the ten. I still remember his sad face, sighing so deeply as he was staring at the two that were left. However, there were some people who suffered from frostbites due to their own carelessness. I learned that not paying attention would not have a good result in any situation.