Death Toll was 800 in One Winter

There were two nurses in our hospital room. They were both young, and Nadja was a beautiful and good-natured nurse who was always laughing happily. She was half Russian and half Tatar. We all loved her. I decided to learn Russian seriously because I wanted to talk with her. She brought small joys to our monotonous and boring life. I remember her showing how she would pray before having meals, putting her hands together in front of her, and she also taught me simple Tatar language such as counting one, two and three.

The time we arrived at the hospital was at the end of February and it snowed heaviest in that season. I think it must have affected the numbers of people who died every day. Around nine o’ clock in the morning, I saw numbers of stretchers covered with white cloth were carried outside the hospital rooms, the other side of the courtyard. I was told they were carrying the dead bodies of people who died the previous day.

On regular days, I saw two or three. When the coldness increased in the previous night, there were four of five corpse the next morning. According to Fritz, about eight hundred people were dying every winter in this hospital, where the capacity was only 500. I was so amazed to realize a half more amount than the capacity died like that !! The top cause for the death was malnutrition. Then T.B. There were many patients of typhus who were taken to isolation ward.

When the morning came, I still went to the washing room to wash my face. I saw Germans brushing their teeth, saying “Oh, he died too” as they took off the white cloth and recognize their friends faces there. There was no sentiment. It was as if they were accepting the order of event. Death was so close to their everyday living that their emotion must have decreased. However, in no time, we got used to the same situation and became able to do the same things as Germans to stare at the corpse that became so thin to the point of only with skin around the bones.

While we were communicating with Fritz in limited English, we became closer. Some people wrote songs for Fritz, and I translated it for him. He was so happy and received the paper on which the song was written holding it high to show respect.

After it went into April, one or two people out of twenty of us began to be called. After suhc a call, we had no idea where we were going to be taken. We were not sure if we would even be able to see each other again. So our parting became very emotional.

At the end of April, we were transferred to another smaller room since there were only five or six people left out of the twenty. At that time, Fritz left the hospital with others. We waved to him from the window. The German army walked in pride as they went out of the gate.

When would I be able to see Fritz again? We knew we might not see each other again, but we promised each other to register our addresses in the original country so that we will surely meet again, and I gave him my precious statue of Buddha made of ivory which I carefully brought from Central China.