Grave Keeper Did Not Keep the Promise

I heard thatsome volunteers of the town were taking care of the cemetery. One of them, who wasa little older than fiftyyears old, showed up and received the various gifts we took as if it was owed them, but with appreciation.

There was acemetery for the Germans right next to that of the Japanese.  The number of German military surrounded by the Soviet army in Stalingrad was three hundredthousand.  After losing a hundred thousandof them, the Germans surrendered and were taken to the Soviet territory.  During that transfer, another hundred thousand died.  Out of the 100thousand who were interned, only thirty thousand, one third, were alive, I heard.  

I had no idea that their cemetery was right next to the Japanese cemetery until I visited the place this time. There were officers from Hungary, Romania, and Austria in the gulag.  Ihad wondered if they were buried in any cemetery or not.  

Among the German officers, there were some people I was close to.  They were Schmidt, Henninki, Lamberdi, and Max, who were working in the main quarter for the German regiment and kitchen.  

The gulag never became a place we loved, but there was a good friendship with them.  In addition to the fact we parted from East to West, and because we arenowin the busiest time ofour lives, it would be probably impossible to see them again. We have aged, too.  

I have to point out one problem that came up.  It was about the expense to take care of the cemetery.  When Mr. Togashi visited Yelabuga a few timesbefore, there was an occasion to see the mayor andthey made an agreement that the maintenance and management was the responsibility of the city, and they were financially responsible. Nevertheless, the promise did not come true, and they eventually made a request to ask Japan to be in charge.  

They explained that Germany has made a special group that takes care of the maintenance of the cemetery of the German soldiers buried in Soviet territory.  Those groups made contracts with the cities, towns and villages inthe SovietUnionto make payments for the maintenance.  That’s why they wanted Japan to do the same.  

Between Japan and the SovietUnion(now with Russia,) a treaty for the formerly interned was made between the Japanese and Soviet government when president Gorbachev visited Japan in 1991, and there was a section that mentioned the mutual responsibilities to take care of the cemeteries in both countries.  

According to the treaty, the maintenance of the cemetery in Yelabuga should be taken care of by the city, and thus demanding Japan for the cost is wrong.  However, if the city is not willing to do it, it is hard to look for a method to force them to do it.  

If we are dealing with other countries, there is a possibility to make an attempt by way of diplomacy to urge them, but dealing with Russia is different.  From our experiences of life in the gulag in Soviet, we know their promises are not dependable at all.  

With such a circumstance, Mr. Togashi and others led the campaign to collect money from those who used to be in Yelabuga to give it to the volunteer group in Yelabuga.  We did not have the same group like Germans, so he told them this was a temporary effort that would not be continuous.   

The reason for the quick change of their opinion was due to the change of the mayor.  The previous one said the city would take care of it, but the next one did not want to do it that way.  From the point of the responsibility of the governance, the city is not in the position to break the previous promise, but such a logic does not work in Russia.  Even if we make a claim against it, they may say they will not do it until we give them the money.  Such a thing occurs often in the negotiation process with Russia.