From my dad's book My Life: A Story of Survival, An Autobiography of Grischa Bedrosian
World War II
1940 the Germans attacked Russia. They did a lot of damage and took a lot of
towns and cities. In 1941 the government recalled former soldiers to fight.
They called me too. For three months we trained, going on maneuvers. In
October, all Armenian soldiers were brought to Yerevan to the train station, and
loaded into train cars. The train traveled two days and nights. Suddenly the
train stopped. Armenian officers came and told our battalions the Germans had
cut the train line. Almost half an hour we walked along the track past empty
railroad cars. The officers told us all these cars had brought soldiers to go
fight. Then all the soldiers stood in the line. Each soldier got 35 bullets for
his gun, and four pieces of stale bread. The officer told us this track led to
a town where the Germans were.
were ordered to take town that night. Almost half of the night we walked
through fields to the town. After four hours the Germans sent up bright flares.
The whole army lay down and waited for the lights to go out. When the lights
went out it was almost daylight. We were by then close to the Germans. The
Germans began to shoot big artillery, big cannons and lots of different guns.
The bullets rained down like hail. We couldn't stand up and escape without
being killed. About a block away from me a big bomb exploded. The flying dirt
covered me. I was not wounded. I crawled into a bomb hole. It was deep. I
waited but the shooting didn't stop all day. Finally, the sun went down. After
the shooting stopped, I crawled out of the hole, cold and hungry and looked
around. I saw one man walking toward me. I was afraid he was a German but when
he came close I saw he was a Russian soldier. We recognized each other. He was
from the same battalion He was crying. He said the Germans had killed all the
Russian told me, " I know this territory. Its my neighborhood." I was relieved to see him. We started walking
back, until we saw our battalion. Hundreds and hundreds were dead and wounded.
We walked ten or fifteen minutes past the dead. Then we walked half the night.
We saw a lot of big haystacks. We saw more dead and wounded around these
haystacks. The Russian told me we were close to a Russian town and we should go
there. For almost an hour we went from door to door.
one old lady opened her door. She was alone. We asked for bread. She said she
hadn't had bread all week and was hungry too. It was good we had a dry place to
stay the night and rest. In the morning we went back to the haystacks. We saw
more and more dead and wounded; thousands and thousands! We looked around and
found sixteen Russian soldiers alive.
said, "We don't know where to go. That's why we stayed here." The
sixteen soldiers said they were from Georgia. Nothing to do with the Armenian
group. They had been there two days. The hundreds and hundreds of dead soldiers
were from their army. After that we saw a car coming. It was two Russian
officers. They said the truck was coming to bring food. We stood in line for
food and bread. Then they said, "You wait here." The officers and the
truck left. All the Russians sat down somewhat away from the dead soldiers. I
took my food and sat near the wounded soldiers because I didn't trust the
officers. After half an hour a big truck came and picked up all the Russians.
day I sat among the wounded hearing their cries. When the sun went down I stood
up and looked around. I saw four or five Russians running toward the town. I
waited a while and I saw a lot more Russians also heading toward the town. Then
I joined them and ran toward the town too. When I got close to town I looked
back and saw a lot of German tanks in pursuit. I began running very fast. In
front of the second house I saw a big hole and hid inside. It was half full of
sunflower seeds. I heard the German soldiers and tanks come into the town. I
was so frightened my whole body began to tremble.
hour later I saw a flashlight on a stick and two rifles sticking down into the
hole. I came out with my hands up and saw four German soldiers. They put my
hands behind my head. They brought me to
a barn, opened the door and pushed me inside. There was no light inside. Then I
heard a lot of people talking in different languages. A few hours later four
German soldiers with flashlights came inside the barn. We all came outside.
Twenty or twenty five soldiers were waiting with rifles. They made us line up
in rows of six, one behind the other.
were about two hundred prisoners. These were what was left of the Russian army
after most were killed or wounded. The sixteen soldiers picked up by the truck
were among the soldiers who ran back to town. They were brought together by the
Russian officers to fight the Germans but were frightened back into town by the
Germans took us out of town. We walked all night with not a minute to sit down.
Then we came to another town. We sat down under some trees. The Germans didn't
want to move prisoners in the daylight when they could be seen by Russian
almost three days I had nothing to eat. I was hungry and tired. Only two days
before I had been in Armenia, a free citizen. I could go any place I wanted.
After two days I was a German prisoner. What would happen to me?
the German soldiers went to town and brought back a truck with round Russian
bread. Every prisoner was given a piece of bread. After dark the prisoners
started walking again. We walked all night through fields, not on the road. We
found another town and stopped there. We
had a little bit of bread at this town too.
we got closer to the front we had to walk day and night. One day we would have bread, the next day
none. We walked like that for a week.
second week the prisoners began to get weak.
When they couldn’t stand up the Germans tried beating them. If they still couldn’t stand up they were
shot in the head. I saw nine men killed
walked day and night this way - one day food-one day none, for two weeks until
we come to a city called Mariupol in Ukraine. There was a big prison camp
opened the gate and brought us into a huge prison yard. We stayed there all
night. In the morning all the other prisoners came out. When I saw these prisoners,
I couldn't believe my eyes! I never believed people could became like this. All
those who were there a long time had swollen stomachs - and were just bone and
skin. Their hair was long and they hadn't showered or bathed for months. Their
clothes were dirty and torn.
time a day everyone was given a spoonful of cold hard porridge. There was no
clean water to drink.
the prison camp were two ten foot high fences, one around the other so if you
escaped one you would fall down into the other.
building used to be a college. It was three stories high. There were sixty
looked around the camp for other Armenian prisoners. I found 32 Armenian people
there. Some of them were friends of mine. Some were from Yerevan and some were
from town. We hugged each other. They said, " You came to this death place
never tell anyone the names of people I saw there. It is just between me and
fresh prisoners came, they were stronger than the others. The Germans would use
them to put the dead and dying into the trucks to be taken and buried. During
my first three weeks there I had to help do this five times. Three times I had
to help place corpses on a ramp which went down from windows on the second and
third floors to waiting trucks below. Twice we loaded those who had died in the
prison yard. Some days more might die; some days less, but every day they died
by the hundreds. All the time new prisoners were brought in.
sixty rooms there were no windows or doors. Prisoners had broken them up for