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I Was There! - On My Way to Kuibyshev from Moscow

The War Illustrated, Volume 5, No. 116, Page 383, December 30, 1941.

As the Germans drew ever nearer to Moscow, those people of the city who were not required in the fighting line or the factories were evacuated to Kuibyshev, 450 miles away on the Volga. Among them was the well-known Russian writer, Vsevolod Ivanov, whose account is printed below.

I stood on the bank of the broad, full-flowing Volga at Kuibyshev. Around me lay a large town, with smoking factory chimneys, motor-cars whirling by blowing their horns, large steamboats plying up and down the river...

I came here from Moscow. Many friends have come with me and many more are still arriving by train and by steamboat. The tale of our journey is brief and essentially the same in all cases. There is no room for "civilians" if one can speak of civilians in this war near the trenches. I was a noncombatant and needed quiet for my work: I was ordered to leave.

On the way out here there was a great deal of sadness in the faces of my fellow-travellers. But when troop-train after troop-train passed us going towards the west a new expression appeared on those sad faces. One realized that this was the sadness of parting, not the sadness of death and decay.

Our train moved along slowly. Frequently we were shunted aside to allow passage to the numerous trains loaded with troops, guns, motor vehicles. Sometimes our train halted at some tiny wayside station amid snow and oak trees from which the leaves had scarcely fallen.

Then I would go and visit the Red Army men in their cars. The walls of the cars were decorated with posters and handwritten newspapers produced by the soldiers themselves. Here was a call to smite the German hard "so that he'll never forget our plains and never think of invading them again". There were caricatures of the enemy, drawn if not with skill at least with wrath. Almost every one of these wall-newspapers urged railwaymen to greater speed. One declared outright: "We have been waiting and begging for this moment for four months. Drive us faster, comrades!"

I got into conversation with some of the men. They were artillery men from Siberia. Thickset, of no great stature, but with evidently inexhaustible strength. They apparently knew what they were in for, and they would probably fight like Siberians who are accustomed both to hard scraps and hard weather.

The most moving sight in our journey was to see the meeting between factories which were being evacuated to the east and the troops moving towards the west. On one track stood cars loaded with guns, on the other track rows of cars loaded with machinery which made the guns. A damp heavy snow fell, covering the tarpaulins with a white shroud. One could imagine the machines saying to the guns, as they met for a moment: "Don't worry we'll soon be sending you some brothers." Soviet War News.

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