My Grandfather

Story posted on August 17, 2014 at 8:20 PM

This is the story of my grandfather’s participation in World War II and his immigration from the USSR to New York.

My grandfather, Gregory, was a good student who was recruited to go to train to be an officer in the army. When he was done with his studies, he was given the responsibility to lead a selection of men to fight in various battles. My grandfather participated in the famed Battle of Stalingrad. While sharing his story with me, my grandfather said that it was a strange thing to see his buddies dead when only yesterday he was joking and playing football with them.

After the battle of Stalingrad, my grandfather and the men he was leading continued to advance into Germany from Ukraine. One day, he stumbled upon a ditch- within the ditch were a few stuck German tanks and artillery. The two opposing sides begin to battle. While fighting, the German tanks begin to throw grenades onto the side of my grandfather. However, my grandfather was skilled in musical theory. He used the musical pitch of the bomb as it approached to figure out whether the bomb would land near him, fall short, and fly farther. Once he figured out a grenade was heading in his direction, he had a short amount of time to try to duck out of the way or hide behind something. He ended up jumping behind a tree that shielded him from some of the blast; however, he was still injured and knocked unconscious.

When my grandfather awoke, he was in a hospital. Even so, he experienced a big panic attack. What if it was a spinal injury? He recalled having a conversation with his commander who told him that it is better to need to amputate a leg than to have a spinal injury, as that could lead to paralysis. When the doctor comes to my grandfather, he tells him that my grandfather was lucky. He did not have any serious injuries, but still could not go back to being a foot soldier.

Instead, my grandfather was recruited as a spy on the battlefield because he was good with geography and reading maps. He spent a long time spying on a German camp, specifically on one German officer. He later captured the officer with the help of two other men, and passed him to his superiors to be interrogated for information. After a time, he was ambushed by German forces while spying. During this fight, my grandfather was shot in the head, but the bullet only penetrated his eye and then exited from the side of his face. He was alive, but in serious condition. After recuperating and getting better in the hospital, he is never placed on the front lines again.

Near the end of the war, my grandfather liberated one of the concentration camps, and led the survivors to various homes in the nearby town for food and shelter.

After the war, my grandfather went back to school. At first, he struggled to adjust back to normal life. He suffered from nightmares during this time, and continues to struggle with them to this day.  

In 1989, HIAS helped my grandfather immigrate to New York. My grandfather and grandmother still live there today. He is my role model, and I thank HIAS for helping him leave.