15th March, 1915
Shkotovo

Shkotovo! I am convinced that you and all who know about me being here are searching on all kinds of maps trying in vain to find Shkotovo. Who in our country knows anything about Razdolnoc and Shkotovo?! Indeed it is not surprising that the cartographer does not show these names on his map. This place is no more than a colony, courtesy of few houses, and relatively wide but absolutely dirty streets. Most of the shops are Chinese except a grocer's run by a German. Barracks take up the largest part of the place.

On the other hand, the surrounding landscape is marvelous. A few hundred steps away we see the expanse of the sea presently still covered by ice. The view of the bay formed by bare, wild, romantic cliffs is unforgettable. However, all this we see only from a distance since we are prisoners. Round our barracks is a high wooden fence, guards with fixed bayonets stand at the gates, we are allowed to go for walks only in this limited space. Our so-called Officer's pavilion stands amidst the complex of buildings. There are two large halls on the ground floor and two more on the first floor providing accommodation for a total of 226 officers.

Profst, Psotta and I have occupied a corner of the front room of the 1st floor, and have furnished it very comfortably. We have bordered off our little kingdom using Chinese straw-mats, decorated the walls as well as we could with Chinese pictures on paper, we have between us a folding table, a stool, an adapted bedside chest serves us as a desk, in a word - quite habitable.

Now my day's programme: I get up between 7 and 7.30, wash comfortably in a wash basin bought in Razdolnoc and get dressed. In the meantime water has been heated in the samovar and I prepare for all 3 of us cocoa for breakfast. While I dress and cook, Profst gets up. Lazy bones Psotta gets his breakfast served in bed. After this important activity I pay a morning visit to my comrades in the neighborhood, most of whom are still in bed. We chat, we discuss for the hundredth time or thousandth time the situation in general and our situation in particular, we tell good or bad jokes. Usually at 9.30 I go for a walk. In spite of the limited area and the abundance of dirt around, I enjoy my walk. In the last days the temperature was always around -8 but today it is warm, only -3. I return after about one hour and start working.

Either, as today, I write to you or I learn Russian; sometimes I read an English book or I go to a committee meeting of which there is an abundance. I also do kitchen and sanitary service, so there is quite a choice of interesting things to do. At 12.30 we have lunch and we can't complain about it. Although our chef did not work in a first class hotel, he was only in the service of a count, the food produced in our kitchen is not bad. After black coffee and a cigar either a short siesta or a game of tarots, again out for a little amble. 2 -3 times per week there are scientific lectures, various taught courses and so on. How many subjects are learned and studied here! Hungarians learn German, Germans learn Hungarian. Almost everybody learns Russian. Then there is English, French, Czech, Polish, Italian, Esperanto, shorthand courses, gymnastics and God know what else. At 4 afternoon we drink tea, supper comes at 7.30, and then another hour of chatting and after 10 o'clock I go to bed. Thus passes one day after the other and although it is not always the same, it is still fairly monotonous.

Here I have to interrupt since I have reported for a bath and I am being called. No more today but tomorrow I will continue. Keep well my golden dearest mouse, I think of you with undiminished love and pray to God to protect you, the children and all of us.

© The estate of Otto Feldmann: Monica Lanyado, Tzafrah Shushan and Aya Shochat