2nd March, 1915

(Yesterday I had to stop here since I was invited to a lecture on marriage law given by a Viennese solicitor, (lieutenant in the reserve) and afterwards I was already too tired. I have done my morning walk; now I am again with you my darling. My work will now be even easier because I have a new most beautiful decoration on my bedside shelf. I asked a German Sculptor to carve a nice picture-frame for me, and now I have yours and the children’s picture all day in front of me, I remember the time when in Chicago I often sat in front of your picture, telling you quietly about my grief and my joys and imagining that you were taking part in them. You know, it was that little photo which you sent me then, in 1904, for my birthday in Chicago. And in front of this same picture I can now again sit for hours to adore you and make plans for the future. My little mouse, I am afraid that you or the dear children might be ill, I think of Hugo and Viktor, of my father, of our dear good mother, sometimes there is quite confusion in my brain. But my confidence in God and my immense love for you and the kids helps me in those difficult hours. And now in particular, I can chat with you and then time passes pleasantly and quickly! Once I finish with my memories from the field I shall be able to concentrate more on my emotions. But for the time being, still about the war.)

So here I was with my 42 men and, as the enemies' positions were only 400-500 steps away, we had to dig ourselves in for safety reasons. During the night an order arrived which said: Tomorrow at 10a.m. the attack will continue on the whole front. In view of my position which was most unsuitable for an advance, and considering our high losses (on the 19th I had started of with 128 men), I thought it was my duty to explain to the battalion’s command that a further push forward was impossible. Similar reports must have been received from other commanders along the whole front, as at 9 a.m. we were told that there would be no further advance but the present positions must be held and should be fitted up for a longer stay. We began immediately with improvements of our hideouts, creating again cave dwellings which were quite well equipped. My dwelling was built by engineers and was agreeable to stay in, high and spacious with real windows and a real door. I saw it as a villa; at the entrance an artistically painted board said “The merry skirmisher”.

We stayed exactly three weeks in this position and it was the most agreeable time of the war effort. Most of the day I spent in my villa, at night I was billeted in a nearby farm house. Of course, the shooting continued from both sides day and night, so that during the whole three weeks the nerve racking noise of the guns never ceased, there were many wounded and a few killed, but the time at Dluzec will remain a pleasant memory for all who lived through it. We had the opportunity here to correspond daily with our loved ones, the mail was very punctual and brought mountains of letters and parcels. Although our lives were in constant danger, one got soon used to the situation, and in spite of the bullets flying around I went every morning for my short constitutional, I visited others and received visits, we played tarots, organized pig-slaughtering feasts and much other fun. The food was excellent, love-tokens plentiful, and we all had only one wish –to be able to stay here over Christmas. In the meantime my company had been reinforced, I had now 100 men and 2 new officers; by hard work we had made our position secure against attacks, so we had no reason to live in too much fear.

Of course, I had my serious worries too. Almost daily somebody was wounded, the nightly shooting assaults and other things that happened hurt and worried me. One afternoon, the date I do not remember anymore, I would not have bet a single penny on my life. For some reason, the enemy’s artillery chose just my section as their target. Within one hour 116 shells came down on us, partly grenades and partly shrapnel. 2 shrapnel crashed through the roof of our farmhouse, a grenade felled a tall spruce, which stood just in front of the house, and another set an adjacent barn on fire. At the time I was in the house with about 10 people and we all thanked God when the guns fell silent again. Next day the same thing happened to the 13th Company: unfortunately, a direct hit cost them many casualties. Such small diversions kept happening all the time and threw a cloud over our otherwise quite relaxed existence. There was certainly enough variety. Sometimes our own and sometimes Russian aeroplanes flew overhead, then our heavy howitzers came into action and the foe suffered badly, at other times bands were playing either on our or the Russian side.

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