16th March, 1920
16mar20

My much loved mouse!

So now I am going to write again! And my "book of letters" will now become my "Diary from the journey". The title Diary may not really be accurate because I certainly will not write every day, being too negligent for that. - So since 13th January I am once again travelling home. This time I hope it will come off at last. As you know from my sporadic messages from Kansk, I have been working since June 1919 as pharmacist for the Czech Legion.

On 13th Jan, we left Kansk - the beginning of the evacuation. It would lead much too far if I were to describe the details and circumstances under which this event took place. Very briefly, at first everything went reasonably well, but when we were passing Nizhne-Vdinsk fighting broke out with "the reds" and on 29th January the long wished -for evacuation almost came to a catastrophic end. A part of our 3rd division lost its means of transport and, at 45 degrees below zero, fled in panic. Our fate was a little better because we stayed in our carriages, but for almost 2 weeks the situation looked hopeless. During the first three days and nights, almost without interruption, we treated the wounded and mainly frost bitten men - these were the coldest days of this year's winter. I have often repeated to myself, this time in prose, the lines from my Easter poem of 1915: "For that creator I am much praising, that she does not know how I am faring".

Nobody, who did not see it with his own eyes, can form a picture of it in his mind. Thousands of men in the cruel Siberian frost, fleeing on foot along the railway tack and behind them the vicious enemy. Shortages of water, coal and of good will among the railway personnel brought us often into critical situations. We had to push the train, in the true sense of the word, over distances which were kilometers long, once our engine froze up on the open track, but we got through; when in mid February a truce was agreed everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

Since then we are doing quite well. Slowly, awfully slowly we move eastwards, because now it is for a change obstacles in the East that slow us down, but these were now also - to use a turn of phrase much favoured here - "almost liquidated". The time from 24th Feb, till 10th March was spent at Lake Baikal. Our train used to advance 50-150 km and then stand for days at a small station. The Baikal landscaped is exceptionally beautiful. Mountain chains up to 1800m high and straight below them the lake, which is wonderful to look at even when frozen over. Moreover, the weather is already agreeable, I have been keeping the window open for most of the day and have been breathing the good, pure mountain-air. It is now the third time that I have traveled along Lake Baikal but, of course, my impressions as a free man are now quite different from those when I was "transported" as a prisoner.

So I am on my journey home! First to Vladivostok and from there by boat over Shanghai, Singapore, Port Said, Aden to Trieste. There is only one ship that goes via America, and there is much talk that the artillery will be going on that one. Although I would like to see America once more, I would prefer the way round India since the American ship is said to go through the Panama Channel and so I would not see much of America anyway.

Oh, how far it still is. We have now covered 1400 km in 2 months and to Vladivostok it is another 2500km. The sea voyage lasts 2 months, so when can I be with you?! But my mood is determined by the main thing, - that I am travelling to my beloved little wife and to my sweet children! My thoughts are daily with you and I am preparing for the new happiness with you. I have to survive a hard test of my patience yet, but everything is easy to endure because: I am going home. And so, depending on time, opportunity and humour, I wish to fill the last pages of this book with impressions and thoughts from my great journey round the world. My little mouse, what I would give for the chance to send you the words "I am going home" by radio. Unfortunately it is not possible, therefore only imaginary kisses again. "They say",we are going to travel on in the coming night.

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