8th March, 1915

(Little mouse, are you cross with me that yesterday I did not write? I really could not find the time. The new newspaper demands an enormous amount of work and since suddenly a “competing venture” has appeared on the scene, we have to prepare our first issue with special care. However, something was missing when I did not chat with you. Today I have not much time either, so I will continue my narrative.)

At first we were enraged by the “lowering of our class” but soon found out that the swap was not without advantages. The upholstery of the second class carriage accumulated dirt and dust and was a breeding place for vermin. We had all been afflicted with lice already in the field but in the train this nuisance became nearly unbearable. However hard one tried and we had become extremely skillful in this respect, one could not get rid of those irksome little creatures. In the third class there was some improvement. Moreover, in the second class we were rather short of space since in a carriage designed for 42 people there were 50 of us. In the third there was not such a crush.

We left Moscow in the evening and on the 10th we were in Alexandrov, crossed the great Volge bridge and arrived on the 11th at Vologda, 12th Nikola-Bulovce, 13th Vintka, 14th Grassow, 15th Perm, 16th Yekaterinburg, 17th Djmura, 18th Iochin, 19th Omsk, 20th Kaim Tomski and on the 21st at Novo Nikolayevsk where we were de-trained. Naturally the transport did not consist of officers alone and troops were on the train as well; in total there were about 1000 of us.

In Novo- Nikilayevsk we were taken to a detached house, more a shed than a house actually. Four empty walls, an enormous Russian stove and an oven, a crumbling ceiling, sealed up windows, that was to be our accommodation for the near future. The 11 of us were billeted here, the others were in similar quarters. The servants stayed with us. During the first night we had a small adventure. When we moved into our quarters the cold inside was Siberian, and, since there is no shortage of wood in Siberia, both stoves were heated up to the utmost. In the evening we prepared our beds of hay on the floor and were looking forward to a good nights sleep in the now beautifully warm room. It may have been about 1a.m. when we were suddenly woken up; the roof above our heads was on fire. We jumped up, extinguished the fire with snow, and found accommodation with a Jewish family for the rest of the night. Next day the house was repaired and we could move in again.

On the following day we went to see the town which made a rather strange impression on me. What first strikes you is that the houses are mostly built of wood. They are painted white and on top of that with bright colours; in the sunshine this gives them a "luna park" look. They reminded me of the amusement park "White City" which I had seen in Chicago; also the Exhibition at Breslau was built in a similar manner. The town has 75 - 80000 inhabitants' large modern shops, restaurants, patisseries, a bath; you might call it a small metropolis. The main square is typical with lots of stalls and kiosks; the bazaar where you can buy all sorts of things, is reminiscent of the Sukenica at Cracow, only much more primitive. The furs seemed especially attractive to me, but unfortunately my funds were insufficient for any purchases.

Breakfast and supper we provided ourselves, for dinner we went to a restaurant where we had a satisfactory meal for 40 kopecks. We received passes from the Commander and could move freely from 8 a.m. till 9 in the evening. I found even social contact with a bank clerk who spoke German , and we got on very well. Unfortunately, our quiet existence was disturbed already on the 30th January when we were told that our journey would resume the next day at 12 noon. There were 300 officers at Nikalayevsk of whom 100 were now sent on. So on 1st Feb we went to the station and were "loaded" onto our train, this time into 4th class carriages.

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