Chapter 13

Shortly after the telegram, our papers in order, we left Federovka and began the long journey from the very south to the very north of the country. The trains in the Soviet union had no regular schedule. The seats were limited. And because the trains run long distances, there were limited seats assigned to a given stop. Everything was very complicated. First, a person had to have a special permit to travel. Second, one had to buy a ticket. Third and most difficult was to get a transit ticket that would permit  boarding  the train. Each phase required standing in lines for many hours. Since only limited transfer tickets were assigned to a given station, a traveler could stay in line for days.  If you can imagine a ticket office has only 10 transfers per day for 50 travelers and a train passes once a day, it takes 5 days. In the meantime more people come to wait in line. It is difficult to believe, but it’s a true picture of travel in the Soviet Union in 1940 to 1945. It was a nightmare. While I was standing in line, Ella tried to use her charm to find someone in the front of the line to help us. And she did. A young man got for us the needed piece of paper. The train came and a crowd with and without the needed documents attacked it. We were helped to get aboard. Many hours later, the train stopped in Chelabinsk, the city that is on the border of Europe and Asia, in the Ural Mountains. At this stop a couple joined us in our compartment. A mid aged couple, an officer and an attractive woman. It was obvious that they were not married. There was  heavy flirting going on. They did not pay attention to fellow travelers. Ella and I were tired and hungry. This couple had plenty of food and drinks and in spite of the fact that we traveled together over 20 hours, and they could notice that we had no food, they did not offer to share a meal. Finally we arrived in Molotow, now called Perm. It was late night. We managed to lie down on a bench, head to feet. We fell asleep. At night we felt someone covering us with a coat. We woke up to a surprise. Over our seat, on the luggage board, was resting a young man in the uniform. He had a slice of bread and an egg for each of us. He was the kindest man I ever met. In the station of Kirov he changed trains. But before he did, he took us to the buffet, bought at least 6 glasses of tea with milk and brought it to us and vanished. We boarded the train to Kotlas.  It was the last stop before arriving in Izma.

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