The Journey to Russia

"We were in the Värska Southern Camp and by the evening of June 27 rumors started to spread that we will get on the road tomorrow. But where will we go, nobody knew. In the night, around 1 a.m., everyone was woken up. They ordered us to be in our battle uniforms and to be ready by 4 a.m. We had to give our helmets away in the gates of the barrack for some reason and we had to keep marching. When we turned to Vaksali Street, it was clear that we will go to Russia. A bunch of people had come to send us away. Mostly the loved ones of the regular officers. The women seemed calm but actually they were deeply worried.

It was a stupid feeling to be forced to leave Estonia. The foot didn't want to take a single step because each step took us closer to the border. There were no options for escaping because the colon was surrounded by the Red Army's special units. We could guess that we would be crossing the border in the evening. The first German aircraft visited us in the noon. Towards the evening we could already see Izborsk. We had a little stop there and could see the traffic on Riga-Pihkva road and the Russians were retreating towards Pihkva.

It was passed midnight when I noticed the wire fences and Russian border guards. We crossed the border 34 minutes passed midnight. It was a terrible feeling to step over the border to the land of great misery. When it became lighter, we could see some things. Collapsed buildings, broken bridges… our journey in life had been miserable. Soon the boys asked the Russians where are the famous collective farms and asphalt roads of which they had been hearing about the whole winter. The question remained without an answer and one officer pointed to the pistol on his side."

(In the eyes of Juhan Peegel these villages and the Russians' talk was more or less the same: "Then came the villages," Peegel wrote, "These were poor and shabby: little houses that were toppled, not a single fruit tree, a muddy village road with geese and cow bones. One old lady with her bare feet in felts was staring at us in the first village, which rose to us from the morning fog. Her gaze sent our colon in silence: so the war will reach here too, to these houses and fields, the gaze seemed to say. What happens then?"
"In political subjects we had heard of the collective farms victory and their incredible outcome. We had even seen films of collective farms, but all this was totally opposite." V.P.)

"As it became lighter, we reached the highway. We heard from locals that we're on the Pihkva-Ostrov highway. We didn't have any maps. In the daylight we could see even more clearly what the praised and wide homeland had to offer. There was nothing besides the never ending misery. We normally stayed in the woods and in the early morning our journey started again. We went onwards and onwards but didn't reach Pihkva. We passed it 4 or 5 kilometers from the East. The bridges of Velikaya were miserable, made of wood – probably from the Czar-era. On our stop in the forest I found a swastika symbol on one tree, which made me very happy. The faces of the Russians became very serious after seeing it and they ordered us to scratch the symbol off.

The kilometer posts on the side of the road showed that we were already 40 kilometers from Pihkva, but our journey continued. Finally by July 3 we were 15 kilometers from Porhov. We stopped there. The battalion and squadron leaders were ordered to go to the headquarters. Something seemed suspicious. If they hadn't returned after 4 or 5 hours, we had a meeting with the Estonian group leaders. We decided to wait until midnight and if they will not return by that time, we would try to escape. But the leaders did return before midnight. They had been on landscape surveillance and in the morning we had to take our defence positions. Early in the morning we moved towards our positions where the locals were made to dig trenches. The building of the trenches took time. But one reason behind it could have been that the builders' food didn't arrive on time. The next day German aircrafts were in the sky and bombed the nearby railway station, but kept missing it. There were Russian aircrafts too. These moved in groups of 9 or 10, mostly before the evening time. I measured the time of their return, which became shorter each time. This meant that the Germans were getting closer."