The War and Autumn Rasputitsa

Sleep must have been difficult as the military aircraft rumbled overhead throughout the night. My grandparents and aunts were not far from the fighting.  On September 4, less than three weeks after their hurried departure, Dad’s family was chased out of their current shelter by some military men, who tossed all their bundles from their wagon. The soldiers probably cared little about them.  They were just annoying hindrances in the war effort.

The five of them spent the day trudging along wet, muddy roads.   According to the diary, “the weather was very bad, muddy wet roads, awful.“

This was the beginning of the rasputitsa, an event which happened in the spring and fall. During that time, the heavy rains would turn the roads into rivers of mud, making them virtually impassible.  Having spent the past ten years living in the city, were they aware that they would soon be unable to travel? I wonder.

Although they had been moving for twenty days, not much distance had been covered because of the weather, poor road conditions, and the nearby fighting.

On September 5, they took shelter in a house in the village of Plashkino, which was only about thirty miles east of Novgorod. They remained there two days, knowing it was too dangerous to stay at any location for long and fearing that they would be discovered and killed by Hitler’s troops.

Despite the heavy rains, my grandfather did not allow his family to linger in any one place too long. The goal was to reach a train station as quickly as possible.

As a mother of several children in their twenties, I cannot imagine how my grandparents must have felt not knowing if their surviving sons-Uncle Pete and Dad- were dead or alive. The worry must have been overwhelming.

On the other side of the world, Dad was waiting for word from the State Department on the repatriation of his siblings and watching the news, while Mom had just started eighth grade.

German troops watch as city of Novgorod burns.

German troops watch as city of Novgorod burns.

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About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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4 Responses to The War and Autumn Rasputitsa

  1. chmjr2 says:

    This family story just keeps getting better and better.

  2. Dick Diemar says:

    I am getting hooked on this. How do you get all this information?

    • kjw616 says:

      I’ll show you the diary sometime, Dick. That, the letters, and lots of research helped me to piece together this story. You can play my grandpa during his early years in the movie- LOL!

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