U.S., Russian soldiers reunite after 49 years

May 30, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

American World War II veteran Victor Ostrow embraced Russian soldiers yesterday for the first time since a meeting at the Elbe River in Germany nearly 50 years ago.

The occasion was a Memorial Day observance at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center organized by the American Jewish War Veterans. About 150 American veterans and 40 of their Russian comrades attended.

"What made me very happy was when I saw my Russian brethren," said Mr. Ostrow of Silver Spring, who fought with the Army's 69th Infantry Division in Europe.

He recalled the day in April 1945 when his unit joined forces with Russian soldiers at Torgau port on the Elbe River in Germany.

"We couldn't speak the language, but we were there as undying brothers," Mr. Ostrow said.

Yesterday's event was the fifth Memorial Day observance at a public monument on the JCC grounds honoring Jewish War Veterans from Maryland, erected in 1990.

Air Force veteran Richard Grossman, 69, who served for 2 1/2 years in Europe during World War II, coordinated yesterday's activities. The former Russian soldiers are patron members of Jewish War Veterans posts around Maryland.

"We've had a continuing dialog with the Russians veterans for the past 15 years. Now we saw an opportunity to bring them together with their families for this occasion," he said. Mr. Grossman greeted them in well-practiced Russian: "Welcome to our Russian comrades."

Gertsel Meyten, 74, who served with the Soviet army during World War II, said he was honored to remember those who served in America's wars with his allies from 50 years ago. "They're our military brothers," he said.

Speakers at yesterday's ceremony stressed the importance of telling future generations about the horrors of war.

"Memorial Day is not intended to be a mournful time; it's a day to recall the indomitable spirit of those who defeated the forces of oppression," said Edward Blatt, national commander of the Jewish War Veterans. "We must tell our story to a new generation, who hopefully will not know of war and its calamities."

World War II veteran Sid Simon, who flew 65 bombing missions, readily recalled his 25th mission -- the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

"I saw these boys hit the beaches and I saw the bodies blow up," said Mr. Simon, who watched the invasion from a B-26 bomber. "It was like watching a movie that I couldn't stop."

"I was one of the lucky ones; I came back without a scratch," Mr. Simon said. "But the boys who left their limbs and blood are the heroes."

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