Brother in America – Why Don’t You Join Our Army?
In the midst of all this political turmoil in Russia, as Masaryk, Stefanik and others tried to figure out how to excavate the men from Siberia, Paul and his unit had some time to kill. While they were nervous about the growing unrest in the country, at this point they were able to relax a bit in camp. The weather was calm and as balmy as Siberia can be in the summer months.
Camps popped up along the Trans Siberian Railway as the units of Czechs and Slovaks waited for orders to go east or west. They found time to smoke, drink, shoot the breeze, write letters and stories, play cards and go into town when they could for food.
This is a great picture of the Legion army, relaxing in camp somewhere in Siberia. You can see their guns in tipi formation in the forefront, and in the background, the boxcar train. You can also see the meal tent, and horse drawn carts. You can buy this picture, and several others, at www.germanpostalhistory.com
They even designed postcards which they sent back home (the picture above is one of them). Imagine that. I wonder if they took up needlework too?!
I love this postcard that was sent back to the US, trying to drum up more soldiers – Brother in America! Why don’t you join our army? (Apparently it worked, they grew to over 60,000 Legion members eventually).
They even played with the animals, as shown in the pictures below. The Russian Gypsies were big into dancing bears, and as they travelled from one performance to another they must have stopped along the way to entertain the Legion men.
This tradition of dancing bears originated in the Balkans, where Paul’s family lived, in the middle ages. Here is a little clip of the dancing bears, and one picture in this video shows the Legion men watching the bears.
And below is another dancing bear named Vanya that played with the Legion soldiers.
Another time, some eagles landed, providing hours of entertainment for the men. These pictures were found on the Slovak website on military history, http://www.tatranci.sk/sk/index.php?obrazky=1
The soldiers wandered around aimlessly for several months as the leaders met with the Russian to negotiate their safe passage out of the country. They became somewhat at ease walking away from camp and into the towns that dotted the sparse Siberian landscape. But remember that this was a volunteer army of men without a country, and so spending money was limited to whatever was provided by the allies who were arming and funding them.
In October, 1917, a second revolution took place in St. Petersburg and the Bolsheviks came to power. The Germans continued to make advances in Russia, and by early 1918, with German forces at the gates of St. Petersburg, the Bolsheviks caved in, and Russian participation in WWI came to an end. The Russian Civil War had now begun, and the days of fun and relaxation for the Legion were about to end abruptly.