Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.
Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.
Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.
Maurice and the truck
Latvia, October 1944
Maurice took out his pack of cigarettes from his inside pocket. They were damp, too, but he managed to light one and held the match for Stepan to light his, too. Even our cigarettes have to come from America. And they’re better than Russian cigarettes, too.
“Dig in, boys,” said a sergeant from another company. “Captain wants you to raise a berm along here,” he swept his arm along, indicating a line from a stand of burnt trees to a blasted barn. “Four men stand watch behind it at a time. The rest can sleep in what’s left of that barn.” He left to order other men to raise temporary, rudimentary defenses on the other side of the little camp.
The men shoveled and made a low dike with a shallow moat in front of it, good enough to hide behind and protect them against bullets. A lieutenant took three other men into the barn’s roofless loft as look-outs, even though they would not be able to see anything on this rainy night.
The berm complete, Maurice and a few other men set up the Maxim behind it and then huddled in the slightly dryer lee of a burned shed to eat their mobile rations. “Even our food comes from America,” he muttered, and surprised himself when he realized he had spoken aloud.
“Those cowboys know how to cook, too,” said another young soldier that Maurice did not know. He opened his tin can of rations. “This ham is very tasty.”
“It’s better than what we used to get,” said Maurice. Damn. I shouldn’t have said that.
“What did you used to get?” asked Taras around a mouthful of food.
“Just the Russian garbage. Sometimes, it was just stale bread.”
“When was that?”
Think fast, Maurice. “During training. The food was crap in the Donbas.”
The others nodded as if that made sense, and Maurice stifled a relieved sigh.
“Think the war will be over soon? Fritz is on the run,” said the man who liked the ham.
“It’s still a long way to Germany, and Hitler doesn’t want to give up any land,” Serhiy Koval said.
“France has been liberated, Belgium and Luxembourg too, and I heard that the Canadians have entered Holland,” said the ham lover. “Bulgaria and Hungary have turned against Germany, too. Germany can’t last.”
Maurice laughed bitterly. France had been liberated, or most of it, anyway. Italy soon would be completely free of Hitler. But what about Latvia? Estonia had declared itself a free country when the Red Army drove the Germans out, but its government had to flee the Soviets, too. Latvia would soon be firmly in Stalin’s grip.
And Ukraine? The Red Army had rolled across its flat fields in a matter of months, rolling up the Germans almost as quickly as the Germans had taken the country in 1941. Ternopyl had been destroyed in the fighting. The fall of Hitler’s empire would be the rise of Stalin’s.
A truck groaned up to the barn and parked for the night. The driver got out and three other men jumped out of the back and started unloading. Maurice shivered and felt water seeping through the canvas uppers of his boots. He looked longingly at the truck’s cabin. He thought fleetingly of climbing in the back once it was unloaded, but did not want to risk an officer’s ire. Instead, he walked up to the front of the truck and leaned against the grill. The engine’s damp heat suffused him, strengthened him. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, thinking deliberately of his mother’s kitchen, of Katerina’s bed, of warm sunshine on the hills. For a delicious minute, he was no longer at war, but studying again beside his sister Hanya, sitting by the pietsch, his huge cat on his lap, a heavy book balanced on the table.
It couldn’t last. The sergeant walked into the barn, turning slightly as he passed Maurice. “Bury, you’re on first watch. Get up to the line.” Then he disappeared behind the blackened and splintered wall.
About the Author
Scott Bury can’t stay in one category.
After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”
The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.
Army of Worn Soles, published in 2014, tells the true story of Maurice Bury, a Canadian drafted into the USSR’s Red Army to face the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Invited to participate in two Kindle Worlds, he published Torn Roots: A Lei Crime Kindle World Novella and Jet – Stealth: A Jet Kindle World Novella. Both came out in July 2015.
In between writing books and blog posts, Scott helped found an author’s cooperative publishing venture, Independent Authors International. He is also President of author’s professional association BestSelling Reads.