Tuesday Sampler: Army of Worn Soles by Scott Bury
August 20, 2019
The true story a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in 1941, just in time to face Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.
1941: Their retreat across Ukraine wore their boots out—and they kept going.
Three months after drafting him, the Soviet Red Army throws Maurice Bury, along with millions of other under-trained men, against the juggernaut of Nazi Germany’s Operation Barbarossa, the assault on the USSR.
Army of Worn Soles tells the true story of a Canadian who had to find in himself a way to keep himself alive—and the men who followed him.
Army of Worn Soles is the first book in the Eastern Front trilogy comprising Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War. It’s the true story a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in 1941, just in time to face Operation Barbarossa, the greatest land attack in history—Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.
The next week, when the boys went to the Jewish quarter, Maurice stepped in front of Bohdan and knocked on the kitchen door. A man dressed all in black answered. He had a long grey beard, spectacles and a cap on his head. “Good morning, sir,” Maurice said. Warm air filled with delicious aromas came out of the kitchen. “We’re here to cut your firewood.”
The man nodded, frowning. His eyes scanned Maurice and his friends, and the pile of uncut wood beside the garden. He didn’t say anything, so Maurice pulled off his cap and smiled as warmly as he could. He held out his hand. “I am Maurice, and these are my friends. We did a good job last week, wouldn’t you say.”
The homeowner nodded without smiling, but he shook Maurice’s hand. “Yes, fine. Go to it, then.”
“Yes, sir, we will, right away, but there is just one thing,” Maurice said. He heard his friends shuffling behind him, mystified as to what he was doing. “Last week, you paid us fifty grozy, just half a zloty each to cut and stack your firewood and make kindling, too. And believe me, we are grateful—hmm, my, that smells good in your kitchen—grateful for the work. But you see, your honour, we are students at the gymnasium. Ukrainians, underdogs like your people. And the food at the gymnasium is not as good as the food in your kitchen. Are you baking?”
“What do you want?”
“Mister—I am sorry, I don’t know your name?”
“Mr. Kohn, rabbi—”
“I am not a rabbi, I am a printer.”
“My apologies. Please, sir, Mr. Kohn—we are four poor Ukrainian students, struggling to improve our lives and our families’, too. My mother, for instance, lives on a poor farm near Ternopyl, and my education is a great burden on her. Just think of how hard she had to work to pay the tuition, let alone my living expenses. And my friends are in the same situation.” He indicated the three boys behind him.
Kohn sighed deeply. “What do you want?”
“A zloty each.”
“A zloty. I can get any goy for a fraction of that. Go on.”
“Hear me out, Mr. Kohn. One zloty for each of us will allow us to buy a good supper tonight, and we are all hard-working boys, and we’ll send money home to our mothers. And in return, we’ll cut twice as much wood as last week—”
“I don’t need twice as much wood. I still haven’t burned all the wood you cut last week.”
“Maybe. But you could sell some of your surplus to other households.”
“So I’m supposed to peddle cut wood to my neighbours?”
Maurice had not anticipated that response.
Bohdan stepped forward. “Of course not. We’ll sell it and give you the proceeds.”
Mr. Kohn shook his head. “You goyim have no head for money. This is how it will work, boys. Instead of fifty grozy each, I’ll pay you twenty-five. You cut as much wood for me as you did last week. Then you cut as much as you like to sell to the Abrahams next door—Abraham never buys enough wood, the cheapskate. You charge him five zlotys for the week. That way you’ll have more money than you did before. And you come back here and give me a quarter of what he paid, and I’ll let you come back next week. I’ll have more wood for you to sell then.”
Maurice turned to the others, who nodded. It was a good deal if it meant more work for each of them.
Kohn dug in a front pocket and pulled out some coins. “Here are another twenty-five grozy for each of you—buy yourselves a beer after. And never let it be said that Chaim Kohn let anyone, even goyim, go hungry.” He closed the door.
Meet the Author:
Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. 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.
Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.
He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
Please click HERE to find Army of Worn Soles on Amazon.