30th June, 1915

My love! Around me everybody is still asleep. The regular peaceful breathing of my 41 sleeping-companions indicates that for the average prisoner of war the night will not be over for quite a while yet; it is only 5.15am. I get up early every day and I also go early to bed, and this gives me the benefit of being several hours "on my own". This is an invaluable advantage since during that time I am at liberty to take my thoughts wherever I wish. At first I usually deal with my correspondence, which admittedly is rather one-sided since I cannot really talk about any incoming post. Then I learn for a while Italian or I read. My progress is very, very slow, either it is the situation that prevents me from concentrating my thoughts or I am already a creature bereft of energy and incapable of picking up knew knowledge.

Now I owe you an explanation why I have not written for so long. On 16th June, 7 officers from our pavilion escaped. This was discovered already the next morning and a number of new or tighter regulations followed which have made our not very agreeable life even more difficult. We must expect an unannounced search of our private property any time, and I have to hide this book carefully to prevent its possible confiscation.

And now I shall continue my last letter and say more about my present place of residence. Krasnaya Rechka lies on the Usury River, a gigantic tributary of the Amur, actually near the place where the former flows into the latter. At the meeting place of these two enormous rivers one sees only unending masses of water and the width here is reputedly several kilometers. The nearest larger town, approximately an hour's journey by boat away, is Habarovsk, the seat of the General. Kasnaya Rechka itself can hardly be called a village and is only important because of its colossal barracks. Here in 6 pavilions about 600 officers are accommodated. Our pavilion (artillery workshop) is the largest and has consequently the highest number of inmates, i.e., 247 officers.

When I arrived here I was surrounded by a crowd of fellow prisoners, and for hours I had to answer all possible and impossible questions about their friends and acquaintances and about the "thereafter" meaning what happened at home after they had been taken prisoners in August or September. I was lucky because the people in my room were nice and I also found a relatively good place to sleep. Since our luggage had been left behind at the railway station, I had to sleep the first two nights on the bare bedstead using my long overcoat as under blanket and blankets for pillows.

The next day was filled partly by me giving further information and partly by introducing myself to various officers. At about 10 o'clock at night a part of the second transport from Shkotovo arrived including Probst and Psotta and surprisingly also, Dr Reif, who wishing to be together with me again, had been scheming so long until he was permitted to decamp from Shkotovo and come here. Like in Shkotovo we are separated from the world by a wooden fence but a large courtyard has been left inside the fence.

A kind of allotment scheme has developed here, and more or less successful gardens have been created by groups of inmates. Probst and I soon started work as well, and within 10 days we created a modest garden of our own. Already before our arrival some officers prepared a useful tennis court, a bowling alley, etc., but since the escape of the seven all games have been forbidden. A reasonably well supplied library provides me for the time being with sufficient amusement and I read a lot. Otherwise time passes here equally well or equally badly as in Shkotovo. The climate is very hot in summer and is said to be very cold in winter; the food is acceptable.

A memorable day for us was the 24th June when the withdrawal from Lemberg (translator's note: now known as Lvov or Lviv) was reported in the newspapers. When the report, which presented the loss in very a clever way to the indigenous population, was read our to us, our rejoicing was endless. A number of officers quickly put together an orchestra with violin, guitar, a comb as wind instrument and a bedside chest as drum. They had an immense applause when, asked to play the “Lemberg song”, they intoned “Muss i denn muss i denn zum stadtele hinaus” (translator's note: 'do I have to, do I have to leave the little town' – a popular song.)

In the afternoon we had a very nice tea with a grand concert; not only the band was playing but also a male choir directed by Lieutenant Dr Schmidt, a professor at the Technical School at Bielitz, and several violin soloists. This improvised holiday took place in a festive mood and will be unforgettable for all participants.

Another important day for us was yesterday. An Austrian chaplain to the forces who is also a prisoner of war, namely Rector Drexler, a deputy in the Reichstag, has received permission from the Russian government to visit different POW- camps in the Amur-region. On his journey he also came to us and yesterday we were taken to a mass. This took place in barracks, about 10 minutes walk from our pavilion, and was attended by all the 500-600 officers here. The chaplain made a really excellent oration in which he appealed to us to persevere, gave us comfort and tried to dispel our doubts concerning the term "prisoner". The mass was originally to be held on the anniversary of the Sarajevo murder, i.e., the 28th, but since we all had put on mourning crape, the Russian Commander feared a demonstration and the mass was postponed by one day. So this is enough for today. I am in good health and I hope that you are and will remain so too.

Thousand kisses.

© The estate of Otto Feldmann: Monica Lanyado, Tzafrah Shushan and Aya Shochat