Star of the Red Army

       I was five years old when my mother took me to Wroclaw, the capitol city of the province of Lower Silesia. I do not remember for what reason. Maybe it was a visit to specialist at the Academy of Medicine, as I always had problems with my tonsils. But I remember exactly the meeting with the Red Army soldiers on the railway platform. The soldiers looked out through the windows of a special military passenger train standing at the platform. Perhaps the train was carrying them from Poland to Russia, or to the city of Legnica, which housed the Command of the Northern Group, the Red Army in Eastern Europe.
       I was bored on the platform, waiting for our train, so I walked while mother sat on a bench. Fortunately for me, the soldiers also were bored. How long can you sit in the train? One of the soldiers said something to me, but of course I did not understand. I ran to my mother.
       “Mom, what did he say to me?”
       ”He speaks Russian, so you will not understand him.”
       My mother came with me to the carriage window. She began to talk with the Russian soldiers, who were surprised that they had met someone familiar with their language. I also talked with them, but in Polish, although my mother had to translate my words. It was cool, because I was not bored now on the empty platform. The soldiers were a big attraction for me. Probably I was a big attraction to the soldiers too, because they laughed loudly while “talking” with me. The soldiers had green uniforms and caps with beautiful red stars made from porcelain. I liked those stars very much. They shone in the sun like diamonds. The soldiers’ uniforms and caps were made from poor quality fabrics, but the stars were wonderful! I looked at them with admiration. Apparently a soldier noticed my admiration and asked, “Do you want a star?”
       My mother did not have to translate. I nodded excitedly! The soldier then disconnected a star from his cap and gave it to my mother who handed it to me.
       The fullness of joy!
       From that moment, I was not interested in anything but only in my beautiful, shining star. Our train arrived, and we said goodbye to the soldiers. While traveling, I held my fantastic star tightly in my fist. We arrived home in the evening; time for supper, and time to sleep. I slept with my cap on my head (it was of course not a military cap), to which my mother attached the star. I had a military night dream, in which I was the captain of the Red Army chasing the Nazis. But the greatest fun I had occurred the next day when I showed the star to my friends. They admired it, and each of them took turns wearing my cap with the star. The star made a great impression on all the boys; none of them had ever seen such a star. Then we played our usual game about war against Germany. I was assured, thanks to the star, the title of General of the Red Army. Besides, I was the only one who had a toy, a wooden green tank. It had a moving turret, and wooden wheels, which simulated tank tracks. From time to time I allowed boys to play with my tank.
       Now I allowed the boys to wear the cap for a few minutes. One day, however, a strange event occurred. Returning from a restaurant, the old drunk Jurczyk saw me wearing my cap with the star.
       “Remove that star immediately from your cap, you kacap, you Russian shit! You are a Pole; you should wear a cap with a pinned Polish crowned eagle. If not, I will do to you, what Polish Marshall Pilsudski did to the Russians in the miracle on the Vistula!”
       I did not quite know what he meant, but I decided to run away from him just in case. With drunken people you can expect anything.
       “What does he want?”
       “What does “kacap” mean?” I asked.
       “Kacap means Russian”, said Adam, son of the owner of the restaurant.
       “What does ‘the miracle on the Vistula River’ mean?” But even Adam did not know.
       “Jurczyk told me to wear a cap with a crowned eagle. But where can we get one?”
       This question was not answered too. In any case, we moved our play war-games against Germany to the garden. One of us stood at the gate to the garden as the guard, to issue a warning whistle when he sees Jurczyk coming. Moreover, in the garden the conditions for playing were better. The garden was huge, fenced in by brick walls and full of trees and bushes, good for hiding. At the old, large, pear tree, we established Stalin’s headquarters. At the big cherry tree at the edge of the garden, we established Hitler’s headquarters. The strange accident with Jurczyk had
ended well.