“When I started in this war, I began as a military doctor, Third Class, then a captain. In 1944, I became a major.“

Eva Ryzhevskaya

“When I started in this war, I began as a military doctor, Third Class, then a captain. In 1944, I became a major.“

I come a very small village in the center of Ukraine. My father and his three brothers and their families made up almost the entire Jewish population.

As soon as I could, I started studying medicine. In 1940, at the age of 21, I graduated from the medical institute in Donetsk and a year later, I was drafted into the army. When the Germans invaded in June 1941, I was sent to the front.

The Germans were moving with incredible speed, and our troops had to evacuate more and more towns as we retreated. It seemed to us the end was near.

During the day we operated on the wounded in daylight. At night, we used the headlights from trucks hooked up to hand-cranked generators. We worked by groping and feeling.

In summer 1942, our division arrived in Stalingrad. Then came the siege. They bombed us with artillery and from the air, so we had to move to the basement and used bunks as operating tables.

Usually one surgeon worked on five or six tables—all at the same time—removing fragments, suturing vessels. Then nurses took up stitching and gave anti-tetanus injections so the surgeon could go to the next patient. There were no narcotics, nothing to dull the pain.

The Germans surrendered at the beginning of February. As we moved westward, I asked for leave to find my parents. You can imagine what I found. I came back and from that point on, when our commanders asked for surgeons to go in the first wave of attack with the soldiers, I went every time.

I became the chief of four men, and although they kept trying to talk me out of it, I didn’t have a soul in the world waiting for me except my brother Mikhail, who was also serving on the front lines as a combat engineer.

And because my blood type is O negative, which is universal, there were times that I simply operated on a soldier while giving him a transfusion of my own blood.

When I started in this war, I began as a military doctor, Third Class. Then I became a captain. In 1944, I became a major. In every battle, I operated not only on our soldiers but on Germans, too. Germans murdered my family but the duty of a doctor is to save lives, not judge.

I was with my field hospital in Breslau in May 1945 when the war ended. They took us to Berlin. We saw the city and were shown Hitler’s chancellery which had been practically demolished.

There in that vast building was a huge crystal chandelier that had fallen to the marble floor. Each of us took a crystal pendant. The war was over for me—but where could I go?

My brother lived in Moscow, he was married and had a family. That’s where I went. I married. My husband Leonid wasn’t Jewish, but I didn’t care. We had a daughter and, tragically, I lost Leonid in 1964 when he was just 56.

My daughter definitely identifies herself as a Jew. The best thing is that Jewish life appeared in independent Russia. But along with the revival of Jewish life, fascism has appeared in Russia. And my daughter is sure that the fascists would like to come to power in our country. She is constantly trying to convince me to leave for Israel. Some people don’t have a problem moving to another country. I think twice when I cross the street. Anyway, I understand that she will not leave me, and I will die in my motherland.

Personally, I don't believe that fascism could be a driving force in Russia, which had suffered so much from fascism. We will see. Maybe I am too optimistic.

Eva Ryzhevskaya passed away in 2015. Her daughter has remained in Russia. She has very bravely posted pro-Ukrainian posts on Facebook. We are not in contact with her.