Life stories by Ruvim Katz... Part 3
Narrated: Ruvim Katz , St-Petersburg, Russia
English Translation: Daniel Klionsky, webmaster
Editing: Janet (Mikhlin) Neice , Detroit
Posted on: 8 March 2012
Last Updated on: 8 March 2012

Ruvim, 1955
By Ruvim Katz (b. 1918), retired Red Army lieutenant-colonel, WWII veteran and webmaster’s grandfather.

He lives in St-Petersburg, Russia and in 2011 celebrated his 93d birthday.

The series consist of several short stories that Ruvim narrated from memory to Mark Klionsky, webmaster’s father.



Click to enlarge
original building of Military Institute of Foreign Languages, Moscow
In 1945, at the end of World War II, I found myself in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where my unit was relocated from Leningrad area.

It was in Dushanbe that my two daughters were born—Sveta (mother of webmaster for mikhlin.org) in 1946 and Alla in 1947. Unfortunately, my children were sick all the time, and I was also suffering from malaria.

The local physician told us that for the sake of the children, it was necessary to change climates.
This was not an easy task to accomplish for military personnel.

I asked my division commander for a transfer, but he denied my request, stating “If you are allowed to leave, then the rest of the officers from the Leningrad military district will try to return as well.” I left him empty-handed.

However, luck was on my side.

Right at that time, our division received an order to direct one officer to Moscow to attend a 2 year program for Army interpreters, specializing in German and English at the Military Institute of Foreign Languages of the Red Army.

During WWII, the Institute was preparing military translators and intelligence officers for the war effort.

And after the war, the program was used to prepare language teachers for the military academies and other institutions.

Aside from this program, the Institute was a full year Graduate school for military personnel with Bachelor degrees.
Knowing my situation, the Chief of Staff offered me the opportunity, and I immediately accepted.

Once in Moscow, I joined a group of six people to study the German. Another group, also comprised of six cadets, studied English.

And, as a matter of fact, there was Jewish cadet in the other group as well.

All cadets were informed that those who finished the program with excellent grades would have an opportunity to become 3rd year student in the full-time program.

This was a good stimulus for my studying, and I set out a goal for myself: to study in Moscow for all 5 years, graduate the Institute with a diploma, and serve in the Army as a German teacher.
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`Military Institute of Foreign Languages` lapel,
Truthfully, I wanted to leave my job.

It was a deadly profession during the war, and I lost a number of subordinates during the communication installation on the front lines.

A few times I was caught under a hail of bullets while trying to establish a connection on the front lines.

Even when the war was over, the commanding officers still demanded, “Katz - communications, right now!” Contrary to that work, I did find teaching to be very pleasant.

In the past, I had to train sergeants in an educational radio platoon, and it didn’t turn out too badly. My commanding officers expressed gratitude for my work.
The studies in Moscow were easy for me.

German came easily to me as I had learned Yiddish in a Jewish school during my childhood.

However later that year, the policy of the Soviet government towards Jews started to change, worsening every day. The official (and only) media started to portray Jews as an ethnicity that as a whole was untrustworthy, ungrateful, and treacherous. The first wave of anti-Semitism was rolled out.

Jews were being kicked out from the government and party posts, including the military.

At that time my cousin, a decorated WWII veteran, Lt-Colonel Grisha Shpunt(1906-1971), was dismissed from the Navy, and his brother was dismissed from the police without explanation.

I was also very stressed out, trying not to think about it. The only thought in my head was: "Please do not throw me out of the army," and I could live with the rest of the outcomes.

Unfortunately, the waves of anti-Semitism eventually reached the Institute. 
Click to enlarge
Military Institute of Foreign Languages, Moscow 1948; Ruvim is 2nd from left


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WWII commendation to Ruvim Katz for bravery
An undisclosed committee was established to consider the fates of Jewish cadets and to find reasons for their dismissal from the Institute and from the military all together.

As I was told later by one of our teachers, himself being of Jewish origins, my candidacy and credentials were meticulously looked at, but no fault was found.
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`Military Institute of Foreign Languages` graduate pin (year of 1954), which Ruvim would have recieved, but did not...
Indeed, I came from a poor peasant family (Mikhlin & Katz), joined the military before WWII, was wounded in action, and have had only commendations from my superiors.

All that taken into account, I was spared and allowed to continue my studies… but only until the end of that year. There was no admission for further studies (despite the fact that I graduated the program cum laude)...

The Jewish cadet from the parallel English group was let go. The fellow cadets from my group were sent to do the coveted work in Eastern Germany, while I was summoned to the personnel department to be told:
"The current international situation, Comrade Katz, does not allow us to assign you to linguistic work.

However, you will continue your service in the regular army. Given your excellent academic achievements, we are giving you the opportunity to choose the military district for the remainder of your service.”

The Head of Human Resources began to name one military district after another, starting with the most distant ones—Far Eastern, Transbaikal, and so on.

As soon as he called the Leningrad military district, I woke up.

In fact, my cousin Lazar Mikhlin(1903 - 1987) , with whom I grew up and maintained a close friendship, lived in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
Overall, it was a partial relief bordering with satisfaction that the army did not fire me, and moreover, I was sent to serve not so far away! And so, without despair,

I went back to my duties as a communication’s company commander to the regiment that was located near city of Leningrad.