July 1942

Our combat uniform gave us a rough, uncomfortable time because it was thick and didn't allow any air in to cool us d~mm. Reveille was at 4.00 am because of the scorching heat and we finished our work by 10.00 am. At midday everyday life stopped until 4.00 or 5.00 pm. Our group as well as the usual marching and drilling also had lectures in hygiene. These consisted of listening to a sergeant from the men's camp talking about basic hygiene, anatomy and physiology. We listened sitting on the ground but didn't make any notes as we had neither pen nor paper. After us came a group learning how to entertain the troops through acting, music-hall... and another studying how to set up, organise and run an army camp.

To the right of our camp a small river flowed down from the mountains. At this time of year it wasn't very wide or deep but it brought down a great deal of brown mud. We had to wash in it and what was even worse use it for cooking. Each morning we boiled water for breakfast in a large cauldron the size of a hip - bath. One look at this liquid reminded us of cocoa or hot drinking chocolate. In order to give it a taste of water you had to be careful and not stir it so that the silt remained at the bottom. We added rice to this water too but so little you could count the grains floating in it. At meal times we used this same cauldron to cook soup in.

Food rations continued to be meagre. Six volunteers living in a tent shared between them a little bread and a jar of jam not much bigger than a box of matches. But after such a long period of doing without anything sugary even such a tiny amount was delicious. Sometimes we were given half a sardine but we still continued to be very hungry. It seems at the same time, tins of food set aside for possibly worse times to come were bursting because of the heat!

Extra rations often turned up in the men's camp on the other side of the river. My father would then give me a little coffee or red wine. More often than not I would give it to Miecia and Danuta's mother who was suffering from diarrhoea. The mother of two other volunteers was also ill. She was a civilian but as she had no other family an exception was made and she was allowed to stay on the outskirts of the camp. She lay on the other side of the river in the shade of a bush. Her twin daughters came to nurse her bringing whatever they could find for her to eat. It was sad to watch this poor woman lying on the ground not even sheltered by a tent when it was so hot by day and not much cooler at night.

The little Kirghiz girls, their black hair plaited and wound around their heads had just come from bathing in the river. They looked like little imps as they jumped skilfully into the water from the bridge. Elderly Kirghiz men sometimes came to sell some very bitter khefir (a sort of yoghurt) at the camp entrance. We couldn't afford a lot but from time to time it was a welcome addition to our meagre diet.