Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

The Old Man Has Spoken

This letter was written on November 19th, 1944. According to the Washington Post, “Russian tanks and infantry smashed 4 miles through German lines 15 miles north of Budapest… in a powerful encircling movement which swept through 19 miles of the Vienna high road…”(Russians Only 19 Miles From Vienna Road. The Washington Post; Nov 19, 1944; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 – 1994) pg. M1) Only 15 years after Alex came to the United States he was overseas participating in a war in which the city of his birth was being occupied by Nazi Germany. As the Red Army was advancing through Hungary to oust the German occupation, Alex was writing the following letter to Sylvia. It is incredible how different two accounts (one personal, one “objective”) of one day can be. The letter below is all about waiting. Waiting for mail, playing chess to pass the time, getting back into bed, and “just waiting again.” Alex mentions that he wrote that things were going to “happen” but nothing seems to be happen.

(I typed up this letter a while ago but I don’t think I published it. I apologize if I have and just can’t find it.)

My dearest sweetest wife,

Mike tells me to write even if I am saying things over and over again, because a woman wants to hear from his [her] man. Well, that goes both ways. But I haven’t received mail from you for a long time and I don’t really know what to write you about.

This waiting about is really becoming obnoxious (is that the word?) One day is so much like the next one that its not even funny. Getting up at 3:50 in the morning and be up til eight then either go to the bunk or hang around to see weather something will happen. Play a little chess (plenty of that) and hang about some more, then evening comes and into the sack again. The only pleasant diversion is when the mail comes and that is not often.

The first opportunity I get I am going ashore again and see perhaps a movie. Even beer is out of bounds, so you can imagine how much diversion a man can have here.

Dearest, in one of the letters I told you that things are beginning to happen, but now it seems that we get back into the same sot and are just waiting again.

Darling, how is my little angel? Do you know that I miss her very much? I am wondering how much she can speak by now and the things she can do.

How is she going to greet her daddy when he comes home. I hope she won’t be scared of me but if she is, I know what the reason is. I hope that by now she has plenty of warm clothing and I think of that quite often when the weather is stormy.

Darling wife, what else can I tell you that you don’t know already? I don’t even dare to ask you if you miss me, I just fear to hear that. So darling, write me a cheerful letter and tell me that this time has flown away and it isn’t hard to wait for my homecoming. Because really it doesn’t seem that its already three months that I am away from home. So the time will fly some more, just a little an the I’ll be home again.

With this last thought in my mind to keep me cheered up and looking at your pictures and thinking about a lovely wife and child and all the happiness they can give me, in waiting for me, etc. not bad at all.

So I conclude with millions of kisses and all the lovely a man can have for two of the sweetest girls on earth.

The Old Man (has spoken)


Remember how the Red Cross told women to write cheerful letters to their husbands fighting in the war? Well, so did Alex. He knows that the only way to keep his morale up is to think of his wife and daughter and hear that they are not having a hard time but are, in fact, cheerfully awaiting his arrival home and his re-entry to “normality.”

What a high and difficult standard that must be for the household to meet when he returns. With years spent idealizing home how can reality possibly meet those expectations? I think the honesty of the letters between Alex and Sylvia helped to check these unrealistic ideas and this fortified their relationship after Alex returned. However, when the letter writing was over in the years after the war, reality would continue to hit hard.

One comment on “The Old Man Has Spoken

  1. Jerry
    May 23, 2011

    This was such a beautiful, letter and commentary. You (and Alex) convey so much with just a few words. Thank you!!

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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