East of Lemberg
- by Arthur Ruhl
- American Journalist for 'Collier's'
Through Austria-Hungary to the Galician Front
Russian prisoners being transported over the Carpathians
WE left Nagybiesce in the evening, climbed that night through the high Tatras, stopped in the morning at Kaschau long enough for coffee and a sight of the old cathedral, rolled on down through the country of robber barons' castles and Tokay wine, and came at length, in the evening, to Munkacs and the foot of the high Carpathians.
This was close to the southernmost point the Russians touched when they came pouring down through the Carpathian passes, and one of the places in the long line where Germans and Austro-Hungarians joined forces in the spring to drive them back again. Munkacs is where the painter Munkacsy came from. It was down to Munkacs, through Silesia and the Tatras, that the troop-trains came in April while snow was still deep in the Carpathians. Now it was a feeding- station for fresh troops going up and wounded and prisoners coming down.
The officers in charge had no notion we were coming, but no sooner heard we were strangers in Hungary than we must come in, not only to dinner, but to dine with them at their table. We had red-hot stuffed paprika pods, Liptauer cheese mixed salmon-pink with paprika, and these and other things washed down with beer and cataracts of hospitable talk. Some one whispering that a bit of cheese might come in handy in the breakfastless, cholera-infested country, into which we were going that night, they insisted we must take, not merely a slice, but a chunk as big as a small trunk. We looked at the soup-kitchen, where they could feed two thousand a day, and tasted the soup. We saw the dressing-station and a few wounded waiting there, and all on such a breeze of talk and eloquent explanation that you might have thought you had stepped back into a century when suspicion and worry and nerves were unknown.
The Hungarians are like that along with their indolence and romantic melancholy lively and hospitable and credulous with strangers. Nearly all of them are good talkers and by sheer fervor and conviction can make almost any phrase resemble an idea and a real idea as good as a play. Hungarians are useful when trenches must be taken by storm, just as the sober Tyrolean mountaineers are better for sharp-shooting and slow resistance.
One of the interesting things about the Austro-Hungarian army, as well, of course, as an inevitable weakness, is the variety of races and temperaments hidden under these blue-gray uniforms Hungarians, Austrians, Croatians, Slovaks, Czechs. Things in universal use, like post-cards and paper money, often have their words printed in nine languages, and an Austro-Hungarian officer may have to know three or four in order to give the necessary orders to his men. And his men cannot fight for the fatherland as the Germans do; they must rally round a more or less abstract idea of nationality. And one of the surprises of the war, doubtless, to many people, has been that its strain, instead of disintegrating, appears to have beaten this loose mass together.
At the table that evening was a middle-aged officer and his aid on their way to a new detail at the front. They "were simple and soldier-like and, after the flashing bosoms of the sedentary hinterland, it was pleasant to see these men, who had been on active service since the beginning, without a single medal. The younger Hungarian was one of those slumbering daredevils who combine a compact, rugged shape strong wrists, hair low on the forehead with the soft voice and shy manners of a girl. He spoke a little German and English in the slow, almost plaintive Hungarian cadence, but all we could get out of him about the war was that it had made him so tired so mude. He had gone to school in Zurich but could not tell our Swiss lieutenant the name of his teacher he couldn't remember anything, any more, he said, with his plaintive smile. He had a little factory in Budapest and had gone back on furlough to see that things were ship-shape, but it was no use, he couldn't tell them what to do when he got there. Common enough, our captain guide observed. He had been in the fighting along the San until invalided back to the Presse-Quartier, and there were times, then, he said, when for days it was hard for him to remember his own name.
We climbed up into the mountains in the night and he had us up at daylight to look down from creaking, six-story timber bridges built by the Austro-Hungarian engineers to replace the steel railroad bridges blown up by the Russians. We passed a tunnel or two, a big stockade full of Russian prisoners milling round in their brown overcoats, and down from the pass into the village of Skole. Here we were to climb the near-by heights of Ostry, which the Hungarians of the Corps Hoffmann stormed in April when the snow was still on the ground, and "orientiren" ourselves a bit about this Carpathian fighting.
I had looked back at it through the "histories" and the amputated feet and hands in the hospital at Budapest now, in the muggy air of a late August morning we were to tramp over the ground itself. There were, in this party of rather leisurely reporters, a tall, wise, slow-smiling young Swede who had gone to sea at twelve and been captain of a destroyer before leaving the navy to manage a newspaper; a young Polish count, amiably interested in many sorts of learning and nearly all sorts of ladies he had seen some of the Carpathian fighting as an officer in the Polish Legion; one of the Swiss citizen officers one can hear him now whacking his heels together whenever he was presented, and fairly hissing " Oberleutnant W , aw Schweiz!" and a young Bulgarian professor, who spoke German and a little French, but, unlike so many of the Bulgarians of the older generation who were educated at Robert College, no English. The Bulgarians are intensely patriotic and there was nothing under sun, moon, or stars which this young man did not compare with what they had in Sofia. German tactics, Russian novels, sky- scrapers, music, steamships no matter what in a moment would come his "Bei uns in Sofia" (With us in Sofia) and his characteristic febrile gesture, thumb and forefinger joined, other fingers extended, pumping emphatically before his face.
Then there was our captain guide from the regular army, a volunteer automobile officer, a soldier servant for each man for the Austrians do such things in style and even, on a separate flat car, our own motor. The Carpathians here are in the neighborhood of three thousand five hundred feet high a tangle of pine-covered slopes as steep as a roof sometimes, and reminding one a bit of our Oregon Cascades on a much-reduced scale. You must imagine snow waist-deep, the heights furrowed with trenches, the frosty balsam stillness split with screaming shells and shrapnel and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns; imagine yourself floundering upward with winter overcoat, blanket, pack, rifle, and cartridge-belt any one who has snow-shoed in mountains in midwinter can fancy what fighting meant in a place like this. Men's feet and hands were frozen on sentry duty or merely while asleep for the soldiers slept as a rule in the open, merely huddled in their blankets before a fire the severely wounded simply dropped in the snow, and for most of them, no doubt, that was the end of it.
Puffing and steaming in our rain-coats, we climbed the fifteen hundred feet or so to the top of the mountain, up which the Russians had built a sort of cork-screw series of trenches, twisting one behind the other. We reached one sky-line only to find another looking down at us. Barbed-wire entanglements and "Spanish riders" crossed the slopes in front of them it was the sort of place that looks to a civilian as if it could hold out forever.
Austro-Hungarian trenches on the Uzsok pass in the Carpathians
The difficulty in country like this is, of course, to escape flanking fire. You fortify yourself against attack from one direction only to be enfiladed by artillery from some ridge to right or left. That was what the Austrians and Germans did and, following their artillery with an infantry assault, captured one of the upper Russian trenches. From this it was only a matter of a few hours to clear out the others. Except for the visits of a few peasants the battle-field had scarcely been touched since the snow melted. The hillside was peppered with shell holes, the trenches littered with old hand-grenades, brown Russian over-coats, the rectangular metal cartridge clip cases - about like biscuit tins which the Russians leave everywhere, and some of the brush-covered shelters in which the Russians had lived, with their spoons and wet papers and here and there a cigarette box or a tube of tooth-paste, might have almost been lived in yesterday.
The valley all the way back to Skole was strung with the brush and timber shelters in which the Russians had camped the first of thousands of cut-up pine-trees we were to see before we left Galicia. All the drab and dreary side of war was in that little mountain town smashed houses; sidewalks, streets, and fences splashed with lime against cholera; stores closed or just keeping alive, and here and there signs threatening spies and stating that any one found carrying explosives or building fires would be shot. I went into one fairly clean little cafe, where it seemed one might risk a cup of tea you are not supposed to drink unboiled or unbottled water in such neighborhoods and the dismal old Jew who kept the place told me that he had been there since the war began. He made a sour face when I said he must have seen a good deal. A lot he could see, he said, six months in a cellar "gesteckt."
Russian trenches in a Carpathian forest
There was a certain amount of cholera all through eastern Galicia, especially among the peasants, not so well housed, often, as the soldiers, and not nearly so well fed and taken care of. Every one who went into Galicia had to be vaccinated for cholera, and in the army this had all but prevented it. In a whole division living in a cholera-infected neighborhood there would be only one or two cases, and sometimes none at all. The uncomfortable rumor of it was everywhere, however, and one was not supposed to eat raw fruit or vegetables, and in some places hand-shaking, even in an officers' mess, was prohibited.
Russian prisoners were working about the station as they were all over eastern Austria-Hungary big, blond, easy-going children, apparently quite content. Our Warsaw Pole talked with one of them, who seemed to mourn only the fact that he didn't have quite so big a ration of bread as he had had as a soldier. He had come from Siberia, where he had left a wife and three children four, maybe, by this time, he said; some rascally Austrian might have made another one.
Beyond Skole we left the mountains looking back at that imposing wall on the horizon, one could fancy the Russians coming down from the north and thinking, "There we shall stand!" and rode northward through a pleasant, shallow, valley country, past Ruthenian settlements with their three-domed churches and houses steep-roofed with heavy thatch. Some of these Ruthenians, following the Little Russians of the south, Gogol's country, were not enthusiastic when the Russians came through. Among others, the Russian Government had made great propaganda, given money for churches and so on, so that the apparently guileless peasants occasionally revealed artillery positions, the Austrians said, by driving their cattle past them or by smoke signals from cottage chimneys. We stopped for dinner at Strij, another of those drab, dusty, half-Jewish towns filled now with German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers, officers, proclamations, and all the machinery of a staff headquarters, and the next morning rolled into Lemberg. The Russians captured it in the first week of the war, held it through the winter, and then, after the Czar had, from a balcony in the town, formally annexed it to the empire forever and a day, in April, the Austro-Hungarians retook it again in June.
There were smashed windows in the railroad station, but otherwise, to a stranger coming in for the first time, Lemberg seemed swinging along, a big modem city of some-two hundred thousand people, almost as if nothing had happened.
With an officer from General Bom-Ermolh's staff, and maps, we drove out to the outlying fortifications, where the real fighting had taken place. The concrete gun positions, the permanent infantry protections with loopholes in concrete, and all the trenches and barbed wire, looked certainly as if the Russians had intended to stay in Lemberg. The full explanation of why they did not must be left for the present. What happened at one fortified position, a few miles southwest of Lemberg, was plain enough.
Here, in pleasant open farming country was a concrete and earth fort, protected by elaborate trenches and entanglements, in front of which, for nearly a mile across the fields, was an open field of fire. Infantry might have charged across that open space until the end of the war without getting any nearer, but the offensive did not, of course, try that. Over behind distant clumps of trees and a wooded ridge on the horizon they planted their heavy batteries. On a space perhaps three hundred yards long some sixty of these heavy guns concentrated their fire. The infantry pushed up under its protection, the fort fell, and the garrison was captured with it.
It is by such use of artillery that herds of prisoners are sometimes gathered in. Just before the charging infantry reaches the trench, the cataract of artillery fire, which has been pouring into it, is suddenly shifted back a few hundred yards, where it hangs like a curtain shutting off escape. The success of such tactics demands, of course, finished work from the artillery-men and perfect co-ordination between artillery and infantry. At lunch a few days later in Cracow, a young Austrian officer was telling me how they had once arranged that the artillery should fire twenty rounds, and on the twenty-first the infantry, without waiting for the usual bugle signal to storm, should charge the trenches. At the same instant the artillery-men were to move up their range a couple of hundred yards. The manoeuvre was successful and the Russians caught, huddled under cover, before they knew what had happened.
Though Lemberg's cafes were gay enough and the old Jews in gaberdines, with the orthodox curl dangling before each ear, dozed peacefully on the park benches, still the Russians were only a few hours' motor drive to the eastward, and next morning we went out to see them. All of the country through which we drove was, in a way, the "front" beginning with the staff head- quarters and going on up through wagon-trains, reserves, horse camps, ammunition-stations, and so on, to the first-line trenches themselves.
Sweeping up through this long front on a fine autumn morning is to see the very glitter and bloom of war. Wounds and suffering, burned towns, and broken lives all that is forgotten in the splendid panorama men and motors and fliers and guns, the cheerful smell of hay and coffee and horses, the clank of heavy trucks and the jangle of chains, all in beautiful harvest country; in the contagion of pushing on, shoulder to shoulder, and the devil take the hindmost, toward something vastly interesting up ahead.
Every one is well and strong, and the least of them lifted up and glamoured over by the idea that unites them. All the pettinesses and smallness of every-day existence seem brushed aside, for no one is working for money or himself, and every man of them may be riding to his death.
Flippant young city butterflies jump to their feet and gravely salute when their elders enter, the loutish peasant flings up his chin as if he would defy the universe. What a strange and magic thing is this discipline or team-work or whatever you choose to call it, by which some impudent waiter, for instance, who yesterday would have growled at his tips, will to-day fling his chin up and his hands to his sides and beam like a boy, merely because his captain, showing guests through the camp, deigns to peer into his mess-can and, slapping him affectionately on the cheek, ask him if the food is all right!
We whizzed into the village of Kamionka, on the upper Bug, across which the Russians had been driven only a few days before. Their trenches were just within the woods a scant mile away, and the smoke of their camp-fires curled up through the trees. Across the much-talked-of Bug, which resembles here a tide-water river split with swampy flats, were the trenches they had left. They trailed along the river bank, bent with it almost at a right angle, and the Austro-Hungarian batteries had been so placed that a crisscross fire enfiladed each trench. From the attic observation station into which we climbed, the officers directing the attack could look down the line of one of the trenches and see their own shells ripping it to pieces. "It was a sight you could see once in a lifetime," said one of the young artillery-men, still strung up with the excitement of the fight exactly what was said to me at Ari Bumu by a Turkish officer who had seen the Triumph go down.
That attic was like a scene in some military melodrama, with its tattered roof, its tripod binoculars peering at the enemy, the businesslike officers dusty and unshaven, the field-telegraph operator squatting in one corner, with a receiver strapped to his ear. We walked across the rafters to an adjoining room, where there were two or three chairs and an old sofa, had schnapps all round, and then went out to walk over the position.
In front was the wabbly foot-bridge run across by the pioneers, and on the swampy flats the little heaps of sod thrown up by the first line as they pushed across wading up to their necks part of the way under fire.
On the near bank the Austro-Hungarian trenches had run between the tombs of an old Jewish burying-ground, and from the earth walls, here and there, projected a bone or a crumbling skull. The Russian trenches on the other bank wound through a farmyard in the same impersonal way pig-pens, orchard, chicken-coops, all thought of merely as shelter. It was just to the left of a pig-pen that a Russian officer had held his machine gun until the last minute, pouring in a flank fire. "He did his work!" was the young officer's comment.
We lunched with a corps commander and dined with a genial old colonel and his staff, and between times motored through level farming country to a position to the northward on the Rata, a tributary of the Bug. Both sides were watching each other here from their sausage-shaped captive balloons, and a few aeroplanes were snooping about but at the moment all was quiet. The Austro-Hungarians had been waiting here for over a fortnight, and the artillery-men had polished up their battery positions as artillery-men like to do when they have time. Two were in a pasture, so neatly roofed over with sod that a birdman might fly over the place until the cows came home without knowing guns were there. Another, hidden just within the shadow of a pine forest, was as attractive as some rich man's mountain camp, the gun positions as snug as yacht cabins, the officer's lodges made of fresh, sweet-smelling pine logs, and in a little recess in the trees a shrine had been built to St. Barbara, who looks out for artillery-men.
The infantry trenches along the river, cut in the clean sand and neatly timbered and loopholed, were like model trenches on some exposition ground. Through these loopholes one could see the Russian trenches, perhaps a mile away, and in between the peasant women, bright red and white splashes in the yellow wheat, were calmly going ahead with their harvest. All along the Galician front we saw peasants working thus and regarding this elaborate game of war very much apparently as busy farmers regard a draghunt or a party of city fishermen. At one point we had to come out in the open and cross a foot-bridge. "Please Lieutenant," one of the soldiers protested as the officer with us stepped out, standing erect, "it is not safe!" The officer crouched and hurried across and so did we, but just before we did so, up out of the field where they had been mowing, straight through this gap, came a little company of barefooted peasant women with their bundles of gleanings on their heads, and talking in that singsong monotone of theirs, as detached as so many birds, they went pat-patting across the bridge. If one of these women could but write her impressions of war!
They had done their part, these peasant women and old men and children. All over Galicia, round the burned villages, right through barbed-wire entanglements up to the very trenches, stretched the yellow wheat. Somehow they had ploughed and sowed and brought it to harvest, and now with scythes, with knives even, sometimes, they were getting it under cover. At home we know gleaners generally only in rather sentimental pictures; here we saw them day after day, barefooted women and children going over the stubble and picking up the forgotten wheat heads and arranging them in one hand as if they were a bouquet. There will be no wheat wasted this year.
And with them everywhere were the Russian prisoners, swinging scythes, binding grain, sometimes coming down the road, without even a guard, sprawled in the sun on a load of straw. It would be hard to find a place where war seemed more a vast theatricalism than in some of these Hungarian and Galician neighborhoods. There seemed to be no enmity whatever between captors and prisoners. Everywhere the latter were making themselves useful in the fields, in road-making, about railroad yards, and several officers told me that it was surprising how many good artisans, carpenters, iron-workers, and so on, there were among them. The Russians got exactly the same food as the Hungarian soldiers, and were paid a few cents a day for their work. You would see men in the two uniforms hobnobbing in the open freight-cars as the work-trains rolled up the line, and sometimes a score or so of husky Russians working in the wheat, guarded by some miniature, lone, Landsturm man. Of all the various war victims I had seen, these struck me as the most lucky they could not even, like the wounded, be sent back again.
We drove back through the dark that night, and in the bright, waving circle of an automobile search-light, with the cool breath from the pines in our faces, saw that long "front" roll back again. Now and then a soldier would step into the white circle and, holding up his arm, struggle between his awe of this snorting motor with its imperial double-eagle flag and its sharp-voiced officers muffled in gray coats between his peasant's habit of taking off his hat and letting such people blow by, and his soldier's orders to stop every-thing that passed. He stopped us, nevertheless, and the pass was laboriously read in the light of his electric lamp before we went on again.
In the dark and quiet all the countless joints and wheels of the vast organism were still mysteriously turning. Once, in a cloud of dust, we passed troops marching toward the front tired faces, laughing faces the shout "Man in the road !" and then the glimpse of a couple of Red Cross men kneeling by a soldier who had given out on the way; once, in the black pines, cows driven by two little frightened peasant children; once a long line of bearded Jews, bound, with packs on their backs, for what was left of their homes; a supply-train, a clanking battery, and now and then other motors like ours with shrouded gray figures, streaking by in a flashing mist of dust.
Next day, swinging southward into another sector of the front, over beautiful rolling hills, rather like the Genesee Valley, we drummed up a hill and came out at the top in a village square. It had once been a white little village clinging to the skirts of an old chateau the village of Swirz and Count Lavasan's chateau and both were now black and tumbled walls.
In the centre of the square people were singing a strange little crowd and strange, mournful singing. We thought at first it was a funeral service, for the women were weeping as they sang, but as the auto-mobile swept up beside them, we saw that it was men the women were crowding round live men, going away to war.
They were men who had not been called out because the Russians held the country, and by one of fate's ironies, now that the enemy had been beaten and driven home, they must go out and fight. At a little table by the side of the square sat the recruiting officer with his pen and ledger, and the village school-master, a grave, intelligent-looking young man, who must have held such a place in this half-feudal village as he would have done a hundred years ago, was doing his best to glamour over the very realistic loss of these wives and sweethearts with patriotism's romance. He sang and obediently they all wailed after him the old song of scattered Poland Poland is not lost " Yeszcze Polska me Zginela Poki my zygemy. ..."
The song stopped, there was a word of command, and the little squad started away. The women clung to their men and cried aloud. The children hanging to their skirts began to wail, too. There was some-thing creepy and horrible, like the cries of tortured animals, in that uncontrolled crying there in the bright morning sunshine. The schoolmaster spoke to them bluntly, told them to go back to their homes and their work, and obedient, and a little quieter now, they drifted away, with aprons to their faces and their little children clinging to their skirts back to their cottages and the winter ahead.
This picture did not fit in very well with our rollicking military panorama, but we were soon over the hills, and half an hour later were breakfasting on pate-de-foie-gras sandwiches and champagne, with a charming old corps commandant, at a round table set outdoors in a circle of trees that must have been planted for that very purpose. Cheered and stiffened by many bows and heel clickings and warming hospitality, we hurried off to an artillery position near the village of Olszanica.
Just under the brow of a hill we were stopped and told that it was dangerous to go farther, and we skirted off to the right under cover, to the observation station itself. More little Swiss chalets, more hospitable officers, and out in front, across a mile of open country, the Russian trenches. Through a periscope one could see Russians exercising their horses by riding them round the circle as silent and remote and of another world as a picture on a biograph screen.
"You see that clump of trees," said the young officer, "one of their batteries is just behind there. Those aren't real trees, they were put there by the Russians." I swung the glass to the left, picked up a company of men marching. "Hello, hello," he whispered, then after a moment's scrutiny: "No they're our men." After all, war isn't always so different from the old days, when men had a time for fighting and a time for going in to powder their wigs! The division commander, standing a little behind us, remarked: "We shall fire from the right-hand battery over behind the hill and then from the left the one you passed near the road." Then turning to an officer at the field telephone he said; "You may fire now."
There was a moment's pause, from over the woods behind us came a " Wbr-r-rong !" and out over the sunny fields a shell went milling away to send back a faint report and show a puff of cotton above the trenches to the right. It was a bit short the next fell better. Another nod, another "Whr-r-row?/" from somewhere behind us, and this time the cottony puff was just short of the clump of trees where the Russians had concealed their battery. I picked up the spot through the glass and one might have known ! there was One of those eternal peasants calmly swinging his scythe about fifty yards short of the spot where the shrapnel had exploded. I could see him straighten up, glance at it, then go on with his mowing again.
There was a certain elegance, a fine spaciousness about these artillery-men and their work which made one more content with war again. No huddling in muddy trenches here, waiting to be smashed by jagged chunks of iron everything clean, aloof, scientific, exact, a matter of fine wires crossing on a periscope lens, of elevation, wind pressure, and so on, and everything in the wide outdoors, and done, so to say, with a magnificent gesture.
People drive high-power motor-cars and ride strong horses because of the sense of power it gives them how about standing on a hill, looking over miles of splendid country to where a huddle of ants and hobby-horse specks say a battalion or two are just crawling around a hill or jammed on a narrow bridge, and then to scatter them, herd them, chase them from one horizon to another with a mere, " Mr. Jones, you may fire now," and a wave of the hand!
The division commander took us back a mile or so to his headquarters for lunch, the Russians slowly waking up and sending a few perfunctory shells after us as we went over the hill, and here was another genial party, with three "Hochs" for the guests at the end. Even out here in empty Galicia the soldiers got their beer. "We're not quite so temperate as the Russians," the general smiled. "A little alcohol not too much does 'em good."
A young lieutenant who sat next me regaled me with his impression of things in general. The Russians had squandered ammunition, he said, in the early days of the war they would fire twenty rounds or so at a single cavalryman or anything that showed itself. They were short now, but a supply would come evidently every now and then, for they would blaze away for a day or so, then there would be a lull again. They were short on officers, too, but not so much as you might think, because they kept their officers well back of the line, generally. Their artillery was better than the infantry, as a rule; the latter shot carelessly and generally too high.
Both he and the officer at my left a big, farmer-like commissary man spoke most amiably of the Russians. The latter told of one place where both sides had to get water out of the same well. And there was no trouble. "No," he said, in his deep voice, "they're not hose," using the same word "bad" one would apply to a naughty boy. They were a particularly chipper lot, these artillerymen, and when I told the young lieutenant, who had been assigned to speak French to me under the notion that I was more at home in that language, that I had stopped at Queens Hotel instead of the St. Antoine in Antwerp, and that the Belgian army had crossed the Scheldt, and the pontoon bridge had been blown up directly in front of the hotel, he said that he would "certainly engage rooms there for the next bombardment," as he waved good-by.
We were presented, while in Lemberg, to General Bom-Ermolli, and lunched at the headquarters mess. We also met Major-General Bardolf, his chief of staff, and chief of staff of the assassinated Crown Prince. The latter described to us the campaign about Lemberg, and it was interesting to hear the rasping accent he gave to a word like " Durchbrechung," for instance, as if he were a Prussian instead of an Austrian, and to observe the frankness with which he ascribed the difference that had come over the spirit of the Austro-Hungarian army to the coming of Mackensen and the Germans.
West of Lemberg the pleasant country lost its war-time air and in Przemysl the two or three lonely Landsturm men guarding the wrecked fortifications, twice taken and twice blown up by retreating armies, lit candles to take us through the smashed galleries, and accepted a few Hellers when we came out, with quite the bored air of professional museum guides.
one of the Przemysl forts destroyed during the German bombardment
The town of Przemysl itself was untouched. The greater part of the visible damage to the forts, some distance outside the town, was done by the dynamite of the retreating army. In one place, however, we saw the crater of one of the 42-centimetre shells which have been talked about oftener than they have been used. The Austrian "thirty-point-fives" have done much of the smashing ascribed to the "forty-twos," and ordinary work, like that of bombarding a city or infantry trenches, by cannon of smaller caliber. A genuine forty-two had been dropped here, however, we were told, on a building used by the Russians to store ammunition, and the building had simply disappeared. There was nothing left but a crater sixty or seventy feet across and eighteen to twenty feet deep.
We trailed westward, through Tarnow, where the great drive first broke through, and on to the pleasant old university city of Cracow on the frontier of the Poland of which it was once the capital, and to which it belonged until the partition of 1795. It was toward Cracow that the Russians were driving when they first started for Berlin, and they were but a stone's throw away most of the winter. We got to Cracow on the Emperor's birthday and saw a military mass on the great parade-ground with the commandant of the fort standing uncovered and alone facing the altar, behind him his staff, and perhaps a hundred yards behind them and stretching for a quarter of a mile down the field, the garrison. At the intervals in the mass the whole garrison fired salutes, the volleys going down the field, a battalion at a time, now and then reinforced by the cannon on Kosciusko Hill.
Cracow is Polish in atmosphere and feeling, and even in the few hours we were there one heard a good deal of Polish hopes and ambitions. The independence which Russia was to grant must come now, it would appear, from some one else. The Poles want a king of their own, but apparently they preferred to be under the wing of Austria rather than of Germany. The Germans, who had laid rather a firm hand on the parts of Poland they had occupied, might not fall in with this notion and one could detect here one of those clouds, "no bigger than a man's hand," which dramatists put in the first act, and which often swell to interesting proportions before the final curtain goes down.
Russian prisoners in a prisoner-of-war camp in Hungary
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