Only a few monts passed since they had taken me to the Aegean region in the reserve troops - a detachment medical assistant, with a rank of a non-commissioned officer. Our Second Labour detachment was located in the village of Maistro, surrounded by olive groves, near Dedeagach.
It was the summer of 1944. St Peter’s day was approaching. I was homesick and the feeling was leading me to the village where I had left a woman and several children. There it was haymaking time now. High in the mountains the mornings are cool. The sky in the east fades and preaches a hot day. From morning till night I turn my scythe. Before my eyes are sheaf after a sheaf of grass. The grass wet from the dew shines in the sun and the aroma of the forest herbs smells in the air. The mowing wants a man’s hand. I hope they can mow up the hay.
Such thoughts were going in my head because the picture in the Aegean is quite different. Summer was hot and stuffy. Swarms of mosquitoes were drifting through the air. At night time we set fires of manure around the sleeping quarters to protect us from them. There were many malaria patients.
The area around Dedeagach was full of German troops who were waiting for landing. So the task of our labor detachment was to build bunkers, underground shelters and artillery nests.
One day, at the office of the company commander, a Greek woman came - about 35 years old, tall, thin, with a black headscarf. She was crying and saying something to the captain as she kept looking at me. Captain Gerasimov, a reserve officer with already grey hair, was from Stanimaka and knew Greek well.
He turned to me and said,
“Popov, this woman’s husband was killed by the Germans. She has four children sick of malaria.Can you help her?
“Captain,” I said, “we are forbidden to help the Greek population. You know how I count the ampoules.”
“I’ll let you decide what to do,” said Captain Gerasimov. “Take your time to think. The risk is great.”
The gruesome eyes of this prematurely aged woman moved me because I had left my wife alone with six little children in my village.
I decided the very same day to meet the German medical assistant responsible for the sanitary warehouse. I knew his weakness - to drink mastic brendy at the village pub.
I went there and found the German with a glass of mastic brendy. I greeted him and he said hello. I ordered half a litre of mastika brendy and sat down with him. The medical assistant knew a little Bulgarian. I complained to him that I had many sick soldiers, and I do not have enough injections against malaria.
Under the influence of the mastic brendy or out of humanity? I did not understand.
He got out of the table and took me to the sanitary warehouse. He filled my pockets with ampoules.
In the evening, the Greek woman came again to the office. The captain looked at me, expecting an answer.