Chaim Shapiro was born in Lomza, Poland. On September 1st, 1939, the Germans invade Poland, quickly annihilating many of the people, including his younger brother Nosson. Soon after the Soviet Union signs a treaty the Germans, giving over Poland to them. Out of fear that he would lose his religion under atheist communist rulership, his mother pleads with him to leave, saying the fateful words “Go My Son.” He leaves war-torn Poland for Vilna, Lithuania, joining with the rest of the Kamenetz Yeshiva. Because of the frequent casualties of war people were forced to move from place to place for safety, because of which he eventually finds himself alone on a train bound Moscow, deep within the Soviet Union. Upon arrival he is sent to work repairing tractors in a small backward village called Karobka, in the Booyan region.
Throughout his time in the USSR Chaim constantly tries to enlist in the army in order to help in the fight against the Germans, but is repeatedly unsuccessful. He ultimately decides to chase after a division of the Polish army in the USSR, but misses them. and ends up being drafted to work Kazakhstan, a hot, sandy, desert among a nomadic Muslim tribe.. He works there for many months….
While spending time in Kazakhstan, his desire to go out and fight grows stronger and stronger. Through much hard work and planning he eventually manages to enlist in a Polish Army division called Battalion 92, which helps maintain the railways which deliver supplies to the fronts. After nearly starving to death on an assignment in the Ural Mountains, he deserts the Battalion, escaping to Chelyabinsk, where he joins a military school. Upon completion, he is sent to fight at the front in a Polish Army Reserve, achieving his goal of fighting against the Germans. He continues to fight until the end of the war on May 17th, 1945, when Germany surrenders to the Allied Nations.
As Chaim moves from place to place, he is constantly faced with the dilemma of avoiding Chillul Shabbos in communist Russia, where religion is not only abhorred but illegal as well, and one can be sent to Siberia on just the suspicion of him practicing religion. Yet through skilled work and creativity he manages to avoid this problem, enabling him to be able to survive World War Two without once desecrating Shabbos.
At one point during Chaim’s stay in Karobka, he went to visit the nearby (metropolis) city of Kuybishev. While there he noticed a woman selling books, including three of which were written in Yiddish. He had not read anything in Yiddish since the outbreak of the war, making him so desperate to buy the books even though he was nearly at of money and had no food. Upon purchasing the books, he opened them to the disappointment of discovering they were all about the greatness of Communism! A little while later he is arrested, and is in fact saved upon the officers discovering he was reading what they considered the most important books on earth! This teaches an...