A story of a soldier left behind during the evacuation of Russia and forced to fight for the Reds and the Whites and of a woman, who loved him, who spied for the Reds and the CHEKA.
For some war is an inspiring, uplifting, and a liberating occurrence. Such is the case of Emil Dorfmeister. Abandon without a name to the St. Katherine Order in Posen, Dorfmeister received an excellent education but, because he was an orphan, no employment opportunities. He left the sisters’ care at an early age to wander from one job to the next picking up experiences and, when working in the coal mines of Silesia, Russian as a second language. When the Great War started, he volunteered and fought for three years in the trenches of France gaining a new talent as a machine gun sharpshooter. But his real asset was in knowing Russian. He was culled from a pillbox crew and sent to Ukraine as part of an occupation force which had transcended its original purpose as a restorer of the Ukrainian government to a pillaging horde that indiscriminately seized Ukrainian food to ship back to Germany. Into his life came Tatianna Brendt, the daughter of German parents living along the Volga. Before the Revolution, Brendt had received an education at the Women’s Institute in Kiev and found work with a legal firm in Kharkov. The Revolution destroyed the Tsarist legal system putting her out of a job but Brendt took an active part in furthering women’s rights in the Bolshevik party. She was zealous and soon drew the envy and ridicule of those who were not comfortable with a woman having so much influence. She was forced out of her apartment due to rumors of promiscuous behaviors, fired from her job as an influencer, and relegated to living on the Kharkov streets with only the clothes on her back in February. Then an opportunity came her way. Because she could read and write Russian and German, the new secret police, the CHEKA, recruited her to spy for them in Ukraine. She was dressed up and left to find someone she could attach herself to among the German occupation force. She found that someone in Emil Dorfmeister.
Warm, well-clothed, well fed, and safe, Brendt began her spying career with the help of Dorfmeister who had become fed-up with the ruthlessness of his superiors in looting Ukrainian resources. It soon came to pass that efforts to collect grain and other food supplies in his area of administration to send back to Germany came to naught and armed resistance to collection caravans increased. Before Dorfmeister’s superiors could launch an investigation, the war ended and the Germans were forced to evacuate Ukraine. Dorfmeister’s last acts as an administrator were to send Brendt north while he boarded a train to Germany. Brendt succeeded in gaining Bolshevik Russia but the part of the train that Dorfmeister was in was blown up by inept Bolshevik partisans. The train, relatively unharmed, continued its journey leaving Dorfmeister behind to either walk out of Russia or join the partisans to stay alive. He chose to use his skill as a machine gunner with the partisans. Brendt went on to spy on Leon Trotsky and the antirevolutionary General Wrangel for the CHEKA. Dorfmeister, in his turn, joined Wrangel’s army after being captured and given a choice of join or be executed.
Brendt and Dorfmeister came within a hair’s breathe of meeting again and again. Brendt secretly contributed to Dorfmeister’s recovery from wounds in Simferopol and nearly came to a reunion in Constantinople after the evacuation of Wrangel’s army from the Crimea. Dorfmeister was never aware of who his benefactor was and as a result fled Constantinople to take a job of training the pan-Moslem army of Enver Pasha in Turkestan.
The final acts of the story play out in Afghanistan and the new kingdom of Yugoslavia. Both paths are tainted by the past.