Nineteen year-old Monya Dunaevski wished to enlist in the Red Army despite his short stature, which would have entitled him to an exemption. In the course of the war, the train carrying Dunaevski and other Soviet troops was bombed; Dunaevski was the sole survivor. Barefoot and in shock, he made his way on foot from village to village, until he met up with another unit of the Red Army, with whom he continued to Berlin.
In one of the letters he sent home, Dunaevski related: "We’re crossing the border of Poland into German territory… we're giving the Fascists a beating in their den, just as Stalin commanded. Soon we’ll be in Berlin." "My dear ones," began another, "I can tell you what is happening in German territory – many corpses are strewn on the roads and noone is paying attention to them. All the villages and forests are burning, all of Germany is going up in flames. We'll do to the enemy just what they did to us – blood for blood."
A few days before the capitulation of Germany, Dunaeski was shot in the streets of Berlin. He was hospitalized, but succumbed to his wounds the day victory was declared over Germany. After his death, his family received the pouch in which he kept his letters during the war.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Donated by Yana Levin, Kiryat Motzkin, Israel