In how many ways does war destroy? It tears at the social fabric of the attacker but even more so the attacked. It destroys infrastructure and access to food, shelter and sanitation. But one effect of war is the separation of families.
Young George Trofimoff in Berlin had an extended family. He was close, very close, to each extension. There was his foster family who took him in to care for and raise him at age one when his Mother died. Within that family was an older brother, foster-brother, that George loved and admired his whole life. Many years later, his brother would become Metropolite (Cardinal) of Vienna for the Russian Orthodox Church.
Part of this extended family was the church, itself. In the Russian enclave of Berlin, the community was made up of White Russians, those Russians who had served under Czar Nicholas II and been defeated and driven from Russia by the Red Army, the Bolsheviks, the Communists. The Russian Orthodox Church was the center of the little Russian community. Family, society, social and religious activity revolved around the church. George and his brother served as altar boys at the church.
The other part of George’s extended family but of equal importance was his father. He was now an engineer serving the German government but had formerly served in Russia within the military nobility and as a cadet in the Imperial Pagen Cadet Academy. With the victory of the Red Army, he escaped to Germany. But George’s father was a dedicated father. Even though he worked long hours, he came for one full day each month to spend with George. He taught him his Russian family history and told stories of the pomp and majesty of his ancestors and the brutal murder of his grandparents by the Bolsheviks.
As World War II reached its European peak, the bombing destroyed the church, George was conscripted at age 14 into the “Brown Shirts” by the German government, and his home was destroyed and family killed and scattered. By age 15, George was attempting to escape Germany and seek asylum, sneaking through forests, hiding and trying to reach the French border. He couldn’t find any member of his family. He didn’t know if they were dead or alive.
I write of George’s life in my book: “Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying”.
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