Sheil Barkin

Sheil Barkin

Born 1923 Daugavpils, Lithuania

Interviewed In: Vancouver, British Columbia

Medals Awarded: Order of the Patriotic War (1st and 2nd Class) and Victory over Germany In The Great Patriotic War

Heavy Machine Gunner Latvian Unit Eastern Front


“They returned from the mission all covered with blood. They brought back two dead bodies in a sleigh” Sheil was separated from his family in the early in the war. “Right on the first day. They came flying at noon. They started bombing. We heard it… we were just 16 year old boys. That was the end of life. They bombarded day and night, the Germans were. We realized that everyone was leaving the town. And we left too: my father, my mother, myself, other kids. I got lost… lost my parents while we were on our way out of town. They went along another road. As I found out later they went on to the train, they boarded the train. They were told the train was going to the Soviet Union. Instead, the train went back to Latvia which was already occupied by the Germans. They ended up in a ghetto. They were executed… (Cell phone ringing)… my mother, my father, my sister and brother, sister’s husband and her 10 months old baby. They all were murdered. I was the only survivor. I walked and walked day and night. I crossed the Soviet border. I didn’t find any train. There wasn’t any train to be found”.

Like many others orphaned in during the war Sheil eventually found his way to a collective farm. He worked as a general labourer on a dairy farm near Novosibirsk before he was old enough to join the army. Sheil joined an all Latvian Red Army unit when he turned 18.

“Military specialists were there to recruit artillery men, mortar men, machine-gun men, etc. I didn’t ask to be sent to any particular arm like others did. I didn’t ask of anything. I was willing to join any unit. I was admitted as a heavy machine gunner”.

Sheil was wounded fighting near Simonovo.

“That was a mild wound. After a while my arm was hit, it was a severe wound. The bone, nerves and tendons were wounded through the trench coat, blouse, and jersey. Blood was spurting from the wound like a fountain, that high. There was no one around to give me first aid. Everyone around was dead, the commanders, everyone was dead. And then a soldier ran up to me, he asked me “Where is your first aid pack?” I said “I went into battle, I didn’t keep it on my back, I kept it down here”. He took off my cloths and dressed my wound. And I started… little by little…crawling back on my stomach. There was no way I could stand up. I would have been shot dead right away. I started crawling back, little by little, moving my legs and arms. I wanted to get to a medical unit. I didn’t take off my helmet until I reached the medical unit. I reached the medical unit”.

Sheil spent the rest of the war recovering in army hospitals. Afterwards he returned to Latvia and worked in construction before moving to Canada.