Christopher, Moscow, Russia
Ihave generally been a passive believer in the supernatural and I have had, what I assume, are the average amount of quasi-paranormal experiences in my life (lights turning on for no reason, phantom footsteps, odd shadows at the corner of my eye, etc.) and my attitude has always been one of show me the evidence and if there is no rational explanation then the occurrence must be classified as super-natural and beyond our understanding of natural phenomena.
However, one recent occurrence that has happened to me I have been unable comprehend or explain by any form of reason or logical deduction. In the early fall of 1996 I had recently lost my job, my wife was also unemployed we were both suffering from alcoholism and we had only a couple of hundred dollars left.
We decided to leave Moscow and go to our small summer cottage in the country and try and rest a bit and get a proper perspective on life and decide what we were going to do. The village where our dacha is located in the Smolensk region and, in fact, it is next to my wife's home town of Jartzeva. During the war her city was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting and even today many of the older buildings are still scarred by shrapnel and bullet holes (Russians are not really the most concentious people when it comes to urban upkeeping and development). Needless to say, people constantly come across old tanks, bunkers, shells and even the occasional unmarked grave.
During this stay I had the dubious honor of uncovering one such grave while digging a winter cabbage trench. At first, I found the skull, and then other bones and some metal artifacts. Of the artifacts, I found a German helmet, belt buckle and a large metal ID tag the size of a soda waffer. I gathered the remains and put them into a box and I cleaned off the ID tag. The man's name was Uwe Moritz, and he was a Feldwebel (whatever that is). He was also a protestant and that was all that I could make out. I, myself, served in the Marines for five years; I am a Lutheran and I had an uncle who was a MIA in Vietnam. I felt that the only right and moral course would be that when we returned to Moscow, we could give his remains to our Pastor (who is a German national) and then he could in turn hand them over to the German War Graves Commission at the German embassy. And perhaps, someone some place in Germany would at least be able to rest in peace knowing that their brother or father was at least found and identified and given a decent burial, after all, he was a fellow Lutheran. I cannot think of anybody wishing to be buried unknown in a strange land, particularly a land as strange as Russia.
Having done these things, my life continued on its progressively downward turn, and my wife's and my drinking became worse and worse. Then one night in November of '97 I was sitting with my cat and I was well into my second bottle of cheap brandy and literally seeing double. While trying to explain to my cat the facts of life, I heard a voice clearly say in English, in a thick accent "Chris, what is wrong with you?" I turned to look across the kitchen table and sitting across from me was a very large man with close cropped reddish-brown hair, and stunningly clear blue eyes. He looked to be in his late thirties, he was wearing a knit woollen sweater, he had on grey trousers and black hob-nailed German army boots.
Perhaps, because I was so drunk, or perhaps because he seemed in no way threatening, I was in no way surprised or scared. And for some reason at the time it did not at all seem unusual to me that some stranger would just happen to appear out of nowhere. In fact, my first thought was "Damn, if this guy wants some brandy he's going to have to go out and pay for the next bottle himself." We then started talking, he refused my offer for a drink, and excused himself for his poor English. He did however take and smoke a cheroot.
He then proceeded to tell me that I was making a mess of my life, that he was concerned about me, that he was in debt to me and that it was his duty to help get me back on the right path. I started sobbing and whining and he berated me for my "woman-like" behavior. I clearly recall him saying "aren you a mensh? You zit un kry like de voman-like!" He then promised to he would be an older brother to me and "first you muz ztop ze drink. If you do not help you you, I cannot give you ze help". I said thank you and I felt ashamed and a little angry that some stranger was telling me what a fool I was and how I should lead my life. Then he said "Now you go to ze bed and the next day you start the God life and stop ze drink, ja?" It 2:43 a.m. I remember that distinctly because when I went to lay down I looked at the clock and I told this storm-trooper clown, whoever he was, that I had to get up in four hours.
Suddenly, I awoke in bed covered in sweat and I shook my wife awake and asked her what had happened to the German. She turned to me and said, naturally enough, "What German?" I looked at the clock by our bed and the time was 3:04am. "DT's!" I thought, "I, with out a doubt, have to get into AA!"
To make, as they say, a long story short we both got into AA and I, thanks be to God, have not had a drink since then. I did not really think much about this experience. The only person I told this to was my wife, and she had no real explanation for it, except for, as I said DT'S. That was until last week while we were back at the dacha. I was sitting next to the fire place and reading a book while my wife slept on the bearskin rug. Then I heard someone walking about in the flower garden. I would hear them walk a few steps, stop, walk a few more steps, stop, then rustle a bit in the flower bed. And walk a bit more. Thinking, or being certain that it was one of the villagers come to pillage our vegetable garden, I quitely got my axe and decided to out flank them from behind, just to scare them off.
As I slipped outside, I could hear the man, it was obvious by the heavy tread of his boots that it was a man walking on the far side of the house.
I positioned myself so that he would walk strait into me. Suddenly, he stopped. I jumped around the corner and there was no one there. Just the daisies and wild rose bushes. I suddenly felt a very cold shiver run through my entire body and I felt, more than heard, someone behind me. As I turned, standing in the yard and even casting a shadow on the ground, was a German soldier in a camouflage smock with a camouflage cover over his helmet. He had a machine-pistol in his right hand, and grenades in tucked into his boot tops. Seeing an vision is one thing, but he was so close that I could smell him. He smelled of sour old sweat, leather, tobacco and fresh dirt. He was unshaven and his boots and smock were muddy. The moonlight shined on his canteen cup and ammunition pouches. At first, I took him to be a local loony that seemed to be under the impression that life is far more enjoyable and fulfilling when you spend your evenings running around in your neighbors yards late at night dressed up as Panzer Grenadier.
Until he smiled at me. It was then that I saw that it was my mentor, the kitchen/DT/alcohol counsellor. He casually raised his left hand, gave me a slight wave and vanished. I felt very weak in the loins at that moment. It seems to me that this was Feldwebel Moritz; And that after I had done him a good turn, by putting his earthly remains to rest, he perhaps to cleanse himself of some sin, or to atone for committing so much murder or simply because he felt himself in debt, had come back from death and, in point of fact, saved my life. And this last vision of him was his saying farewell and that he, after almost sixty years without rest was finally going over to the other side to rest eternal.
Rest in peace, Uwe it is I that owe you much more.