My Grandfather Never Spoke About His Time at War

📅 Published on August 23, 2020

“My Grandfather Never Spoke About His Time at War”

Written by Andy Leavy
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 8.17/10. From 6 votes.
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How much do we know about our grandparents? Like, I mean how much do we really know about them? It can be easy to forget that your old, withering and often wise family members had lives long before we were alive. They were kids with dreams, teens with youthful romances and young adults trying to find their place in the world. It’s hard for me to think that my gruff grandfather Leonid could have been young once but he had been though he never really talked about it. He said he didn’t like to focus on the past as the past is gone, only the future matters and we should focus on going forward, not backwards. It was due to this reason that when my grandfather died I started to realize I really didn’t know anything about him, I obviously knew he was Russian and a proud one at that, I knew he had worked as an apprentice carpenter before joining the Soviet army and I knew he had left the army and moved to Finland to work as a furniture worker.

He would eventually meet my grandmother here and father six children including my mother. He’d live the rest of his life here in Finland and he was a loving grandfather to me and all my cousins but whenever we tried to speak of Russia and especially his time in the army he would become stand-offish, joke about how he was never a great shot and immediately try and change the subject. Even my mother didn’t know anything about his time in the army bar the fact he had been discharged due to a serious injury gained in battle. In the final years of his life I began to notice changes in him, he would wander off and daze at random things while muttering under his breath in Russian “leave me be, beast” when I would mention it to him he would chalk it down to old age but I could tell something was off as if something inside him had broken. I would never learn what that was, my grandfather passed away a few years ago and took his secrets to the grave…or so I thought.

We all got left something in his will to remember him by, my cousin Teemu got his golf clubs, my uncle Leon got his 1990 BMW M3 and I got his football which had been signed by the 1960 Soviet football team who had won the European Championships, I had also been left a small lockbox. Inside the box were some old pictures of my grandfather in his early 20s while in the army, some of his medals (disproving his bad shot claims), and an old envelope. Inside the envelope was a note that had been written many years ago but was still in good condition, the note gave me all the answers that I had sought for so long but after reading it I knew exactly why my grandfather had never spoken of his time in the army and I began to regret ever inquiring.

The following is the note in its entirety written by my grandfather and translated by myself. If you are squeamish or have an optimistic view of the world then I would suggest not reading any further. I wish I hadn’t.

* * * * * *

Forests are mythical and mysterious places, we humans love our forests as much as we fear them. We dread the unknown which lies within them.  We stay safe in our red-brick castles within urban jungles, leaving the forests to unseen mythical beasts camouflaged by forest foliage, lying in wait for anyone stupid enough to enter their domain.

We were under attack, ambushed as our five-man scout team pushed forward into an abandoned village…or so we thought. The time consisted of Sergeant Tukarov, an older man with a head of silver hair and a bushy mustache, Olyksander, a large hulking Siberian with a shaved head and muscles made of stone, Borya, a slender and somewhat nerdy man with a curtain-style haircut and large, circular glasses, Yuri, our baby faced nineteen-year-old rookie and me an unremarkable and stereotypical Russian man with short hair and a bushy beard.

Multiple Finnish awaited us in the village, hidden perfectly by the snowy terrain. They made themselves known with a single shot from a couple of hundred meters away…right into the cranium of Yuri. Before his lifeless corpse could slump into the snow, Sergeant Tukarov screamed for us to fallback, we darted back out from the same way we came in under a monsoon of Finnish fire. During the retreat, I was caught by a bullet to the calf which momentarily dropped me to the snowy floor but a mix of adrenaline and survival instincts helped me to get up and limp into the nearby trees with my comrades.

We pushed deep into the forest until we found an area suitable to rest for the night, we got our sleeping bags rolled out and fire lit, Borya helped cauterize and bandage my wound, with the distance between us and our enemies we could relax here in safety until sunrise…or so we thought.

“To Yuri, may his soul rest with his ancestors!” proclaimed the Sergeant as we raised our canteens of vodka in honor of our fallen comrade.

“We must kill these bastards for what they are doing to us!  Every time we retreat, they spit at the Motherland!” Olyksander shouted angrily as he sharpened a knife with a round stone in his hand.

“Keep it down!  We can’t alert our enemies to our whereabouts, and shouting like that is sure to expose us,” Borya advised smartly as he cleaned his circular glasses with a leaf and his saliva.

“Do not speak down to me, Borya, or I will make you regret it!” Olyksander replied.

“I would greatly advise that you sit, comrade,” the Sergeant ordered.

“Borya is right.  We must stay quiet until sunrise, and then we can make our way back to base. It is too dangerous right now.”

Borya was always right and Olyksander was always angry, they were facts and they were not going to change now. Olyksander had almost struck Yuri just as our scout mission began, Yuri had idiotically stood on the back of Olyk’s heels as he trailed just behind him, this set Olyk off and he began screaming obscenities at Yuri while holding him up by both collars. The Sarge had to step in as he always did and calm Olyk.  He released the rookie from his grip and warned him to watch himself.  Little did we know what the immediate future would hold. Yuri looked terrified when Olyk grabbed him and that look didn’t leave his face until a bullet entered it. I liked Yuri; sitting on the forest floor thinking of him now began to upset me. We had lost many comrades in this war but I had begun to grow a rapport with Yuri in particular and I trusted him beside me on the battlefield, he had told me his wife Yana was pregnant with their first child. He spoke of his excitement at becoming a father and his hopes that when the war was over he could finish his time in the army and return to his father’s farm, as working there was where he was truly happy. It is upsetting that the young man would never return to the farm or hold his child in his arms. I was saddened thinking of Yana who would now have to raise that child alone, I was upset for his parents, no parent should have to bury a child but because of this war, many parents would have to.

“What is that over there?” Borya asked.

“What?” I replied.

“Over there at 4 o’clock, it seems to be some flashing lights or a bug or something.”

“Oh, yes.  Yes, I see it. I see the lights,” proclaimed Olyk.

We could all see it, fluorescent, lights glowing in the otherwise pitch-black forest. It was hard to make out from a distance but it seemed to be multiple, colorful feathers flowing outward from a defined center, the feathers would intermittently switch between all types of bright and vibrant colors, it was mesmerizing so much so that our conversation ceased completely. It was tough to work out what it was but it had to be an animal or insect of some sort. Whatever it was, Olyk wasn’t going to wait around.  He began to slowly walk towards the lights, not speaking, just strutting forward as if he was in a trance.

“Private Zhirkov, get back here!” ordered the Sergeant to no avail.

Olyk continued to march towards the lights, each step another show of defiance towards the Sergeant.

“Olyksander, what are you doing? Get back here!” he screamed but again it fell on deaf ears.

He eventually got to the lights and stared directly into them, a slight smile brandished across his usually scowling face. He slowly lifted his arm up and reached out to touch them, once he did, he snapped out of the daze. He turned to us and his smile widened.

“It feels like sheep’s wool. Comrades!” he screamed towards us, sounding more like a child than a soldier of the Motherland.

The smile, however, was short-lived.  As Olyk continued to rub the feathers, what they were connected to revealed itself. A large, light-grey beast had been camouflaged by its surroundings like a chameleon. The beast was massive at least seven foot tall, it had sullen, ruby-red eyes and a long-snouted face like an ursine, the outside of its snout riddled with needle-like ivory fangs. It had six large limbs, two tree trunk sized legs and two long arms with shiny razor-sharp claws connected. Two large, spiked limbs protruded from the abomination’s torso like the stinger of a scorpion, the same two spikes that swung into Olyk’s hips at a sickening speed completely separating his torso from his legs. He was no longer smiling, nobody was.

“OLYKSANDER, NO!” screamed Borya.


Olyk’s torso had barely touched the forest floor before the monster was down on its arms and legs, powering itself towards us as we all reached for our rifles. It was fast, terrifyingly fast, Sergeant Tukarov was first to shoot at the monstrosity, Borya followed and I last after using my rifle as a crutch to get up and steady myself. The bullets pinged off our newly-found adversary like hail hopping off a galvanized roof. The monster rushed at the Sarge, and he quickly became astutely aware of the uselessness of the weapon in his hands, he tossed it aside and pulled out a large, hunting knife from his boot, as the monster lunged at him he stepped to the side and shoved the knife deep into its body, the varmint roared out in anger before darting back at Sergeant Tukarov, his knife firmly stuck in the body of the beast leaving him defenseless. Razor-sharp claws slashed across his stomach tearing into it like butter, our leader disemboweled right before our eyes. As he keeled over into the innards-covered snow, Borya and I accepted that attacking was futile.  So often the predator, we had been nothing but prey since we got to this land.

“The trees! Get to the trees!” shouted Borya.

Borya sprinted towards a tree before quickly scampering up the trunk and into the assumed safety of the branches. I followed not-so-closely behind, my limp hindering me more than ever, behind me I could hear the crunch of snow as the beast stalked after me, my survival instincts willing me forward I pressed on towards a tree but it was hopeless, the spiked-limb of the beast penetrated my spine and I tumbled into the snow. I lay there in the snow blood pouring out of my mouth painting the white surface a crimson red, I could no longer feel the pain in my calf, I could no longer feel my legs at all, my entire body was in pain other than my legs. I tried to lift myself up from the ground, my hands pushing down through the deep snow and off the forest floor but I could only control my upper body, my legs gave out from beneath me and I fell face-first back into the snow. I screamed out in anger, an audible fuck roaring through the trees, I expected another penetrating blow to finish me off but it never came instead I heard the screams of Borya as the beast turned its attention to him, the tree doing little to protect him as the behemoth slashed at the trunk with its claws and spikes, the tree came tumbling to the earth as Borya crashed into the snow, I could do little to help him in my encumbered state. The beast slowly walked over to my comrade on its hind legs, Borya struggled to get to his feet but it mattered little, the monster pierced one spike into his shoulder and dragged him through the snow and out of sight into the shadows.

He screamed for me to save him, he begged his comrade to leap to his aid but I couldn’t, I pushed myself up from the ground but every time I did I would crash back down, my legs failed me and I failed my comrade. We failed the Motherland.

One last attempt to rise led to me falling down onto my back, I lay on the ground staring up through a gap in the trees at the night sky as blood poured out from the wound in my body wondering if it would be the blood loss or the cold that would take me…I just hoped it would be quick.

It would turn out to be neither of course or I would not be here to recount this story today. I don’t know how long I lay in the snow as I quickly passed out from the pain but when I awoke I was in a Finnish hospital, the ruckus had gotten the attention of nearby soldiers who came to my aid and though we were enemies they still decided to save my life. It was that moment of humanity that spawned my love of this country which would eventually lead to me moving here and starting a family. I now feel as Finnish as I do Russian but a part of me will never forget the Motherland or my fallen comrades. During my time in the hospital recovering from my injuries, I had mentioned what had happened to us, that a camouflaged beast with bright lights flowing from its head had torn through us – but I was quickly dismissed as still being in shock. One soldier mentioned to me that I had met the protector of the forests and Piru’s pet, known only as the Kuojamaan.

Most told me to ignore him, that he was speaking of myth and legend but the problem with myths and legends is they have some truth to them and I came face-to-face with this truth. Some nights when I look from my bedroom window I see lights dancing in the distance and the words of warning from that soldier come rushing back to me.

Beware the Forest Lights.

Rating: 8.17/10. From 6 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Andy Leavy
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Andy Leavy

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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