In the moment…

My Soviet reenacting unit dissolved last weekend at a private event (called a “tactical” in the hobby) that one of our members was hosting.  I heard about it second-hand, as I wasn’t there (being, you know, in Korea), but it was about what I expected would happen.  The unit had been having some problems with one of the members, who was, to put it lightly, “not a team player”.  Marc and I had discussed this with both the unit commander and other members on several occasions, but there was at no point any particularly good time to actually bring it up with the guy, and nobody else wanted to rock the boat.  Those of you who know me know that rocking the boat is a favourite pastime of mine, so I decided to attempt to get the ball rolling.  I won’t go into details, but some well-timed emails and discussions seemed to do the trick, clearly.  The unit almost immediately has re-formed without the offending member and with a slight change in name, from the Russian for “Second Company” to the Russian for “Third Company”.  As a hobby, reenacting has a strong tendency toward drama, as one will find in any hobby where you get together a bunch of very passionate, very obsessive people.  So, I was glad to see that this issue was resolved with a minimum of fuss.  I have seen other groups completely fall apart in similar situations, and I’m glad to see that ours is stronger than that.

Marc has a description of the event up over at his own blog, if you want to get a feel for what a small (20-25 person), private WWII event can be like.  Private events are probably my favourite in reenacting.  I will gladly state that escapism is one of my main reasons behind reenacting, and private events are meant to be as immersive as possible.  We eat period rations from cans with period labels, we sleep in foxholes or drafty barracks, we have sentries.  These efforts are what enable us to have what reenactors call a “magic moment”; a moment when we forget where we are, who we are, and most importantly, when we are.  Marc forgets about the work he needs to do on my thesis, I forget about my lack of a job, another member forgets about his frustrations of being in the Marines, another about his financial woes.

I’ve had a few of these moments, over the course of my years as a reenactor, and I consider myself lucky for it.  At an event last January, I had one.  They usually are the result of intense moments that require you to really think like the soldier you are portraying, and that moment was certainly intense.  I was hiding in a dry creek-bed as members of my unit shot at a group of advancing Germans.  The man nearest to me went down, and as the medic, I crawled over to him to see if he was dead or just injured.  

He was injured, but in the middle of bandaging him, I noticed a German, laying on the ground, taking aim at another member of my unit, no more than 15 feet away, more like 10.  I picked up my patient’s rifle and shot him.  As I did, it attracted the attention of the Germans who had been advancing, and one of them ran toward me, his rifle raised.  But, before he could fire, I had re-cocked the gun and shot him, and he fell forward.  The rest of his group didn’t notice me, and so I continued to bandage my patient.  After a moment, Marc yelled to me and I noticed that he had snuck up to the base of a bunker, but was being pinned down by the German behind it.  The soldier was standing up, and so I crawled a little closer, took aim, and just as he saw me and started to turn, I got him and he fell forward, allowing Marc to crawl into the bunker.  A moment later, our position was overrun by the Germans, and we were all shot.  The whole moment, which probably lasted no more than a minute, was incredible, and I found myself having almost to “snap out of it”.  It gave me a good perspective on what it must have been like, at times.  You just pick the gun up and shoot first, think later.  It was a creepy realization to come to, but an important one, I think, in understanding what a soldier must have gone through.

So, that’s just one story, to provide some insight into what it can be like to be a reenactor.  It’s one of those things that really, you just have to experience yourself to truly understand, but I hope that that little interlude gave you some idea of the better moments.


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