Eastern Siberia, 1919 -- Lieutenant Radola Viest rubbed his hands together, the cold piercing even his thick gloves. His breath formed clouds of steam in the chilly air as he tried unsuccessfully to breath warmth into his hands.
He looked down the length of the armored train at the many other soldiers in their dark green greatcoats, rifles slung over their shoulders. The train had been stopped here for weeks now, and well-worn trails led through the snow into the surrounding Siberian forests.
It had been years now since any of them had seen their native Czechoslavakia. What a strange and bizarre journey, fighting their way across the entirety of Russia, just to try to get home.
Lt Viest had last seen his wife Ana in 1916. Drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army, he was captured by the Russians. With the promise Russia would liberate Czechoslovakia from Austro-Hungary and allow a free Czechoslovak Republic, Viest and 60,000 other Czechs and Slovaks had joined the "Czechoslovak Legion" of the Russian Army.
Back then he had been filled with dreams of soon returning home a hero, with a triumphant liberating army of native Czechoslovaks.
But then the Russian Revolution happened. And the communist Bolshevik government negotiated a peace treaty with Germany and Austro-Hungary, which forbade the repatriation of the Czechoslovak Legion.
They couldn't cross the front lines to the West, so instead they'd fought their way East along the trans-Siberian railroad. East across the nearly 6,000 miles of Siberia.
The Czechoslovak Legion found itself the most powerful force in Siberia in the Russian Civil War, controlling vast swathes of territory and important cities, when all they ever wanted was to return home.
But now here they were, within days of the port of Vladivostok, from where they could evacuate and continue East without having to fight for every foot, but now the anti-communist forces considered them too indispensible to allow them to leave.
Admiral Kolchak, the "last hope of a free Russia," who promised to resign as "Supreme Leader" and have national elections as soon as he defeated the communists was relying on them.
A light snow began to fall. Viest eyed the frozen landscape sourly.
Another bundled-up lieutenant appeared out of the swirling white mists and approached Viest. The end of a cigarette in his mouth glowed red in the otherwise colourless air. "Radjko, I think we have a solution"
"What's that?" asked Viest, skeptically.
"Well, there's talk of handing over Kolchak to the Bolsheviks in exchange for being allowed to leave"
Viest nodded without saying anything, and removed a flask of vodka from his coat.
67,739 members of the Czechoslovak legion were eventually able to leave Vladivostok by sea, cross two oceans and two continents, and return toa free Czechoslovakia.
Admiral Kolchak was shot by the Bolsheviks and the White Russian army quickly collapsed.
The picture at the top of this entry isn't a Czechoslovak Legion armoured train (though it's from the same era), but the second picture just above is.
See also, the "intersection" with this by the illustrious alexpgp!