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December 4, 2012

Semeka Diaries Online

Pages in diary number 1, 1941, Sergeĭ Aleksandrovich Semeka diaries, Hoover Inst
Pages in diary number 1, 1941, Sergeĭ Aleksandrovich Semeka diaries, Hoover Institution Archives.

The World War II diaries of Sergeĭ Aleksandrovich Semeka, a medical administrator in the Soviet army, have been digitized and are available online. The diaries describe battlefield conditions and how medical activities were administered. They also detail Semeka’s frustration with military decisions, such as not burying fallen soldiers as the army advanced, and with shortages of supplies, hospital beds, and medical personnel.

Semeka’s diaries present a Soviet army in which plagues of lice led to a typhus epidemic and undersupplied troops created a world of endemic theft. Shifting lines of battle proved catastrophic for the army’s few hospitals, which could not be brought to the front when needed or evacuated in retreat, both due to lack of transportation. Semeka meticulously records the lack of warm clothing in the winter and the ensuing, numerous, untreated cases of frostbite. He also describes wounded soldiers who were sent out on foot, with a two-day supply of food, to search for a hospital that could treat them.

Semeka was born in Saint Petersburg in 1906. He graduated from the Military Medical Academy in Leningrad and spent his career in the Soviet army. Initially appointed as a regimental junior doctor, he rose to become the head of the Military Medical Administration for the Soviet Army during World War II. After the war he served as chairman of the Department of Military Medicine in several educational institutions. He specialized in organizing medical services for the military in combat. Semeka died in 1966.