The engagement in the First World War

1915-1918 Involvement in the War

On 3rd August 1914, France and Germany declared war. Blaise Cendrars launched an appeal for the mobilisation of "foreigners who were friends of France". On 24th January 1916 Zadkine enlisted voluntarily. He was admitted into the 1st Foreign Regiment, and served in a nurse and stretcher bearer section. In May, he was assigned to the Russian ambulance corps in Champagne: barracks, shells, trenches, evacuation of the wounded, the maimed and hospital wards… Gassed at the end of November, Zadkine was evacuated and hospitalised in his turn.  Decommissioned in October 1917, he returned to the Rue Rousselet with his health in tatters and morale at a low ebb. He brought back forty or so works on paper executed in a hurry – pencil, charcoal, ink and a few watercolours. The strength of expression of these drawings encouraged him to engrave twenty or so which he published in an album under the title Twenty etchings of the war by Ossip Zadkine, a soldier in the 1st Foreign Regiment assigned to the Russian ambulance corps of the French army.