They remembered surviving on black bread and water, and embracing American troops in victory at the Elbe River in Germany.
They also remembered fighting side by side with troops who sometimes ridiculed Jews.
And at their "Veterans Day" gathering in West Hollywood on Sunday, these Jewish World War II survivors drank vodka, attacked the chicken Kiev and clasped old comrades with Russian bear hugs.
These 200 men and women had attacked Nazi Germany from the east as members of the Soviet Union's Red Army. They assembled at the Chabad Russian Synagogue to relive memories of a most brutal time.
Semyon Mazim, 67, passed around old snapshots. He entered the Soviet army as a 17-year-old in 1942.
"I was glad to go into the army," he said, "because we were starving. I begged them to take me."
His battalion--1,200 strong in 1942--was reduced to 125 three years later when it marched triumphantly into Berlin.
With the survivors were two of 350 camels--substitutes for trucks--that were draped with captured German war medals. With an earnest smile, Mazim reached into an album for a faded photo of the camels in front of the Reichstag in Berlin.
"Those camels looked beautiful in the German war medals," he said.
Mazim said that his unit had stormed Hitler's bunker.
"Our commander just picked a section for us to storm," he said. "I remember there were many papers on the desk and a big globe in the room."
Vladimir Barkon entered an elite army unit at 16. A grenade blew apart his hand at Stalingrad in 1942, and a German tank crushed his leg a year later.
"I missed only a month," he said through a translator. "I was young then, 17. It was no big deal."
Barkon remembered the Americans at the Elbe as "regular guys. We drank whiskey and vodka, and we danced together."
He ended the war with 14 pounds of medals.
Among the many women at Sunday's reunion was 75-year-old Seema Tsimis, a meteorologist who provided weather forecasts for the Soviet air force. She measured the humidity and temperature from the firing line.
These Soviet veterans are all Jewish, so the aging men and women embraced and traded tales to a spontaneous background chorus that included Soviet army chants as well as "Hava Nagila." The event was organized by an association of Red Army veterans.
Because they are Jewish, many medal winners were accused after the war of buying their honors, said Si Frumkin, chairman of the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews.
Frumkin estimated that there are 45,000 Soviet Jews in Southern California, including many recent immigrants. Mazim, who arrived in February, quickly overcame initial homesickness.
"My veteran's pension in Russia was only 373 rubles," he said. "That's about a dollar a month."