Voices from Russia

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Hero of Russia, Major Oleg Zobov of the Airborne Troops

Filed under: biography,Christian,inspirational,patriotic,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

On 23 February, Russia celebrates Defenders of the Motherland Day. This is one of our most meaningful holidays because soldiers and officers on active service often put their very lives on the line for their country. This is the ultimate reflection of one’s devotion and patriotism. As Jesus Christ said, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.(John 15.13). The history of the army in Imperial, Soviet, and now, Russian times is replete in stirring examples of self-sacrifice and heroism. Hero of Russia Major Oleg Zobov of the Airborne Troops (VDV) was destined for military service from the very start. “Oleg was born on 23 February 1958, on Soviet Army Day in Daugavpils, Lithuania”, Oleg’s mother, Maria Zobova said. “The moment the midwife took up the newborn, a rocket went up outside the window where people were celebrating the holiday. ‘Well? It’s a new soldier we’ve got here’! said the midwife holding up the baby. Right she was…”

His father was an officer in the Soviet Army, so, Oleg grew up in a military family, and he started to dream of a career in the paratroops early on. Small wonder, because the airborne force is an elite arm with a pronounced romantic flair to it. This has always attracted many young men to it. The paratroops are famous for their grit, iron discipline, and their “If not us, then, who?” attitude. Also well-known is their legendary perseverance and loyalty to their comrades. He knew that serving in the airborne troops was not easy; so, Oleg started practising parachute jumps when he was still at high school, making sure, of course, that his parents did not know about it. He decided to enrol in the élite Ryazan Airborne Academy. Failing to pass the tough entrance competition, he asked to serve with a paratroop division in Tula, and the following year, he tried his luck again. Again, he failed, getting a D in mathematics. However, it looked as if God Himself destined Oleg to be a paratrooper. One day, the legendary airborne commander General Vasili Margelov came to inspect his division. Slowly walking past the soldiers lined up to greet him, the General caught sight of a cheerless-looking Oleg.

“What’s your problem, Sergeant?” Margelov inquired.

“It’s all right, Sir!” Oleg said.

“Come on, what’s wrong with you?” the General pressed.

Bending under the famous commander’s pressure, Oleg finally cracked, and he told Vasily Margelov about his two bungled attempts to enter the Ryazan Academy. Hearing this, General Margelov immediately arranged for Oleg’s admission to the Academy. “We need guys like you, son”, Margelov grinned. Graduating from the Ryazan Academy, Oleg Zobov spent a few years serving with the Pskov Airborne Division. Repeatedly sent to conflict points, he won the well-deserved respect of his soldiers who readily returned the love and care they received from their commander. “My soldiers are your children, and their children are your grandchildren”, he would often tell his parents. He was always ready to rush to his solders’ help. Oleg displayed this attitude to the full when fighting separatists in Chechnya in 1995. Severely wounded with his back all but broken, Oleg continued to command his men, led them into battle, and routed the enemy. His competent leadership in combat saved the lives of nearly 200 soldiers, and for this feat, Oleg received the honour of receiving the highest military decoration, the Star of the Hero of Russia. No one is born a hero; people become heroes, but only those who are just, who don’t compromise themselves with careerism and the pursuit of mercenary ends, those who keep their sense of honour, show inner integrity, and act in keeping with their conscience. Exactly like Oleg Zobov always did.

Oleg kept fighting on courageously, this time to stay alive. He braved excruciating pain to stay part of the airborne troops. He somehow managed to keep his pain secret from his colleagues and even the doctors. Each morning, he would put on a special corset to keep the two crushed vertebrae together and even made five more parachute jumps. Even though his doctors said he didn’t have a chance of survival, Oleg kept fighting on for four more years. Just a few hours before he died, Oleg’s mother says that Oleg, seeing tears running down her face, said, “Why are you doing this? Would you prefer that 164 mothers cry their hearts out or just you alone?” Recalling this, she said, “There was nothing I could say to that…” Oleg Zobov died on 16 February 1999. He was only 40.

When they unveiled his tombstone, everyone was surprised to see that, unlike all the other tombstones, big drops of dew completely covered the marble. Who knows… maybe the Almighty really did shed His Grace on Oleg for the good things he did during his lifetime. There must be something to that, for in defiance of all the laws of nature, a butterfly has appeared in Oleg’s apartment on Epiphany for two straight years now. Oleg Zobov’s heroism was not lost on his fellow countrymen. After reading newspaper stories about Oleg, many young people volunteered to join the airborne troops. All this happened because Oleg Zobov added a practical dimension to the ancient evangelical commandment that says, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

22 February 2007

Lyubov Tsarevskaya

This is Russia

Voice of Russia World Service


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