Voices from Russia

Saturday, 25 March 2017

In Memory of Aleksei Ivanovich Chelyapin

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I was born on 3 September 1926, in a peasant family. We lived in the village of Glazok (Michurinsk Raion) in Tambov Oblast. I received eight years of education in a rural school. After finishing my schooling in 1942, I worked on a kolkhoz. I listened to the war news on the radio. After three days, all the men in our village born before 1925 had to report for military duty. I had my call-up notice in 1942. We went by train to Chaadayevka, detrained, and then went by lorry to Michurinsk in Penza Oblast. At the end of October 1942, we took the military oath at the local club. We completed the young soldier’s course at a base in the Mari ASSR; I received training in using an avtomat. At the beginning of May 1943, we got warm clothes and equipment; they sent us to fight at the front (at the Kursk salient). We travelled at night and rested during the day. Our group arrived at the Maloarkhangelsk station, which was near Ponyri (Oryol Oblast).

They gave us our orders there. I joined an infantry company armed with avtomats of the 800 Rifle Regiment of the 143 Rifle Division (13 Army). I remained in this company until the end of the war. However, we didn’t take part in the Battle of the Kursk Salient. Rather, normal training continued, to complete our young soldier’s course. We did hold Observation Points (NP) and Checkpoints (KPP). After the Battle of the Kursk Salient, the 13 Army advanced towards Konotop. Our 132 Rifle Division moved up from the railway station. We had armoured and air support, so we liberated Konotop on 6 September. Our division received the honorary title “Konotopskaya” for this victory. After freeing Konotop, we liberated Bakhmach, Nizhin, Kozelets, and Oster.

We reached the Dnepr and tried to cross it near the village of Strakholesye, north of Kiev. Our first attempt to cross the river failed. Our forces weren’t completely concentrated at the assault point; much of our equipment was still catching up to us. We just weren’t ready to do it… but we tried anyway, using boats, logs, anything that we could lay our hands on… some even swam across. The Germans had a strong position; they were on the reverse slope of the high ground, which gave them a big advantage. We just lost too many of our soldiers. When we tried a second time, we used tanks and artillery and brought up pontoon bridges. With such support, we were able to cross the Dnepr in force. On 22 September, we liberated Chernobyl, then we freed Ivankov and Malin, and on 17 November, we entered Korosten, for which our division received a second honorary title “Korostenskaya”. By January 1944, we chased the enemy from Belokorovichi, Olevska, and Rakitnogo. For liberating Sarny, our division received the Order of the Red Banner. We crossed the Slech River and Stir River, freeing Rafalovku and Manevichi.

At the beginning of March 1944, the 143 Rifle Division transferred to 47 Army in the Belorussian Front. We had orders to advance to Kovel, where the Germans had strengthened their positions. On 5 June 1944, our regiment was in Oblapy. During the night of 4 to 5 July, the recon platoon of our company had orders to reconnoitre the area chosen for the breakthrough. Before leaving, we turned in our Komsomol and military ID papers. We sewed a cloth patch on the inside flap of our tunics with our surname, first name and patronymic, as well as the address of our relatives, their last name, first name, and patronymic, so that if we died, it was possible to inform relatives. We all did this. In this battle, we dislodged the Germans from the outskirts, took a few prisoners, and came back alive. On the morning of 5 July, a massive assault on Kovel began. Both sides had heavy losses. Fighting in the city continued until the morning of 6 July.

On 21 July 1944, we crossed the West Bug River. Crossing the river was difficult as the Germans concentrated a lot of equipment on the opposite bank. As we crossed, the enemy opened up a powerful shelling our troops, but our artillery promptly counterattacked the German defenders. Many of us crossed the river on improvised means; I floated across on a log. On 14 September, we liberated the suburbs of Warsaw on the east bank of the Vistula. They promoted me to Senior Sergeant and made me a section leader. The next day, they ordered us to move to Jabłonna-Legionowo. When we liberated it, they told us to cross the Vistula. On the opposite bank, the Germans had three lines of trenches, from which they laid nonstop fire, not giving our troops a chance to get across the river.

On 14 January 1945, they told us to capture these trenches. Although we had heavy losses, we got to the other side and went on the attack. The Germans retreated, but they fought bitterly for every trench-line. By the time we captured the second trench, we didn’t have much ammo left. The Germans were running out of ammo, too. In the third trench, we went at each other in hand-to-hand combat. The Germans had to retreat. They ordered us to stop. We had to wait for other units to cross to our side on the railway bridge. We liberated Warsaw on 17 January 1945. Our Division crossed into Germany from Poland on 30 January. We took Deutsch-Krone (now Wałcz in Poland: editor ) on 2 March, reaching the Oder River. The Germans were on top of a hill, and we were in a meadow. At our slightest move, they immediately fired. The regimental commander called me. He told me to find out where the firing points were, if possible, take some prisoners. I took two soldiers with me. It went easily and without fuss. We located two machine guns, broke into their headquarters, and captured one of their soldiers. I went back to our lines, turned over our prisoner, and reported to the regimental commander. For this, I received the Order of the Red Banner. The 143 Rifle Division of 47 Army was on the banks of the River Spree at the end of the war. On 10 April 1945, I was seriously wounded, and received a medical discharge from the army.

Aleksei Ivanovich died on 20 March 2017, in Moscow. His burial was on 24 March with military honours at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery.

Вечная память!

СССР: Прекрасная страна, в которой мы жили (The USSR: The most beautiful country where we lived)

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Friday, 23 December 2016

23 December 2016. These are MY Heroes… Yekaterina Illarionovna Kalinchuk Demina

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Today, 22 December, is the 91st birthday of Yekaterina Illarionovna Kalinchuk Demina… a legendary veteran of the VOV. At 16-years-old, she became a medical orderly in the 369 Separate Naval Infantry Battalion of the Danube Flotilla. She served with that unit throughout the entire war, being at the front in the Caucasus and Stalingrad, ending up in Hungary and Austria. She was a frontline hero, winning not only the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin, but also two Orders of the Red Banner, the Order of the Patriotic War (First Class), and the Medal “For Courage”.

Congratulations, Yekaterina Illarionovna! Happy birthday! We wish you health and many years!

22 December 2016

Yevgeni Spitsyn

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Editor:

Compare Yekaterina Illarionovna to John McCain… there’s no comparison between a real heroine and a posturing cowboy, is there?  McCain was no coward, but he was no hero either. Old hands warned him many times that his recklessness would end badly, but he refused to listen to his elders and betters (nothing much has changed in him, has it?). The US Navy refused to promote this son and grandson of admirals to flag rank (a friend told me that the Navy didn’t want such a man in command of a task force… they feared that he’d kill others to prove his macho creds). On the other hand, Yekaterina Illarionovna did her duty at the front, showing not only prudence (for she did survive four years of the most-gruelling war ever fought), but also heroism (as her decorations prove to all comers).

I know whom I admire. It’s NOT John McCain. I confide that I’m not alone in thinking that way.

BMD

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

75 Years Ago… the Counterattack at Moscow Began

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5 December: The Day of the Beginning of the Counteroffensive by the Soviet Forces in the Battle of Moscow

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On this day in Russia, 5 December, we mark a “Day of Military Glory of Russia”; the counterattack by Soviet troops at the Battle of Moscow began on this day. The counterattack, the second phase of the battle of Moscow, started on 5-6 December 1941, with the Kalinin Front hitting Yeltsa. The fighting immediately became bitter and furious. In the early days of the offensive, despite a lack of superiority in manpower and equipment, and despite below-zero temperatures and deep snow cover, the troops on the left-wing and right-wing of the Western Front smashed the fascist defences south of Kalinin, cut highway and rail links to Kalinin, and liberated many towns from the enemy. Simultaneously, troops of the Southwestern Front attacked northwest of Moscow. The Red Army hit the flanks of the fascist Army Group Centre grouped around Moscow, forcing the enemy to regroup and to take measures to save its troops from a débâcle.

On 8 December, Hitler signed a directive to transition to the defence all along the Soviet-German front. Army Group Centre received orders “to retain strategically important areas at any cost”. On 9 December, the Soviet troops liberated Rogachevo, Venev, and Yelets. On 11 December, they freed Stalinogorsk, on 12 December, they cleared Solnechnogorsk, on 13 December, they liberated Yefremov, on 15 December, they entered Klin, on 16 December, they took Kalinin, and 20 December, they occupied Volokolamsk. On 25 December, on a broad front, Soviet troops advanced to Oka. On 28 December, they liberated Kozelsk, on 30 December, they took Kaluga, and in early January 1942, they freed Meshchovsk and Mosalsk.

By the beginning of January 1942, the armies of the right-wing of the Western Front reached the banks of the Lama and Ruza Rivers. By that time, the troops of the Kalinin Front reached Pavlikovo and Staritsa. The troops of the Western Front, in the centre, liberated Naro-Fominsk on 26 December, they freed Maloyaroslavets on 2 January, and entered Borovsk on 4 January. There were also successful counterattacks on the left-wing of the Western Front and by the Bryansk Front (re-established on 18 December 1941, with the 3, 13 and 61 Armies; commanded by General Ya T Cherevichenko, A F Kolobyakov as head commissar, and Major General V Ya Kolpakchy as Chief of Staff). By early January 1942, the Bryansk Front, cooperating with the forces of the left-wing of the Western Front, reached Belev, Mtsensk, and Verkhovye. All this has created a serious situation for the fascist Army Group Centre; it removed the threat looming over Moscow.

The victory of the Soviet troops near Moscow and the beginning of the counteroffensive not only had great military significance, it also had political and international Importance. For the first time in World War II, someone stopped the hitherto-invincible Wehrmacht and defeated it. Today, the date of 5 December is another reason to remember the heroes of that war…

5 December 2016

Russia-Российская Федерация

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Monday, 25 July 2016

25 July 2016. From the Russian Web… The 75th Anniversary of the Fall of the Brest Fortress in the VOV

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Russia remembers not only the triumph of victory… but also the agony of defeat. The resistance at the Brest Fortress tied up fascist troops that could’ve been at the frontline. Their sacrifice bought precious time for the Soviet forces to regroup. By the way… Russians haven’t changed…

Nothing is forgotten… no one is forgotten…

BMD

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