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