The Harsh Truth: Memories of WWII Veterans
The Harsh Truth: Memories of WWII Veterans

On Victory Day, we publish the memoirs of female veterans from the book by Svetlana Aleksievich "War has no woman's face" - one of the most famous books about the Great Patriotic War, where war is first shown through the eyes of a woman.

“Once at night a whole company was conducting reconnaissance by force in the sector of our regiment. By dawn she had moved away, and a groan was heard from the no-man's land. Remained wounded. "Do not go, they will kill, - the soldiers did not let me in, - you see, it is already dawn." Didn't obey, crawled. She found the wounded man, dragged him for eight hours, tying him by the hand with a belt. Dragged a living one. The commander found out, announced in the heat of the moment five days of arrest for unauthorized absence. And the deputy regiment commander reacted differently: "Deserves an award." At the age of nineteen I had a medal "For Courage". At nineteen, she turned gray. At the age of nineteen, in the last battle, both lungs were shot, the second bullet passed between two vertebrae. My legs were paralyzed … And they thought I was killed … At nineteen … I have a granddaughter like that now. I look at her and I don’t believe it. Baby!"

“And when he appeared the third time, this one instant - it appears, then disappears, - I decided to shoot. I made up my mind, and suddenly such a thought flashed through: this is a man, even though he is an enemy, but a man, and my hands somehow began to tremble, trembling and chills went all over my body. Some kind of fear … Sometimes in my dreams and now this feeling comes back to me … After the plywood targets, it was difficult to shoot at a living person. I can see it through the optical sight, I can see it well. As if he is close … And something inside me is resisting … Something doesn’t give, I can’t make up my mind. But I pulled myself together, pulled the trigger … We did not succeed right away. It's not a woman's business to hate and kill. Not ours … I had to convince myself. Persuade…".


“And the girls were eager to go to the front voluntarily, but a coward himself would not go to war. They were brave, extraordinary girls. There are statistics: losses among frontline medics ranked second after losses in rifle battalions. In the infantry. What is it, for example, to get a wounded man out of the battlefield? We went up to the attack, and let's mow us down with a machine gun. And the battalion was gone. They were all lying. They were not all killed, many were wounded. The Germans are beating, the fire is not ceasing. Quite unexpectedly for everyone, first one girl jumps out of the trench, then the second, the third … They began to bandage and drag the wounded, even the Germans were numb for a while with amazement. By ten o'clock in the evening, all the girls were seriously injured, and each saved a maximum of two or three people. They were rewarded sparingly, at the beginning of the war they were not scattered with awards. It was necessary to pull out the wounded together with his personal weapon. The first question in the medical battalion: where are the weapons? At the beginning of the war, he was lacking. A rifle, an assault rifle, a machine gun - that also had to be carried. In the forty-first order number two hundred and eighty-one was issued on presentation for rewarding for saving the lives of soldiers: for fifteen seriously wounded, taken from the battlefield together with personal weapons - the medal "For military merit", for the salvation of twenty-five people - the Order of the Red Star, for the salvation of the forty - the Order of the Red Banner, for the salvation of the eighty - the Order of Lenin. And I described to you what it meant to save at least one in battle … From under the bullets … ".

“What was going on in our souls, such people as we were then, probably will never be again. Never! So naive and so sincere. With such faith! When our regiment commander received the banner and gave the command: “Regiment, under the banner! On your knees!”, We all felt happy. We stand and cry, each with tears in his eyes. Believe it or not, my whole body tensed up from this shock, my illness, and I fell ill with "night blindness", it happened from malnutrition, from nervous exhaustion, and so, my night blindness was gone.You see, I was healthy the next day, I recovered, through such a shock of my whole soul …”.

“I was thrown by a hurricane wave against a brick wall. I lost consciousness … When I regained consciousness, it was already evening. She raised her head, tried to squeeze her fingers - it seemed to move, barely ripped open her left eye and went to the department, covered in blood. In the corridor I met our older sister, she did not recognize me, she asked: “Who are you? Where?" She came closer, gasped and said: “Where have you been worn for so long, Ksenya? The wounded are hungry, but you are not. " They quickly bandaged my head, my left arm above the elbow, and I went to get dinner. In the eyes darkened, sweat poured hail. She began to distribute dinner, fell. They brought me back to consciousness, and one can only hear: “Hurry! Faster! " And again - “Hurry! Faster! " A few days later they took blood from me for the seriously wounded."


“We, young people, went to the front. Girls. I even grew up during the war. Mom measured at home … I grew by ten centimeters … ".

“Our mother had no sons … And when Stalingrad was besieged, we voluntarily went to the front. Together. The whole family: mother and five daughters, and by this time the father had already fought … ".

“I was mobilized, I was a doctor. I left with a sense of duty. And my dad was happy that his daughter was at the front. Protects the Motherland. Dad went to the recruiting office early in the morning. He went to receive my certificate and went early in the morning on purpose so that everyone in the village could see that his daughter was at the front …”.

“I remember they let me go on leave. Before going to my aunt, I went to the store. Before the war, she was terribly fond of candy. I say:

- Give me candy.

The saleswoman looks at me like I'm crazy. I didn’t understand: what is a card, what is a blockade? All the people in the line turned to me, and I have a bigger rifle than me. When they were given to us, I looked and thought: "When will I grow up to this rifle?" And all of a sudden everyone began to ask, the whole queue:

- Give her candy. Cut out coupons from us.

And they gave me ".


“And for the first time in my life it happened … Our … Feminine … I saw my blood like a shout:

- I was wounded …

In the reconnaissance with us was a paramedic, already an elderly man. He to me:

- Where did you get hurt?

- I do not know where … But the blood …

Like a father, he told me everything … I went on reconnaissance after the war for about fifteen years. Every night. And my dreams are like this: either my machine gun refused, then we were surrounded. You wake up - your teeth grind. Remember - where are you? Is it there or here?"

“I was leaving for the front as a materialist. Atheist. She left as a good Soviet schoolgirl, who was well taught. And there … There I began to pray … I always prayed before the battle, read my prayers. The words are simple … My words … The meaning is the same, so that I return to mom and dad. I did not know real prayers, and I did not read the Bible. No one saw me praying. I am secretly. I prayed furtively. Carefully. Because … We were different then, different people lived then. You understand?".

“Forms could not be attacked on us: they were always covered in blood. My first wounded was Senior Lieutenant Belov, my last wounded was Sergei Petrovich Trofimov, sergeant of a mortar platoon. In 1970 he came to visit me, and I showed my daughters his wounded head, which still has a large scar. In total, I took out four hundred and eighty-one wounded from under the fire. Some of the journalists calculated: a whole rifle battalion … They carried men, two or three times heavier than us. And the wounded are even worse. You drag him and his weapons, and he is also wearing an overcoat and boots. Take on eighty kilograms and drag. Throw it off … You go for the next one, and again seventy to eighty kilograms … And so five or six times in one attack. And in you yourself forty-eight kilograms - ballet weight. Now I can’t believe it …”.


“Later I became a squad leader. The whole department is made up of young boys. We are on a boat all day. The boat is small, there are no latrines. Guys, if necessary, can be across the board, and that's it. Well, how about me? A couple of times I was so patient that I jumped right overboard and swim. They shout: "Chief overboard!" Will pull out. Here is such an elementary trifle … But what a trifle is it? I was treated later …

“She returned from the war gray-haired.Twenty-one years old, and I'm all white. I had a serious wound, concussion, I could hardly hear in one ear. Mom greeted me with the words: “I believed that you would come. I prayed for you day and night. " My brother was killed at the front. She cried: "It is the same now - give birth to girls or boys."

“And I’ll say something else … The most terrible thing for me in the war is to wear men's panties. That was scary. And this is somehow for me … I will not express myself … Well, first of all, it is very ugly … You are in a war, you are going to die for your Motherland, and you are wearing men's panties. In general, you look funny. It's ridiculous. Men 's panties were then worn long. Wide. They sewed from satin. Ten girls in our dugout, and all of them are in men's shorts. Oh my God! In winter and summer. Four years … They crossed the Soviet border … They finished off, as our commissar said at political studies, the beast in his own den. Near the first Polish village they changed our clothes, gave us new uniforms and … And! AND! AND! We brought women's panties and bras for the first time. For the first time in the whole war. Ha-ah … Well, I see … We saw normal women's underwear … Why aren't you laughing? Crying … Well, why? ".


“At the age of eighteen, on the Kursk Bulge, I was awarded the medal" For Military Merit "and the Order of the Red Star, at the age of nineteen - the Order of the Patriotic War of the second degree. When a new replenishment arrived, the guys were all young, of course, they were surprised. They, too, are eighteen or nineteen years old, and they mockingly asked: "Why did you get your medals?" or "Have you been in battle?" They pester with jokes: "Do the bullets pierce the armor of the tank?" I then tied up one of these on the battlefield, under fire, and I remembered his last name - Dapper. His leg was broken. I put a splint on him, and he asks me for forgiveness: "Sister, forgive me that I offended you then …".

“We drove for many days … We went out with the girls at some station with a bucket to get some water. They looked around and gasped: one by one the trains were going, and there were only girls. They sing. They wave to us - some with kerchiefs, some with caps. It became clear: there were not enough men, they were killed in the ground. Or in captivity. Now we instead of them … Mom wrote a prayer for me. I put it in a locket. Maybe it helped - I returned home. I kissed the medallion before the fight …”.

“She shielded a loved one from a mine fragment. The fragments are flying - it's just a split second … How did she manage? She saved Lieutenant Petya Boychevsky, she loved him. And he stayed to live. Thirty years later, Petya Boychevsky came from Krasnodar and found me at our front-line meeting, and he told me all this. We went with him to Borisov and found the clearing where Tonya died. He took the earth from her grave … Carried and kissed … There were five of us, Konakovo girls … And one I returned to my mother … ".


“And here I am the gun commander. And, therefore, me - in one thousand three hundred and fifty-seventh anti-aircraft regiment. At first, there was blood flowing from the nose and ears, the stomach was completely upset … The throat dried up to vomiting … It was not so scary at night, but very scary during the day. It seems that the plane is flying directly at you, precisely at your weapon. Ramming at you! This is one moment … Now he will turn all, all of you into nothing. Everything is the end!"

“While he hears … Until the last moment you tell him that no, no, how can you die. You kiss him, hug him: what are you, what are you? He is already dead, his eyes are on the ceiling, and I whisper something else to him … Calm down … The names are now erased, gone from memory, but the faces remain … ".

“We had a nurse captured … A day later, when we recaptured that village, dead horses, motorcycles, armored personnel carriers were scattered everywhere. They found her: her eyes were gouged out, her chest was cut off … They put her on a stake … Frost, and she is white and white, and her hair is all gray. She was nineteen years old. In her backpack, we found letters from home and a rubber green bird. Children's toy … ".

“Near Sevsk the Germans attacked us seven to eight times a day. And even that day I carried out the wounded with their weapons. She crawled to the last one, and his arm was completely broken. Dangling on pieces … On veins … All covered in blood … He urgently needs to cut off his hand in order to bandage it. No other way. And I have no knife or scissors.The bag telepathically-telepathically on its side, and they fell out. What to do? And I gnawed this pulp with my teeth. Gnawed, bandaged … Bandage, and the wounded: "Hurry, sister. I'll fight again." In a fever … ".


“All the war I was afraid that my legs would not be crippled. I had beautiful legs. A man - what? He is not so scared even if he loses his legs. It's still a hero. Groom! And he will cripple a woman, so her fate will be decided. Women's destiny … ".

“The men will make a fire at the bus stop, shake the lice, dry themselves. Where are we? Let's run for some shelter, and there we undress. I had a knitted sweater, so lice sat on every millimeter, in every loop. Look, it will make you sick. There are head lice, body lice, pubic lice … I had all of them … ".

“We were striving … We did not want to be said about us:" Oh, these women! " And we tried more than men, we still had to prove that we are not worse than men. And for a long time there was an arrogant, condescending attitude towards us: "These women will conquer …" ".

“Wounded three times and shell-shocked three times. In the war, who dreamed about what: who to return home, who to reach Berlin, and I thought about one thing - to live until my birthday so that I would be eighteen years old. For some reason, I was scared to die earlier, not even live to be eighteen. I wore trousers, a cap, always torn off, because you always crawl on your knees, and even under the weight of a wounded man. It was hard to believe that one day it would be possible to get up and walk on the ground, and not crawl. It was a dream!"


“Let's go … About two hundred girls, and behind there are two hundred men. The heat is worth it. Hot Summer. Throw march - thirty kilometers. The heat is wild … And after us there are red spots on the sand … Traces are red … Well, these things … Ours … How do you hide here? The soldiers follow and pretend that they do not notice anything … They do not look at our feet … Our trousers dried up as if they were made of glass. They cut it. There were wounds, and the smell of blood was heard all the time. We were not given anything … We were guarding: when the soldiers would hang their shirts on the bushes. We'll steal a couple of pieces … Later they guessed, laughed: "Chief, give us another underwear. The girls took ours." There was not enough cotton wool and bandages for the wounded … But not that … Lingerie, perhaps, appeared only two years later. We wore men's shorts and T-shirts … Well, let's go … In boots! The legs are also fried. Let's go … To the crossing, ferries are waiting there. We got to the crossing, and then they started bombing us. The most terrible bombing, men - who where to hide. We are called … But we do not hear the bombing, we have no time for the bombing, we are more likely to go to the river. To the water … Water! Water! And they sat there until they got wet … Under the debris … Here it is … Shame was worse than death. And several girls died in the water … ".

“We were happy when we took out the pot of water to wash our hair. If they walked for a long time, they looked for soft grass. They tore her and her legs … Well, you know, they washed her with grass … We had our own peculiarities, girls … The army did not think about it … Our legs were green … Well, if the foreman was an elderly man and understood everything, did not take excess linen from the duffel bag, and if he is young, he will definitely throw out the excess. And how superfluous it is for girls who need to change clothes twice a day. We tore the sleeves off our undershirts, and there are only two of them. These are only four sleeves … ".


“How did the Motherland welcome us? I can't live without sobbing … Forty years have passed, but my cheeks are still burning. The men were silent, and the women … They shouted to us: "We know what you were doing there! They lured young n … our men. Front-line b … Military knots …" They insulted in every way … Rich Russian dictionary … A guy from a dance accompanied me, I suddenly feel bad -bad, the heart will rumble. I go and go and sit in a snowdrift. "What's the matter?" - "Yes, nothing. I danced." And these are my two wounds … This is a war … And we must learn to be gentle. To be weak and fragile, and legs in boots were carried - the fortieth size. It's unusual for someone to hug me. I got used to being responsible for myself. I waited for affectionate words, but did not understand them. They are like children to me. At the front, there is a strong Russian mate among men. I'm used to it. A friend taught me, she worked in the library: "Read poetry. Read Yesenin."

“My legs were gone … My legs were cut off … They rescued me in the same place, in the forest … The operation was in the most primitive conditions. They put him on the table to operate, and even there was no iodine, they sawed off his legs, both legs with a simple saw … They put him on the table, and there was no iodine. Six kilometers away we went to another partisan detachment for iodine, and I was lying on the table. No anesthesia. Without … Instead of anesthesia - a bottle of moonshine. There was nothing but an ordinary saw … Joiner's … We had a surgeon, he himself also had no legs, he talked about me, other doctors said: "I bow to her. I have operated on so many men, but I have not seen such men. She will not cry out." … I held on … I got used to being strong in public … ".

“My husband was a senior machinist, and I was a machinist. For four years we went to the heating house, and the son went with us. He didn’t even see a cat in my house during the whole war. When I caught a cat near Kiev, our train was terribly bombed, five planes flew in, and he hugged her: "Sweet kitty, how glad I am that I saw you. I don't see anyone, well, sit with me. Let me kiss you." A child … A child should have everything childish … He fell asleep with the words: "Mommy, we have a cat. We now have a real home."


“Anya Kaburova is lying on the grass … Our signalman. She is dying - the bullet has hit the heart. At this time, a wedge of cranes flies over us. Everyone raised their heads to the sky, and she opened her eyes. Looked: "What a pity, girls." Then she paused and smiled at us: "Girls, am I really going to die?" At this time, our postman, our Klava, is running, she shouts: "Don't die! Don't die! There's a letter for you from home …" Anya doesn't close her eyes, she's waiting … Our Klava sat down next to her, opened the envelope. A letter from my mother: "My dear, beloved daughter …" A doctor is standing next to me, he says: "This is a miracle. A miracle !! She lives contrary to all the laws of medicine …" We read the letter … And only then Anya closed her eyes … ".

“I stayed with him for one day, the second, and I decide:“Go to the headquarters and report. I’ll stay here with you.” He went to the authorities, but I can't breathe: well, how will they say that at twenty-four o'clock her leg was not there? This is the front, that's understandable. And suddenly I see - the authorities are going to the dugout: a major, a colonel. All shake hands. Then, of course, we sat down in the dugout, drank, and each said his word that his wife found her husband in the trench, this is a real wife, there are documents. This is such a woman! Let me see a woman like that! They spoke such words, they all cried. I remember that evening all my life …”.

“At Stalingrad … I am dragging two wounded. I will drag one - I leave, then - another. And so I pull them in turn, because they are very seriously wounded, they cannot be left, both, as it is easier to explain, have their legs repulsed high, they are bleeding. Here the minute is precious, every minute. And suddenly, when I crawled away from the battle, there was less smoke, suddenly I found myself dragging one of our tankers and one German … I was horrified: our people were dying there, and I was saving the German. I was in a panic … There, in the smoke, I could not figure it out … I see: a man is dying, a man is screaming … A-ah … They are both burnt, black. The same. And then I saw: someone else's medallion, someone else's watch, everything else. This form is damned. Now what? I pull our wounded man and think: "Should I return for the German or not?" I understood that if I leave him, he will soon die. From loss of blood … And I crawled after him. I continued to drag both of them … This is Stalingrad … The most terrible battles. The most-most … There cannot be one heart for hate, and the second for love. For a person, it is one”.


“My friend … I will not give her surname, I will suddenly be offended … The military assistant … Three times wounded. The war ended, she entered the medical institute. She did not find any of her relatives, everyone died. She was terribly poor, washed the entrances at night to feed herself. But she did not admit to anyone that she was a disabled war veteran and had benefits, she tore up all documents. I ask: "Why did you break up?" She cries: "Who would take me in marriage?" - "Well, well, - I say, - I did the right thing." She cries even louder: "These pieces of paper would be useful to me now. I am seriously ill." Can you imagine? Crying."

“It was then they began to honor us, thirty years later … We were invited to meetings … And at first we were hiding, we didn't even wear awards.Men wore, but women did not. Men are victors, heroes, grooms, they had a war, and they looked at us with completely different eyes. Quite different … We, I tell you, took away the victory … The victory was not shared with us. And it was insulting … It is not clear … ".

“The first medal" For Courage "… The battle began. Heavy fire. The soldiers lay down. Team: "Forward! For the Motherland!", And they are lying. Again the team, again they lie. I took off my hat so that they could see: the girl got up … And they all got up, and we went into battle … ".

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