The published book "Memories of the Children of War Stalingrad" has become a real revelation not only for the current generation, but also for war veterans.
The war broke into Stalingrad suddenly. August 23, 1942. The day before, residents had heard on the radio that battles were going on on the Don, almost 100 kilometers from the city. All enterprises, shops, cinemas, kindergartens, schools were working, preparing for the new academic year. But that afternoon, everything collapsed overnight. The 4th German Air Force unleashed its bombing strike on the streets of Stalingrad. Hundreds of planes, making one call after another, systematically destroyed residential areas. The history of wars has not yet known such a massive destructive raid. At that time, there was no concentration of our troops in the city, so all the efforts of the enemy were aimed at destroying the civilian population.
Nobody knows - how many thousands of Stalingraders died in those days in the basements of collapsed buildings, suffocated in earthen shelters, burned alive in houses
The authors of the collection - members of the Regional Public Organization "Children of Military Stalingrad in the City of Moscow" write about how those terrible events remained in their memory.
“We ran out of our underground shelter,” recalls Guriy Khvatkov, he was 13 years old. - Our house burned down. Many houses on both sides of the street were also on fire. Father and mother grabbed my sister and me by the arms. There are no words to describe what horror we experienced. Everything around was flaming, cracking, exploding, we ran along the fiery corridor to the Volga, which was not visible because of the smoke, although it was very close. Around were heard the screams of people distraught with horror. A lot of people have gathered on the narrow edge of the coast. The wounded lay on the ground with the dead. Upstairs, on the railroad tracks, wagons with ammunition exploded. Railroad wheels flew overhead, burning debris. Burning streams of oil moved along the Volga. It seemed that the river was on fire … We ran down the Volga. Suddenly they saw a small tugboat. We had scarcely climbed the ladder when the steamer departed. Looking around, I saw a solid wall of a burning city."
Hundreds of German planes, descending low over the Volga, shot at residents who were trying to cross to the left bank. River workers took people out on ordinary pleasure steamers, boats, barges. The Nazis set them on fire from the air. The Volga became a grave for thousands of Stalingraders.
In his book "The classified tragedy of the civilian population in the Battle of Stalingrad" T.A. Pavlova quotes the statement of an Abwehr officer who was taken prisoner in Stalingrad:
We knew that the Russian people should be destroyed as much as possible in order to prevent the possibility of any resistance after the establishment of a new order in Russia
Soon the destroyed streets of Stalingrad became a battlefield, and many residents who miraculously survived the bombing of the city faced a hard fate. They were captured by the German invaders. The Nazis drove people out of their homes and drove endless columns across the steppe into the unknown. On the way, they tore off the burnt ears, drank water from puddles. For the rest of their lives, even among small children, fear remained - just to keep up with the column - the stragglers were shot.
In these harsh circumstances, events took place that are just right for psychologists to study. What steadfastness a child can display in the struggle for life! Boris Usachev at that time was only five and a half years old when he and his mother left the destroyed house. The mother was soon to give birth. And the boy began to realize that he was the only one who could help her on this difficult road.They spent the night in the open air, and Boris dragged straw to make it easier for mom to lie on the frozen ground, collect ears and corn cobs. They walked 200 kilometers before they managed to find a roof - to stay in a cold barn in a farm. The kid went down the icy slope to the ice-hole to fetch water, collected firewood to heat the shed. In these inhuman conditions, a girl was born …
It turns out that even a young child can instantly realize what the danger threatening death is … Galina Kryzhanovskaya, who was not even five then, recalls how she, sick, with a high temperature, lay in the house where the Nazis ruled: “I remember how one the young German began to swagger over me, bringing a knife to my ears, nose, threatening to cut them off if I moan and cough. " In these terrible moments, not knowing a foreign language, by one instinct the girl realized what danger she was in, and that she should not even squeak, not that to shout: "Mom!"
Galina Kryzhanovskaya talks about how they survived the occupation. “From hunger, my sister and I’s skin was rotting alive, our legs were swollen. At night, my mother crawled out of our underground shelter, got to the cesspool, where the Germans dumped cleanings, stubs, intestines …"
When, after the suffering endured, the girl was bathed for the first time, they saw gray hair in her hair. So from the age of five she walked with a gray strand
German troops pushed our divisions to the Volga, capturing the streets of Stalingrad one after another. And new columns of refugees, guarded by the occupiers, stretched westward. Strong men and women were driven into carriages to lead them like slaves to Germany, children were driven aside with rifle butts …
But in Stalingrad there were also families who remained in the disposition of our fighting divisions and brigades. The leading edge passed through streets, ruins of houses. Caught up in trouble, the inhabitants took refuge in basements, earthen shelters, sewer pipes, and ravines.
This is also an unknown page of the war, which the authors of the collection reveal. In the very first days of the barbarian raids, shops, warehouses, transport, roads, and water supply were destroyed. The supply of food to the population was cut off, there was no water. As an eyewitness to those events and one of the authors of the collection, I can testify that during the five and a half months of the defense of the city, the civil authorities did not give us any food, not a single piece of bread. However, there was no one to extradite - the leaders of the city and districts were immediately evacuated across the Volga. No one knew if there were residents in the fighting city or where they were.
How did we survive? Only by the mercy of a Soviet soldier. His compassion for hungry and exhausted people saved us from hunger. Everyone who survived among shelling, explosions, and the whistle of bullets remembers the taste of frozen soldier's bread and a brew made from a millet briquette.
The inhabitants knew what mortal danger the soldiers were exposed to, who, with a load of food for us, were sent, on their own initiative, across the Volga. Having occupied the Mamayev Kurgan and other heights of the city, the Germans sank boats and boats with aimed fire, and only a few of them sailed at night to our right bank.
Many regiments, fighting in the ruins of the city, found themselves on a meager ration, but when they saw the hungry eyes of children and women, the soldiers shared the latter with them
In our basement, three women and eight children were hiding under a wooden house. Only older children, who were 10-12 years old, left the basement for porridge or water: women could be mistaken for scouts. Once I crawled into the ravine where the soldiers' kitchens stood.
I waited for the shelling in the craters until I got there. Soldiers with light machine guns, boxes of cartridges were walking towards me, and their guns were rolling. By the smell, I determined that there was a kitchen behind the dugout door. I stomped around, not daring to open the door and ask for porridge.An officer stopped in front of me: "Where are you from, girl?" Hearing about our basement, he took me to his dugout in the slope of the ravine. He put a pot of pea soup in front of me. “My name is Pavel Mikhailovich Korzhenko,” said the captain. “I have a son, Boris, of your age.”
The spoon shook in my hand as I ate the soup. Pavel Mikhailovich looked at me with such kindness and compassion that my soul, bound by fear, became limp and trembled with gratitude. Many more times I will come to him in the dugout. He not only fed me, but also talked about his family, read letters from his son. Happened, talked about the exploits of the division fighters. He seemed to me like a dear person. When I left, he always gave me briquettes of porridge with him for our basement … His compassion for the rest of my life will become a moral support for me.
Then, like a child, it seemed to me that war could not destroy such a kind person. But after the war, I learned that Pavel Mikhailovich Korzhenko died in Ukraine during the liberation of the city of Kotovsk …
Galina Kryzhanovskaya describes such a case. A young fighter jumped into the underground, where the Shaposhnikov family was hiding - a mother and three children. "How did you live here?" - he was surprised and immediately took off his duffel bag. He put a piece of bread and a block of porridge on the trestle bed. And immediately jumped out. The mother of the family rushed after him to thank him. And then, in front of her eyes, the fighter was struck to death by a bullet. “If he hadn’t been late, he wouldn’t have shared bread with us, maybe he would have managed to slip through a dangerous place,” she lamented later.
The generation of children of the wartime was characterized by an early awareness of their civic duty, the desire to do what was in their power to “help the fighting Motherland,” no matter how pompous it sounds today. But such were the young Stalingraders
After the occupation, finding herself in a remote village, eleven-year-old Larisa Polyakova, together with her mother, went to work in a hospital. Taking a medical bag, in frost and blizzard every day Larisa set off on a long journey to bring medicines and dressings to the hospital. Having survived the fear of bombing and hunger, the girl found the strength to look after two seriously wounded soldiers.
Anatoly Stolpovsky was only 10 years old. He often went out of the underground shelter to get food for his mother and younger children. But my mother did not know that Tolik was constantly crawling under fire into the neighboring basement, where the artillery command post was located. The officers, noticing the enemy's firing points, transmitted commands by telephone to the left bank of the Volga, where the artillery batteries were located. Once, when the Nazis launched another attack, the explosion tore the telephone wires. Before Tolik's eyes, two signalmen were killed, who, one after another, tried to restore communication. The Nazis were already tens of meters from the command post, when Tolik, putting on a camouflage coat, crawled to look for the place of the cliff. Soon the officer was already transmitting commands to the artillerymen. The enemy attack was repulsed. More than once, at the decisive moments of the battle, the boy, under fire, connected the broken communication. Tolik and his family were in our basement, and I witnessed how the captain, having handed over loaves of bread and canned food to his mother, thanked her for raising such a brave son.
Anatoly Stolpovsky was awarded the medal "For the Defense of Stalingrad". With a medal on his chest, he came to study in his 4th grade
In basements, earthen holes, underground pipes - everywhere where the inhabitants of Stalingrad were hiding, despite the bombing and shelling, there was a glimmer of hope - to survive until victory. This, despite the cruel circumstances, dreamed of those who were driven away by the Germans from their hometown for hundreds of kilometers. Iraida Modina, who was 11 years old, talks about how they met the soldiers of the Red Army. During the days of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Nazis drove their family - mother and three children into the barracks of the concentration camp. Miraculously, they got out of it and the next day they saw that the Germans burned down the barracks along with the people. The mother died of disease and hunger.“We were completely exhausted and looked like walking skeletons,” wrote Iraida Modina. - On the heads - purulent abscesses. We moved with difficulty … One day our older sister Maria saw a horseman outside the window with a five-pointed red star on his hat. She flung open the door and fell at the feet of the soldiers who entered. I remember how she, in a shirt, hugging the knees of one of the soldiers, shaking with sobs, repeated: “Our saviors have come. My dear ones! " The soldiers fed us and stroked our shorn heads. They seemed to us the closest people in the world."
The victory in Stalingrad was a global event. Thousands of welcoming telegrams and letters came to the city, wagons with food and building materials went. Squares and streets were named after Stalingrad. But no one in the world rejoiced at the victory as much as the soldiers of Stalingrad and the inhabitants of the city that survived the battles. However, the press of those years did not report how hard life remained in the destroyed Stalingrad. Having got out of their wretched shelters, the inhabitants walked for a long time along narrow paths among endless minefields, burnt chimneys stood in place of their houses, water was carried from the Volga, where the smell of corpse still remained, food was cooked on fires.
The entire city was a battlefield. And when the snow began to melt, the corpses of our and German soldiers were found in the streets, in craters, factory buildings, wherever the battles took place. It was necessary to bury them in the ground.
“We returned to Stalingrad, and my mother went to work at an enterprise located at the foot of the Mamayev Kurgan,” recalls Lyudmila Butenko, who was 6 years old. - From the first days, all workers, mostly women, had to collect and bury the corpses of our soldiers who died during the storming of the Mamayev Kurgan. You just need to imagine what the women experienced, some who became widows, while others, every day expecting news from the front, worrying and praying for their loved ones. Before them were the bodies of someone's husbands, brothers, sons. Mom came home tired and depressed."
It is difficult to imagine such a thing in our pragmatic time, but just two months after the end of the fighting in Stalingrad, brigades of volunteer construction workers appeared
It started like this. Kindergarten worker Alexandra Cherkasova offered to restore a small building on her own in order to quickly accept the children. The women took up saws and hammers, plastering and painting themselves. Volunteer brigades, which raised the destroyed city free of charge, began to be named after Cherkasova. Cherkasov brigades were created in broken workshops, among the ruins of residential buildings, clubs, schools. After their main shift, residents worked for another two to three hours, clearing roads, manually dismantling the ruins. Even children collected bricks for their future schools.
“My mother also joined one of these brigades,” recalls Lyudmila Butenko. “The residents, who had not yet recovered from the suffering they had endured, wanted to help rebuild the city. They went to work in rags, almost all barefoot. And surprisingly, you could hear them singing. How can you forget this?"
There is a building in the city called Pavlov's House. Almost surrounded, soldiers under the command of Sergeant Pavlov defended this line for 58 days. An inscription remained on the house: "We will defend you, dear Stalingrad!" Cherkasovites, who came to restore this building, added one letter, and on the wall was inscribed: "We will rebuild you, dear Stalingrad!"
With the passage of time, this selfless work of the Cherkasy brigades, which included thousands of volunteers, seems to be a truly spiritual feat. And the first buildings that were built in Stalingrad were kindergartens and schools. The city took care of its future.