Victory in Human Stories:
A Grand Piano and the Marines
Special on Victory Day
1945 — 1.5-ton
truck had quickly passed the battered road from Lnostroi and entered
the dark streets of the town. Not a street-lamp or a ray of light
was visible from the windows covered with blackout curtains. Vologda
had introduced martial law in the first days of the war.
The truck carried
artists. They had to reach home before curfew, or they would
be detained by the patrol.
were us, students from School No.20, located just opposite the
river quay. We were excited by the enthusiastic reception of
our audience, the marines. They were scheduled to leave for the
front the next day. We were so envious of those cheerful guys
with golden anchors and wanted to go to protect our Fatherland
from Hitler’s cruel Nazi forces.
noticed a boy making his way towards me in the truck. It was
Serezhka. Stopping close to me, he looked at me petrified as
if he was seeing me for the first time. Suddenly, he asked, “Where
are you from?”
That was ridiculous.
We had been in the same class for almost a month. That is, it
would have been ridiculous had I not been so very offended by
his inattention, because I had noticed him as soon as I entered
the new school. It was on October 1 (in 1941 the academic year
began a month later than usual, because children were working
Gzhatsk. All alone. After ousting fascists.
by N. Granovsky / RIA Novosti Photo
standing alone near the window, intensely looking out in the street.
“He must be waiting for his girlfriend,” I thought
and somehow my heart sank.
I was not the
only new student in the ninth grade. Girls, evacuated before
the war from Leningrad and Moscow, perhaps, received greater
attention. They were so sassy, metropolitan, so “not local.” They
quickly became close with the “elite,” led by the
best pupils, Komsomol leaders – the handsome Albert and
And now, he
was standing in front of me, looking into my eyes admiringly
just as in my favorite poem: “He looked at me as one might
at a miracle, at a seashell, or at the light… He said, “You
are not from here”. I said that he was right.
But my beauty
and evident interest in him were not enough. He appreciated originality.
I should thank
the unexpectedly good grand piano that had miraculously found
its way to a Lnostroi-club-turned-barracks, where we performed.
When my fingers
felt the real instrument, I dared to play a very beautiful show
piece that I performed at the final concert at the city theater.
Everything I had learned after eight years of studying music
was still fresh. A year before the war, I had studied as a pianist
at a specialized music school and dreamed of entering the Leningrad
As the war
broke out, our music school was closed. My strict mom took my
documents to a school close to our new home (after Dad had been
arrested as “an enemy of the people,” we were driven
out of our apartment, but my grandmother took us in). So, despite
my inner resistance, I returned to an ordinary school. My friends
from the music school, while waiting for it to reopen, went to
work at a hospital, on a sanitary train and at a sewing factory.
I could have done the same at home and sewed soldier’s
underwear for mom’s disabled workers’ association.
But she did not let me. And my brother Leonid was against the
sanitary train, writing from the front, “you don’t
know what war is like for girls.”
7, we had a party at school. I sat at the piano in the corridor
that we used as a hall and played waltzes, foxtrots, polkas and
all my favorite songs from albums and films for the dancers.
Suddenly a hand appeared above my right shoulder and put a notebook
on the music stand. “I love you” was written there.
I turned back.
It was Serezhka.
response to my declaration,
You said in tears, ‘No’.
Although you already knew
That it was a definite ‘yes.’”
This is how
he remembered that moment later.
After the cold
and hungry winter, the first winter of the war, came the hard
summer. After endless snow clearing on the railways and wood
chopping, came obligatory work on peat fields and then, till
late autumn, on collective farms. It was hard, peasant labor,
but it saved us from starvation. And there was also some entertainment,
competition for being the quickest and the most tireless. And
there were also walks in the moon with my classmates, on the
banks of the river Toshnya – from one village to another,
for five kilometers, from the boys to the girls and back. Our
morals were strictly guarded by accompanying (annoying) teachers,
especially, when a tank unit was waiting in our village of Savkino
We danced to
a gramophone in our house. This time with the servicemen, because
our classmates were overshadowed by the soldiers, each of whom
seemed a hero to us.
we returned to town, proud of ourselves. We were breadwinners.
For our work we had received some food – grain and vegetables.
Komsomol leader and an excellent pupil received a commendation
from the city authorities.
He told me
to join the Komsomol and asked, “How came you are still
not a member?” I confessed, “My father has been arrested.
They will not admit me.” (At that time, I did not know
that my innocent father had been executed four years before upon
vouch for you,” Serezhka offered. “I’ll give
you a recommendation.” I was surprised that he was not
Then a conflict
came. I was bad at math, and someone passed me a piece of blotting
paper with the solution when I was standing at the blackboard.
Looking boldly at me, Serezhka took it and sank into his inkpot. “You
should think with your own head,” he said.
often helped me later in life.
On the eve
of 1943, our boys, who had just turned 17, were suddenly drafted.
I wrote a poem:
said good-bye under a white birch-tree,
Without a hug or a kiss.
But grieves that fell to your lot
Became mine as well.”
It was about
finished school, a strange school, alone. The dwindled tenth
grades were united. After classes we still went to work. We were
on duty at the Leningrad evacuation hospital at night and helped
to take care of the severely wounded (at school we took a public
health course, the same as military nurses did). We washed the
floors and windows in the hospital and changed bedclothes. In
the summer, we got our school certificates. After our graduation
party, we walked until the morning and sang a song we had written
to the tune of an official one, which went, “On June 22,
at four in the morning, Kiev was bombed and war declared.” But
ours was different, “On June 22, when the war is over,
we’ll get together and remember the past.”
Then we parted.
I had already
given up my dream of entering the conservatory. Professional
studies of music were, unfortunately, over. So, I went to work
at the radio committee as a reporter. My mother was a dress maker,
and one of her clients helped me to find the job. Then I took
courses for Komsomol journalists in Moscow at the office of the
Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. For this, I should thank Boris
Levichev, a friend of my brother Leonid, who headed the Komsomol
in Vologda and sent me there. But I am most grateful to my classmate
Serezhka, who had made me join the Komsomol, or this would have
At first, I
worked in the newspaper’s field offices near the front
line, in the liberated regions. The editorial and printing staff
travelled in their own carriages. Later I received distance education.
Our class did
meet on June 22, 45 years later. I could hardly recognize the
girls – Maya Nekrasova, Vera Ilyicheva, Valya Karpova,
Inna Zlobina… Unfortunately, Nina Chelpanova and Alla Mets
had already passed away.
our classmates who had died in the war – German Shemyakin,
Slava Markov, Kolya Vetrov, Vova Rusov and Vladik Khokhlov.
By that time,
I had already written a book, “Rozovaya Chaika” (The
Pink Seagull), which I devoted to them and my brother Leonid,
who was also killed in the war. Voyenizdat published 65,000 copies,
but the financial crises came immediately afterwards and devaluated
A great excitement
at the meeting was caused by the arrival of Serezhka, who by
that time had become Lieutenant General and headed the Soviet
Interior Ministry’s political department. They had heard
of him, but had not met. Except for me.
I have also
written a book about Serezhka, whom I would have never met but
for the war that changed my life. Recently I published another
one, Staroye Zerkalo (The Old Mirror). It is devoted to my late
husband and friend Sergei P. Ostashev, a WWII veteran and Chernobyl
survivor, awarded with the Order of Courage for his work in the
radioactive contaminated area in 1986-1987.
He was not
afraid to cast in his lot with the daughter of “an enemy
of the people” (at that time, he could not even suppose
that together with thousands of other innocent victims he would
be rehabilitated many years later), although his commanders and
the party tried hard to separate us.
He was an honest
servant of his Fatherland. He gave me two wonderful sons and
helped to raise two grandsons and a granddaughter. Even our two
little great-granddaughters remember him.
He was so right,
my lieutenant, when remembering his first declaration he wrote:
you already knew yourself
That it was love, a definite ‘yes’
And you would never forget…”
Larisa S. Ostasheva, is a member of the Moscow Union of Journalists,
veteran of the Great Patriotic War and veteran of Labor, a victim
of political repressions.
Related to Russia’s Victory Against the Nazis in the Memory
of WWII Veterans
and their Families:
Victory Against the Nazis in Historical Stories
Putin Address to Allied World War II Veterans
Decorates Russian WWII Veterans
to Host Russian Photo Exhibition
Novosti Photo Exhibition Opens in Vienna
Fleet’s Large Landing Ship Completing Memory Cruise
** WWII Veterans to
Against the Nazis in Historical Stories
RIA Novosti’s Day
by Day Special Leading to the 60th Anniversary of Victory
in the 1941 – 1945
Great Patriotic War
April 09th, 1945
— Following bitter fighting, the 3rd Belarussian Front forces have
mopped up the enemy troops in Konigsberg, having assaulted today
this fortress and main city of East Prussia, a strategic strongpoint
of the enemy defenses on the Baltic.
RIA Novosti Photo
By 20.00 hours today, the friendly forces had taken over 27,000
prisoners and seized a lot of weapons and other combat gear.
The remaining Konigsberg garrison and its headquarters, led by
the fortress commandant, Army General Lasch, surrendered at 21.30
Northeast and north of Bratislava, the 2nd Ukrainian Front forces
carried on their advance and took over 40 Czechoslovak settlements,
including the towns of Soblahov, Beckov, Stara Tura, Sobotiste,
Lopasov and Radimov. West of Bratislava, the Red Army advanced
along the northern bank of the Danube towards Vienna, taking Zwerndorf,
Ober Weiden, Schonfeld, Lassee, Haringsee, Fuchenbigl, Straudorf,
Ort, Mannsdorf and Schenau. On April 8, more than 2,000 prisoners
Fighting on the streets of Vienna, the 3rd Ukrainian Front troops
assumed control of downtown Vienna, including the parliament building,
the city hall, main police directorate, central telegraph office,
Central European Bank and Opera house. South of Vienna, the enemy
was dislodged from the town of Berndorf. On April 8, more than
1,700 prisoners were seized, as were 25 enemy aircraft, 191 tanks
and self-propelled guns, 30 armored personnel carriers, 245 field
guns, 50 mortars, 106 machineguns, 30 steam engines, 1,665 railroad
cars and 42 depots.
No major changes were reported on the other parts of the front.
On April 8, 50 enemy tanks and self-propelled guns were damaged
and destroyed and 42 enemy aircraft were downed in aerial combat
and by anti-aircraft guns on all fronts.
Novosti" archives from
the Soviet Information Bureau)
Putin Address to Allied World War II Veterans
At this time
as we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the allied landing
in Normandy, on behalf of the entire Russian people I express
my immense and sincere gratitude for your historical feat.
of the second front in Europe made an invaluable contribution
to our common victory. Together with the soldiers of the Red
Army you fought to the end, defeated the aggressor and restored
peace and freedom to the peoples of Europe. The meeting of our
armies on the Elba in the victorious spring of 1945 symbolised
the invincibility of fraternity forged in battle and the triumph
of partnership and unity born during those hard and difficult
years help us today to take a stand against the common threats
we face and strengthen our cooperation in the interests of stability
and security in our world.
We in Russia
will always honour the courage of our brothers in arms and remember
those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against the
greatest evil of the twentieth century.
I give my heartfelt
congratulations to the allied veterans and wish you health, prosperity
and success. Blessed be the memory of the fallen heroes.
USA Decorates Russian WWII Veterans
NEW YORK CITY
(RIA Novosti, by Alexei Berezin and Andrei Loschilin) — The
Brighton Beach concert
hall gathered Russian
immigrants in a gala yesterday as numerous veterans of the
Great Patriotic War, 1941-45, were receiving 60th Victory Anniversary
medals. Their relations attended the event.
to come will cherish grateful memory of the war heroes whom they
owe their life and the opportunity to raise their
children," Sergei Garmonin, Russia’s Consul General in New
York City, said to the audience.
236 medals were awarded, Tuesday. Not all war veterans could
attend the gala to receive them," the diplomat said
to Novosti afterwards.
All in all,
approximately four thousand medals will be awarded. "Decoration
ceremonies are already over in Philadelphia, Pa., and in New Jersey,
where close on a thousand received the honorable medals. There
are about a thousand Soviet WWII veterans resident in New York
City now. Their average age is 82, and there are seven centenarians
among them," added Mr. Garmonin.
settled in America, far from our native land. Here, too, we are
doing all we can to extol and eternalize the memory of the
great victory," says Leonid Rosenberg, New York City war
veteran organization chief.
to Host Russian Photo Exhibition
HAGUE (RIA Novosti, by Andrei Poskakukhin) — A Russian photo
exhibition called "Sixtieth VE-Day Anniversary" featuring
65 photos from RIA Novosti archives is to open here.
The Great Patriotic
War’s veterans living in Holland, representatives of Dutch political,
business and public circles, diplomats and journalists have been
invited to attend the opening ceremony.
is taking place on the initiative of the Russian Embassy. Representatives
of Holland’s Russian-speaking diaspora and RIA Novosti helped
organize this event.
organizers plan to attract the Dutch public’s attention to the
events of 1945 with the help of Soviet front-line photographers,
who took their pictures 60 years ago, an exhibition prospectus
reads in part. Those events drastically changed the history of
mankind. Moreover, the exhibition’s organizers would like visitors
to assess the war and Victory through the eyes of people, who
died fighting to save Europe from Nazi oppression.
of international terrorism is now being discussed ever more frequently.
In this connection, it would be quite appropriate to remember
that the feeling of solidarity and hatred toward our common enemy
had helped achieve the great Victory, the document notes.
is to last until April 27, subsequently leaving for other Dutch
cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam included.
RIA Novosti Photo Exhibition Opens in Vienna
(RIA Novosti, by Borislav Pechnikov) — RIA Novosti’s photo exhibition "People
Who Triumphed Over War" opened in Vienna on Wednesday, April
13, the 60th anniversary of the Austrian capital’s liberation
from Nazi troops.
to Austria Stanislav Osadchy said at the opening ceremony that
the Russian Foreign Ministry congratulated Austrians on this
all people of Austria on the 60th anniversary of the liberation
and restoration of state sovereignty of the country which resulted
in the signing of the state treaty on the restoration of independent
and democratic Austria on May 15, 1955," reads the Foreign
Ministry’s message forwarded to the Austrian leadership.
the Russian ambassador, on April 13, 1945 Soviet troops completed
the Vienna liberation operation frustrating the resistance of
the Wehrmacht and SS forces which planned total destruction of
the Austrian capital and its ancient historical and cultural
Dozens of thousand
of Soviet people, members of the Resistance movement were killed
in battles for Vienna’s liberation. About 80,000 Soviet soldiers,
prisoners of Nazi death camps and Nazi slaves were buried in
Austria, Osadchy stressed.
which opened in ancient Kaiserhaus palace in downtown Vienna
features unique photographs from RIA Novosti’s archives. The
agency was formed on the first days of the Great Patriotic War
and named the Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformburo).
There are photographs
made by war correspondents during the Vienna offensive operation
of the Soviet Army which resulted in the defeat of Nazi troops
and liberation of Austria and its capital.
of the exhibition are people – ordinary soldiers who marched
along the hard roads of the war, commanders whose military skills
and courage led to the defeat of Nazi Germany, mothers who sent
their children to the war and mourned for their death.
were highly interested in such photographs as "Soviet soldiers
at Johann Strauss’s grave," "Self-propelled guns crossing
the Austrian border," "Lieutenant-General Blagodatov,
the first Soviet commandant of Vienna, talking to Austrian workers," "Waltz
in liberated Vienna," "Captive Nazis" and others.
photo exhibition "People Who Triumphed Over War" will
be shown in Vienna and other Austrian cities.
Pacific Fleet’s Large Landing Ship
Completing Memory Cruise
(RIA Novosti, by Veronika Perminova) — The BDK-11 large landing
ship of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet is completing its
Cruise of Memory in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the
over Nazism in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War.
On April 14,
Thursday, the ship carrying war veterans, cadets and clergymen
with the Vladivostok diocese is to return to the port of Vladivostok
to be met by a ceremony, the Pacific Fleet’s press center told
history cruise – Cruise of Memory – to the places of combat glory
– was launched from Vladivostok on April 2. The ship covered
over 1,600 miles with stopovers in Korsakov (Sakhalin), Sovetskaya
Gavan (Khabarovsk Territory), Nakhodka and coastal towns of the
in the cruise laid wreaths at the site of the sinking of the
L-19 submarine in the La Perouse Strait and honored the memory
of the Novik and Izumrud cruisers’ crews killed in action during
the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-5.
en route the war veterans would meet youth, the Pacific Fleet’s
song and dance ensemble would perform and a Pacific Fleet exhibition
dedicated to the victory’s anniversary would be displayed.
plenipotentiary to the Far Eastern Federal District, Konstantin
Pulikovsky, sponsored the Cruise of Memory.
of Memory is dedicated to the heroes and events of the Great
Patriotic War and WWII that ended here, in the Far East. As people
who have seen a lot in their life and know about the price paid
for the victory, veterans cannot but pay tribute to the heroes
of other battles, those who died for Russia," Pulikovsky
to Visit Berlin
Novosti, Denis Telmanov) — A memory train left Moscow for Berlin,
carrying 70 war veterans.
The train is to arrive in the German capital April 15. The 70
veterans of the Great Patriotic War, who are accompanied by 140
members of a youth public movement, are to visit former battlegrounds
in Berlin. They will also visit Soviet war memorials that were
constructed after the war.
The Russian Embassy in Berlin will organize an official reception
during the day. Soviet war veterans are to meet their former enemies,
i.e. German veterans, during that reception.
Veterans and their young companions are to visit
former SS, Gestapo and SD headquarters, as well as bunkers and
air-raid shelters in
Berlin’s Schoneberg, Gumboldthain and Mitte districts, during their "Wartime
Berlin" guided tour. They will also visit the Reichstag, as
well as the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe buildings.
It is also intended to visit the German Resistance museum, Moabit
prison and the act-of-surrender museum in Karlshorst.
The memory train
is to return to Moscow April 17.