Our Victory in Human Stories, Day by Day Leading to the 60th Anniversary of Victory in the 1941 – 1945 Great Patriotic War

(A RIA NOVOSTI Project Special) — As recorded on the day of March 07th, 1945 from the Soviet Information Bureau–On March 7, the 2nd Belarussian Front forces captured the towns of Gniew (Mewe), Stargard (Preussisch Stargard), a major German strongpoint en route to Danzig, and took another 200-plus settlements, among which are Zaaben, Pinschin, Goch Stublau, Koschmin, Logutken, Liniewo, Olpuch, Dzimianen, Sommin, Reckow, Luben, Treblin, Barten, Zollbruck, Alt Bewersdorf, Alt Schlawin, Damshagen and Neuwasser.

On March 7, the advancing 1st Belarussian Front forces captured the settlements of Gollnow, Stepenitz and Massow, key German strongpoints en route to Stettin, and also fought for and occupied upwards of another 50 settlements, to include Walddiwenow, Fritzow, Jassow, Latzig, Sager, Paulsdorf, Schutzendorf and Amalienhof.

The Front’s forces finished terminating the enemy’s grouping south of the town of Schivelbein. Under preliminary estimations, 8,000-plus German soldiers and officers were captured in the site, as well as lots of weapons and military property. The German 10th Army Corps commander, Lt.-Gen. Krappe, and his staff were among the prisoners.

On March 7, the 2nd Ukrainian Front forces, resisting the enemy in difficult wooded mountainous terrain in the Carpathian line, took the town of Banska Stiavnica in Czechoslovakia, a major German strongpoint, and also the settlements of Sasa, Babina, Kolpachy, Hodrusa and Gvozdnica.

In Hungary, northeast and south of Lake Balaton, the enemy’s infantry and armor heavy attacks were turned by the Soviet forces.

Reconnaissance operations and local fighting continued on other fronts.

149 enemy tanks were damaged and destroyed and 29 enemy aircraft were downed on March 6.

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The Frontline Album / Love Under Fire

The personal story by Irina Demchenko is an excerpt from RIA Novosti’s Project — a Special dedicated to Heroes of WW II

By Irina Demchenko

Grigory Demchenko and Emma Bakanova

Demchenko Family Photo / RIA Novosti Photo

On May 9, 1946 they walked around Yerevan holding hands and laughing at every joke. They were in a wonderful mood. They were looking for a registry office in the Stalin district of the city. In 1946, May 9 was a regular, working day. It only became a day-off in 1964. The couple wanted to get married on this great day and wanted the name of Stalin to be stamped on their passports.

In 1946, she was 20 and he was 26. She was a librarian at a Party school and he was a lieutenant and a correspondent for the local newspaper of the border troops.

These people were my parents. They found the registry office and were married on May 9, 1946. Since then we have celebrated May 9 as Victory Day and the birthday of our family.

My mother kept her wedding dress, which she sewed herself from white silk. Today, this hourglass dress looks stylish with its numerous buttons and a flared skirt. My father wore his white parade uniform on their wedding day.

The wedding party was held on May 25, 1946. On that day a terrible flood hit the mountains near Yerevan and the heads of frontier outposts and other military commanders who were invited to the party had to take many telephone calls about secret facilities and outposts destroyed by the water and mudflows. The lights went off and neighbors brought candles and oil lamps to the wedding party of Grigory Demchenko and Emma Bakanova. Some people said it was not very good to get married in May, especially in such circumstances, as it might bring bad luck.

They had known each other for two weeks before they married. My father was the son of a village smith from the Stavropol steppes. He was educated as a schoolteacher and worked as a war correspondent. My mother was a daughter of a high-ranking officer, a beautiful girl and an excellent student. She left medical university because she was afraid of corpses. They lived happily for 56 years and died in one year.

My mother was 15 when the war began. She was in the eighth grade and studied in the center of Kiev. Her stepfather was a serviceman and her mother a Party official. They left Kiev in one of the last trains when the city was already being bombed. My mother and her elder sister packed everything, first of all, editions of Gorky, Mayakovsky, Pushkin and Ostrovsky, for the evacuation. They thought the evacuation would last for a few months and so did not take many warm clothes. No one then thought they would be leaving for the winter.

They were evacuated to the Ural region where my mother went to school again and her sister, Maya, completed an English course and went to the front as an interpreter.

During the vacations and after school my mother worked as a secretary at a detention camp of German internees in the Volga region. She later described the cruelty and injustice these “Russian Germans” had been subjected to during the war.

My father was 21 when the war broke out. He had graduated from a teacher training college and was deferred from the draft. However, after Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and the subsequent annexation of western Ukraine and Byelorussia to the Soviet Union, a reserve draft began. My father was dispatched to serve in the border troops in Armenia on the Soviet-Iranian border. He was to have been demobilized in the fall of 1941 but for obvious reasons this did not happen. As a result, my father served in the army for 30 years.

He often recollected June 21, 1941 and even described this day in his memoirs written for a school museum at the request of his youngest grandson, my son Nikita. That Sunday, his unit was marking Athletes’ Day, when suddenly all the political officials were summoned to the commissar’s. At that time, my father was deputy secretary of the Young Communists League bureau, a deputy political officer of the unit and editor of the popular Na-Cheku newspaper. It was announced at the gathering that somebody was spreading provocative information about the war that had allegedly broken out on the western border. They were told the following, “There is no war. This is impossible. We have signed a peace treaty with Germany. The other day TASS reported that Germans were not preparing for war. Summon all the Red Army soldiers and explain this to them”. And so they did.

According to my father, none of his subordinates had heard anything about the beginning of the war. They served in a remote area and at that time only radio operators could accidentally learn this information. My father had only just dismissed his people when he was summoned to the headquarters again. The commissar said, “Comrades! Today at 4.30 a.m. Germany treacherously attacked our country. Molotov has announced this on the radio…” The meeting ended with an order to assemble all the servicemen and explain this to them.

The border with Iran was traditionally considered a calm place. All of the men serving there were young patriots and entreated their commanders to send them to the front. At first, some of them were sent to the army, but the defense of the state border was an important task and most had to stay.

On October 25, 1943 my father was included in an assault team but an attack of malaria meant he could not go on the operation. The team leader, a senior lieutenant, sent his team to ford the Araks river. He ordered his soldiers and sergeants to tie each other with one rope so that nobody would drown. However, they started crossing the river in a wrong place and eleven out of twelve border guards drowned in silence, as they had been taught not to shout anything in exercises. Only one soldier was rescued and described this tragedy at the outpost. Thus my father had lost all his best friends. They were buried in a communal grave on the border. The commander who sent the team to its death served in a penalty battalion and was killed in action.

My parents met in Yerevan. My mother’s stepfather was transferred there and my father was sent to work at the local newspaper of the border troops. The newspaper’s editorial office was situated next door to the library where my mother worked.

When my father heard the news of a beautiful librarian he came to the library to borrow a book. My parents fell in love at first sight.

They got married and a girl was born a year later. But she soon died of pneumonia. Our sister whom we never knew was buried in Yerevan. My brother Sergei was born the next year. His birth certificate is written in two languages, Russian and Armenian. Our family left Yerevan in the early 1950s and he has never returned there.

I have been to Yerevan. I found the house where my parents lived in the first years after their marriage – a beautiful four-storied stone building which belonged to the former border department of the Caucasian military district. I met an old Russian woman there who said she was the chairperson of the housing committee. She did not remember my parents, Mikhail Bakanov’s daughter Emma and Lieutenant Grigory Demchenko, but she did know that at that time Russian border guards had lived in this house. I called my mother and cried, “I am near your apartment! I see the old high tree in the yard under which you used to put my brother’s pram! What other signs should be here?” And mother answered, “There was a small house in the yard where Armenians lived.” Dear mother! When I arrived in Yerevan in 1999 only Armenians lived there.

Our family moved to Moscow by chance. Under pressure from my mother, father finally entered the faculty of journalism of the Lenin Military-Political Academy. He said he was lucky because it was the last year when he could do it at his age. After graduation he was offered a position in Riga at the local newspaper of the border troops. We packed our things and were about to move there when suddenly my father was summoned to the border troops’ political department and offered a job at Pogranichnik (Border Guard) journal in Moscow.

It was my mother who made the decision. She said, “We shall always be able to visit the Baltic region. Let’s stay in Moscow.” So I was born a Muscovite.

During perestroika, I often thought that my life would have been quite different if my father had not been offered the chance to stay in Moscow. If I lived in Latvia, I would have been treated as a daughter of a former Soviet serviceman and a KGB man (the border troops were part of the KGB).

We have kept my father’s medals For the Defense of the Caucasus, For Combat Services, For Victory Over Germany, For the Protection of State Border and the post-war Order of the Red Star. My parents’ memories remain with us: evacuation trains traveling across our huge country under bombardments, mass migration, hospitals with wounded soldiers, disabled people who flooded Russian cities after the war, deprivations, ration cards, life in evacuation and their hard youth when everyone was part of one big family.

The Biggest Cemetery of German
Soldiers to Be Opened in Russia

KURSK (RIA Novosti) — The biggest cemetery of German soldiers, where the remains of the servicemen of the German army who were killed in the battles of the Kursk Bulge will be buried, will be opened at the village of Besedino in the Kursk region. Deputy governor of the region Igor Astapov told RIA Novosti about it.

"The Kursk land is ready to receive the remains of all German soldiers buried in the Kursk, Oryol, Voronezh, Tula and Bryansk regions," he underscored. In the Great Patriotic War against the German fascism (1941-1945) fierce battles were going on in the territory of these regions.

In the Kursk Bulge battle 200,000 people were killed on both sides. Presently, 38 soldiers of the Reich are buried not far from the village. In the future, it has been planned to bring there the remains of another 100,000 German soldiers.

The project will be carried out within the framework of the international agreement between Russia and Germany. The organizational and financial part of the project will be carried out by the German side.

The work on a mass re-burial has been planned to start in May and to end in fall. However, already now up-to-date medical equipment has been brought to the village hospital from Germany as a sign of gratitude to the local inhabitants for a gesture of goodwill.

On July 12, 1943, a Soviet military operation, "Kutuzov", started to the north of the city of Oryol. The fascists fortified the Oryol bridgehead for nearly two years, regarding it as a springboard for dealing blows at Moscow.

In the mighty battle of the summer 1943, the Nazis’ attempt was frustrated to restore the strategic initiative which they lost in the Battle of Stalingrad, to encircle and destroy the Soviet troops in the so-called Kursk Bulge.

An irreparable damage was inflicted on the prestige of the German weapons. Thirty German divisions, including seven tank divisions, were routed.

In its scope, tense and results the Battle of Kursk is among the greatest battles of the Second World War.