Look from the Screen

The mystery of the famous shot unearthed
This newsreel has long become legendary. It depicts a simple, but very touching moment: July 3, 1944. A beautiful young woman is talking to a soldier-liberator. Then both turn to the camera and smile... Thousands of times the famous shots have been shown on TV, published in books and newspapers. There is also such a photo in the exposition of the Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War. Who is the woman depicted in the film? This question has been a mystery for more than 60 years...

...Maria Kondratievna Krushevskaya is 98. She has poor eyesight. And when talking about the first day of liberation of Minsk, she looks at my side, but not at me, as if she were looking through time at the distant July of 1944.

— During the last night of occupation Minsk was unquiet, — recalls Maria Kondratievna. — Along Grushevskaya street, where we had made a dugout, policemen were running and shouting: “Tomorrow all the residents must gather on Yubileynaya Square”. Everybody understood what it meant. The Germans will make a selection: whom to shoot dead and whom to send to compulsory labour. It felt macabre. I was apprehensive for myself, and especially for the children. Such were the thought I was falling asleep with.

The morning started with bombing. Several bombs exploded somewhere not far away. Then there was silence for some time. And after that we heard excited voices.

— Come out! Our soldiers are in the town!
I took my children and came out in the street. Along the road a column of motorcycles was moving. Soviet motorcycles! Some of them stopped. The drivers were 18-year-old boys. Pale and haggard. We hugged and kissed them so gleefully! And they were glad and were making a pother:

— Our troops are already at the packet station and on Lenin Square...

I grasped my daughter’s hand and rushed. I was running and thinking, what if the Germans were still somewhere here and they would shoot us. I didn’t want to die at such a moment!

On Lenin Square there were cars standing. Maria Kondratievna stopped near one of them. She recovered her breath. There, snuggling against a wheel, a soldier was dozing.

— I seemed to have burst, — recollects Krushevskaya. — I was talking, talking, weeping... I told them of the gallows in the streets and how the Hitlerites goofed on my 16-year-old sister and then killed her. I told them how they burned my husband’s sister and her five children alive. And how happy I was that the entire nightmare was at last over. And the soldier kept silent and listened. And his eyes were gathering straws from fatigue. Then suddenly he smiled and said: “You’ll make it into history, you know! See, we are being shot for a newsreel!” I tried long to see the cameraman in the crowd. And when I saw him, I felt that I was filled with such a joy, because around us there were people whom we had been looking forward to. I was smiling. This was the very moment that was filmed for the newsreel.
This is how the famous shots appeared.

And last year, on 9 May, the daughter-in-law of Maria Kondratievna, a concentration camp prisoner, received congratulations from the President. On the stylized triangle letter as if from the far-away 1943 was the smiling Krushevskaya. Her son, Alexander Yevgenievich, decided that it was high time — and he went with his amazing story to the Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War...

Dmitry Korshun
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