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Awards find their heroes even half a century later
More than sixty years have passed since World War Two ended. But it still makes itself remembered. Not just by unearthed unexploded shells. There are other things: when awards for courage find their heroes.

Alexander Dreichuk was recommended for decoration with a Red Star Order twice: in 1941 and 1945 during Mogilev’s defence and liberation. However, he got but one award — for courage demonstrated at the end of the war. Things, which happened to him and recommended him for decoration with the first order, were kept a family secret for a long time. Without any official proof. The truth revealed itself only recently…

Last year metal crates were found at a battlefield in Chaussy District of Mogilev Region.

“On the edge of the forest between the villages of Samulki and Chernolesye locals came across them”, says Oleg Puskov, school headmaster of the village of Romanovichi, deputy chairperson of Mogilev District Society for Protection of Historic and Cultural Monuments. “They were packed tight with old yellowing papers, they stuck out, and one was even pulled out of the soil by somebody. When the contents was sorted out, they turned to contain papers of the 20th Mechanised Corps, which defended Mogilev in July 1941. The most interesting papers were recommendations for decoration of 155 soldiers”.

“I sent the list to Moscow, to the Russian Union of Search Teams”, Oleg continues. “The destiny of 16 out of the 155 soldiers was ascertained. Almost none has made it to the present day, but their relatives were found all over the entire former USSR. Moscow informed me, another solder was supposed to live in Volozhin District of Minsk Region. When dialling the number, I did not even think the hero himself will pick up the phone…”

The veteran was found in the village of Losk of Volozhin District. His name was Alexander Dreichuk. He served in the very 20th Mechanised Corps that fell on the forest edge at the border between Mogilev and Chaussy districts. As the sergeant-major of the medic platoon and later of the company he was assigned a task of delivering an injured officer across the enemy lines to the Soviet territory. The medic had neither a map nor a compass. He had to rely on his senses while travelling. The river Berezina was the major obstacle. Fortunately, thanks to the hot weather the usually deep and wide river did not look as intimidating as usual.

When the officer was delivered to Mogilev, the evacuation was in full swing. The hospital was moved into a train due to leave for the east any minute then. Soon after Dreichuk returned, the corps was defeated. The recommendation for decoration for his bravery was hidden in a safe in the earth…

During Mogilev’s liberation the partisan unit Dreichuk was part of joined the army. There the military medic proved he is a courageous man one more time. When the battalion commander was killed, Alexander was the only standing officer, he assumed command, led the company in an attack. Was injured. The bullet went right through. He said the only thing that saved him was that he had not eaten for three days, the infection did not enter the body and he survived.

His resourcefulness earned him the second Red Star Order. He did not worry much about the first one, just remembered the hot summer of 1941 and cool waters of the Berezina.

In mid-March 2006 Belarusian Minister of Defence Leonid Maltsev sent a congratulatory address to Alexander Dreichuk and praised his deeds to the Fatherland.

One can say Zinaida Biletskaya was lucky. In 2000 her query was sent to Podolsk to the archive of the Russian Federation Defence Ministry. It turned out that besides a Red Star Order and a medal “For Service in Battle” Chibisova (maiden surname) had been due a medal “For Courage”.
She earned the medal in the battle of Kursk.

“There I got contused”, recalls Zinaida Fillipovna. “A shell exploded and two soldiers and I were covered with the soil. It was a lucky escape and a close one, as they died. Here is how my deed went. One time in the evening we expected an ammunition truck. Once it arrived, bombardment started. The truck’s engine stalled not far from the battery positions. If a shell had hit it, I would’ve never heard the end of it. Many were at a loss then, did not know what to do. The war seemed a mere game to me. Because of that I was not afraid to dare crawl to the truck and see what’d happened. Somehow I managed to climb the high foot board and opened the door… to get the driver fall on me. A fountain of blood was streaming from his neck, as he’d been wounded by a shell fragment. I dragged him out of the booth, mind, I was a fragile girl, but had to move the strapping fellow, dragged him to the trench, bandaged him and then a field ambulance took him away. Because I kept my head while others panicked, I was given the medal.

Soon Zinaida Chibisova was transferred to another unit. As a medic she marched half Europe till the Victory. Got married, changed the surname. The medal and the courageous soldier got separated each other. For more than half a century.

Now the medal “For Courage” is the most precious of Zinaida Fillipovna’s. Made of pure silver it was bestowed for “personal courage and valour in defence of the Fatherland and execution of the military duty in conditions involving hazard to life”. All in all, the medal was awarded to over four million people for military deeds. But the award did not lose its value. Contrariwise, it is still believed to be most honourable.

by Viktar Korbut

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