THE MORNING OF A NEW DAY

Belarusian cities celebrate the 65th anniversary of liberation from Nazis
Belarusian cities celebrate the 65th anniversary of liberation from Nazis.

This was the beginning of the Great Victory. Returning to peace and life. November 1943. Gomel was ruined. The German army stuck for each meter of the foreign land, which slipped away. However, Soviet military units cleared their native towns and villages from enemies with desperate enthusiasm. On November 1943 after three years of occupation and fierce battles, Gomel became the first liberated Belarusian town. There appeared an inscription on one of the half-ruined walls, “We will revive you, dear Gomel.”

Own Victory Day

In the morning of November 26, 2008 in one of the central Gomel streets, digging a trench, the constructors discovered an aviation bomb of the Great Patriotic War. This is how the day of the 65th summer jubilee started — with a real return to the past.

“This is the lightest day for me,” a citizen Sofia Osipkova didn’t leave Gomel during the war and took part in the underground movement. “It is not enough to say that we are happy. We were shocked when November 26 came into our life at an incredible price of trials and human victims.

That day all who could came to the Brotherly cemetery. On the eve of the construction works the remains of the Soviet officer were found, who died in 1941. There was a notebook nearby and several shells. The remains were committed to earth solemnly and according to orthodox traditions in order the restless soul after six decades found its sanctuary.

Prayer about all the people fallen in battles in the main Cathedral of Peter and Paul in the city, floral tribute to the memorial places, and meetings with live witnesses of those events… These are few facts of the jubilee day. It attracted attention of the scientists, who came to the international scientific and practical conference “Pages of Gomel military history.”

“There are many blind-spots in the past of our Motherland,” the conference organizers explained the interest of military historians. Research continues and opens new events, poorly known earlier or unknown at all.

Probably, one day the pupils of the city secondary school № 2 will take part in this conference, promising to become traditional. As for now, they make small researches, the result of which became the opening of a unique school museum on November 26. It tells about the school history through the events of the Great Patriotic War. It is no coincidence, because there are Heroes of the Soviet Union Georgy Skleznev, Ivan Kalenikov, and Boris Kalach among the former pupils and school workers.

Live heroes of our time

Ivan Martynov slowly goes downstairs. A demi-season jacket, a grey felt hat. By sight, he is a usual pensioner. There are many pensioners in the city. Nevertheless, I know that he is the Hero of our time.

“How many times did I visit Gomel?” we are going to Gomel Regional Museum of Military Glory arm-in-arm. “The first time was in November 1943, during Gomel-Rechitsa operation, when this land was “cleared away.” Afterwards, the 50th anniversary of liberation, the 60th, and now the 65th anniversary. Who ever would have thought that I would stay alive… The city is beautiful. It was ruined then. There was nobody to knock at the door to in order to sit down and have a rest.

The lieutenant general in reserve Martynov came to the jubilee from Moscow with his five friends of the 121st Gomel guard rifle division. In the matter of fact, the city is obliged to this division for the first day of peaceful life, November 26, 1943. A detached antitank squadron under command of 20-years old Martynov moved by the north-east edge of Gomel land, extruding German divisions, which were ready to flee, but hoping to survive.

“What for did you receive the Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union?” I want to listen to his main story.

“It was given for Oder forced crossing. I received the Order of Alexander Nevsky for the attack near Litvinovichi of Gomel region. It was difficult for us, but we recovered the conquered village.”

“Did you raise the soldiers?” judging by films, I can imagine an inhuman impulsion, but it is difficult to see it in life: to rise in order to die…

“I am a commander,” the veteran says. “I underwent six attacks during the war. You see, I still can’t understand the incredible power of “Hurrah.” While this word is not said, a self-preservative instinct works. After the scream, everything escapes. You don’t feel anything. You lose consciousness and move forward under bullets, hand-to-hand. I was seriously injured near Litvinovichi — a shell bullet to the thigh. I was ill for several months and then I went forward.

From “glass” to “glass,” behind which there is something bigger than the past. He speaks to himself and me.

“A shirt looks like mine. I have a similar jacket somewhere in my wardrobe. Are these pictures of the ruined Gomel and villages? I misremember. Oh, my God! This is a dear 76-mm squadron canon, ZIS-3 of Grabin’s design, which I pulled by straps. In swampy places, where the horse won’t go, we dragged the canon. This is a brain canon. It is said that in some French museum this canon is exhibited as one of the best armament examples. Misha, how many tanks did I shoot down with its help?” he calls Mikhail Ivanovich Zakharov from the other corner of the hall, the chairman of the veteran organization of the 121st guard rifle division.
“86, Vanja…”

Past for future

There are many people in the regional museum of military glory. There are many young people and many elderly guests.

“First of all, our museum reveals the topic of protection of our Fatherland,” the director Pavel Zhdanovich makes a small excursion for me. “The war as event can be traced through the expositions of Rodimichi tribe to the present time. However, the main accent was made on the topic of the Great Patriotic War. It was represented in expositions and the equipment exhibition in the open air.

A helicopter, a plane, a “cave,” canons–“forty-five,” a famous “Katyusha” — these are things, which you can touch… Events of the military йpoque can be opened in the halls through the documents, photo, weapon, and things. There is a rich collection of data about famous commanders Rokossovsky, Gorbatov, Batov, Zhukov, war heroes brothers Liziukovs. The daylight was let into facts already known. Thus, namely during the battles near Gomel an acting army for the first time applied incendiary mixture against tanks. After the lieutenant general Andrey Eremenko understood the force of German tank attacks and ordered to fill 10 thousand glass wine bottles at the warehouse in Gomel with KS mixture (a mixture of petrol and phosphonated substances), later called the “Molotov cocktail” by the Nazis. Such a self-made “shell” was found during the construction works on the central city square… You can see other rare objects in the museum expositions. For example, Hitler’s flask. According to an eyewitness, the participant of Berlin attack, Gomel citizen Mankov, found this trophy in the Hitlerite bunker. This flask could belong to the Fuhrer until Soviet soldiers came to Germany.
New projects of the military and patriotic topic testify that all this is very interesting not only to Belarusian people. Gomel and its sister city, the Scotch Aberdeen, decided to realize the last project, dedicated to the 65th anniversary of liberation. An exhibition was opened in the museum for the first time, introducing to the military history of Scotland.

“We brought the best expositions of Aberdeen Museum of the Royal Scotch regiment named after Gordon Highlander,” the mayor of Aberdeen Peter Steven presented the exhibition. “This is a section of 200 years of history of the Fatherland; it includes the pages of the Second World War. Of course, Scotland wasn’t as greatly destroyed as Belarus. We didn’t lose so many people, but our people grieve with yours. Our children shall grasp that such a repetition is inadmissible…

Violetta Draliuk
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