Veterans’ souls never age
In 1941, Nikolay Mazanik was 19
After graduating from Minsk’s Infantry School, the young lieutenant was appointed commander of the 70th rifle regiment’s rifle troop
“It was terrible,” he recollects. “After three or four days of fighting, no more than ten people survived. We then went to the rear to gather more soldiers but it was impossible to choose anyone: we simply had to register their family names.” After receiving two wounds and a contusion, Lieutenant Mazanik was given a post in staff service. “I spent three years protecting front line commanders Konev, Purkaev, Yeremenko and Bagramyan. As we know, top commanders tend not to be quiet characters, so certain difficulties emerged,” he says.
The man asked to be sent to the frontline three times but was told that he was of more benefit in the rear. After his third application, he received the reply: ‘We better know where you will bring benefit. Serve where you are ordered!’
Mr. Mazanik has dozens of awards, including the Great Patriotic War Order of the 2nd Degree, two Red Star orders and medals ‘For Combat Merits’, ‘For the Defence of Moscow’, and ‘For Taking Konigsberg’.
Despite his grand age of 92, his memory is good, enabling him to recall battle stories, dates and family names. Interestingly, regardless of being only a lieutenant, Nikolay had a certificate which enabled him to command generals. Received in June 1944, it read: ‘Commanders of all ranks must in full obedience fulfil all demands of senior lieutenant Mazanik regarding the district’s clearing’. The certificate is currently kept at the Great Patriotic War History Museum.
By Tatiana Asaevich