"These fragments are in my legs to this day, serving as a reminder for the rest of my life, of the hard years of my youth."
* Audio in Russian
We are nearing the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory [the end of the Second World War, in May 1945]. I want to tell you about my presence on the battle front. I was born in 1926 in the village of Rokytne [Ukraine]. When the Great Patriotic War [the battle between Soviet forces and Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front] began in 1941, my father left for the front. He fought throughout the entire war, was injured twice while in service and made it all the way to Berlin. I, my mother and sister were evacuated to the Chelyabinsk Oblast, in the Ural [Mountains]. When I turned 17, I was drafted by the Poltava war committee of Chelyabinsk and sent to the front. I arrived at a unit that was part of the 24th Rifle Regiment and there I went through the combat training, in Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk Oblast. I fought at the Second Belorussian Front [in February 1944, Soviet forces began pushing the enemy back towards Belarus], with the 885th Rifle Regiment of the 290th Rifle Division, that was part of the active-duty Army.
During one difficult battle for the liberation of the village of Yudino, when our troops were suffering heavy losses and moving deep into the country, I was severely injured in both legs. I was laying in a damp, cold ditch alongside the dead, and injured, bleeding fighters, just like myself. Our troops were moving ahead. We were laying there for a long time until the fighters noticed and rescued us. We were transported by carts to a train station. In cold cars used to transfer coal we were transported, delivered to a military hospital near Moscow. Because I had laid so long in a cold wet ditch, I developed ...pyelonephritis, a kidney infection. The doctors never managed to get the shrapnel out of my legs, as attempting this was dangerous and could have been life-threatening.
These fragments are in my legs to this day, serving as a reminder for the rest of my life, of the hard years of my youth. I have had numerous inflammations, but the doctors always managed to alleviate them successfully with the help of antibiotics.
It is very difficult for me to remember these war time years, but just as words can't be removed from the song [by Bulat Okudzhava called “Good-bye, Boys”], “Oh, War, what have you done, you villain!”, so the tragedy of this terrible war will not be forgotten, and the memories of the generation of people who lived to see the 65th anniversary of the Victory will bear the marks. All the events and tragedies of the war must not… be forgotten. They are worthy of the attention and remembrance of the living and of the future generations. I wish health and many years of life to all the veterans, concentration camp and ghetto prisoners, those who laboured in the rear and those who lived through the Leningrad Blockade[the city was besieged by enemy forces from September 1941 to January 1944]. I would also like to thank the Canadian government for acknowledging all those who served, and lived to see the 65th anniversary of the Victory, the veterans of the Second World War. This acknowledgement is necessary for the growing generation, for them to remember and never forget, so this would never happen again. History repeats itself, unfortunately. Unfortunately.