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How Children Died…

On the 9th of May the Russians celebrate the Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). This war was a part of the Second World War.

1. My personal view of the Great Patriotic War

For many Russians of my age and older to write about the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) is very difficult. I don’t know how to write this article correctly. That’s why I’m writing as I feel…

(All photos are clickable)

Great Patriotic War

Museum’s exhibits at school

Museum’s exhibits at school

Not only me, many of those who were born and grew up under the Soviet Power developed persistent psychological alienation from the Great Patriotic War. This alienation was born by the very strong and obsessive patriotic education. The Soviet Power did it too hard. They got an alternative result. It was unpleasant for the Power and tragically for our souls. We grew up heartless for the memory and respect to the Great Patriotic War. That’s why many years ago the topic of the Great Patriotic War was swept out – in a far corner of my soul, in a middle of nowhere. Now I try to improve this fatal mistake.

Now a new generation has come. Many of those who were born and grew up under the Perestroika (Mikhail Gorbachev’s period of reconstruction) and later were not and are not interested in the Great Patriotic War. They have come after me and have got their own reasons not to be interested in the subject. I can understand them.

The Afghanistan war, the collapse of the USSR, the White House shooting in Moscow, Chechnya… The new generation has got many dramatic impressions and experiences which touch them stronger than the long-ago Great Patriotic War. My generation has got the psychological alienation from the Great Patriotic War because we were poisoned by the obsessive patriotic education. The new generation has got the same alienation but because of the other reasons. The results are equally sad…

2. The street of Opalyonnoi Unosty (the street of the fire burnt youth)

There is the village of Ilyinskoe in the Moscow region. There is the street of Opalyonnoi Unosty (the street of the fire burnt youth) in Ilyinskoe. Walking along the street is enough that the history of the Great Patriotic War has become your own concern. The history I am telling you touches any heart. The Great Patriotic War is coming in your life as a personal experience.

The street of Opalyonnoi Unosty

Earlier this street was called Kooperativnaya (Cooperative street). But the very important event took place. This event changed fates of many people and the street name.

On that day, the 22nd of June 1941, the 9th “B” form of the school number 25 in the village of Ilyinskoe gathered under a willow-tree in the schoolyard. It was a calm happy day for the students who had just graduated from the school year.

The old willow-tree in the schoolyard

The children gathered with backpacks, balls and fishing rods. The 9th “B” form under the form-master Ivan Stekolschikov were going to have a rest on the river Volga during summer holidays. The students were sitting under the willow-tree and dreaming about interesting adventures on Volga.

The form-master was late. Then Stekolschikov came and he was not like himself. The form-master walked in the school silently. Suspecting nothing bad the students followed him.

The school number 25 in the village of Ilyinskoe

The school number 25 in the village of Ilyinskoe

The form-master turned on the radio… The WAR!

It’s actually very difficult for me to feel the children’s impressions and feelings truly. I’m an adult from the city of the XXI century and they were the children from the village of XX century. There is a deep historical and spiritual gap between us. This gap includes 73 years. It’s the collapse of the USSR, the collapse of the ideals and illusions (in which the communist future was seen lovely and light). It’s the war in Afghanistan (where Russian boys did what they called international duty). It’s a difficult political and social process, which includes endless changes of government during dashing nineties (when even the army didn’t always know who was actually in power). It includes two military campaigns in Chechnya (to my mind, they were little civil wars within the state). It includes the arrival in Russia of the global drug traffic and the international terrorism. And the most importantly thing: this deep historical and spiritual gap includes the new ideology of individual social success and private financial well-being.

Perhaps now those children and me would not understand each other. Perhaps now we could only shout something to each other, as the highlanders at opposite edges of a deep canyon. But I can shout, speak or even whisper to nobody now. In fact almost the whole 9th “B” form of the school number 25 died during the Great Patriotic War. Only the four persons from the 25 survived by the end of the war. Now only the one is alive. He is coming and sitting on a bench in his backyard, like he has come from THAT life…

The survivor

On that day, the 22nd of June 1941, the entire 9th “B” form decided that instead of summer holidays on the river Volga, they would go to the war as volunteers. Everybody decided from 25 children. They went to the military recruiting office from the school willow-tree, leaving backpacks, balls and fishing rods. They hoped to pick up all these things after the war.

The old willow-tree in the schoolyard

Twenty-five teenagers of sixteen years old went to the war as volunteers to defend their Homeland. Only the four returned home after the war. Now you know why we call this war the Great Patriotic War. Now you know why actually the street is called the street of Opalyonnoi Unosty (the street of the fire burnt youth).

The 9th “B” form

3. How children died …

It is customary to write on the monuments to the victims of the Great Patriotic War the traditional words: «Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten!» These are right good words. But we don’t know exactly where and how each of these children died. We are losing memory also because we don’t know. We don’t know because it is impossible to know much. Everybody who could tell was also killed. It’s the tragic reality of the Great Patriotic War.

Here are some facts, which are known. How children of 16 years old died…

Sasha Hvatov graduated from a Crash Course of the Military Aviation School and became a fighter pilot. He was wounded in a dogfight and burnt in the air. Nothing of him has remained… even ashes haven’t remained…

Valya Smirnov was called “conscience of the 9th “B” form” for his honesty and sense of responsibility. He died in hand-to-hand bayonet fighting when he was trying to break the enemy encirclement.

Kolya Safronov died in hand-to-hand bayonet fighting too. After his bayonet had been broken Kolya fought with his rifle butt. Only death stopped him.

Vitya Kuznetsov became a sniper. He was wounded but he continued to shoot at enemies from a ruined church basement. Then a shell hit directly into the church basement. Nothing of Vitya has remained… Only a folding pocketknife has been found in the church basement later.

Sasha Kudryashov became a mortar fighter. After an explosion had broken his mortar and his rifle bullets had been shot Sasha led people to the last attack. He died in hand-to-hand bayonet fighting.

Jora Yepishin dreamt about shipbuilding at school. He drew ships and made ship models of wood and tin cans at school. He was fatally wounded in his stomach by a mine explosion. Jora died with terrible sufferings.

The Jora’s ship model

Zhenya Sapriko was a young artist. He never parted with brushes and paints. His favorite idol was the Russian landscape artist Shishkin. Zhenya was wounded in his head and both hands. Both his hands were amputated. He asked to delete the Shishkin’s picture on the hospital room wall. Zhenya died of his wounds in hospital.

The Zhenya’s picture

There is a monument in the schoolyard. There are 21 names on the monument. These are children’s names. Only the four from the 25 returned homes after the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). They gave their children’s lives in the war.

The monument with the children’s names on it

The four aged wounded boys returned homes after the war. Only four years ago they had been 16 years old teenagers. They were Misha Ogorodov, Sasha Gadalov, Vitya Braithwaite, Jura Denitsky. The others did not return.

The schoolyard

The school

The school museum

Soldiers’ letters – triangles

Text by Igor Shiryaev. Photo by Igor Shiryaev and Larisa Shiryaeva.

Dear readers!

This article presents my personal view. I don’t pretend I tell you any kind of absolute objectivity.

I love Russia and I love Russians. My personal slogan is “I love! I know! I tell!”

I’m very sorry for my bad English. First of all I try to tell you about lovely Russia, about the Russian mind and way of thinking. I don’t pretend I speak correct and fluent English.

I can help you in any projects related to Russia in the fields of deep non-standard tourism and independent journalism. Also you can buy some my texts and photos. Contact me by e-mail: editor@diff-view.com if you want. Welcome to real Russia!

Yours sincerely
Igor Shiryaev

The Internet mass media Different View. 06.05.2014