My family was very lucky. Three of my close relatives went to the war and all three got back - not unharmed, but alive. It’s very rare: most of the Soviet families lost a soldier to World War II.
My father’s father was a pilot, but since Soviet air force was destroyed almost completely in the very first days of the war as a part of Operation Barbarossa, he and many others was re-trained to become artillerymen. He served with “the queen of war” until the battle of Stalingrad, were he lost his both feet to frostbite, so the war was over for him at the beginning of the year 1943. And for my other grandfather the war was only started.
He was buryaat – it’s a small Mongolian nation in Eastern Siberia - and as a part of Siberian reserve he was kept at the Eastern border in a case of Japanese invasion. When it became clear that there would be no assault from the East, Siberian battalions were transferred to the Western front and took part in the lifting of Leningrad Blockade. There, at the Leningrad front, my grandfather met my grandmother – a surgical nurse from Belarus.
She was drafted back in 1938, and entered the war, as she herself puts it, “during the Finnish campaign”. After Finland my grandmother with her medical unit was occupying Eastern Poland, retreated back to Moscow, and then – pushed Nazis back to the Poland border. When the war was over, she didn’t have the place to come back. Her village was captured in the very first week of the war. The village was half-Belarusian and half-Jewish. When Nazis came, they killed all the Jews and sent all Belarusians to a concentration camp where most of them died during the next years. From my grandmother’s big family survived only she and her younger sister.
Grandmother went to Siberia with her husband. She was building first mobile hospitals in steppes, were nomads were still “burying” their dead “in the sky” – leaving the bodies for vultures to get. She visited her sister a few times in Belarus, while she was alive and it was the same country. A collaps of Soviet Union rob her off her only blood relative she still had.
Today, on May 9, Russia celebrates Victory Day – the day when the war was ended. This is the most important day of the year for my grandmother. For 65 years in this day we remember those who died and honour those who survived. Happy Victory Day, Granny!