The recruits come to the quarantine camp. After a while, the survivors, among whom Leshka Shestakov, Kolya Ryndin, Ashot Vasconian and Leha Buldakov, are transferred to the location of the regiment.
The train stopped. Some indifferent-evil people wearing military uniforms drove new recruits from warm cars and built them near the train, they were broken up into dozens. Then, having built up in columns, they entered into a dark, frozen basement, where instead of a floor on the sand, pine feet were laid out, ordered to be placed on bunks of pine logs. She obeyed the fate of Lyoshka Shestakov, and when Sergeant Volodya Yashkin appointed him to the first dress, he took it without resistance. There was Yashkin malorosl, thin, angry, already visited the front, had the order. Here, in the reserve regiment, he was after the hospital, and just about again will go to the front with the marching company, away from this fucking hole, so that she burned down – so he declared. Yashkin walked through the quarantine, looking at the new recruits – blatnyakov from the gold mines of Baikit, Upper Yeniseisk; Siberian Old Believers.
In the morning Yashkin drove the people out into the street – to wash with snow. Leszek looked around and saw the roofs of dugouts, slightly powdered with snow. This was the quarantine of the twenty-first infantry regiment. Small, single and quadruple dugouts belonged to drill officers, hozsluzhba employees and idiots in rank, without which no Soviet enterprise can manage. Somewhere further away, in the forest, there were barracks, a club, a sanitation service, a canteen, a bathhouse, but the quarantine was away from all this at a decent distance so that the recruits did not carry any infection. From experienced people, Leszek learned that they would soon be identified in the barracks. In three months they will undergo military and political training and will move to the front – things were not going there. Looking over the fouled forest, Leszek remembered the native village of Shushikara in the lower reaches of the Ob River.
The guys sucked in the heart because everything around was strange, unfamiliar. Even they, who grew up in barracks, in village huts and in the huts of the urban suburbs, were dumbfounded when they saw the place of feeding. Behind the long stalls nailed to the dirty pillars, covered with treace troughs like tops, stood military men and consumed food from aluminum bowls, one hand holding onto poles so as not to fall into the deep sticky mud under their feet. It was called the summer canteen. There were not enough seats here, as everywhere else in the Land of Soviets, they fed in turn. Vasya Shevelev, who had worked as a combine operator on the collective farm, looking at the local order, shook his head and sadly said: “And here is the mess.” Experienced fighters chuckled at the newcomers and gave them practical advice.
The recruits were shaved. It was especially difficult for Old Believers to part with their hair, wept and were baptized. Already here, in this semi-basement cellar, the guys were being taught the significance of what was happening. The political discussions were not old, but skinny, with a gray face and a loud voice, Captain Melnikov. His entire conversation was so convincing that it remained to be surprised – how the Germans managed to reach the Volga, when everything should be the other way around. Captain Melnikov was considered one of the most experienced political workers in the entire Siberian district. He worked so much that he had no time to replenish his scanty knowledge.
The quarantine life dragged on. The barracks were not released. Quarantine dugouts are crowded, fights, drinking, stealing, stench, lice. No outfits out of order could not establish order and discipline among the human rabble. The former Urki-convicts felt better here. They lost their way in the artels and plundered the others. One of them, Zelentsov, gathered around him two orphanages Grishka Hohlak and Fefelov; hard workers, former machine operators, Kostya Uvarov and Vasya Shevelev; Babenko respected and fed the songs; Do not drive away Leszek Shestakov and Kolya Ryndin – useful. Hohlak and Fefelov, experienced pluckers, worked at night, and slept during the day. Kostya and Vasya were in charge of the food. Leszek and Kolya sawed and dragged firewood, did all the hard work. Zelentsov sat on the bunks and directed the artel.
One evening, the recruits were told to leave the barracks, and until late at night they kept them in the piercing wind, taking away all their miserable possessions. Finally, the command entered the barracks, first the marchers, then the recruits. There was a crush, there was no place. Marching companies took their places and did not let the “hungry people”. That vicious, merciless night has sunk into memory as a nonsense. In the morning the boys entered the disposal of the mustached sergeant-major of the first company, Akim Agafonovich Shpator. “With these fighters there will be laughter and sorrow,” he sighed.
Half of the gloomy, stuffy barracks with three tiers of bunks – this is the abode of the first company, consisting of four platoons. The second half of the barracks was occupied by the second company. All this together formed the first infantry battalion of the first reserve infantry regiment. The barracks, built of raw wood, never dried up, was always slimy, moldy from populous breathing. Warmed her four stoves, similar to mammoths. It was impossible to warm them up, and it was always damp in the barracks. A shelving for the weapon was leaning against the wall, there were several real rifles and white models made of boards. The exit from the barracks was closed with board gates, with extensions near them. To the left is the commander’s captain’s officer, Shpator, to the right – the room of orderlies with a separate iron stove. The entire soldier’s life was at the level of a modern cave.
On the first day, the recruits were well fed, then taken to the bathhouse. Young fighters cheered up. There was talk that they would give out new outfits and even bed linens. On the way to the bath Babenko began to sing. Lyosha did not know yet that for a long time he would not hear any songs in this pit. Improvements in life and service fighters did not wait. They dressed them in old clothes, patched on their stomachs. The new, raw bath did not warm up, and the guys completely chilled. For two-meter Kolya Ryndin and Lehi Buldakova suitable clothes and shoes were not found. The rebellious Leha Buldakov threw off his tight shoes and went to the barracks barefoot in the frost.
They also did not give away their bedclothes, but they were kicked out for drill lessons the next day with wooden mock-ups instead of rifles. In the first weeks of service, the hope in the hearts of people for the improvement of life was not exhausted. The guys still did not understand that this life, not unlike the prison, depersonalizes a person. Kolya Ryndin was born and grew up near the rich taiga and the Amyl river. I never knew about food. In the army, the Old Believer immediately felt that war time was a hungry time. Bogatyr Kolya began to fall off his face, a blush came down from his cheeks, a melancholy glinted in his eyes. He even began to forget the prayers.
Before the day of the October Revolution, boots for large-sized fighters were finally sent. Buldakov and then did not please, he launched shoes from the upper bunks, for which he got to the conversation with Captain Melnikov. Buldakov pitifully narrated about himself: he is from the urban village of Pokrovka, which is near Krasnoyarsk, from early childhood among the dark people, in poverty and labor. Buldakov did not inform him that his father, a violent drunkard, almost did not leave prison, as well as his two older brothers. He also ignored the fact that he himself had simply turned away from prison as a call to the army, but he also shed a flood of nightingales, narrating about his heroic work on the timber trade. Then suddenly he rolled his eyes under his forehead, pretended to be seizure. Captain Melnikov jumped out of the box with a bullet, and since then he always looked at Buldakov with caution at political studies.
On November 7, they opened a winter dining room. The hungry fighters listened to Stalin’s speech on the radio with bated breath. The leader of the peoples said that the Red Army took the initiative in its own hands, thanks to the fact that the Soviet Union has unusually strong rear. People firmly believed this speech. In the dining room, the commander of the first company, Pshenny, was an imposing figure with a large, bucket-sized face. The company commander knew little about the company, but they were already afraid. But the deputy commander of the company of the junior lieutenant Shchus, wounded in Hassan and received the Order of the Red Star, was accepted and loved right away. That evening, companies and platoons dispersed around the barracks with a friendly song. “Every day Comrade Stalin would speak on the radio, that would be the discipline,” sighed Sergeant Shpator.
The next day the festive mood of the company passed, the courage of spirit evaporated. The morning toilet of the fighters was observed by Vyshen, and if someone was cunning, he personally pulled off his clothes and rubbed his face with thorny snow. Foreman Shpator only shook his head. Moustached, gray-haired, slender, still in the imperialist war, former sergeant-major, Shpator met different beasts and tyrants, but such as the one who had not seen Vyshny yet.
A week or two later, the distribution of fighters on spetsrotom. Zelentsov was taken into the mortar. Foreman Shpator struggled to sell from the hands of Buldakov, but he was not even taken to the machine-gun company. Sitting barefoot on the bunks, this artist read the newspapers all day and commented on what he read. “Old men” left over from past marching mouths and positively acted on the youth, dismantled. In return, Yashkin brought a whole branch of newcomers, among whom was a sick man, who reached the handle, the Red Army soldier Poptsov, urinating under himself. The sergeant-major shook his head, looking at the cyanotic boy, and exhaled: “Oh my God…”.
The sergeant-major was sent to Novosibirsk, and on some special depots he found new outfits for the suited drivers. Buldakov and Kolya Ryndin had nowhere else to go – they went into operation. Buldakov exasperated in every way from his studies and spoiled state property. Shchus realized that Buldakov could not tame him, and appointed him to his dugout on duty. Buldakov felt well in the new post and began to drag everything that can be, especially food. At the same time he always shared with friends and with a junior lieutenant.
Siberian winter was entering the middle. For a long time already had been canceled tempering wiping with snow in the mornings, but all the same many fighters had caught a cold, the barracks at night were falling apart with a loud cough. In the mornings only Shestakov, Khokhlak, Babenko, Fefelov, sometimes Buldakov and old Shpator washed themselves. Poptsov no longer left the barracks, laying gray, wet clods on the lower bunks. Rise only to eat. Poptsov did not take him to the hospital, he already bored everyone there. Every day more and more came. On the bottom bunks lay up to a dozen skewered whining bodies. The ruthless lice and night blindness fell on the servicemen, the hemealopia was scientifically treated. From the barracks, shaking their hands on the walls, people wandered around, looking for something all the time.
Incredible resourcefulness of mind was achieved by the fighters of ways to get rid of drill lessons and get something to chew. Someone invented to string potatoes on a wire and to lower in pipes of officer furnaces. And then the first company and the first platoon were replenished with two personalities – Ashot Vasconian and Boyarchik. Both were of mixed nationality: one semi-Armenian-half-Jewish, the other half-Jewish-half-Russian. Both stayed in the officer’s school for a month, went there to the handle, were treated in the medical unit, and from there they, a little bit alive, were piled into a fucking pit – it would endure all. Vasconian was a lanky, skinny, pale face, with black eyebrows and a strong blunder. At the first political training he managed to spoil the work and mood of Captain Melnikov, objecting to him that Buenos Aires is not in Africa at all, but in South America.
Was Vasconian in the rifle company even worse than in the officer’s school. He got there due to a change in the military situation. His father was the editor-in-chief of the regional newspaper in Kalinin, his mother – deputy department of culture of the regional executive committee of the same city. Domashnoy, pampered Ashotika raised the servant of Seraphim. Lying to Vasconian on the lower bunks next to the gangster Poptsov, but this oddball and diplomat liked Buldakov. He and his company did not allow Ashot to be hammered, taught him the wisdom of soldier’s life, hid from the sergeant-major, from Pshenny and Melnikov. For this care, Vaskorian retold them everything that he had time to read during his life.
In December, the twenty-first regiment completed – the replenishment arrived from Kazakhstan. The first company was instructed to meet them and identify them in quarantine. What the Red Army men saw was horrible to them. Kazakhs were called in the summer, in summer uniforms and arrived in the Siberian winter. And without that, swarthy, the Kazakhs turned black, like fireholes. Coughing and rattling shook the cars. The dead were lying under the bunks. Arriving at Berdsk station, Colonel Azatyan grabbed his head and ran along the train for a long time, peered into the cars, hoping to see the guys in the best condition at least somewhere, but everywhere there was the same picture. The patients were scattered around the hospitals, the rest were broken up into battalions and companies. In the first company, fifteen Kazakhs were identified. A big guy with a big face of the Mongolian type named Talgat was leading over them.
The first battalion, in the meantime, was thrown on the rolling out of the forest from the Ob. The discharge was led by Shchus, he was helped by Yashkin. They lived in an old dugout, dug on the river bank. Babenko immediately began to trade in the Berdsky Bazaar and in the surrounding villages. On the banks of the Oka sparing regime – no drill. One evening, the company spanked into the barracks and collided with a young general on a beautiful stallion. The General examined the pinched, pale faces, and rode along the banks of the Ob River, lowering his head and never looking back. The soldiers were not allowed to know who this forceful general was, but the meeting with him did not pass without a trace.
Another general appeared in the regimental dining room. He swam through the dining room, stirring the soup with soup and porridge in the basins, and disappeared in the opposite doorway. The people were waiting for improvement, but nothing happened – the country was not ready for a protracted war. All was adjusted on the move. The youth of the twenty-fourth year of birth did not stand up to the demands of the army life. The food in the dining room was scanty, the number of women in the company increased. The commander of the company, Lieutenant Pshennyi, proceeded to carry out his duties.
In one dank morning, Pshenny ordered all the Red Army men to leave the building and build themselves up. Raised even the sick. They thought he would see these gangsters, regret them, and return them to the barracks, but Veshensky ordered: “It’s enough to make a fool of yourself! With the song, march to the lessons!”. Hidden in the middle of the system, “Popovtsy” knocked down a step. Poptsov fell down during the run. The commander of the company, from the crackdown, once and again kicked him with the narrow toe of his boot, and then, ragged with anger, could no longer stop. Poptsov responded to each blow with a sob, then stopped sobbing, somehow straightened up and died. Rota surrounded the dead comrade. “This he killed!” exclaimed Petka Musikov, and the silent crowd encircled Pshenny, throwing up his rifles. It is not known what would happen to the commander of the company, do not intervene on time Shchus and Yashkin.
That night Shchus could not sleep until dawn. The military life of Alexei Donatovich Shchusya was simple and direct, but before that, before his life, he was called Platon Sergeyevich Platonov. The name Shchus was formed from the name Shchusev – as it was heard by the scribe of the Transbaikal Military District. Platon Platonov came from a Cossack family, which was exiled to the taiga. Parents have died, and he stayed with his aunt-nun, an extraordinary beauty of a woman. She persuaded the escort chief to take the boy to Tobolsk, hand it over to the family of pre-revolutionary exiles named Shchusev, paid for it. The chief kept his word. Shchusev – artist Donat Arkadevich and teacher of literature Tatyana Illarionovna – were childless and adopted a boy, raised as their own, sent to the military path. Parents are dead, my aunt is lost in the world – Shchus was left alone.
To deal with the incident in the first company instructed the senior lieutenant of the special department Skorik. They once studied with Shchuse in one military school. Most of the commanders could not stand Shchusya, but he was the favorite of Gevorg Azatian, who always defended him, so they could not have put him where he needed.
Discipline in the regiment staggered. Every day it became more difficult to manage people. The boys were dodging the regiment in search of at least some food. “Why were not the guys sent to the front at once? Why should healthy guys be brought to an incompetent state?” thought Shchus and found no answer. During the time of service he completely came down, Kolya Ryndin was stupefied with malnutrition. At first, he was so jaunty, he shut up, fell silent. He was closer to the sky than to the ground, his lips constantly whispered a prayer, even Melnikov could not help it. At night, the dying hero Kolya cried for fear of impending disaster.
Pomkvzvod Yashkin suffered from a liver and stomach disease. At night, the pain became stronger, and the foreman Shpator smeared him with ant alcohol. The life of Volodya Yashkin, named the eternal pioneer parents in honor of Lenin, was not long, but he managed to survive the battles near Smolensk, retreat to Moscow, the encirclement near Vyazma, wounding, transportation from the encirclement camp through the front line. Two nurse-doctors, Nelka and Faya, dragged him out of it. On the way, he contracted jaundice. Now he felt that soon he had to go to the front. With his directness and uneasy character, he can not cling to the rear for health reasons. His place is where there is last justice – equality before death.
This violent move of army life was shaken up by three big events. First, an important general came to the twenty-first infantry regiment, checked the soldiers’ food and arranged a breakdown for the chefs in the kitchen. As a result of this visit, the cleaning of potatoes was canceled, due to this, portions increased. The decision was made: fighters under two meters and above give an additional portion. Kolya Ryndin and Vasconian with Buldakov came to life. Kolya was still working in the kitchen. All that he was given for this, he divided into a crust between friends.
On the billboards of the club there were announcements in which it was informed that on December 20, 1942 in the club, an indicative court of the military tribunal over Zelentsov KD would take place. Nobody knew what the scoundrel had done. And it all started not with Zelentsov, but with the artist Felix Boyarchik. Father left in memory of Felix only a surname. Mama, Stepanida Falaleevna, a manlike peasant woman, an iron Bolshevik, found herself in the field of Soviet art, shouted from the stage the slogans under the drumbeat, to the sound of the trumpet, with the construction of the pyramids. When and how she got a boy, she almost did not notice. Serve Stepanida until old age in the regional House of Culture, if the boy-boy Boyarchik had not done something and had not jumped to prison. Following him and Stepu were thrown into the Novolalinsk timber enterprise. She lived there in a barrack with family women, who raised Fel. Most of all, his many children, Fekla Blazhny, were sorry. She urged Stepu to demand a separate house when she became a well-deserved worker in the field of culture. In this house in two halves and settled Stepa, along with the Blessed family. Thekla became the mother for Felix, she also led him into the army.
In the timber enterprise of the House of Culture, Felix learned to draw posters, signs and portraits of the leaders. This skill was useful to him in the twenty-first regiment. Gradually, Felix moved to the club and fell in love with the girl-ticket-maker Sophia. She became his unmarried wife. When Sophia became pregnant, Felix sent her to the rear, to Fekla, and an uninvited guest from Zelentsov settled in his side. He immediately began to drink and play cards for money. However, Felix could not get rid of him, no matter how hard he tried. Once Captain Dubbel looked into the captain’s compartment and found Zelentsov sleeping behind the stove. Dubelt tried to grab him by the scruff and withdraw from the club, but the fighter did not give, hit the captain with his head and broke his glasses and nose. It’s good that he did not kill the captain – Felix called in time the patrol. Zelentsov turned the court into a circus and a theater at the same time. Even the seasoned chairman of the tribunal, Anisim Anisimovich, could not get along with him. Very much it would be desirable Anisim Anisimovichu to sentence the obstinate soldier to execution, but it was necessary to be limited to a penal company. They saw Zelentsov as a hero, a huge crowd.
In the army, demonstration shootings begin. For escape to the death penalty innocent brothers Snegirev. In the middle of winter the regiment is sent to harvest bread in the nearest collective farm. After that, in early 1943, the rested soldiers went to the front.
Suddenly, in the dugout of Junior Lieutenant Shchusya, Skorik came late. A long, frank conversation took place between them. Skorik informed Shchus that before the first regiment, a wave of order numbered two hundred and twenty-seven. In the military district, demonstrative shootings began. Shchus did not know that Skorik was called Lev Solomonovich. Papa Skorika, Solomon Lvovich, was a scientist, wrote a book about spiders. Mom, Anna Ignatyevna Slokhova, the spiders were afraid and Lyova did not admit them. Lyova studied at the second year of the university, on filfak, when two military men came and took the pope, soon disappeared from the house and mother, and then pulled into the office of Lev. There he was intimidated and he signed a renunciation from his parents. And six months later, Lyova was again summoned to the office and informed that an error had occurred. Solomon Lvovich worked for the military department and was so secret, that the local authorities knew nothing about and shot him along with the enemies of the people. Then they took him away and, most likely, shot Solomon Lvovich’s wife to cover up the tracks. His son was apologized and allowed to enter a special military school. Lyova’s mother was never found, but he felt that she was alive.
Leszek Shestakov worked with the Kazakhs in the kitchen. The Kazakhs worked amicably and just as learnedly learned to speak Russian. Lyoshka did not have enough free time to remember his life. His father was from exiled special settlers. Wife Antonina, he vyvatal in Kazym-Cape, she was from poluhatynskogo-polurusskogo sort. At home, my father rarely went to work – he worked in a fishing team. His character was heavy, unsociable. One day my father did not return on time. Fishing boats returned and brought news: there was a storm, the fishermen’s team drowned and with her brigadier Pavel Shestakov. After the death of her father, her mother went to work as a fish-snack. In the house Oskin, a fish receptionist, known all over the Ob river as a shoal, nicknamed Herc, a mountain poor, became a frequent visitor. Leszek threatened his mother that he would leave the house, but nothing worked on her, she even looked younger. Soon Gerka moved to their house. Then Lyoshka had two sisters: Zoyka and Vera. These creatures caused in Leszek some unknown kindred feelings. To the war, Leszek left after Gerka, a mountain poor. Most of all, Leszek missed his sisters and sometimes remembered his first woman, Tom.
Discipline fell into the regiment. We lived to the state of emergency: from the second company, the twin brothers Sergei and Eremey Snegirev were gone somewhere. They were declared deserters and searched everywhere they could, but were not found. On the fourth day the brothers themselves appeared in the barracks with sacks full of food. It turned out that they were with their mother, in their native village, which was not far from here. Skorik grabbed his head, but there was nothing they could do to help them. They were sentenced to be shot. The regiment commander Gevorg Azatyan made sure that only the first regiment was present during the execution. The Snegirev brothers did not believe until the very end that they would be shot, thought that they would be punished or sent to the penal battalion as Zelentsov. Nobody believed in the death penalty, not even Skorik. Only Yashkin knew that the brothers would be shot – he had already seen this. After the execution, the barracks were taken in unholy silence. “Cursed and killed! All!” – Rokotal Kolya Ryndin. At night, having drunk to feeling numb, Shchus was eager to fill Azatian’s face. In his room, Lieutenant Skorik was drinking alone. The Old Believers united, drew a cross on paper and led by Kolya Ryndin prayed for the peace of the soul of the brothers.
Shchusya again visited Skorik, said that immediately after the New Year in the army will introduce epaulettes and rehabilitate the people and tsarist times commanders. The first battalion will be left for harvest and remain on collective and state farms until departure to the front. On these unprecedented works – on the winter threshing of bread – is already the second company.
In early January 1943, soldiers of the twenty-first regiment were given shoulder straps and sent by train to the station Eastkim. Yashkin was determined to be cured in the district hospital. The rest went to the Voroshilov state farm. The company, which was moving to the state farm, was overtaken by the director Tebenkov Ivan Ivanovich, Petka Musikova, Kolya Ryndin and Vasconian took with them, and gave the rest to the woods stuffed with straw. The children settled down in the huts in the village of Osipovo. Shchusya was placed in a barrack at the head of the second department of Valeria Mefodevna Galusteva. She took in the heart of Shchusya a separate place, which until now was occupied by his missing aunt. Leszek Shestakov with Grisha Hohlak fell into the hut of the old Zavyalovs. After a while the fatigued soldiers began to pay attention to the girls, it was then that Grishka Hohlak’s ability to play the accordion was useful. Almost all the soldiers of the first regiment were from peasant families, this work was well known, they worked quickly and willingly. Vasya Shevelev and Kostya Uvarov repaired the collective farm combine, on it were threshed grain, preserved in stacks under the snow.
Vaskonyan came to the cook Anke. Strange bookworm Anke did not like, and the guys changed it to Kolya Ryndin. After that, the quality and caloric content of the dishes abruptly improved, and the soldiers thanked Kolya for this. Vasconian settled with the old Zavyalov, who strongly respected him for his scholarship. And after a while the mother came to Ashot – in this she was helped by the regiment commander Gevorg Azatyan. He hinted that he could leave Vasconian at the headquarters of the regiment, but Ashot refused, said that he would go to the front along with everyone. He was already looking at his mother with different eyes. Leaving in the morning, she felt that she saw her son for the last time.
A few weeks later came an order to return to the location of the regiment. There was a brief but soul-rending parting with the village of Osipovo. No sooner had we returned to the barracks – just a bathhouse, a new outfit. Foreman Shpator was pleased with the rested soldiers. This evening Leszek Shestakov heard a song for the second time in the barracks of the twenty-first infantry regiment.... The marching companies were received by General Lakhonin, the same one that the Red Army men once met in the field, and his longtime friend, Major Zarubin. They insisted that the weakest fighters be left in the regiment. After a big swearing, about two hundred people remained in the regiment, half of them terminally ill will be sent home – to die. The twenty-first rifle regiment easily escaped. With all their companies, the entire command of the regiment was sent to the position.
Marching companies were in the military town of Novosibirsk. In the first company, Valery Mefodevna came in, brought greetings and obeisances from Osipov’s sweethearts and owners and a turban filled with all kinds of food. The regiment was taken out of the barracks at dawn. After the speeches of numerous speakers, the regiment began to move. Marching companies led to the station by a roundabout route, the deaf streets. Only a woman with an empty bucket met them. She rushed back to her yard, tossed the buckets and boldly baptized the army in pursuit, instructing the eternal defenders to safely end the battle.
The second book. Bridgehead
The second book briefly describes the events of winter, spring and summer of 1943. The greater part of the second book is devoted to the description of the crossing of the Dnieper in the autumn of 1943.
Part one. On the eve of the crossing
After spending spring and summer in battle, the first rifle regiment was preparing to cross the Dnieper.
On a transparent autumn day, the advanced parts of the two Soviet fronts reached the bank of the Great Dnieper River. Leszek Shestakov, picking up water from the river, warned newcomers: on the other shore – an enemy, but you can not shoot at him, otherwise the whole army will be without water. There was already such an event on the Bryansk front, and on the banks of the Dnieper there will be everything.
The artillery regiment in the rifle division arrived at the river at night. Somewhere close was the rifle regiment, in which Captain Shchus commanded the first battalion, the first company was Lieutenant Yashkin. Still here the company commander was Kazakh Talgat. Platoon commanders were Vasya Shevelev and Kostya Babenko; Grisha Hohlak in the rank of sergeant commanded the department.
In spring, arriving in the Volga region, the Siberians stood for a long time in the empty looted villages of the Germans of the Volga region, who had been destroyed and deported to Siberia. Leszek, as an experienced communications officer, was transferred to the howitzer division, but did not forget the guys from his company. The first battle of the division of General Lakhonin took in the Zadonskaya steppe, standing in the way of the German troops that broke through the front. Losses in the division were insignificant. The commander of the army was very fond of the division, and he began to keep it in reserve – just in case. This incident occurred near Kharkov, then another emergency under the Akhtyrka. Leshka received the second Order of the Patriotic War for that fight. Colonel Ryndin, Colonel Beskapustin treasured, all the time sent to the kitchen. Vaskorian left in the headquarters, but Ashot bore his superiors and persistently returned to his native company. Shchusya wounded on the Don, he was commissioned for two months, went to Osipovo and created Valeria Mefodevna another child, this time a boy. He also visited the twenty-first regiment, visiting Azatyan. From him Schush learned that the foreman Shpator had died on the way to Novosibirsk, right in the car. He was buried with military honors in the regimental cemetery. Shpator wanted to lie next to the Snegirev brothers or Poptsov, but their graves were not found. After the cure, Shchus arrived near Kharkov.
The closer the Great River became, the more soldiers in the ranks of the Red Army who could not swim. Behind the front there is a supervising army, washed, fed, days of watchfulness, all suspecting. The deputy commander of the artillery regiment, Alexander Vasilievich Zarubin, again completely ruled the regiment. His long-time friend and inadvertent relative was Prof. Fyodorovich Lakhonin. They had more than a curious friendship and kinship. With his wife Natalia, the daughter of the garrison commander, Zarubin met on vacation in Sochi. They had a daughter, Ksenia. Old people grew it, as Zarubina was transferred to the far region. Soon Zarubin was sent to study in Moscow. When he returned to the garrison after a long training, he found a one-year-old child in his house. The culprit was Lakhonin. Opponents managed to remain friends.
Preparing to cross the Dnieper, the soldiers rested, all day flopped in the river. Shchus, looking through the binoculars opposite, right, shore and left-bank island, could not understand: why this ferry was chosen for the ferry. Shestakov Shchust gave a special task – to establish communication through the river. Leshka arrived in the artillery regiment from the hospital. Before that, he reached there that he could not think of anything but food. On the first evening, Leszek tried to steal a couple of biscuits, was caught red-handed by Colonel Musenkov and taken to Zarubin. Soon the major allocated Leshka, put him on the phone at the headquarters of the regiment. Now Leszek had to get at least some kind of boat to transport heavy coils with a link to the right bank. He found a half-whirled boat in Bozhazhin about two versts from the shore.
People who were asleep could not sleep, many foresaw their own doom. Ashot Vasconian wrote a letter to his parents, making it clear that, most likely, this is his last letter from the front. He did not spoil his parents with letters, and the more he got along with the “fighting family”, the more he moved away from his father and mother. In the battles Vasconian was little, Shchus guarded him, pushed him somewhere to the headquarters. But from such a cunning place Ashot was eager for his, home. I also could not sleep, he also tried again and again how to cross the river, losing as few people as possible.
In the afternoon, at the operational meeting, Colonel Beskapustin gave the assignment: the platoon of reconnaissance should be the first to go to the right bank. While this platoon of suicide bombers will distract the Germans, the first battalion will begin the crossing. Having reached the right bank, people along the ravines will advance into the depths of the enemy’s defense as secretly as possible. By morning, when the main forces are transferred, the battalion must enter into battle in the depths of the Germans’ defense, in the area of the Hundred Height. Roth Oskin, nicknamed Herc – the mountain poor, will cover and support the Shchusya battalion. Other battalions and companies will begin to cross the right flank to create the impression of a massive offensive.
Many did not sleep that night. Soldier Teterkin, who fell in a couple of Vasconian, and since then has been following him, like Sancho Panza for his knight, brought hay, laid Ashot and himself nailed beside him. Peacefully cooing in the night one more pair – Buldakov with Sergeant Finifatyev, met in the military echelon on the way to the Volga. In the night, distant explosions could be heard: it was the Germans who blew up the Great City.
The mist held on for a long time, helping the army, prolonging the lives of people for almost half a day. As soon as it was lightened, shelling began. The reconnaissance platoon started a battle on the right bank. Squadrons of storm troopers passed over their heads. Conditional missiles poured out of the smoke-infantry companies reached the right bank, but no one knew how many of them remained. The crossing began.
Part two. Crossing
The crossing brought enormous losses to the Russian army. Leszek Shestakov, Kolya Ryndin and Buldakov were wounded. This was a turning point in the war, after which the Germans began to retreat.
The river and the left bank were covered by enemy fire. The river was boiling, full of perishing people. Those who did not dare to swim for those who could, and dragged them under the water, turned over the shaky rafts made of raw wood. Those who returned to the left bank, to their own, were greeted by gallant fighters of the border guard detachment, shot people, pushed back into the river. Battalion Shchusya crossed one of the first, and plunged into the ravines of the right bank. Began forwarding Leszek with his partner Sema Prahov.
If there were parts well prepared, able to swim, they would reach the shore in combat form. But people came to the island of the river, already drowned waters, drowning weapons and ammunition. Having reached the island, they could not move and died under machine-gun fire. Leshka hoped that the Shchusya battalion left the island before the Germans set it on fire. He leisurely floated downstream below the general ferry, unwinding the cable – it was barely enough to the opposite shore. On the way, we had to fight back from sinking people, who were trying to turn the flimsy boat. On the other side Leshka was already waiting for Major Zarubin. Communication across the river was established, and wounded Zarubin immediately began to give guidance for artillery. Soon, around Zarubin began to gather fighters, survivors after the morning crossing.
The crossing continued. The forward units hid in ravines, trying to establish communication with each other before dawn. The Germans concentrated all the fire on the right-bank islet. Roth Os’kin, who retained the skeleton and the ability to perform a combat mission, reached the right bank. Oskin himself, wounded twice, the soldiers tied to a dam and let down with the flow. He was a lucky man – he got to his own. From the mouth of the Cherevinka River, where Leshka Shestakov landed, to the Oskin crossing company, it is three hundred fathoms, but not destiny.
It was expected that the company would be thrown into the fire first, but it began to cross before the morning. Over the shore, called the bridgehead, there was nothing to breathe. The battle calmed down. Thrown to a height of one hundred, the enemy’s thinning units no longer attacked. The penalties crossed almost without loss. Far away from all across the river, a boat was being transported under the command of the military soldier Nel’ka Zykova. Faya was on duty at the medical post on the left bank, and Nelka was crossing the wounded through the river. Among the penalty was Felix Boyarchik. He helped the convict Timofei Nazarovich Sabelnikov to bandage the wounded. Sabelnikov, the chief surgeon of the army hospital, was judged for the fact that on his desk, during the operation, a mortally wounded man died. The Penalty Company was entrenched along the shore. Food and weapons were not given to the penalty crew.
Captain Shchusya’s battalion was spread over ravines and fixed. Scouts established contact with the headquarters of the regiment and selected the remnants of platoons and mouth. We found the remains of Yashkin’s company. Yashkin himself was also alive. They had a simple task: to go as far as possible along the right bank, to gain a foothold and wait for the partisan to strike from the rear and landing from the sky. But there was no connection, and in the shooting the battalion commander understood that the Germans were cutting off his battalion from the crossing. With the dawn, it was counted: four hundred and sixty people were digging down the hillside of the Hundred Hundred – all that was left of three thousand. The scouts reported that Zelentsov had a connection. Shchus sent three signalmen to him. Two of them remembered Shchus, and the third – Zelentsov, who now became Shorokhov – did not recognize him.
Shestakov priknnul boat below the mouth of the Cherevinka, behind the toe, and with relief returned to the yar, where dug out the soldiers, they dug in the high escarpment of the mink. Finifatyev nearly led to the right bank a longboat full of ammunition, but landed him on the bank. Now we had to get this longboat. Here the signalmen arrived from Colonel Beskapustin, who, as it turned out, was not far from Cherevinka. The boat was dragged off at the mouth of the river in the morning, until the mist cleared. At sunrise for the wounded Zarubin arrived Nelya and Faya, but he refused to swim, left to wait for a replacement.
The command clarified the intelligence data and sniklo. It turned out: they repulsed the enemy about five kilometers of the shore in width and up to a kilometer in depth. This conquest was spent valiant commanders of tens of thousands of tons of ammunition, fuel and twenty thousand people killed, drowned and wounded. The losses were staggering.
Leszek Shestakov went to the water to wash, and met Felix Boyarchik. After a while, Boyarchik and Sabelnikov were guests of Zarubin’s detachment. Boyarchik was wounded in Orel, he was treated in the Tula hospital, there he was sent to the transit point. From there Felix landed with the artillerymen, in the platoon of the control of the fourth battery. Recently the art brigade left the battle, where it lost two guns, the third gun was separated from the battery, hidden in the bushes. In the Soviet Union, cars were always valued more than human life, so the commanders knew that they were not praised for the lost guns. Two cans of the battery were written off, and the third rusted in bushes without a wheel. The battery commander “discovered” the loss of the wheel when Boyarchik stood on the guard. So Felix came under the tribunal, and then in the penalty company. After all that, Felix did not want to live.
At night, two pontoons were sent to the bridgehead by a selected zagranotryadik, armed with new machine guns. Together with the detachment were sent ammunition and weapons – for the contingent, condemned to redemption of guilt with his blood. I forgot to take food and medicine. Having unloaded, the pontoons quickly departed – too many important cases awaited the river-lords on the other side of the river.
The Ostsee Hans Holbach and the Bavarian Max Kuzempel were partners since the beginning of the war. Together they fell into Soviet captivity, together fled from there, by the stupidity of Holbach they got back to the front. When the penalty squad moved into battle, Felix Boyarchik with a cry: “Kill me!” rushed straight to the trench to these Germans. Felix was not killed, he was captured, although he wanted to die with all his might. One of the first in this battle killed Timofey Nazarovich Sabelnikov.
This day was especially troubling for Shchus. Having interrupted the penalty company, the Germans began liquidating the partisan detachment. The battle lasted two hours, to the end in the sky the planes were buzzing, the landing of the landing began. This operation was conducted so ineptly that a select, carefully trained amphibious force of 1,800 people perished, never reaching the ground. Shchus realized that now the Germans would take up his detachment. Soon he was informed that Kolya Ryndin was seriously wounded. Shchus called Lyoshka Shestakov on the phone and instructed him to send Kolya to the other shore. By the boat Kolya Ryndin was dragging a whole compartment. Vasconian pushed the boat out and stood on the shore for a long time, as if saying goodbye. Baptized to the left bank, Leszek barely reached the wounded to the medical battalion.
Leshkino the journey beyond the river did not go unnoticed. Almost all telephone lines paved from the left bank were silent. The chief of communications ordered Shestakov to transfer the connection from one bank to another. Major Zarubin realized that Leszek was forced to do somebody else’s work, but he did not say anything, giving the soldier his own way. Taking a few wounded in the boat, Leszek struggled to the left bank. They gave him a cable reel and two assistants who could not swim. When we sailed back, it was already light. The Germans began to fire at the boat as soon as it was in the middle of the river, where the fog had already risen. The rotten, fragile boat turned upside down, Leshkin’s helpers immediately went to the bottom, he himself managed to sail away. He struggled with his feet, trying to get to the shore and not thinking about the dead that lay on the bottom of the river. From the last forces Leshka reached the sandy shore. Two fighters grabbed his arms, dragged him under cover of the yara. Left to himself, Shestakov crawled into the shelter and lost consciousness. Leha Buldakov took care of him.
Opening his eyes, Shestakov saw before him the face of Zelentsov-Shorokhov. He said that the battle was going on, at the height of one hundred Germans they were finishing off the Shchusya battalion. Having risen, Leszek reported to Zarubin that the connection could not be established, and asked for permission to retire briefly. Where and why – the major did not ask. Leszek crossed the Cherevinka and began to quietly make his way upstream. Further along the ravine, Leszek discovered a German observation post. A little further he found a place where the Russian detachment came across the Germans. Among the dead were Vasconian and his loyal partner Teterkin.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Slavutich came to Zarubin. He asked the major to give him people to take the German observation post. Zarubin sent Finifatyev, Mansurov, Shorokhov, and Shestakov, who arrived in time. During this operation Lieutenant-Colonel Slavutich and Mansurov were killed, Finifatiev was wounded. From the prisoners, they learned that the enemy headquarters was stationed in the village of Velikie Krinitsy. At half-past five, the artillery attack began at a height of one hundred, guns bombed the village, turning it into ruins. By evening the height was taken. On the right bank the chief of staff Ponayotov moved – to change Zarubin, brought some food. The major was carried to the boat, and there was no longer any strength to go. All night long the wounded men were sitting on the shore, hoping that the boat would come after them.
Father Nelka Zykova, a boilermaker from the Krasnoyarsk locomotive depot, was declared an enemy of the people and shot without trial and investigation. Mother, Avdotya Matveyevna, stayed with her four daughters. The most beautiful and healthy of them was Nelka. The godfather Nelki, the doctor Porfir Danilovich, attached it to the nurses’ courses. At the front, Nelka fell right after the outbreak of the war and met Faya. Faye had a terrible secret: her entire body, from neck to ankle, was covered with thick wool. Her parents, artists of the regional operetta, carelessly called Faya a monkey. Neli loved Fay as a sister, looked after and protected her as best she could. Faya could not do without her friend anymore.
At night Shorokhov replaced Shestakov at the telephone. During the war, Shorokhov felt well, as if he had stepped into a risky business. He was the son of a dekulak peasant Markel Zherdyakov from the Pomeranian village of Studenets. In the far corner of the memory it was imprinted: he was running, Nikita Zherdyakov, behind the underwater man, and his father was buttoning his horse. It was picked up by the workers of the peat-building village, they gave a shovel to their hands. After working for two years, he got into the zek-blatnyakov company, and went-went: prison, stage, camp. Then escape, robbery, the first murder, again prison, camp. By this time, Nikitka had become a camp wolf, succeeded several names – Zherdyakov, Cheremnykh, Zelentsov, Shorokhov. He had one goal: to survive, to get the tribunal judge Anisim Anisimovich and to thrust the knife into his enemy.
Soon a hundred soldiers, a few boxes of cartridges and grenades, some food were transported to the bridgehead. All this was demanded by Beskapustin. Shchus took a strong dugout, beaten off from the Germans. He understood that this was not for long. In the morning, on the battalion Shchusya, with whom a temporary connection was established, the Germans again began to squat, cutting off the siding to the river. And at this disastrous hour, from behind the river came the barking voice of the chief of the political department Lazar Isakovitch Musenko. Occupying a precious connection, he began reading out an article from the newspaper Pravda. The first could not stand Shchus. To prevent conflict, Beskapustin intervened, cut off the line.
The day passed in continuous battles. The enemy cleared the height of Sto, squeezed the thin Russian army. On the left bank a large army was accumulating, but for what – no one knew. The morning was bustling. Somewhere in the headwaters of the river, the Germans broke the barge with sugar beets, the flow of vegetables was nailed to the beachhead and “harvesting” started in the morning. All day fighting was going on in the air above the bridgehead. The remnants of the first battalion were particularly affected. Finally, a long-awaited evening fell on the ground. The head of the political department of the division Musenok was allowed to work with an unruly shore. This man, while at war, did not know her at all. Beskapustin was restraining his commanders from the last forces.
Leha Buldakov could only think about food. He tried to remember his native Pokrovka, his father, but thought again turned to food. At last he decided to get something from the Germans and resolutely stepped into the darkness. In the dead of the night Buldakov and Shorokhov fell into Cherevynka, dragging three German satchels full of provisions, divided it into all.
In the morning the Germans ceased their active activities. From the headquarters of the division they demanded that the situation be restored. At the end of the forces, Colonel Beskapustin decided to counterattack the enemy. The officers from the headquarters of the regiment, loudly cursing, gathered people along the shore. Buldakov did not want to leave Finifatyev, as if he felt that he would not see him again. During the day bombardment, a donkey high bank of the river and buried hundreds of people under it, and Finifatyev was killed there.
Polk Beskapustina initially had success, but then beskapustintsy ran into a mined hillside hillside Hundred. The soldiers dropped their weapons and rushed back to the river. By the end of the second day beside Beskapustin there were only about a thousand healthy soldiers, yes, in Shchusya in a battalion with half a thousand. At noon again began an attack. If Buldakov’s boots fit, he would have long run up to the enemy machine gun, but he was in tight boots tied to his legs with stringed buns. Lech fell into the machine-gun nest from the rear. Even without disguise, he went to the sound of a machine gun and was so focused on the goal that he did not notice a niche covered with a cloak-tent. A German officer jumped out of the niche and discharged the clip of the gun in the back Buldakov. Lech wanted to rush at him, but lost a precious moment because of the tight boots. Hearing shots behind him, an experienced pair of machine gunners – Holbach and Kuzempel – after thinking,
Buldakov was alive and began to feel himself. The last day of the bridgehead was somehow especially psychotic. There were many unexpected fights, unjustified losses. Despair, even insanity, embraced the warriors on the Great Walled Bridgehead, and the forces of the opposing sides were already running out. Only stubbornness forced the Russians to hold onto this riverbank. Towards evening a rain fell over the springboard, which revived Buldakov, gave him strength. He rolled over with a moan to his stomach and crawled to the river.
An impenetrable cloud of lice covered the people on the bridgehead. A heavy smell of decaying drowned people floated over the river. One hundred heights had to be left again. The Germans were beating on everything that tried to move. And on still working lines of communication asked to be patient. Night has come, Shestakov has taken on the next watch. The Germans were firing heavily on the leading edge. Leszek had already gone out several times to the line – he broke off communication. When he again restored the line, he was swept into the ravine by a mine explosion. To the bottom of the ravine Leshka did not fly, fell on one of the ledges and lost consciousness. Already in the morning, Shorokhov discovered that Leszek had disappeared. He found Shestakov in the ravine. Leszek sat, clutching the end of the wire in his fist, his face disfigured by the explosion. Shorokhov restored the connection, returned to the phone, reported to Ponayotov that Lyoshka had died. Ponayotov drove the stubborn Shorokhov behind Leszek, and got the boat sent from the other shore for the wounded. Nelka quickly organized the crossing. Approaching after a while to the boat, she found a wounded man there. He lay, throwing his hands over the side. It was Buldakov. Despite the overload, Nelya took him with her.
About noon, up to the river kilometers in ten from the bridgehead began the artillery preparation. The Soviet command once again launched a new offensive, taking into account the previous mistakes. This time, a powerful blow was struck. The crossing of the river began on the river. What began in the newspapers was called a battle for the river. At dawn, a ferry crossed the river. Remnants of the units of the Great Wall of the bridgehead were ordered to go to the connection with the neighbors. Everyone who could move went into battle. Ahead with a pistol in hand was Shchus. The fighters of the new bridgehead poured out to meet them in a crowd.
In the hamlet, where there were a few burnt out huts, soldiers were given food, tobacco, soap. Tying a shortened cloak-tent under the stigma, the Musenok flew along the shore. On the outskirts of the village, in an empty, half-burnt hut, the surviving officers slept on the straw. The musket flew here, and made a scandal over the lack of a sentry. Shchus could not resist, again ruffled the chief of the political department of the division. Working as a correspondent of Pravda, Musenok wrote distressed articles about the enemies of the people, and drove into the camp a lot of people. In the division Musenka was hated and feared. He knew it well and climbed in every hole. The Muscovite lived according to the Tsar, in his personal possession there were four cars. In the back of one of them was built a house where the typist Isolda Kazimirovna Holedysskaya, a beauty from a repressed Polish family, which already had the Order of the Red Star and the medal “For Military Merit”. Nelka had only two medals “For Courage”.
Reading Shchusya, the commander of the war, as a boy, Musynok could not stop. He did not see the glazed eyes of the captain and the distorted face. Comrade Musenok was not well acquainted with these outraged labor officers. If I knew, I would not be useful in this house. But Beskapustin knew them well, and he did not like the gloomy silence of Shchusya. Some time later, Shchus found Mushenka’s car. His driver, Brykin, fiercely hated his boss, and at the request of Shchusya he willingly left the gas key for the whole night. Late in the evening Shchus returned to the car and found that Musynok was already sleeping sweetly. Shchus climbed into the cab and drove the car straight to the minefield. He chose a non-compact evasive, dispersed the car and jumped off easily. A powerful explosion erupted. Shchus went back to the hut and went to sleep.
On the right bank of the river buried dead soldiers, dragged innumerable corpses in a huge pit. On the left bank, the lavish funeral of the deceased chief of the political division of the Guards division took place. Next to the luxurious gilded coffin stood Isolda Kazimirovna in a black lace shawl. Chamber music and felt speeches sounded. Above the river grew a hill with a bunch of flowers and a wooden obelisk. Beyond the river, all the new pits filled with the human mess. A few years later a man-made sea will appear on this place, and to the grave of Musenka pioneers and veterans of war will lay wreaths.
Soon the Soviet troops will cross the Great River and join all four bridgeheads. The Germans will draw their main forces here, the Russians will break through the front in the distance from these four bridgeheads. The Wehrmacht troops will continue their counter-offensive. Lakhonin’s corps will be very strong. Lakhonin himself will receive the post of army commander and take under his wing the division Shchusya. Colonel Beskapustin Avdey Kondratievich will be promoted to the generals. Once again Nelka Zykov will be wounded. In her absence, the faithful friend Faya will take over herself. Comrades Yashkin and Lieutenant-Colonel Zarubin will receive the title of Heroes and will be commissarized for disability. Having discouraged the enemy in the autumn battles, the two mighty fronts will begin to cover the enemy troops in depth. Retreat in winter conditions will turn into a stampede. Hungry, sick, covered with a cloud of lice, foreigners will perish in the thousands,