February 2, Russian society, veterans of the Great Patriotic War will celebrate a great day of Russian battle glory: the 60th anniversary of the full defeat and capture of German fascist military who was encircled by Stalingrad November, 1942.
About half a year, the greatest battle of World War II was lasting near the future hero city and in his streets and squares. There were even awful moments for Soviet Army, when the enemy, who wanted to Volga River, nearly reached, at the coast of huge losses, the Volga water. Though, the fascists did not succeed in capturing the city.
Stalingrad decided to fight to the bitter end. And it won. Every house, every house cellar and storey became an unassailable fortress for the enemy.
“There is no land for us over Volga!” – this was the slogan of the Stalingrad defenders, which encouraged them for a feat of arms. Hitler made his best to capture Stalingrad not only because of its strategic importance, but also because the city bore the name of Stalin. The fascist fuehrer understood that capture of Stalingrad could have been not only his revenge for the lost Moscow battle, but it would have encouraged the German army battered in Russian fields.
Though, Soviet military understood it, too. This was why, Soviet soldiers fought for Stalingrad not sparing their blood and lives. I would like to tell about an interesting conversation with the great Russian painter Akrady Plastov. Once, I was in Ulyanovsk Region, in the painter’s native village Prislonikha, not far from the old town of Karsun. The painter spent every spring and summer there. In his atelier, we looked at numerous sketches for his future pictures.
“It is all so wonderful, Alexandr”, - I said to the painter. – “Thank you for your work. This is our nation’s property. Though, I cannot help asking you a question: Why there is no military among the people you portray?”
Plastov smiled: “The same question was asked recently by the defence minister, marshal Rodion Malinovsky. And I answered him that so far I could not paint a canvas of the army. And I explained, why.”
And the painter told me how he had gotten to the very war hell December, 1942, to the leading edge of the Stalingrad battle. At night, they swam across Volga River under cannonade rattle, climbed up a sleep snowy slow to the city. It was very dark. The group went to the command post of general Rodimtsev’s division. They stumbled over something every minute. Plastov borrowed an electric torch from one of his fellows, to light up the way for a moment: he was tired of stumbling.
And what did the painter see? Numerous corpses of soldiers, both Soviet and German. “The day before, there was a no man’s land here, and bloody battles every day. There was no time to remove dead bodies,” – the soldier who lent the torch explained to the painter.
In the earth-house they came, earth fell from the ceiling every moment a shell exploded near there. Suddenly, in this night fire chaos, a song sounded. That were reinforcements moving to the positions.
“Just imagine,” – the painter said to me, - “Fire from everywhere. Corpses in the streets of both fascists and of ours. And these soldiers will probably lie among them tomorrow. While they go and sing. How can I portray these heroes, what kind of colours should I use to express their steadfast spirit and will?
Several years later after this conversation, I had to accompany, along with the twice Hero of the Soviet Union, air force major-general Alexei Alelyukhin, French pilots of Nomandia-Neman squadron, who came to visit former battle fields by Stalingrad. During the war, they fought together with Russian pilots against fascists. The veterans came together with young pilots. Among the veterans, there was the Hero of the Soviet Union, Jaque Andre. For the whole his life, he dreamed to go here, he explained to his young colleagues, to honour the feat of the Stalingrad heroes. “They taught us how to fight and how to love own people and the fatherland. The name of the hero city was given to some French squares and hotels. It will be honoured by many generations of Frenchmen,” – the old soldier said to his young friends in the Square of Fallen Fighters in Stalingrad.
Now, the question about the city name is being discussed. Many Russian citizens, including those of the hero city, now called Volgograd, speak in support of returning the name of Stalingrad to the city. Moscow authorities, however, find this idea to be too “expensive” for realization. So much money are needed only to print new maps!
I cannot believe this argument is enough to stop patriots who do not want our history to be forgotten. Our soldiers battled for Stalingrad, ran a blockade of Leningrad, set free our land and peoples of Europe from fascism, stormed Berlin under the red flag of our powerful country. That was the red flag which waved over Reichstag as the flag of victory.
I am sure: soon, Stalingrad will be again marked on the map of Russia. And the city will live as it lives in our people’s memory, forever.
Military observer of PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva