May 8, 2015

The Price of the Victory 2

Oleksiy  Volovych

The Price of the Victory (Part 2)

A great tragedy for the Red Army men was captivity, because the vast majority of Soviet POWs died in German concentration camps. To a large extent, this was because the Soviet Union had not ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on prisoners of war and, therefore, the Germans had no obligation to perform it. Throughout the war at least 5 million Soviet soldiers and officers got into German captivity. At least 7 million Soviet civilians (“ostarbeiters”) were taken to Germany to work. More than half of them were Ukrainians. By the way, during the war the NKVD created special camps to test the Red Army men, who managed to escape from captivity. Some of them remained in the camps, some were killed, and the rest went to the front as part of penal companies and battalions.

People who had experienced the horrors of the German captivity, the Stalinist authorities considered traitors and deserters. For example, typical is the fate of the Commander of the 12th Army of the Kyiv Special Military District, Major-General P. Ponedelin. In early August 1941, during an attempt to break the encirclement, near the village Pidvysoke near Uman, P. Ponedelin was wounded and was captured while unconscious. Germans used the fact of captivity of Soviet generals for propaganda purposes. They photographed them next to German officers, and spread rumors about their transition to the Wehrmacht. The Military Collegium of the Supreme Court sentenced P. Ponedelin to death. April 29, 1945, Major-General P. Ponedelin was liberated by American troops and handed over to Soviet representatives. After five years of detention in Lefortovo prison, he was sentenced again and shot dead on 25th August, 1950. Such killings were plenty.

My father, who was in 1943 in the underground organization named after Voroshylov in Kirovohrad, said that at some point the underground workers managed to arrange pilot Khorikov's escape from a German concentration camp. He was taken to the Black Forest to the partisans, where he fought until January 1944, when Soviet troops liberated Kirovohrad. Khorikov was immediately sent to the Aviation Regiment, where he, fighting, shot down two German aircraft. The moment the NKVD found out about his stay in German captivity, he was arrested by the NKVD men. As a result, Khorikov served in Stalin's camps 10 years — until 1954. Meeting with my father in 1985, Khorikov told how former German policemen who were serving in the camp used to humiliate at him: “So, Stalin's Falcon, has Stalin thanked you?..”

Once my father happened to be in a German concentration camp too. December 10, 1943 at the approach of the Soviet Army to the city of Kirovohrad, he, along with other workers of the local power plant was captured by Germans and sent to a concentration camp near Konigsberg. There he stayed from January 1944 to January 1945. When Soviet forces approached the city, my father with a group of friends managed to escape from the convoy. After his release, he was sent by the field military enlistment office into a line unit on the territory of Poland. Father was demobilized in November 1945 for health reasons. After the war, my father lived another 61 years and wrote his memories of his stay in the German concentration camp.

According to the laws of war men who had fallen under the occupation, would automatically receive the stamp of a traitor who had to redeem it by his own blood, thus proving their loyalty to the motherland.

Another example of inhuman brutality of the Stalinist regime was mobilizing of the so-called “black jackets” — all men between 15 and 60 years of age who were able to bear arms. They were thrown into battle unarmed before the upcoming regular units of the Red Army, not even changing clothes from civilian to uniform. Military training was not conducted with the mobilized. Most massively “black jackets” were used in 1943-1944 in Ukraine. Like penal battalions, “black jackets” were considered “cannon fodder”, and were thrown into the hottest front-line areas during the Red Army's offensives. Almost all of them were killed. They counted on the fact that the “Black Infantry” will force the Germans to use ammunition, making easier for regular units the attack on German positions. This attitude of the Soviet state to its citizens surprised even Germans, who called “Black Jackets” “Beutesoldaten” (“trophy soldiers”).

O. Dovzhenko wrote in his diary, November 28, 1943: “Today V. Shklovskyi told me that most of the mobilized in Ukraine liberated citizens die in battles. They are called, it seems to me, “Black-Svytas” (“Black Jackets”). They fight in the home clothes, without any training, like the penalty. They are seen as the guilty. A General looked at them in battle and cried”. Thus, hundreds of thousands or even millions of Ukrainians were being killed. Only in Kirovohrad region alone from October 1943 until the end of the war there had been mobilized about 130 thousand of such “Black Jackets”.

In his memoirs, M. Khrushchev also wrote about the Soviet Military Command's cruel attitude to men mobilized in the newly liberated territories of Ukraine. In particular, he recalled an episode when, during a meeting before forcing the Dnieper in autumn 1943, one of the Generals asked the representative of the Supreme High Command at the 1st Ukrainian Front Marshal Zhukov, how to equip and arm the newly mobilized recruits, who actually were not the Red Army men? The Marshall snapped: “Why are we, my friends, playing head games here? To hell with dressing and arming Ukrainians. They all are traitors! The more of them we drown in the Dnieper, the fewer will have to be exiled to the Siberia after the war”…

Till the end of the war, Stalin thought nothing of unjustified victims. As a result, the Soviet Union lost 30 million soldiers, partisans, underground fighters and civilians, while Germany lost 10 million. Stalin was indifferent to the countless tragedies of war, as well as to the victims of Holodomor of 1932-1933 and the 1937-1938's bloody mass terror. Stalin did not think much about the price of the fulfillment of his this or that order. Millions of dead were just dry statistics to him. He produced a lot of orders, execution of which required many thousands of unnecessary victims. Striking in its cynicism is his Order № 0428 dated November 17, 1941:

“Supreme High Command orders:

1. To destroy and burn to the ground all settlements in the rear of German troops at a distance of 40-60 km in depth from the front edge, and 20-30 km to the right and left of roads. For the destruction of settlements in the specified radius to immediately throw aviation, to extensively use artillery and mortar fire, team of intelligence officers, skiers and partisan sabotage groups equipped with Molotov cocktails”.

As a result of fulfillment of this order, hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens were condemned to death or, at best, the loss of their homes on the eve of the winter season. Often, soldiers and partisans were forced to burn villages and towns where their families were huddled.

After the German troops had been driven from the Soviet Union, combat actions moved to the territory of the Reich and its allies. In mid-January 1945 a general offensive of the Soviet troops began. Vistula-Oder, East Prussian and Western Carpathian operations were successfully completed. April 16, 1945, Berlin operation began, during which were destroyed 93 infantry, armored and motorized German divisions. From April 16 to May 7, Soviet troops captured 480 thousand soldiers and officers, seized 1,550 tanks, 8,600 guns, 4,510 aircraft. All this was achieved at the cost of lives of more than 100 thousand Soviet soldiers. May 8, 1945 Germany signed the Act of Unconditional Surrender. The war in Europe was done with. May 9 was declared a national Victory holiday. However, few people today know that in 1948, based on the terrible consequences of war, in particular, the availability at the time of millions of maimed and disabled, Victory Day was cancelled. The status of a public holiday May 9 received again only in 1965.

Ukraine together with Belarus, were the central part of the European theater of military operations. Ukrainian people suffered huge losses in World War II and made a significant contribution into the defeat of German fascism. The people of Ukraine gave the Armed Forces of the USSR 7 million men, accounting for 23 % of the personnel of the Red Army. Every second was killed at the front; one in two of those who survived became disabled. Out of the large army of partisans and underground fighters who fought against Nazis in Ukraine, 59 % were of Ukrainian origin. Many Ukrainians took an active part in the resistance movement in Western European countries. Ukrainian warriors and Ukrainian natives entered the immortal pages in the history of the war, having shown an example of selfless heroism. Out of the 15 fronts that operated during the Soviet-German war, more than half were headed by Marshals and Generals of Ukrainian origin — S. Tymoshenko, A. Grechko, A. Yeremenko, K. Moskalenko, P. Zhmachenko, R. Malynowskyi, I. Chernyakhovskyi, P. Rybalko, G. Kulyk, D. Lelyushenko, M. Kyrponos, F. Kostenko and many others. Lieutenant-General F. Kostenko and his son, an Artillery Captain, shot themselves dead on May 26, 1942 in the encirclement near Kharkov.

For participation in World War II, about 2.5 million Ukrainians were awarded orders and medals, out of the 11,603 warriors who for their heroic deeds were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, 2,072 were Ukrainians, and 32 of them were awarded the title twice, and one — I. Kozhedub — three times.

In that war, the Ukrainian people experienced great sorrow and sufferings, incredible losses. By the end of 1941 Ukraine had been occupied. In late November 1942 the Nazis seized up to 2 million square kilometers of the territory of the USSR, which before the war had been inhabited by 85 million people. More than 41 million of them were Ukrainians. Out of four years of the Great Patriotic War, fighting on the Ukrainian lands had lasted for three years and four months. In the occupied territory of Ukraine had been turned into ruins 714 cities and towns, or 42 % of all urban settlements affected by the war on the territory of the Soviet Union. In 1945, in Ukraine there remained only 27.4 million of the 41.7 million people who lived there in 1941. The Reunification of all Ukrainian lands, as well as Ukraine's accession to the United Nations, was an important step towards the realization of the age-old dream of the Ukrainian people about the revival of its independent unitary state.

As you know, V. Putin said that Russia could have won in the Great Patriotic War even without Ukraine. Let this statement be on his conscience. Because such Putin's statement is a desecration of the memory of millions of fallen Ukrainian soldiers and an insult to the veterans still alive.

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The years pass, but forever at the pages of history will remain the names of those who in a terrible time stood up to defend our land, who in the difficult fight at the cost of their lives defended the primordial human right to freedom. With each day coming, veterans become fewer and fewer. Greyhaired and exhausted with wounds of past battles, secured not enough in the current crisis conditions of the economy, they tend to pass over to today's youth a spirit of optimism, vitality character, knowledge, experience and love for our mother — Ukraine. Our sacred duty to the blessed memory of those who died for the freedom of the Motherland is to preserve the memory of the immortal feat of our people in the Great Patriotic War.

Today, Ukraine is forced to fight in the Second Patriotic War for its freedom and independence against the Russian invaders. And our 90-year-old frail and sick veterans, seeing all this, cry, because they have not forgotten about the combat friendship of Ukrainians and Russians, who bore the main burden of the Great Patriotic War. Our veterans cannot understand — why 70 years after the Great Victory, Ukrainians and Russians, instead of being friends, have turned into enemies and are killing each other. However, the so-called “hybrid war” does not have an ethnic character, as in the ranks of the warring parties, there are ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. This war is a confrontation of two civilizations — European and Eurasian. They want to forcefully impose on us the so-called “Russian world”, while we have our own “Ukrainian world” with its history, culture and language.

Of course, the Great Patriotic War for the younger generation has become history. And today our souls burn with pain when we see tears of mothers burying their sons who sacrificed their young lives for the freedom and independence of our Ukraine.

Russia is going to grandiosely celebrate the 70th anniversary of the “Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945”. At the same time Moscow is silencing in every way the fact that the opposite side of the liberation of Europe from Nazism was imposing of the communist regimes on some countries, mass repressions and deportations. The allies' share in the common victory over Hitler is being downplayed, while cooperation with the Third Reich in 1939-1941, secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, the war crimes of the Red Army during the war, are no longer mentioned.

Today, in the public mind of Russia is actively promoted the idea of ​​rehabilitation of Stalin, who is now referred to as “the talented manager”, while forgetting to add the epithet “bloody”. Annoying as it is, but this idea is supported by the majority of Russian citizens. According to the latest polls of the Levada-center, 45 % of Russians justify Stalin's crimes, 57 % do not consider him a criminal. In 2012, the figure was almost twice less. Without a doubt, these sentiments reflect the pseudo-patriotic hysteria caused by the Russian occupation of the Crimea and the Donbas.

In February 2015, the Communist faction in the State Duma introduced a draft resolution on the return to Volgograd of its old name Stalingrad. The document contains a proposal to name one of the streets and squares in Moscow after Stalin and to erect a monument to him with the caption: “To the Supreme Commander Generalissimo Iosif Stalin to mark the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War”. In June 2014, Russian President V. Putin declared that he was not against the renaming of Volgograd into Stalingrad, but, in his opinion, such a decision should be taken by the local people in a referendum.

However, sometimes we hear single protests against Stalin's rehabilitation. Thus, Professor Nikolai Svanidze, whose grandfather (a relative of Stalin's first wife) was shot in 1937 on Stalin's orders, in his speech at a meeting of the Presidential Council on Human Rights stated that the moral rehabilitation of Stalin would mean a personal insult to millions of people and can lead to a split of the Russian public. Stalin's grandson Yevgeniy Dzhugashvili in an interview with the British edition of the Daily Mail criticized the policy of the current president of Russia V. Putin and condemned the war against Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea, calling the political elite in the Kremlin “thieves”, cynically deceiving the Russians.

The rhetoric of the “Great Patriotic War” is used by Moscow not only to justify its geopolitical encroachments on the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, but also as an attempt to divert the attention of the Russians from Russia's lagging behind in socio-economic development. But why would the Russians not think about the fact that today's GDP of the defeated in 1945 Germany (3.227 trillion US dollars) is significantly higher than the GDP of Russia (2.553 trillion US dollars) whose territory is almost 50 times larger than Germany's territory, not to mention the huge Russian mineral resources? Why don't Russians think about the fact that the budget of Germany (1.626 trillion US dollars) is almost four times the budget of Russia (439 billion US dollars)? For example, according to the CIA's data, German exports in 2013 amounted to 1.493 trillion US dollars, while exports of the huge Russia — only 515 billion US dollars. In the same year, Germany's imports amounted to 1.233 trillion US dollars, while those of Russia — only 341 billion US dollars. And such comparisons can be continued. Those who wish can see them here: (

Is everything so perfectly well in Russia that Putin throws his army to “save” the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine from “Banderites” and “Kyiv junta?” Unfortunately, the Russian people suffer no less, if not more, as compared to the Ukrainian people. To see this, it suffices to read the report of the Russian Agency RiF ( Here are some figures from this report:

Since 1991 until today, Russia's population has declined from 148.5 million to 128 million. Each year, the indigenous population is decreased by 0.7 percent that is by about 1 million. If this trend to reduction of the population continues, by the middle of this century, it will approach 100 million, and 80 years later the Russian ethnos will step over the threshold, after which its restoration will be impossible. In Russia, there are more than 9 million unemployed and 4 million homeless. The number of street children is about 4 million, of homeless — 8-10 million. At least 2 million teenagers  are illiterate, more than 2 million — are orphans. Spending per person on health care in Russia is on average 40 US dollars, while in the United States this figure is 2,400 US dollars. For reasons of criminal nature each year are killed more than 150 000 people.

Up to 40 000 people die each year from the use of low-quality alcohol, and about 30 000 people — of the use of heroin. Every year, about 50 000 people disappear without a trace. Besides, in Russia, there are about 12 million disabled people (almost 10 % of the population!), more than 5 million alcoholics (de facto — up to 15 million), about 3 million drug addicts, 1 million of mentally ill, 1 million of TB patients, 2.5 million of HIV infectees — the first place in the world.

The question arises: why wouldn’t the Russian leadership instead of speculations about the victory over Germany in 1945, take care about the victory over the challenges and problems that have appeared before the Russian society today? Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars on weapons and war against Ukraine, would it not be better to direct those resources to improve the lives of Russian citizens and to leave the Ukrainian people alone?

Most Russian citizens must feel a sense of joy from the fact that Russia has hogged the Crimea and a part of the Donbas. But they do not think about the fact that they have forever lost Ukraine as a friendly and brotherly country. If they believe that shortly Ukraine will be attached to Russia as the south-western Federal District, these hopes are vain. After two Maidans, the Ukrainian people will never give up the freedom and the right to its sovereign state. For 23 years we perceived independence as a gift from God, but it is not. Today, for our independence and our victory we are paying an excessive price by precious lives of our best sons. And we cannot agree to peace at the cost of our national sovereignty.