The sky of Stalingrad.
"In August, our 15th cadet rifle brigade, exclusively youth in composition (18 = 22-year-old Red Army men), transferred from under Lyudinovo to the northern outskirts of Stalingrad (Orlovka village, Gorodishche, Tractor Factory), took defensive positions, where bloody deadly battles for every meter of our land soon began.It should be noted that the brigade companies and battalions were considerably replenished at Ludinovo with young Kaluga conscripts.
Enemy aviation dominated the air, inflicting monstrous destruction on the city, claiming hundreds and thousands of lives of civilians who had not managed to evacuate. Stalingrad on fire and smoke screens. Houses, factories, warehouses were burning, everything that burns and does not burn. Black-brown, red clouds of smoke, ashes, dust clouded the sky.
Pictures of the military actions of that distant pore are well remembered and clearly seen, as if everything that happened five decades ago was just recently. But the names of many of my military friends, commanders were forgotten, erased in memory. Sorry!
The rugged terrain — the valleys of the Orlovka and Mokraya Mechetka rivers, deep ravines, and steep ravines — did not contribute to the German offensive actions: their tanks could not support their infantry with all their might.
And with the German infantry battalions of our brigade fought bravely, fiercely, not yielding to the enemy their positions. I do not want to exaggerate the resilience and heroism of the 15th warriors. Neighboring divisions and brigades also fought tenaciously.
I, a connected sapper company, initially ran, contacted the commanders of platoons of my company, and then with the companies and battalions of the brigade. “Immediately to the 1st battalion!”, “Dig a shelter to the 2nd platoon!”, “Mine the road to the tractor!” - such teams are almost round the clock. And at night I was dragging mines, twisting and putting barbed wire, digging trenches with my platoon.
As a spring, cowering and unclenching, the forward breathed, retreating and advancing alternately. Once learned: the 3rd battalion was surrounded. The heart sank to pain: will they survive, will the guys survive? And six days later the news: 200 people left the encirclement - one company. The rest fell on the battlefield.
Pala Orlovka, in the fire and smoke with. Settlement.Soon both the 1st and 2nd battalions suffered the fate of the environment. Heroically fighting, bleeding, they, having broken off the German ticks, with heavy losses, but left the encirclement.
Our losses are great, but the Germans also suffered a fair amount of damage. Hold on! To the surprise of the Germans and all - held out! From the second half of September they ate dry rations: the company’s kitchen was broken by a direct bomb hit.
Sometimes it was forgotten when gnawed “kerz” - salted pressed barley tile-briquette. The only water source, the Mokraya Mechetka River, is stirred up by explosions of bombs and shells, in some places littered with the corpses of soldiers of the belligerent parties. Neither we nor the Germans had time to bury the dead.
Endless artillery shelling from guns of various calibers, gnashing their “Vanyush”, our “Katyush” flood game, the rattling of machine guns, machine guns, rifles merged into a continuous stunning roar and hum. And here "Heinkels", "Messerschmidts" - infections, hung over our heads, diving, turned on sirens of different voices, inducing fear and horror. Nerves strained to the limit. And at night the battles did not subside.
I wanted to sleep terribly, because of fatigue and insomnia I fell to my feet. But only the team "Messenger!" - eyes opened, and I stood in front of the administration, receiving the next task. For days and hours spitting: in the mouth, on the teeth of sand, earth.When bombing and shelling opened his mouth, as we were taught, so as not to burst the eardrum.
Together with us, who came straight from the machine tools, the workers of the tractor factory fought. “Will there really be no help for us? Battalions, companies are melting before our eyes,” such thoughts sometimes occurred to me. Both the Red Army and junior commanders asked their superiors: "Where are our reserves? The forces are running out!" No response was received.
After the death of our company commander, the immediate command of the remnants of the platoons fell on the chief of the engineering service of the brigade of Major Ryabov - a dense, tall Siberian, intelligent, courageous and Olympic calm commander, he often paced a large heavy portfolio, giving instructions and commands where and how mine what! barrage. "A bullet in the gorge! - this is his team. - Stop the work! Take the platoon to the high-rise ..."
Yesterday I was with him in this deep narrow ravine, where today a platoon was digging, building, equipping a shelter for the brigade headquarters, running a headlong piece of paper in order, on the go thinking how to quickly get to the specified place.
Ran up - there is no gorge! A few minutes ago, German aviation bombed ita place. Two huge ton bombs, which landed in the edges of the ravine, closed it, burying twenty sappers alive. Only three dug up.
I remember the case of the action of Stalin's order number 227. Climbing up, we quickly go along the slope of the ravine: in front of Major Ryabov, I skip behind him. Send out Rugged terrain. There was a battle on the right: machine guns cracked, mines exploded, shells, sirens of diving "Junkers" howled over their heads.
From behind the bushes, a lieutenant emerged from a detachment: checking passes. The major nodded at me: - This one is with me! At the same time, a Red Army soldier, bloodied, without a cap, ran at us and shouted with all his might: - Germans !! Tanks !! Save yourself !! Another warrior stumbled behind him. Two hundred meters along the edge of the ravine slope three German tanks were moving, shelling our positions.
The lieutenant, without hesitation, snatched the TT from the holster and put the running wounded man at close range with a shot. He stretched out at our feet. The second fighter, seeing a picture of the execution of his comrade, stopped, turned around and slowly reluctantly ran back.
I remember that in a few days of exhausting battles in front of the Tractor Settlement, the soldiers remaining from the brigade could not stand it, retreated, and left a famous high-rise.We were all upset, depressed, the brigade commander - especially. He wrote a note: "Hold on until the morning!". And what will happen in the morning? Are we going to have reinforcements? Or some other help?
Candleco quickly. I knew the way to my guys well. Gone. Where possible, ran, where necessary, crawled. And yet a sense of fear engulfed me — our trenches, but no one in them. And suddenly: "Stop! Who is going ?!" "Own!" I was overjoyed.
What happened? The Germans, capturing the high-rise, celebrated the victory. As they told me later, along with the machine-gun bursts from the side of the enemy came a crazed laugh, spillage of harmonica and cries: "Rus, surrender!" Alcohol has joined their celebration. The Germans clearly overestimated their strength and capabilities.
After assessing the situation, the senior sergeant Karzhavin (his name was not forgotten) organized the surprise counterattack. With shouts of "Hurray!", But with grenades in their hands, the Red Armymen rushed at the mad Germans.
Those just did not expect such a blow and impudence, could not stand the battle - they ran shamefully. Vysotka again became ours. Here are good trophies: weapons, ammunition, food. Some of the food and I got: bread, sausage ... schnapps.
The first frost. Along the Volga floated "fat" - small ice floes. Snowflakes appeared in the air. But we were not cold. The Germans did not stop attacks against defenders of the "Northern bridgehead".
When once again I crawled over to our northerly Spartan men, they reported good news: Soviet troops took Stalingrad into the ring! The army of Paulus is surrounded.
- Wait, we will be happy later! - the sergeant most seriously warned us. From today, from now on, all of us and you, ”he nodded in my direction,“ we must be especially vigilant and cautious. The Germans could still throw out different forts ... "
Heinz Schroeter, war correspondent of the 6th Army:
"In the basement of the building of the merchant Simonovich lay eight hundred soldiers, leaning against the walls or directly on the floor in the center of the damp rooms. People lay on the steps and filled the aisles, while no one considered the one who had any rank or position - insignia with the them like dry leaves from trees.
In the basement of Simonovich their life course ended, and if differences still existed between them, then they consisted in the degree of injury and the number of hours, how many people could live.There were differences in how a particular soldier died.
On the stairs, someone was dying of diphtheria, and three were lying next to them, who had long been dead, just that nobody noticed because it was dark. A non-commissioned officer shouted behind him, who was tormented by thirst and pain: his tongue, hot like a piece of iron, fell out of his mouth, and his feet had already begun to rot.
On the wall of the central cellar in the tin burned a wick that smelled. It smelled of kerosene, rotten blood, burnt human flesh, old pus and decaying bodies. All this was mixed with the smell of iodoform, sweat, excrement and impurities.
The stale air pressed on the heart and lungs, had a tick in my throat, many suffered nauseous hiccups, tears appeared in their eyes. The skin blistered and peeled off the bodies like husks; stricken with tetanus, people screamed like beasts - on the body formed abscesses and fungi.
Someone choked, someone had paralyzed his breath, another was shaking in a fever, called his wife, cursed the war and appealed to the Lord God. People died from typhus, pneumonia and infections.
In the corner, a corporal with a distended stomach and swollen legs was dying, dying silently, not asking for help, not moving, with open eyes and arms crossed on his chest.On the other side of the entrance, behind the stairs, a young soldier of twenty years beat on the floor, foam appeared on his lips, and his eyes rotated wildly, but he soon calmed down - death saved him from convulsions and pain.
There was nothing, and if anyone had food, he fearfully hid it - in the darkness of these basements, human life was not worth a piece of bread. Only those who are hungry once and who know and know what a crumb of bread means can understand this.
The most terrible were lice, which bit into the skin and penetrated into wounds, depriving people of sleep. They covered human bodies and remnants of clothing with thousands, and only after death or fever began, did they leave the body, like running rats leaving a sinking ship.
The disgusting, teeming mass of these creatures got over to those who lay nearby and were still alive and firmly settled in a new place. And there was no one who could help this unfortunate.
Where it was possible, the dead were carried into the courtyard or piled as logs in a crater from an exploding bomb. Once a doctor appeared in the cellars of Simonovich, but he simply sought refuge during a bombing attack that began at the moment when he was heading to his “own” basement, where he was also waited and called as here.True, he himself could not help everyone - suffering and pain was too much.
The one whose brain was still working could have guessed when his end would come, and at the same time he knew that it was pointless to shout and make noise, and also to resist. Actually, to whom or what to resist?
Many died, and before anyone noticed that his neighbor was already dead, hours and days went by. Since no one could stand the bodies, they were passed from one to another, rolling like bags through people who could still climb, through the whole room, walkways, mountains of rags and stench.
So the corpses reached the wall, where they were squeezed into the hole, from where they rolled into the crater of a two hundred and fifty kilogram bomb. In the funnel already lay hundreds of corpses, among which were still warm bodies, but they belonged to those who no longer had the strength to make any sounds.
Before entering the basement of Simonovich, others were already waiting and, if possible, they tried to enter the premises, and none of them were surprised that no one had ever left the basement on their own - they still tried to enter it.
They did not count the dead and did not remove their personal signs from them, only occasionally looked into their bags in the hope of finding some bread there.None of the novices was interested in what a particular soldier died from — the main thing was that people died quickly, and for those who waited outside in the icy wind, this meant that another place was freed up every time.
They died not only in the cellars of Simonovich, they died everywhere. A wave of agony swept through tired, exhausted bodies of people; they were no longer afraid of anything.
In the basements there was neither fear nor panic, and here they did not have to be witnesses of how discipline falls among the staff officers there, on the surface. In the basements, they no longer had a finger on the trigger and were no longer sitting in their ice holes, like those who had run out of the last bullets.
Those who managed to escape from the Stalingrad ring and return home, in their thoughts and memories will often return at that terrible time and at rest, closing their eyes, listen internally to hear the song of the steppe.
This song sounds gentle and sonorous, like a slight wobble of dragonfly wings or a weak, gentle sound that will be heard if it is easy to put your finger along smoothly ground glass. The melody of the steppe sounds sweet and alluring and at the same time sad.
Listening to the sounds of this melody, one can imagine blue sky and bright sun, as well as the shadow of clouds and lightning - all this is similar to the music of Mozart, in which the blessed blue sky laughs over silvery chords until a gust of cold wind lifts from the ground fallen leaves and will not throw them on your joyous tables.
Many people know this song of the steppes: it was often listened to during the day, when the air above the steppe was filled with humming and shimmering heat, it was listened to in the evening hours, when myriads of mosquitoes danced in the air during the last days of October, when autumn hurricanes raged over the steppe , and when in the motionless and silent winter nights the quiet sounds of death reached people, and when black shadows of wolves wandered in the pale light of the moon, they listened to it later, when nothing moved except light snowflakes circling over the fields, ok utannyh deadly silence.