I need to mention an episode that hasn’t been recorded in military history. Konigsberg [today Kaliningrad, Russia] was encircled twice. The first time, and we participated in it, was a breakthrough to Zalmanskiy peninsula. We advanced to the sea west of Konigsberg cutting it from Pilau where the Germans had several tank units. They attacked, captured many prisoners and came back to Konigsberg. I need to mention here that while our aviation bombed military facilities and utilities, the Americans and British raged on cluster bombings of the towns that were to belong to us after the war. They destroyed Dresden this way and bombed Konigsberg. We were in a town near Koningsberg before Germans repositioned themselves in Konigsberg. The allies didn’t drop bombs on this town and all German elite took shelter in it.
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When we came into this town, there were civilians in it. We had never met any before. Peaceful citizens usually left the towns before we entered there, but here we broke into a living German organism. I didn’t care about women then. Besides, nobody raped my wife or killed my children, but there were older soldiers who had information that their wives had been raped by the Germans or their wives and children had been killed. They began to take revenge on German women. I don’t think there were more than 20 percent of the German women left who weren’t raped in this town. The soldiers destroyed and ruined everything. I saw them throwing down a grand piano listening to its clinking. It didn’t occur to them that it would be all ours in the end. They burned everything. They sensed the victory. If they had saved every house on our territory because it was ours, there, on the German land, they wreaked vengeance on Germans. ‘Let’s set this house on fire and I will get warm nearby.’
I remember our troops seizing a railway station where there were trains with valuables that Germans had taken to this station. There were a few railcars with Swiss watches. Our soldiers took five to ten watches each. I didn’t need a watch, so I took a box full of Zeiss binoculars and stereo tubes with periscope features. These were valuable trophies for my intelligence activities. While we were in this town, we didn’t know what was happening in the rear, and at this time Germans troops broke back to Konigsberg. We were ordered to move in the assigned direction, when we bumped into a commandant’s platoon. ‘Who are you?’. We began to explain that we were from the frontline observation point and that we had got the order to return to our unit. They took us to the commandant office to clarify the circumstances and put us into a cellar with cupboards full of delicious food. There was silver tableware on the table in the middle of the cellar. This had probably been a hotel or a café before.
We took to drinking and eating, when we heard some noise and cracking sounds upstairs. The door opened and our commanding officer and the commandant came in. He pretended to speak in a threatening voice ‘What are you doing here? Eating? The battery is fighting and you are fooling around here? Rush to the battery location!’ We were sorry to leave the spot, but moved to the position of the battery. By the way, we left there on time since the Germans went on their attack: their two groupings that we had split before united and they occupied Konigsberg and the town where we had stayed before.
There were many battles and attacks before we broke through to the sea and proceeded to Konigsberg and fought it back in April. For the attack on Konigsberg I was awarded the Order of the Red Star . Then there was the Zalmanskiy peninsula and fortress Pilau. This was a historical fortress. There were huge marine cannons there. During our attack on Konigsberg we had an inconvenient position to support our infantry. We couldn’t see the positions of the enemy. Our commander ordered me to move onto the territory of the enemy and shoot air rockets in the direction of the positions that were to be destroyed. There was an artillery preparation and Germans were hiding away. I went on this task with my radio operator.
After fulfilling the task we hardly managed to escape from there. Later this radio operator perished. I usually went on my intelligence tasks with a radio operator. Three of my radio operators perished during the war. One was hit by a mine and smashed to pieces, there were no remains left to bury; another operator perished in the tank brigade near Pilau. This battle was called ‘Landing troops on armor’. I was sitting on the tank beside my radio operator to send messages about our whereabouts, when a shell exploded near us. He was killed and I just fell off and wasn’t even wounded. He was a skilled carpenter. When a soldier had been killed before, this man made him a coffin and a grave pillar with a star. He said back then, ‘Here we bury him while there will be nobody to make a decent burial for me’, and indeed it happened so. I put him aside, we threw stones over him, marked the spot on the map and moved on to Konigsberg.
I didn’t have any fear during the attack. I was young and had no children. Besides, I had been in the war for some time. I used to feel fear in Belarus and in Smolensk region during bombings and air raids, when we were defenseless. There were bombs falling on you and the soil hitting you from all around. It wasn’t just fear, it was the feeling of hopelessness, when you look for a hiding, but there is none. An attack is different. When I had been wounded in my hands I felt like running forward and tearing everything apart with my teeth, though I couldn’t even hold weapons. Any of us felt the same. We attacked shouting ‘Hurrah! There! Go forward!’, or advanced in silence. When we came closer when we could see Germans we began to shout to scare them and it worked: they left their trenches retreating – it was scaring when a brutal crowd moved on them. I joined the Party at the front.