Each soldier has one, the most difficult battle in his military destiny, and that only point on the map that remains forever in memory. For some, this is the Brest Fortress, for others the Kursk Bulge, Stalingrad, Budapest, Berlin. For many veterans, such a reference point was the defense of Leningrad.
It can be said without exaggeration that during the Great Patriotic War there was no such front, no such army where the Turkmen soldiers would not have fought. Many of them were killed on the battlefields from the North Caucasus to Germany. Quite a few of them remained on the banks of the Neva, defending the wounded, but not surrendered city for almost three years.
A resident of Ashgabat, Habib Mamedyarov, served in one of the parts of the Baltic Military District. The personnel of the unit, raised by alarm, immediately felt the powerful blows of enemy artillery and aviation. Heavy battles began, retreat under the onslaught of superior enemy forces, the threat of encirclement, the first losses of comrades.
For almost a year, Habib Mamedyarov took part in the defense of Leningrad. “The shelling of our positions and the bombing from the air continued continuously,” Habib Aga recalled. – It was not easy to endure all this, but we clung to this earth tightly. There was an order: Leningrad should not be surrendered to the enemy under any circumstances. But the point is not even in the order, but in the fact that we knew in what incredibly difficult conditions the Leningraders who were locked up in the city found themselves, and we understood that to leave them meant to betray”.
In the battle of Strelna, he was seriously wounded in the head. For more than seven months, doctors fought for the life of the young soldier. Having somehow put on his feet, he, along with other wounded along the legendary “Road of Life”, was taken to the mainland. Having barely healed his wounds, Habib began asking to go to the front, but his military card contained a sentence passed by doctors – completely unfit for military service.
For another Ashgabat resident, Bayram Annaberdiyev, the path to the Volkhov front began from Orenburg, where in the middle of 1942 an untrained recruit, along with other cadets, underwent an accelerated course for a young soldier.
In January-February 1943, fierce battles unfolded on the strategically vital sector of the front – the Sinyavinsk Heights, held by the enemy. The Sinyavinsk operation was prepared by the command as a preemptive strike against the enemy, which was preparing to storm Leningrad. The losses of our troops, striving at all costs to defeat the enemy grouping and break the blockade of Leningrad, were enormous.
In one of the battles, signalman Bayram Annaberdiev was wounded in the leg. In the Leningrad hospital he underwent an operation. They saved his leg, but he could not return to duty. “I did not have a chance to fight for long, which I am very sorry about,” said the veteran, “after all, we were all eager to fight back then, but the strong front-line brotherhood, courage and fearlessness of my comrades in arms were remembered for life. The only and dearest award for me reminds of them – the medal “For the Defense of Leningrad”.
Guard sergeant of the 26th separate sapper battalion Konstantin Korshunov got to the Leningrad front in early 1943, in the midst of battles for the city on the Neva. The Leningrad and Volkhov fronts fulfilled their task with honor, and the blockade was partially broken.
“I am grateful to fate that during the Great Patriotic War I had the opportunity to defend the wonderful city on the Neva,” said the veteran. In my soul there is a feeling of deep respect for Leningrad and Leningraders, alive and fallen, who defended the city under the conditions of the fascist blockade and won a victory over the enemy. Of all my awards, the most precious one for me is the medal “For the Defense of Leningrad”. This is an invaluable memory of everything experienced in those distant, but unforgettable years.”
The deed of the soldiers of the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts, the sailors of the Baltic Fleet, the partisans of the region is heroic. But their strength was in indissoluble unity with the entire population of the besieged fortress. Leningraders also fought desperately for their city. Their struggle consisted in the fact that being in the blockade, enduring terrible hardships – hunger, cold, death of relatives and friends, they did not surrender, they survived and won. Only thanks to the dedication and heroism of the Leningraders did they manage to defend the city on the Neva.
The former resident of Leningrad, Tatyana Petrovna Lukyanova, had a chance to survive all 900 days and nights of the siege.
“I was not yet seven years old, when the war began, and the first bombs fell on Leningrad,” Tatyana Petrovna recalled. “Dad was busy all day parsing the rubble of broken houses, my mother worked as a tram driver on a suburban route, came home late and we – older brother, younger sister and I – were on our own.
Gradually, food began to run out, and cards appeared. Workers received 800 grams of bread a day on ration cards, employees – 600, children – 400 grams each. Closer to winter, when the blockade began, this rate was reduced to 125 grams. Sometimes my mother brought home some cabbage and frozen potatoes, which she collected from bombed-out summer cottages, we boiled them in salted water and ate them. And on the tram, my mother no longer carried passengers, but the wounded and killed.
In the winter of 1942, when the next shelling began, my brother and I – he was twelve years old – ran out into the street to hide in a bomb shelter. Mom hesitated, collecting my three-year-old sister. At this time, the shell hit our house. The walls collapsed. The second shell exploded not far from us. I felt a strong blow to my head and passed out.
I woke up in the hospital with a bandaged head. It turns out that a shell fragment, like a razor, took off part of the cranial bone. My mother and brother were nearby. My brother was not hurt, my mother was wounded, but my sister died. Soon my brother was sent to my grandmother, and my mother stayed with me. We spent about a year in the hospital – the wound healed slowly. Here my mother taught me to read, write, count. My brother visited us several times, then he stopped coming. We later learned that he was missing.
Father also came. Once he brought me a doll. We never saw him again. When we were discharged from the hospital, my mother started looking for my father, but people said that he died of dystrophy and was buried in a mass grave. So we stayed with my mother alone. In the hospital, they fed us, and then they settled us in some house on Elagin Island, and I walked around the neighboring yards, collected quinoa. Mom scalded it, added drying oil and made quinoa cutlets. It was impossible to eat them, but there was nothing else.
I found a soldier’s helmet and put it on my still bandaged head – I was afraid that the shell might hit me again. So we lived until the very end of the blockade. When the Road of Life was opened on Ladoga, we were transported to the other side of the lake. The steamer on which we went was pulling three barges with the evacuees behind it. During a raid by German aircraft, two of them were bombed and drowned. On the other side we were met and immediately handed the so-called “Mikoyan ration”. It contained a can of condensed milk, a stew, two kilograms of crackers and even a bar of chocolate. Mom, seeing all this, began to cry. Then we were sent to the deep rear so that we could warm up and heal. So we ended up first in Tashkent, then in Chardzhou, and then in Ashgabat, which became my homeland.”
At the Piskarevskoye cemetery of St. Petersburg, the largest necropolis of the victims of the Great Patriotic War on the planet, 19 natives of Turkmenistan are buried in 186 mass graves. But these are far from complete figures. Under the conditions of the blockade, it was impossible to collect accurate data on all 420 thousand city residents buried here, who died from hunger, bombing and shelling, and 70 thousand soldiers – defenders of Leningrad.
On one of the anniversaries of the battle for Leningrad, the Turkmen delegation brought and handed over lists of Turkmen citizens who died in the defense of Leningrad to the Museum of the Piskarev Memorial Complex. They contain the names of thousands of natives of our country who gave their lives in battles for the cultural capital of Russia, defending the freedom and independence not only of the Union, but of all mankind as a whole.
The ranks of former front-line soldiers are rapidly dwindling every year. What can one do, time is inexorable. But the veterans of that distant war are still alive. On their shoulders lies not only the burden of past years, but also the same soldier’s duffel bags filled with incredible trials, the hardships of front-line roads, the bitterness of the loss of relatives and friends. You look at the old soldiers, and you take pride in how straight they try to hold, with what dignity they wear military awards. They are not used to giving up. They are used to winning.