Great Victory in faces: Front-line Female Friends

Great Victory in faces: Front-line Female Friends

There are many songs and poems written about the Great Patriotic War, and their authorship mostly belongs to men. There are not so many “female” poems about the war, but they are no less, and sometimes more perceant and accurate.

I’ve only seen hand-to-hand combat once,

Once in reality, and a thousand times in a dream.

Who says that the war is not terrible,

He knows nothing about the war.

The wonderful poet Yulia Drunina wrote so. There aren’t female roles at war, but when an enemy comes to your home, the whole family defends it. That is why we look with special respect at the orders and medals that women veterans of the Great Patriotic War wear along with men on Victory Day.

Almost forty years ago, a group of Ashgabat women – former front-line soldiers – decided to prove that the song “Veterans Do Not Grow Old in Their Souls” is not just beautiful words. So there was a club “Front-line Female Friends”. What did they unite? Memories of the past war? Not only. They were brought together by their general youth – the most splendid time, which, lackaday, fell on these harsh years.

Thereupon, they, eighteen-twenty-year-old girls would go to dances, try on new clothes, run on dates, sew wedding dresses. But they put on rough military uniforms and not to the rhythm of a tango or waltz, but to the sound of artillery cannonade in military formation moved where there were not jokes and laughter, but where there was blood, sweat and tears.

They all had the same fate. Olenka – Olga Afanasyevna Evseeva served as a paramedic, participated in the battle of Stalingrad, and Katenka – Ekaterina Ilinichna Vovk was a nurse during the war, and Sashenka – Alexandra Grigoryevna Erofeeva served as a signalwoman. Olga Mihailovna Pogrebnaya was also a signalwoman. Asya Grigoryevna Grabor served in the railway troops, and Yulia Kuzminichna Plotnikova – the club’s chairwoman, was engaged in field mail during the war as part of the 3rd guard tank army of the First Ukrainian Front. I almost reached Berlin. Vera Evlampievna Anpilogova experience the horrors of the Mauthausen concentration camp. At the very beginning of the war, fascists shepherded her with other compatriots to labor to Germany. And this is not all members of the club.

Soon after the “Frontline female friends” club creation, its members became desired and honored guests at schools and military units of the capital and suburbs, at enterprises and institutions of Ashgabat. The front-line female soldiers had a lot to tell the young people. Then, it was born an idea to create a choir. At first they sang songs about the Great Patriotic War, then the musician Viktor Petrovich Vasin entered the club and offered his female friends songs based on his poems and music. Thus, the songs “Memories of Front-line Female Friends”, “Turkmenistan” and others appeared in the club’s repertoire.

The “Frontline female friends” club was not the only one in Ashgabat. The “Veteran” club uniting war and labor veterans, was also popular. Ekaterina Ivanovna Peryga led the club. The life of this remarkable woman, who passed along the roads from Tula to Berlin, and her romantic love story are worthy of special attention.

“From early childhood, I was restless, mischievous, active, – recalled Ekaterina Ivanovna. – I wanted to experience everything, prove myself everywhere. When the Great Patriotic War began, my father said, “That’s where you belong with your energy.”

He said, of course, in jest: what father would agree to let his only daughter, who had just graduated from school, go into the heat of war. Without knowing it, he hit the nail on the head. Soon Katya Grigorieva came to the military enlistment office in Kaluga and asked to go to the front line.

“What can you do?” asked the military commissar.

Perhaps by that time the only thing Katya could do was to sing. As a child, she sang in the choir of the Palace of Pioneers, and when she was elder – in the orchestra of the Kaluga House of Culture of Railway Workers. She informed the military Commissar about this. By that time, there were widely known the words of the commander of the Western Front, Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, who said that “the front needs songs like a soldier – makhorka”. Under the political administration of the 10th army, it was organized an orchestra, and Katya became its soloist. She sang in blindages, dug-outs, in trenches on the front line.

On unpredictable front-line roads, she met her fate, the first and only love – Lieutenant of the Polish Army Vladislav Perygu. It was in 1943. They have been together ever since. In order not to separate the young couple, a command of the division Vladislav Peryga served in asked to transfer Katya to the Polish Army, where a jazz band was created specifically for her. So, Katya reached Berlin with the Polish army.

After the war, Ekaterina Ivanovna and Vladislav Stanislavovich lived in Poland for a while, then moved to Turkmenistan, where they remained forever. Vladislav Stanislavovich ended his military service as Lieutenant Colonel. Ekaterina Ivanovna had been teaching typewriting children for more than twenty years at the Ashgabat school # 12.

The years have flown past… Ekaterina Ivanovna retired, but remained as active as she had been her whole life. The energy needed to be released. So the “Veteran” club was born. The club’s main task was to unite veterans of war and labor, not to let them sink into loneliness and despondency, but on the contrary – to feel like a big family, to remain in the soul same old girls as they were many years ago. Poetry evenings, competitions, and concerts to which they invited schoolchildren, military personnel, and students were invariably successful.

“What is the secret of your indomitable life energy?” I asked Ekaterina Ivanovna once.

“There is no secret, she smiled. – Just love life, enjoy and appreciate it. To see everything only in black, to look at the world with despondency and longing, means to consciously shorten your years. And another thing: you need to be kind to people. Looking back at my life, I can say with confidence: life is a gorgeous thing. She granted me beautiful, smart, wonderful people. Whatever happens, you have to overcome the difficulties.”

Time, lackaday, takes its toll. There is only a handful of front-line friends. Veterans are departing, but they leave undefeated – women who endured along with men all the hardships of the past war, and men who defended their land, their home and their loved ones.

Vladimir ZAREMBO