Once I saw what the “psych-attack” was. It happened in late November 1943, shortly after our arrival in the Yelets area. The Germans were drunk and attacked us in rank with their SMG rattling. All of our wagon train men momentarily skedaddled sitting in their wagons but we remained in the trenches. I shot my rifle killing at least five Germans and I didn’t feel any pity for them.
I’ll start with the head-to-head fighting. The Germans forced their way to our mortar emplacements. Instantly we all, setting aside the mortars, entered into a scuffle. I had luck to come through it. But it was a horror to see how the enemy pierced my friend with bayonet! We managed to hold our positions. Did I kill somebody? I think so. As he fell on me, I struck him with my rifle butt. He fell as if being knocked out, and I ran farther. Who knows, did I kill him or not? Besides, everyone fired endlessly: was it my bullet or someone else’s? Who knows?
Germans grabbed me, started to beat me with rifle butts, knocked out my pistol from my hands, and when I fell down, started to beat me up with their boots. I did not understand everything that they were shouting, because I had other things to mind. Besides that, they were speaking too quickly and did not pronounce the words till the end; they kind of swallowed the endings. But alas, I could well understand the general meaning: “It was him who was shooting! We should kill this swine! But not here, let’s do it behind the barn, there is a hole there.”
One time our own aviation flew over and bombed the Germans with no mercy. I managed to flee in the general chaos. With many precautions I was able to reach Dnepropetrovsk by train. From there I traveled on foot to Novomoskovsk. The town was burnt to the ground but my mother was alive. She hid me in the hayloft, because the Germans were shooting all new arrivals. Two weeks later the local partisan-underground members...
In the summer of 1944, I once again experienced the desperate hell of war. The temperature was up to 30C. To attack, it was necessary for us to go through the woods where Germans had set up obstructions, which they set on fire as we approached. The flames were as if in a blast-furnace. The caustic smoke caused pain that "ate away" at my eyes…And in this nightmare, in addition to being under enemy bombardment, I - the gun layer - had to aim precisely!