Maria Stepanovna Nidilko

By winter of 1941 the city upon Neva was tightly encircled. I was among its defenders till the very end of the blockade: I built defensive ridges, provided medical assistance to the injured by bombings and destruction. At my request in August 1941 Dzerzhinsky district military comissariat sent me to nursery classes, and by March 1941 I was already at the Leningrad Front. Together with 286th regiment of the former 90th SD as a medical instructor of a scout detachment I walked my battle path to the day of Victory. Together with my front line friends I took part I lifting the Siege of Leningrad, liberated Baltic republics, took part in storming the German fortress of Koenigsberg, where I was wounded, but soon returned to the regiment to liberate Poland, force Vistula and capture Berlin.
The first baptism of fire was the raid of the scout group into enemy positions in order to find out the system of firing emplacements and capture a “tongue”. The group had been active within enemy positions for 3 days, and the mission was accomplished. During a skirmish my fellow countryman, Mikhail Nikitin, was severely wounded. He was the first soldier I ever carried away on my back.
I recall many episodes, yet I’ll never forget the battle, for which I received the medal “For Courage”. In the battle for the German city of Grabau, our soldiers had to fight with large forces of desperately resisting Germans.
The city was abandoned six times, and six times our fighters went on the offensive again. A lot of wounded were delivered to my front line medical facility. This place was all shot through, wounded fighters were dying. I carried them over to a German church to save them from shells and bullets. Being preoccupied with the wounded, I hadn’t noticed our men were forced to retreat.
I looked – there were Germans all around… What could I do? There was only one escape – to defend ourselves. I bolted the door. Several wounded soldiers and I prepared for an uneven combat. The Germans, upon finding us, tried to break into the church. We opened SMG fire in response. I tried to make aimed shots. The handful of soldiers and wounded wouldn’t have survived, had our men not come to aid us in time – there really are some lucky minutes at war, especially, when in the most critical moment amidst the thunder of shell bursts there starts escalating a mighty battle “Hurra”!
And in a few days after that they created a group consisting of “T-34” tanks, scouts, submachinegunners and sappers for the preparation of a breakthrough into German defense lines. The group was given the task to carry out a reconaissance by force mission and break through his defense.
In a daring and sudden strike the group broke through the front ridge of enemy defense and went deep into enemy rears. There we engaged in a heavy battle with numerically superior enemy forces. The situation was critical: the tanks were hit, people were dying, a lot of wounded, including the commander of scout group Kudryavtsev – his leg was torn away. Only two of all survived: me and our radio operator Victor Sytchev. We decided to call artillery fire upon ourselves. A sudden squall of fire scattered the Germans. Soon the regiment, having extended the gap, rescued the fighters. I was awarded with the Order of Glory, 3rd Grade for taking part in this battle. In the course of fighting at different parts of the front I carried away and saved lives of 257 fighters.

Translated by:Alexander Shmidke


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