Lyubov Pakhomova

June 1941. Passed my last exam for the first year of education in the institute. Inexpressible joy, dreams, hopes. And suddenly – the war started! Like everything was torn down: life, hopes, love.

I got a call-up paper from my district military comissariat: I was directed to evacohospital № 3321 to Saraktash station in Orenburg province. This evacohospital consisted of two old horses… We had very few stretchers, so we had to carry the wounded on our hands. We also had to bring water from the well, light the stoves, heat water, wash blooded bandages. Endless bandagings and wound treatment. And on nights there was weighing of meager rations: bread, butter and sugar. For the wounded. We starved terribly then. We had very little strength left. Cold was taking us over and pursued us everywhere. But we didn’t lose our spirit. We did almost the impossible, and yet saved the lives of the wounded.
I got a repeated call-up paper from the comissariat. On March, 9 1943 I arrived to the district military comissariat in Orenburg. I was immediately directed to the 1-st Ukrainian front – to the 1-st Guards Army, 127-th Guards Division, 549-th rifle regiment. That was the moment my front line service started from. The division was always on the offensive – Donbass was being liberated! There was heavy fighting, with large losses. About 5 thousand soldiers died in the battle of Dusekoe village. The infantry… Few can stay alive if they fight in infantry ranks. The infantry… I painfully recollect as I had to rip away foot wrappings from frozen boots, all dried with blood. My tears ran and head was dizzy with pain. And here went the order: a thrust march for 50 kilometers, and right on the move, without a slightest break – enter the battle!
The battle – it’s when everything starts burning and exploding all around you, and they start shooting from everywhere. And I bandage, tie garrots, and then drag the wounded one and his weapon back to the rears as far as possible, for no more wounds would occur. Because of such weight it seems like everything living is being pulled out of you by a hook… In the end of the battle silence sets in for a short time. Finally you’re feeling you stayed alive. I look around: the earth is steaming, black smoke laying over the battlefield. And – oh, my God! – how many killed and wounded are there! Hair starts raising…
I wasn’t able to help my front line comrades in one battle. I still feel the pain of my helplessness. And that’s how it happened.
Ours started the attack, but it got “choked”. Then four T-34 tanks were sent to support the infantry. Everyone was joyous. And all out of a sudden – there were four great torches: the fascists hit all our tanks! No one scrambled out of three tanks at all. And a fiery ball rolled out of the last, fourth one… The Germans opened a storm of fire on him. I rushed to the burning tanks from the trench, but the soldiers stopped me and dragged me down: there was no one to help already…
I thought I would go mad: my first best school friend and fiance lieutenant Yevgeny Ivanovich Domeratsky was burning in the tank, and I couldn’t help him at all. Since that time I hate seeing tanks and I don’t go to veterans’ meeting in Prokhorovka. With the passage of years I recall those battles, the blood and my friend’s death. The pain still doesn’t wane!
Infantry regiments liberated more and more villages and settlements. We were all struck with fascist atrocities: we pulled corpses of the murdered out of wells, burnt, crippled children, that looked more like old people; we brought children out of barns, mercilessly torn apart along with their mothers. The men were breaking down, so how could I endure it?.. And standing by these corpses I swore: if I happen to stay alive, after the war I would work only with children!
… Our regiment cut off the highway to Proskurov. There was plenty of enemy materiel and ammo. The Germans wanted to clear the way for retreat at all costs. Battle disposition was changing with lightning speed.
The regimental medical company (senior doctor – major Shmulevich) was deployed in Krasnopavlovka village. Behind the village there were two hills, and between them in a deep valley – a narrow-gauge railway and a brick booth of a railroad serviceman. Our regiment entrenched on one of those hills. And all the space below was occupied with German tanks, some of which were dug into ground – for direct fire.
A terrible battle started. Three days of this horrifying carnage yielded nothing. Just a lot of wounded and dead. Guards Lieutenant colonel Trofim Iosifovich Ilchenko arrived to the front line to elaborate on the situation. He got wounded. I crawled up to him to give my assistance, and as I touched my medic’s bag, at was as if the sky fell upon me…
When I came up to my senses, I saw two young soldiers-grooms. They bandaged my hand with something, and then dragged me down the slope to the valley, and laid in some kind of a booth.
After the battle I saw terrible pictures that still don’t let me rest – human limbs and intestines laying all around, and piles of breathless crippled bodies…
In the time of a break in battle, we quickly organized the delivery of the wounded to the rears. A little carriage could take only two wounded men. I sat by the driver. We got to some house which was literally stuffed with the wounded. I was placed on a narrow short cot by the stove. The hellish pain did not abate. They hadn’t been sending us to the hospital for three days, and three days I could hardly restrain my moaning: the pain was intolerable…
Finally they sent us to Shepetovka in the night, and after – further, to Kiev. The hospital was located in a polytecnical institute. There were quite young girls without lags and arms. They stared at us with envy: we could walk, we still had our arms , although they were damaged…
Every night Kiev was mercilessly bombed. The girls, absolutely deprived of the ability to move, wept and screamed of the realization of their helplessness. And every night the hospital commissar approached them and consoled them as he only could.
In the beginning of April 1944 we were evacuated to Essentuki. I’d been recovering until July 1944. After signing out of the hospital I was deemed unfit for further military service: in the age of 22 I became an invalid.

Translated by:Alexander Shmidke


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