To all who celebrate, Happy Easter, and I hope that everyone is staying safe and well! This week I want to talk about how the Soviets managed to prevail during World War II, specifically focusing on the willpower and patriotism of the Soviet people.
The Soviet people were game changers during World War II, men, women, soldiers, and civilians were willing to sacrifice everything for the fight. “By the time the war was over 8.6 million Soviet troops and at least 17 million civilians had been killed. Twenty-five million survivors were homeless…The war had destroyed 1,700 towns, 70,000 villages, 30,000 factories, and 65,000 kilometres of railway” (Freeze 392). It’s hard for us now to imagine this level of absolute devastation and reading about this makes you wonder how a country could come out on the other side victorious and how the people were continuously willing to fight.
We can get a sense of this ‘how’ through memoirs of the Soviet people. Natalia Peshkova was a medic during World War II, and at one point her memoir details the shortage of food that her unit faced after her first battle. They dug up frost-bitten potatoes to eat, and one time after finding a broken truck, they discovered gasoline-soaked cookies – of which one of her friends ate out of hunger. Despite these conditions, and what is key here, is that Peshkova details the patriotism that was felt – stating “Patriotism was a real thing, not an exaggeration. Every one of us fought for our Motherland.”
Another memoir is that of Klavdia Kalugina. The war began when Kalugina was only 15, and she went to work at the “Respirator” munitions factory in Orekhovo-Zuevo. On days that she was off of work, she was required to attend classes for her secondary education. After she finished this secondary education, she volunteered to go to a sniper school at the age of 17 and was the youngest one who attended. While at the school, she became partners and friends with Marusia Chikvintseva, and they along with other girls were sent to the front lines on March 1, 1944. Throughout her memoir she details different battles she was a part of, how they usually slept on the ground, freezing, how they shot from the trenches, what their relations were like with the local people, and how the local people would sometimes invite them to dinner. What was so striking about Kalugina’s memoir, to me, was how she discussed her partner, Chikvintseva. Kalugina talks about how partners were always next to each other, at arm’s length, together all the time, so obviously you would form a strong bond with that partner. Unfortunately, Chikvintseva was killed while on watch, and Kalugina says, “I live for her now.” To me, this was so striking because it shows the camaraderie that was felt between the Soviet people fighting this war, and it illustrates the willpower that the Soviets had to have felt to continue on. They were fighting for each other and for their country.
The answer to these questions according to Freeze is, “Revulsion from the barbarism of the Nazis was certainly one motivation. On a deeper level, however, there was a sense that the war was a national struggle. For millions of people the war was for the survival of Russia…most of those who waged war did so not because they wanted to preserve the Soviet Union as it was, but in the hope that it would soon evolve into something better” (391-392). Both these memoirs and what is written in Freeze’s book illustrate how this war was truly won by the Soviet people. Through their willpower during hard-fought battles and the patriotism felt by all Soviet citizens, soldiers or civilians, the Soviets were able to prevail over the Nazis, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.
До следующего раза,