Leningrad, 31.12.1941: Driver’s Feat

Leningrad residents who survived the blockade have a special feeling of remembering even small everyday joys, but especially – New Year holidays, when in the most cruel conditions people remained true to the tradition of greeting the New Year, which gave hope for the revitalisation of life.

The decision of the Leningrad Executive Committee from 23.12.1941 (protocol No. 57, point 33) appeared with a signature stamp “Very urgent”, “About the organisation of New Year trees”.

  • “Lenpromtrest” [Leningrad Industrial Trust – ed] needed to harvest a thousand trees
  • “Lenglavrestoran” [Main Directorate of Leningrad Canteens, Restaurants, and Cafes – ed] was obliged to provide children with lunches on the holiday (without cutting out coupons from food cards).

… The New Year cargo to the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga came late, and therefore it was necessary to deliver it to Leningrad as soon as possible. Boxes with the inscription “Children of heroic Leningrad” in which there were mandarins, were entrusted to the experienced driver, Sergeant Major Maksim Emelyanovich Tverdokhleb.

The car went from Kobona to the ice in the evening twilight on December 31st.

Suddenly 9 German aircraft were seen in the sky. Two of them went on the attack. The driver stopped. They flew by… Tverdokhleb’s first victory gave him confidence.

For the second attack, the planes already turned on the sirens, there was a rain of bullets, but the manoeuvre was again successful. Zigzagging, twisting, the car continued to move. The planes changed the direction of their attacks, they went in alone and in pairs, but the 1.5 ton stubbornly went forward, no matter what.

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The cargo in the back was jumbled up, the rear wheels were punctured, the steering was damaged, the face of the driver was cut by fragments of the windshield, blood filled his eyes, but the truck went on and on, writing its name and the name of the driver in gold letters in the history of the Leningrad blockade.

Either the planes ran out of ammunition or something else, but they left.

When the truck arrived at the place, Tverdokhleb could not immediately liberate his hands, which had been wrapped around what was once a steering wheel with all his strength. Comrades took him out of the cockpit and provided first aid.

The authorities counted 49 holes in the car.

The urgent cargo for children’s New Year holidays on the night of December 31st 1941 had arrived in Leningrad.

On January 1st 1942, the blockaded children at the New Year party received as a gift aromatic mandarins, heroically delivered to Leningrad on the Road of Life by the legendary driver and Sergeant Major Maksim Emelyanovich Tverdokhleb.

This publication uses the materials of the Central City public library of V. V. Mayakovsky, St. Petersburg, V. Voskoboynikov’s books “900 days of courage”, and S. Kotov’s books “Children’s homes of besieged Leningrad”.

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