Moscow, Siberia, Ukraine: Three Stories of One Family’s Heroes of the Victory

When politicians with low social responsibility say that Soviet soldiers went into battle with the Nazis almost with chekist rifles to their heads, and only UPA militants “ideologically” fought for Ukraine, we, responsible citizens of Ukraine, are very astonished.

We are astonished because in each of our families someone fought against fascist aggression either at the frontline or in the rear, but at the Soviet frontline and in the Soviet rear, not in the ranks of UPA. They fought selflessly and ideologically, defending both their native land and a social structure that in modern Ukraine can result in a prison term if one promotes.

I am very grateful to “” for letting me share with its readers the stories of heroes of my family who did defeated Nazism, and didn’t reconcile with it.

From Moscow to Warsaw

Volkov Iosef Pavlovich, my paternal grandfather, was born in 1900 in Simferopol. In 1918 he went to the frontlines of the civil war and served in the Red Army until 1927. In 1934-1936 he was again in the Red Army, but this time in the Far East. The Great Patriotic War finds him in Moscow and again – in battle on the Kaliningrad Front as a technician-quartermaster of the 1st rank, a regimental engineer of the 43rd guards rifle regiment.

“On 15.01.1942, under the command of comrade Volkov,” it is stated in the award list from 17.07.1942, “intelligence near the village of Veliky (near Andreapol) destroyed 40 fascists. Reconnaissance was carried out in difficult conditions, the fire of the enemy did not allow it to advance. Without regard to this, comrade Volkov, inspiring soldiers with his personal bravery, fully completed the combat task. Being wounded, comrade Volkov remained in the ranks until the end of the operation.” He was awarded the Order of the Red Star for this feat.

In the same year, he joined the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks.

On May 1st 1943, Guard Major, Commander of the 4th Separate Guards Minelayer Battalion of the 1st Separate Guards Minelayer Brigade Iosif Volkov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner by order of the Moscow Air Defence Front troops:

“Comrade. Since the first day of the Patriotic War, Volkov has been in the active army all the time and on the front line, and has proved to be a loyal, courageous commander. He repeatedly led his units into battle, was wounded three times, but despite his injuries, after healing he again returned to the forward operating units and gave himself entirely to the cause of protecting the Soviet borders. Leading the 4th Separate Guard Minelayer Battalion of the 1st Separate Guard of the Minelayer Brigade during the combat mission of Lieutenant General Vorobyov, Deputy People’s Commissioner of Defence, to clear sections of the air surveillance, alerts, and communications posts and anti-aircraft artillery of the Moscow Air Defence Front, Rzhev-Sychevka-Vyazma-Gzhatsk districts, Vorobyov cleared more than 30,000 anti-tank, anti-personnel mines, and surprises in the areas in a short period of time from April 5th to April 25th of this year. While completing the combat mission of the Guard, Major Volkov met great difficulties: the large littering of the territory with mines (especially Rzhev airfield and Rzhev station), the layering of minefields installed during different periods, and a large number of surprises and non-removable mines. As a result of the combat mission, hundreds of lives were saved, and the possibility of safe movement of troops and manoeuvrability in the placement of fire positions of anti-aircraft artillery of the Moscow Air Defence Front was ensured.”

On May 9th 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Iosef Volkov received a medal “For Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”, and on June 9th, 1945 – a medal “For the Liberation of Warsaw”.

Information about him was stored in the Central Archives of the Russian Ministry of Defence archive under the name “secret” and was published only recently – albeit partially. Only from family traditions do we know that after the liberation of the city of Melitopol in the Zaporozhye region, where my grandmother lived with my little father, it was brought food packages by Pavel Sudoplatov (also a native of Melitopol), who requires no special presentation.

After the war, my grandfather sent the family a photo card from Poznań, in which he poses in the uniform of Polish Troops. It seems that for some time he was the commandant of Poznań. What exactly my grandfather did from May 1943 to May 1945 and what “Stalin’s James Bond”, Lieutenant General Pavel Sudoplatov, had to do with it, we will still have to find out.

His health was undermined by three wounds. Iosef Volkov died in 1959 in Moscow, and was buried in Novodevichy Cemetery.

From Kemerovo to Königsberg

My wife’s grandfather, Nikolay Alekseyevich Evdokimov, was born in 1919 in Kemerovo. Before the war he worked as a welder at the Kemerov state district power station. In 1939 he entered the military school in the Far East. But the war started, and because there weren’t enough officers, instead of 4 years of study, in July 1941 he was released as a lieutenant – and immediately to the frontline.

He was the commander of a squad of submachine gunner/scouts. From October 15th 1942 he was at the Kalinin, 2nd Ukrainian, and 3rd Belarusian fronts. The penal battalion, commanded by Nikolay Alekseyevich, was the first to cross the Dnieper. Before crossing the Dnieper they were the first to do reconnaissance and capture tongues. Contact with Nikolay Alekseyevich was then lost, and he was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Nikolay Alekseyevich liberated the famous Dykanka and Oposhnya from fascists. He became a landing force member – a paratrooper of the 22nd (352nd) Guards Airborne Division. In 1942-43 he was wounded three times.

From 1944 he was candidate for the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks.

On January 29th 1945, Guard Junior Lieutenant and Commander of the 346th Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Vitebsk Division Nikolay Evdokimov “at Klein Park, combing the forest with his squad, destroyed the 12 Nazis. On January 30th 1945, while repelling the enemy’s counterattack at Neu Zelay [transliteration may not be accurate – ed], he personally destroyed 6 Nazis and his platoon – up to 15. On February 1st 1945 to February 5th 1945, in an overnight search at Zalniken [transliteration may not be accurate – ed] and Tiefenthal he captured two prisoners who gave valuable testimonies. He personally along with 6 sappers found a ford and, under enemy fire, measuring the river, studied its bottom and gave a full picture of the possibility of infantry and artillery crossing it. In the battle for Tiefenthal he personally destroyed 4 Nazis. On February 12th 1945 at Wilsdorf his squad destroyed 18 Nazis”.

For these feats during the offensive in East Prussia, Nikolay Evdokimov was awarded the order of the Patriotic War of the 1st degree.

On February 20th 1945, Nikolay Alekseyevich, “carrying out a mission to capture ‘tongues’, with his platoon broke into Kukinen [transliteration may not be accurate – ed] station, destroyed 10 Nazis and captured 3 ‘tongues’. In the area of height 64.6 on February 22nd he repelled the counterattack of the enemy and personally destroyed 4 Nazis”, for which he received his first Order of the Red Star. A second Order was given to Guard Junior Lieutenant and Infantry Regiment Commander for the fact that he, “in battle for the railway station, in command of a reconnaissance squad, destroyed 2 machine gun points with their calculation, which prevented an advance of infantry. He personally destroyed 3 Nazis. After breaking into the station, he destroyed more than 11 Nazis and captured 2 armoured personnel carriers.”

War for Nikolay Alekseyevich ended on April 8th 1945 when, during the capture of Königsberg, he was blown up by an anti-personnel mine, receiving a serious wound.

In addition to two Orders of the Red Star and the Order of the Patriotic War, he was awarded medals “For bravery”, “For capturing Königsberg”, and “For victory over Germany”.

Nikolay Evdokimov died in 1984, almost not seeing his granddaughter born a year earlier. But she still keeps her grandfather’s jacket with the orders and medals as the main family value.

From Melitopol to Berlin

My grandfather on my mother’s side, Aleksandr Ivanovich Baranov, was the youngest of our family frontline soldiers – from that best generation of stalwarts and idealists, which was born already in a new country and which was almost completely smashed by the war.

He was born in 1926 in the small place of Bolshaya Lepetikha near Melitopol in the Zaporozhye region. In 1941, war came to Ukraine, but the family did not have time to evacuate on trains, so it was necessary to leave on a cart with oxen and drive with the kolkhoz cattle so that the Germans did not capture them. So they arrived at the Stavropol region, where they lived for about a year, until the fascists came there.

Grandfather, as the youngest in the family, was sent by his mother and father further with the kolkhoz, which herding horses drove, and they themselves evacuated a little later. But it turned out that the riders could not get out of encirclement – the settlements on their route were already occupied, so it was necessary to return back. So grandfather was separated from his family, which ended up in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Since there were Jews among his relatives, everyone understood what fate was waiting for him in the hands of the fascists.

Local boys from the village of Trunovka hid him in a dugout in a field for 2 years, bringing food, despite the fact that they themselves lived half-starved. When Soviet forces liberated the North Caucasus, Aleksandr Baranov was only 17-years-old. In the absence of documents, he took an extra year, joined the Komsomol, and on March 20th 1944 he enlisted in the 226th Guards Regiment of the 74th Guards Division of the 8th Guards Army of the 1st Belarusian front.

He got to the front line as a sniper, then – in the battalion intelligence. When a Nazi shell hit the dugout, he was the only one of the 10 men in the squad who remained unharmed.

On April 14th 1945 the Red Army Guard soldier and commander of the machine-gun branch of the 226nd Guards Rifle Regiment Aleksandr Baranov, “in breaking the German defence on the outskirts of Berlin, acting as a part of an attack group, burst into the enemy trench and with his gunfire destroyed 6 German soldiers, who were preventing the advance of our infantry, which ensured the success of the battle”, for which he received the medal “For Courage”. At the same time, my grandfather carried a wounded commander off the battlefield on his shoulders.

In Berlin, together with Senior Lieutenant Sedov and two other soldiers, he captured 180 officers of the fascist police. With a fight he took the central bank, where he then slept on a pile of 100-branded notes instead of a mattress. On the wall of the defeated Reichstag was Aleksandr Ivanovich’s autograph.

On May 9th 1945, he received a medal “For Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”, on May 16th – a medal “For Combat Merit”, on July 9th – a medal “For the Capture of Berlin” and a medal “For the Liberation of Warsaw”.

On May 19th 1945 he was presented with the Order of Glory of the 3rd degree for the fact that he “distinguished himself in battles during the breakthrough of the enemy’s defence west of Rostock on 14.04.1945. Carrying out the task assigned by the commander of the squad, comrade Baranov, skilfully leading the unit, went to flank the enemy and did not allow the enemy to use automatic fire to resist the squad advancing from the front”.

The war ended when he was 19. In 1948, after serving in Berlin, with the rank of Junior Sergeant, Aleksandr Baranov returned to his family, with which he happily lived first in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, and then in Zaporozhye until 2008.

I am convinced that everyone can tell such a story and in this we are united. Congratulations on May 9th! Congratulations on Victory Day!

Pavel Volkov

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