Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
poker_spieler wrote on my journal that “the example of the beauty of a Soviet woman – a woman with an oar couldn’t inspire anything but horror”. But when I showed him photos of this famous sculpture and said that if she causes him to be terrified, then he has simply perverted taste, so he accused me of lying and said that it is likely a pre-revolutionary sculpture.
That’s why I will tell you the life story of a young girl who was model for the statue “Girl with an Oar” by the sculptor Shadr, who became famous all over the world by the sculpture “Cobblestone”.
Shadr sculpted “Girl with an Oar” among other sculptures for Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure in Moscow. The prototype for it was Voloshina Vera Danilovna. Russian. Born in 1919 in Kemerovo. Her father was a miner, her mother was a teacher. Since primary school she was heavily involved in sports: gymnastics and athletics. In Moscow she entered the Central Order of Lenin Institute of Physical Dducation. In parallel with the Institute, she enrolled in the Moscow flying club, where she mastered the piloting of the airplane I-153 “Chaika” and took up skydiving. In addition, she was seriously fond of shooting, drawing, and poetry.
In 1935, during training for diving in a 5-meter pool, Voloshina was noticed by the sculptor Ivan Shadr. Just at that time, he received the state order for the creation of a series of sculptures for the construction of the Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure in Moscow, and in search of models visited a sports ground in the Capital. The sculpture was supposed to symbolize beauty, youth, and sports.
More than 50 sculptures were made for Gorky Park, and the sculpture “Girl with an Oar” became the crown of this sporting army of grace. Its height was about 11 meters. It was installed in 1936 near the main entrance, surrounded by fountains. It became a symbol of its time, the standard Soviet women. So “Girl with an Oar” is indeed Vera Voloshina. It is precisely her, a 17-year-old girl, who became the model of this figure!
In the first year of study, Voloshina among the other students went to a winter sports camp near Serpukhov. There the girl seriously had a cold, the flu gave serious complications to her feet. She was treated for a long time, but in the end she was forced to quit her studies at the sports Institute. However, Vera found the strength to start all over again: she came back to Moscow, and together with friends from her native city, she entered the Moscow Institute of Soviet Cooperative Trade.
In the summer of 1941, Vera passed the exams for the third year and went to Zagorsk near Moscow for practical training. On 22nd June she and her classmates decided to visit the Museum of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. On the road the girls went to the shopping center and bought for Vera a white silk dress. Next year she was going to marry: Yuri Dvuzhilny proposed to her. On the same day, the student Voloshina learned that the war began.
Immediately after the beginning of the Great Patriotic War she was mobilized to dig trenches and anti-tank ditches on the outskirts of Moscow. In October, she volunteered for the Red Army and was enrolled in military unit No. 9903 of the intelligence department of the Western front to operate behind enemy lines. Vera went for her first mission on October 21st, 1941, in the area of the Moscow station of Zavydovo. After that she had another six successful deployments to the rear of the Germans.
In November, 1941, the military unit No. 9903 received replenishment. Among the arrivals was yesterday’s schoolgirl Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya. In the beginning Zoya somewhat kept her distance from the team, but Vera was soon able to find a way to approach her, and the girls became friends. On their last mission they went together.
On 21st November, 1941, two groups of scouts left for the rear of the German troops. The first group was led by Boris Kraynov. The second commander was appointed Paul Provorov, and Voloshina as Komsomol organiser. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was part of the second group. After arrival at the front the groups had to split up and begin to act independently. However, the unexpected happened: the united unit came under enemy fire and broke up into two random groups. Thus, Zoya and Vera went their separate ways. The group of Kosmodemyanskaya headed in the direction of the village Petrishchevo. Vera with her friends continued to fulfil the mission too. But between the villages of Yakshino and Golovkovo the group of partisans again came under fire. Vera was seriously injured, but she couldn’t be evacuated, because German soldiers came very quickly to the place of fire. In the morning two of the group tried to find Vera, or her corpse, but they couldn’t. For a long time, Voloshina was listed as missing. Only in 1957 thanks to the search work by writer and journalist G. N. Frolov did it become known how Vera died, and to find her grave.
Local residents reported that Vera was hanged by the Germans on 29th November, 1941, at the farm of Golovkovo. Here is how the witness to the execution described the death of the scouts:
“The poor dear, she was brought by car to the gallows, and there, the noose swayed in the wind. The Germans gathered around, they were numerous. And they drove our prisoners who were working behind the bridge. The girl was lying in the car. At first she wasn’t seen, but when the side walls were lowered, I gasped. She was lying, poor dear, in only her underwear, and even then it was ripped and she was covered in blood. Two fat Germans, with black crosses on their sleeves, got in the car, and wanted to help her get up. But the girl pushed the Germans away, and with one hand on the cabin she got up. Her second hand, apparently, was disabled – it was hanging limp. And then she began to speak. At first she said something in German, and then began to speak in our language.
‘I’m not afraid of death,’ she said. ‘Ours will avenge me. Ours will still win. You’ll see!’
And the girl started to sing. And you know what song? The same one that is sang every time in meetings and is played on the radio in the morning and late in the evening.
‘Yes, exactly this song. And the Germans were standing and silently listening. The officer who commanded the penalty shouted something to the soldiers. They threw the the noose around her neck and jumped out of the car. The officer ran to the driver and gave the command to get a move on. And the latter continued to sit, became pale, he probably hadn’t yet become accustomed to hang people. The officer drew his revolver and shouted something to the driver in their language. He probably was cursing. And the driver woke up and the car drove off. The girl managed to shout, so loudly that my blood ran cold: ‘Farewell, comrades!’ When I opened my eyes, I saw that she was already hanging’.”
Only after the retreat of the enemy in mid-December did the residents of Golovkovo take the body of Vera from the roadside willows and buried her with honors in the same place. Later her remains were moved to a mass grave in Kryukov.
On the same day, when the Germans executed Vera, ten kilometers from Golovkovo, in the centre of the village Petrishcheva her military friend was hanged – Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya. The beloved man of Vera, Hero of the Soviet Union Yuri Dvuzhilny didn’t live to see the end of the war – he was killed in battle during the Mogilev operation.
On 27th January, 1966, in the newspaper “Pravda” the essay of Gennady Frolov “the order of the daughter” was published. In September, when a solemn ceremony dedicated to the Moscow battle began, Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet M. P. Georgadze handed over in the Kremlin to the mother of Vera Voloshina the award of the Patriotic War of the 1st degree.
Since May 6th, 1994, Vera Voloshina is a Hero of Russia. Posthumously.
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