Leonid Fedorovich Porfiriev
interview by Oleg Korytov  and Konstantin Chirkin
Last modify on February 14, 2011
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Interview to technician of 86th SBAP Leonid Fedorovich Porfiriev by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin

Editor: Igor Zhidov.

Special thanks: Svetlana Spiridonova.

Porfiriev Leonid Fedorovich: Currently I’m 86 years old, but keep working…

— You look so active, that we wouldn’t believe that you are 86…

86 full years. I’m a professor at University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, but I no longer teach – it is difficult for me to stand by the cathedra. I’m getting tired. Now I work with dissertants.
For twenty years I worked and along with it I was a chief editor of a scientific journal, which deals with precise mechanics, optics, automation, navigation and so on.
I retired from the army in 1971, in accordance with Khrushchev’s order that Colonels should retire at the age of 50. For 20 years, from 1951 till 1971 I worked in Mozhaiskii Academy. In 1959 I defended PhD.
Before 1959 this academy prepared specialists for the Air Force. But VVS had two more Academies – Zhukovskii Academy and Academy in Monino. At those days Space and missile troops were formed and Mozhaiskii Academy in 1959 was passed to Marshall Nedelin. I kept working there with automation and missile control. Quite commonly I visited Baikonur. Met Korolyov, Keldysh, was a part of a commission which looked through Korolev’s suggestion for manned flight to the moon. We rejected the project, because it was not absolutely guaranteed for success, Unlike Americans, who did it in 1969.

— By the way, they really did it? There are statements that it is just a hoax…

Lies of the yellow press.

— Were you in a commission that examined the death of Marshal Nedelin?

No, but I do know what had happened. A rocket fuelled by liquid hydrogen and oxygen was prepared for launch. Each launching area was surrounded by barbed wire, entrance there is restricted, and when you enter there you have to put a piece of metal in a special slot. This was made to ensure if somebody was in the dangerous area and who exactly. In order not to lose time Nedelin went for a smoke below the rocket. Engine started by its own, and Nedelin burned alive. Video cameras around launch area filmed how burning people tried to escape from fire, how they hang on barbed wire… Nedelin simply vaporized in a matter of moments…
I think we may discuss these things later, as I have 20 years of service in space forces. But today we will talk about war…

— Who were your parents?

When I was born, they were peasants. My grandfather and father were peasants. Dad had two brothers and a sister. Dad’s youngest brother was just one year older than I.
I was born on 21 August 1920, 25 kilometers away from Valdai, 13 kilometers away from railway station Dvorets, in a village called Sosnino.
Even though Civil War had ended, but at that time, in 20th years of the XX century, Stolypin ideas began to realize. He was called an evil mastermind of Russia, but he made a big thing for peasants. Before him peasants had no rights for land – community divided it by the number of “mouths” in a family. Once in three years land was redivided. There was no free land for peasants to use.
Stolypin issued a law in 1906 by which a Land bank was established. It was supplied with money by State budget, and allowed peasants to buy land from large land owners by providing them with credits. In our area there was almost no free land. In such cases State helped to move population to those areas of the country, where there was more free land. For example there was a lot of free land in North Kazakhstan or West Siberia. In 1922 my relatives moved to Kurganskaya Oblast and settled there. In 1923 my father also moved there. But he did not buy land there. He became a carpenter and wool weaver, made valenki. Kazakhs liked valenki because there were harsh winters. Valenki and koshmas were made mostly for Cossacks. Kazakhs came with their horses, sheeps and cows, sold livestock. Village was large, there were slaughterhouses. In 1924, when NEP was announced, dad began his own business. He opened a kiosk at the market, where he traded candy and dried fruits, which were brought from Alma-Ata.
I was just three years old when we came there with my parents. We lived there until 1930. Later he worked as a supervisor at MTS (machine and tractor station) construction. But for being a merchant during NEP he was oppressed. So he decided to move somewhere else… First he alone moved to Leningrad, became a housekeeper and called us. I was sent to the school.
The living conditions were very poor. At first we lived in cleaners’ room, then dad turned carriage keeping house into a single room apartment. We exchanged it for another apartment and lived at Canal Griboyedova 144. By this time dad worked as a chief of a warehouse. In 1935 he was sentenced for 1 year and 3 month in jail. I believe that he was double crossed – he was a good man, and he believed other people. But during a revision some merchandise was absent at warehouse. Mom had a heart disease, so she didn’t work before this event. After it she had to look for work, and finally she worked as a sparkling water trader at “Red Triangle”. I had a younger brother, who was crippled from childhood. He was very active, and while playing his leg got stuck in our neighbors’ wool weaving machine. His leg was broken, bones healed wrongly, and he remained with a shortened leg for the rest of his life…
In 1936 I graduated from “Admiralty Warf” FZU (school for primary professional education). I was sent to “Baltiiski Zavod” to work as a turner. There I did a rough preparation of large parts.

— How much did you earn then? And what you could buy?

At FZU I had a stipend 69 rubles. A pack of cigarettes cost 35 kopeck. Bread – 20 kopek. Meat – 2 rubles for kilogram. Turner received salary depending on how much he did, sometimes I earned up to 200 rubles. For those days it was great salary.
In 1937 dad was released from the jail, he returned and started working. Our family had more or less stable income, and I decided to receive a better education. I applied for a place in college of construction which was located just opposite of hotel “Astoria”, to a department “construction of hydro constructions”.
After successfully finishing first grade I got interested in gliders. We trained to fly at the field near Warsaw railway. The place, where used to be our airfield everything is built up nowadays. I also was into modelism, read a lot about aviation. Then I found out that after first grade of college I could apply to the 1st Leningrad Military Aviation Technical School (LVATU). So I did in 1938. There I studied until March 1940. I graduated with a rank of military technician 2nd grade – two cubes.

— Military technician 2nd grade — equivalent of Lieutenant?

Yes. 3rd grade – Junior Lieutenant.

— What did you learn?

Graduate had to know airplane construction, engines, up to be able to dismantle the engine and repair it in the field – we did it later, when our planes returned from missions with pierced engines during war.
Our airplane was SB — fast bomber, with retractable landing gear. Chief constructor was Tupolev, but executive constructor was Arkhangelskii.

— Did you study armament and instruments?

Armament officers were prepared in 2nd LVATU. But we knew how to hang bombs and had to do it during war.

— You studied only SB? Or something else?

Mainly SB. But there was another plane DB-3.Constructed by Ilyushin. During Finnish campaign one landed near Petergof, by the village Myshilovo. It was brought to the hangar at Komendantskii airfield. We studied it thoroughly. It had many differences, for example its engines were air cooled. Can’t recall how it was painted or its bort numbers now...

— Did you try to repair it?

No. When a belly landing was made propellers were damaged, consequently it caused engine damage – they did not work. The only thing we did was putting it back on its wheels. Even though the winter was harsh, we did it at the crash site. First, we used inflatable bags to lift it, and then we applied jacks, lifted it from the ground and extended landing gear. I had to repeat this procedure with Pe-2 near Stalingrad.

— Did you study any other engines?

M-105. And M-34, it was used on R-5.

— How long did engine last?

Until first overhaul 250 hours...

— How much of it was used on the ground during warm ups or test throttling by technicians?

Can’t say exactly, no more than 30% of resource. But instruction limited working time by 250 hours.

— Could they work for 250 hours?

Can’t say, my planes didn’t live that long.

— What was meant by “overhaul”?

Engine was disassembled and examined, if no damage was found, nothing was changed... But I haven’t seen “overhaul” myself, so can’t say anything more…
In March 1940, right when war with Finland ended I graduated and was sent to Belaya Tserkov, to the newly formed 86th SBAP. There was a good airfield with hangars. It was the main base for 33rd regiment, but it was fighting with Finns. When we arrived none of 33rd regiment personnel was there. We spent a summer there, and in August we took part in liberating Moldavia. From Belaya Tserkov we were rebased to Vinnitsa, where we sat fully loaded with bombs for 3 days.

— Alexei Kukin told us that at that time there were a lot planes in Belaya Tserkov.

Haven’t seen. He must be mistaken in time. When I was in Belaya Tserkov a movie “Chkalov” was filmed there, and there were a lot of Colonels there and a lot of actors in Colonels uniforms.
We returned to Belaya Tserkov after 23 August, right after Romania agreed to give away Bessarabia, and there were no planes in large quantities. One month later we were sent to Ternopol, 80 kilometers from Lvov and 30 kilometers south of Ternopol. There we spent winter – winter was very snowy, so we almost didn’t fly. There we met war.
Our regiment was a part of a division, which consisted apart from our 86th regiment from 48th based in Uman and 33rd stationed in Belaya Tserkov.

— How did you found out about war beginning?

At 04.30 we were bombed at our airfield.
How did it happen? On 21 June I returned from a vacation, which I spent here, in Leningrad with my parents. Right at that time on our main airfield, where we were stationed during winter and a construction of concrete runway began. Regiment flew to reserve airfield, which was located 15 kilometers away from garrisoned village. Flying crews had a bus to go there, while technicians lived at the field in tents. Our canteen was also at the airfield.
I along with my comrade lived in a room rented from Jewish family. That small town or village by 80% was populated by Jews. They were very afraid for their lives in case if Germans will get there. I came to the garrison, dropped my stuff at rented room and went to the new airfield.
After arriving there I reported to squadron engineer that I’ve returned from vacation. I was told that tomorrow maneuvers will begin, so no one will be allowed to go to the town.
Then I went to my airplane and reported about my arrival to flight technician Senior Lieutenant Posolskii. It was at about 14.00. We dined. At 17.00 a colonel from Stab of VVS of Kiev Special Military District came and an alarm was sounded. There was a bit more airplanes at the airfield that we were supposed to have, because apart from our main 70 SBs we received 9 Pe-2s. Planes were parked in two rows, about 50 meters between rows and 1 meter from wingtip to wingtip.

— How they were painted? Camouflaged? Or grey?

When alarm was sounded we had to drag airplanes to predefined positions away from one another. We were used to it, because alarms were sounded almost weekly. When planes were dragged away, live bombs were hanged.
Dug-outs were already prepared; tools and electric batteries were held there. By each dug-out there was a little trench.

— How long did it take to drag airplanes to their positions?

From receiving an order till regiment commander reported to the Colonel about readiness to take off 40 minutes had passed.
Inspector was satisfied, presented us with a good mark for combat readiness. Then he ordered to place airplanes back into the rows and allowed flight crews to go to the town. All planes were dragged to the rows again...
It was supposed that on the next day, on Sunday no one will be allowed for a leave. But this time everybody was allowed to go to town. More to say, even those technicians who had any means of transportation, for example bicycles, were also allowed to go.
Everybody left, but I was too tired, so I went to sleep…

— Were there cars or motorcycles?

There were no motorcycles. They appeared in the end of war…
Those days local Poles arranged several places around our airfield where they sold vodka and beer from kiosks. Dancing area was also arranged, local girls began visiting us there. It all took place until 2 o’clock in the morning.
Our tents were located in a ravine. We went to the tents and fell asleep in the beginning of the night. At four o’clock an alarm was sounded. I woke up and ran to my plane. Plane was not there. Plane was dragged to parking area, bombs were hanged, tanks refueled, engines tested and warmed. I and mechanic were sitting at the hillside near a trench and discussed our future… A Pe-2 was parked nearby and a 1.5 ton truck with quadruple AA Maxim machine guns.

— Weren’t you fed up with constant dragging forth and back airplanes around the airfield with each alarm?

We all were fed up, so what? Situation was tense. German reconnaissance planes were flying. “Window frame” – Fokke-Wulfs… But that day I saw Dornier’s, which bombed us.
It was dawn, when at an altitude of 600 meters a plane passed above our airfield. We with mechanic were sitting and looking at it… A lot of new planes appeared before war: MiGs, LaGGs, Sukhoi, and BB-22… We looked and tried to guess what type was that. Then we noticed a Chaika I-153 landing. Someone in white clothes appeared from the cockpit. Just 15 kilometers away from border, near Chernovtsy 15th IAP from our division was based. {1} A pilot from this regiment flew to us to warn about German attack. When he woke up, German tanks were already at their airfield. He boarded first plane in what he was dressed and flew to our base. But he was a bit late, just a bit. A few minutes later after he landed, German bombers appeared at tree-top height. A 9 plane formation appeared, separated and began attacking their targets – airplanes, runway… As they set on “combat course”, they opened bomb bays and dropped their load – cassettes with 2 kilogram bombs. A lot of them. Then Germans began firing their turret machine guns.

— How many planes you managed to drag away from the row?

A lot. In two passes Germans managed to burn 27 planes, but if they would be parked in rows, we would have lost 50-60 planes for sure.
When bomb fragments and bullets began flying, we jumped into the trench. When explosion ended, we stuck our heads out of the trench and saw burning planes… Then they started blowing up – they all were fully loaded with fuel and bombs… Our losses were so high because our planes were blowing.

— Did your Pe-2s survive this attack?

Luckily they all survived. Either we dragged them far away or something else… These Pe-2s fought near Moscow later.

— That pilot who flew in survived?

Then - yes, later – no idea. By the time Germans began second run, our gunners jumped into the planes and opened fire. Three enemy planes were shot down.

— How it was confirmed?

I know that they were shot down and pilots were captured. I don’t know the details, because at first day surviving airplanes were flown to another reserve airfield. We had three reserve airfields, and our squadron was rebased to airfield near former border – railway station Skalat. There we loaded remaining planes to the railway flat beds preparing them to transportation. But it was all for nothing, because Germans came in so fast, that by July 6th we were sent to Nezhin, that’s South-East of Kiev.

— During rebasing technical crew was moved by trucks or by planes?

No one was ferried by planes those days. It was common near Stalingrad; we were placed in gunners’ position. But in the beginning we were given a truck, and we went through Zhitomir to Kiev and further on…

— While you travelled through Western Ukraine, were you attacked by benderovtsy?

We met Ukrainian nationalists after the war. At the beginning even word “benderovtsy” was absent…

— Did German planes bomb you on the roads?

Yes, they did.

— When your main airfield was bombed, flying crews were absent?

They arrived 1,5 hours later in buses. Those planes that remained untouched flew to Chertkov, Skalat and some other field. We settled at new airfield on 23rd and 24th. A wing damage was found on one of the planes, so we began wing change at night of 23\24 June. We brought in ladders, a wing which was taken from another airplane, which was unfit for repairs due to some other damage. When we have finished assembly, another raid was made upon our airfield, but it was made by a single aircraft, and no damage was done.
That day, 24 June, another interesting event happened. At about noon, a biplane landed. Something like our Po-2, but built in Poland – PZL. One man remained in cockpit, another - Colonel, whole chest in awards, got out of the plane, called our squadron commander and began asking him, what we are doing here, what are our plans and so on. When this talk ended and airplane took off our squadron commander called to the regiment stab and reported about visit by airplane of Polish construction. They replied: «…God damned…». It appeared so that it was German intelligence officer, who flew to our airfields and gathered information…
On the next morning, 25th June, whole squadron, 9 planes, flew out to bomb troops at highway Lvov-Krakow where it crossed river Bodrov. Strike was successful: bridges destroyed, enemy troop column was hit by bombs. But when they returned from the sortie remaining fighters I-16 and I-153 of 15 IAP, that same one which was based at Chernovtsy, attacked them. They mistakenly decided that our airfield was under attack by Germans and shot down 8 planes while they were landing. Eight planes! Only one plane remained more or less safe, it belly landed at the nearby field.

— All crews perished?

No, we were fortunate that time, they were shot down not in the air, but on final approach… {2}

— Did your regiment rebased to new fields with bombs?

When we prepared for rebasing, bombs were unloaded. Bombs were brought in later. That’s why we had to wait for two days without action…

— Where went those fighters which attacked your planes?

They flew to their base Trembovl and landed. I don’t know if they had a debriefing, but our commanders were punished for late report of what happened. This I know. But it happened so that our regiment commander flew out to a combat mission and did not return. I don’t remember his name now. His documents were found in the bushes near airplane parking area. Because of it, rumor appeared that he defected to Germans. Can’t say anything more, because it would be lie. {3}
On 6 July airplanes from another squadron came to our field. They flew, suffered losses, but very little. Then remains of damaged airplanes were loaded onto flatbed carts and we moved to Nezhin.

— In the beginning of the war, what was the main damage that planes brought home?

Mostly damages to rear part: fin, stabilizer, controls. Reason - bullets… No shell damage.

— How damage was repaired?

Small holes we fixed with fabrique glued to the skin. In the beginning of the war we had no tools for fixing metal parts. We expected war, alarms were sounded, but we were not trained in what was really needed. Even when we were on practice in school we were taught how to fix radiators, place rivets. But not to repair battle damage…

— So you were rebased to Nezhin, and what happened next?

There was a huge base of VVS. We arrived, began building dug-outs, our 6 SBs flew in…

- That was all that remained from 7 squadron regiment?

Yes, in July only 6 planes were able to fly to Nezhin. But there were 9 Pe-2s remaining. This special squadron commander was inspector of flight technique Capitan Fedor Dmitrievich Beliy. After the war he commanded a Long Range Aviation Corpus which was based near Tartu.

— What this group did?

It fought at Central Front, near Moscow. But it was still accounted for as a part of our regiment.
By 16 July personnel was moved away from Nezhin, because Germans were going to surround Kiev, and Nezhin was about to be in that encirclement too.
One of the first regiments equipped with Il-2s was also based at Nezhinskii airfield. Germans breached our defenses at Zhitomir, their tank column was located at highway Zhitomir-Kiev just 120 km away from Kiev. This regiment of Il-2s was thrown at that column. Their armament was: two 100 kilogram bombs and 8 RS-82s hanged under their wings. And two ShVAK cannons…

— ShVAKs? Not VYa?

Those days there were only ShVAKs.
They returned with little losses. Germans fired small caliber rounds at them, so they damaged mostly rear fuselage, but flight crews were very experienced, made it back and safely landed. That column was stopped. German tank column didn’t make it to Kiev. They were well kicked…
We were moved again. Airplanes were passed to some other regiment, whole flying and technical crew was ferried by trucks to Poltava, then to Kharkov, Rostov, and finally to Budennovsk. It was supposed that 3rd Rezerve Air Regiment will be formed there. But it did not come there. We were living in a club building. In an orchestra and on dress circle beds were placed, classes were arranged in workers houses. We studied new airplane Pe-2, but only in theory – by posters. Besides of it we went to the field, trained in shooting and live grenade throwing. We were also used for hunting deserters. Local Cossacks were called in to the Army, but they hid in the grape bushes.

— Have you caught a lot?

Can’t say exactly, but we caught several. For that we were hated by local population.
Situation was decaying. There was no regiment commander, deputy was a slimer, and he did not care about anything. Club was near a local market, where there was a lot of wine, which cost almost nothing. We played domino, the one who lost ran to the market for the wine, so we were pretty drunk before dinner. When commission came and alarm was sounded, some came to line up barefooted or even in underwear. Some were drunk.
In November Lt. Colonel Beliy returned to the regiment, and he was promoted to regiment commander. He began putting us in order. By this time Germans captured Rostov.
3rd Reserve regiment by this time was based in Astrakhan, so on 22 November 1941 we were taken to Makhachkala by train, there w boarded a ship “Bakinskii Sovet”.
This ship was overloaded, apart from military men there were a lot of refugees from North Caucasus, mostly Jews. It was supposed to go to Astrakhan, but it was severe winter, and northern part froze in December. That’s why we were brought to Krasnovodsk. There we were load onto train, and went through Ashkhabad–Tashkent–Arys–Kurbah… And only then - Astrakhan. There we were placed on another shore of Volga. 3rd ZAP was based at the small airfield. Pe-2s appeared. Flying crews began training in flying. In March-April there was a flood, we tried to save the airfield by sandbags, but part of it was flooded by water from Volga, so it became unusable for some time. We trained there until June 1942. Germans breached a frontline near Voronezh and were advancing towards Stalingrad. We were sent to Kazan by ship, 22nd aviation plant built Pe-2s there. Germans haven’t mined Volga yet, so we made it safely. Later they mined it completely.
In Kazan we were placed in a hostel. It is unpleasant to recall – it was not disinfected, so we haven’t slept first night, because we were eaten alive by fleas...
Flying crews began serious training. On 5th August we received new airplanes…

— Airplanes that you received from the plant were fully operational?

Yes. They were accepted by military committee, which had their own crews that performed test flights. Our crews trained on airplanes that underwent test flights. That’s why we had no problems with quality of new machines…

— Many times I heard from former pilots or technicians that new planes were of very poor quality, some were disassembled and then assembled back at regiment to make them airworthy.

Can’t remember anything like this. There were no serious questions. From safety point of view they were ready for action.

— Which airplane, SB or Pe-2 was easier and more comfortable for you as a technician?

At first Pe-2 was more difficult, because it was better equipped with instruments, while we were trained only for fuselage engine maintenance. Instruments of Pe-2 were much more complicated. Trimmer control, flaps extension, everything was done by electricity… It was difficult at first, but we got used to it quite fast.
Other thing – ease of maintenance. For example, to reach elevator and rudder controls we had to dismantle gunners’ armor plate, get into narrow rear fuselage, and still not everyone could reach it…

— In this terms SB was better?

Yes, in this term SB was better.
From Kazan we were transferred to Murom, under command of Supreme Command, but one and a half weeks later, on 16 August 1942 we were sent to the left bank of Volga, near Stalingrad at the territory of sovhoz «Named after 18th Party Meeting».
First combat mission was flown on 19 August. Squadron was lead by regiment commander Belyi. They flew to bomb river crossing sites over Don in Kalach area, which were heavily protected by AAA from below and Messer’s from above. Leader was experienced, much respected, former flying technique inspector, so mission was accomplished and all planes returned to base.
On that same day second squadron also flew, including my airplane. Crew commander was Konstantin Chaikin. They were sent against that same target, and 4 planes were lost, including mine. Gunner was killed, navigator ended up in hospital. Konstantin was wounded, but still came to the regiment and reported that Messer’s intercepted them, shot up, and one engine stalled. He decided to land in the steppes, lowered landing gear, but tires were pierced by bullets. Airplane overturned. He forgot to mention that fuselage was ruptured. Only that tires and engine should be changed, and then airplane could be flown back.
Regiment engineer Shapiro ordered me to take mechanic with me, necessary tools, repair airplane on site and report back. We took rubber jacks with us, which are something like inflatable mattress. And my two week long duty began.

— How these “mattresses” were inflated?

By air pump, same like for the car, just a bit larger.
We travelled by truck at Volgo-Akhtubinskaya Poima. When we closed to Stalingrad by 30 kilometers, we saw thick smoke over it. The city was on fire.
Konstantin belly landed near Raigorod, where was 76th defense area. I had to clear the situation in the stab of 8th air army in Stalingrad.
When we reached ferry river crossing opposite of Stalingrad, ferries went there loaded with tanks and artillery pieces, while they returned filled with wounded. Germans already blocked Stalingrad – Volga was mined, so a lot of ships with wounded and barges with fuel, ordnance were waiting there. So far Germans didn’t pay any attention to them. They mostly bombed city.
There was a possibility that if I’ll get to Stalingrad with the truck we will not be able to return. So I said to mechanic:
— Wait for me here. I’ll cross to find out what the situation is.
Of course there was a risk that I will not be allowed to return.
I noticed a small ferry loaded with a tank and a company of soldiers. I approached their commander and explained what I needed. He agreed to take me across the river.
When we reached middle of the Volga an air raid began. City was completely on fire, burning oil floated along Volga, by port. That’s why our ferry went a bit to the south. It was horrific in the city, you could get burned just by walking at the street because of fires. In the end, I made it to the stab of 8th Air Army, presented my documents. I was told:
— Besides your Pe-2 there are two more planes, Il-2 and a Yak. In that same position, like your aircraft. Your mission will be to evacuate all three airplanes. We will give you a team, a company of repairmen and three trucks.
They gave me an “indulgence” to be allowed to leave Stalingrad. I met commander of repair company, told him where to go, and arranged a meeting at 07.00 by defense position. Meanwhile I crossed Volga again, found my truck and mechanic; in the area of a village Srednyaya Akhtuba we crossed Akhtuba River. With a lot of adventures for over a day we reached Raigorod. By this time repair company was there. Due to the fact that Germans were close by, we decided to go to airplanes at night. In the morning, I saw a crack at the fuselage of our Pe-2. It meant that it could not be repaired on site. Only thing that could be done was to take it to repair base in Leninsk.
We couldn’t disobey order – for that we could be court martialled. So what we should have done? I had to dismantle wings from the planes. Then we had to put planes on wheels. Konstantin warned that tires were punctured, so we brought new ones with us.
While examining planes, we spent too much time, so a Junkers that overflew us in the morning noticed movement by the planes and fired at us. At night we detached wings, lightened and dragged the planes to Raigorod, where they were camouflaged to hide them from Germans. Then we began preparing planes for evacuation. Airplane tails were loaded onto trucks, we were provided with 5 3-ton trucks ZiS. Most difficult was to load onto a ferry. In Chernyi Yar there was a very steep descent, so we were afraid that airplane will roll through ferry with truck and a driver into the water. Finally we managed to get all three planes over Volga. There were a lot of adventures later. For two weeks we tried to cross Volgo-Akhtubinskaya Poima. But when we reached Leninsk, there was no good enough ferry to cross Akhtuba River. I reported to repair base commander everything as it was, he signed papers for receiving airplanes. How he managed to get them across river, I don’t know, it was not my business anymore.
I wasn’t thanked for my duty, because all planes were scavenged – they were close to front line, so soldiers took off them everything of value…
I returned to the regiment. While I was absent, only 6 planes remained in the regiment out of 18 Pe-2 that we had on 16 August.

— Did regiment commander have his personal airplane?

It was included into some squadron. When I returned, I was appointed to his airplane. We did not fly bombing missions at that time. Task was photo reconnaissance. Photo cameras were loaded into bomb bays, two incendiary bombs onto external hangers. The route was from Stalingrad to Rostov and back. There was not enough fuel in the tanks, so they had to land at Astrakhan, refuel, and fly back.

— What if battle damaged airplane landed at Astrakhan?

There were several possibilities. Sometimes our technicians were flown there with tools: they were loaded either near navigators’ feet or behind gunners’ armor plate in the rear. Without parachute. There was a base in Astrakhan, where we could even change engines. I flew three such missions. Once, when we were returning, Messer’s caught us over Elista. We were lucky that it was cloudy, and our commander was experienced flight technique inspector, who inherited this position after Belyi. It’s a pity that I can’t recall his name. So we safely returned to Astrakhan.

— Which plane was easier to repair? SB or Pe-2?

Pe-2 was easier for repairing.
It was much better for engine repairs, and it was quite simple for dismantling. But there was a point on the rear part of the engine which we hated… It was very difficult to reach it to connect 9 mm nut with a bolt.
It was unpleasant to change oil radiators, which were positioned in the wings, this procedure took a great deal of time.
One more difficult place: it was hard to reach steering pull-rods. It was very narrow place… Trimmers had complex construction...
And keep in mind, that Pe-2 stabilizers were movable.
It was hard to remove exhausts, because they burnt to the engine and rusted.

— What were the main problems with Pe-2s?…

Main problems were caused by compressor. If it failed, airplane couldn’t reach maximum altitude. After compressor was repaired I was taken with the crew on test flight, and we flew to 6 500 meters.
Another weak spot was overfilling carburetor. You had to be very careful looking after fuel leakage. Because the engine could have backfired on starting up, engine could catch fire, and airplane was finished. Very unpleasant moment.

— Did your regiment receive new planes?

I haven’t seen new planes. Near Stalingrad reinforcement system was like follows. Hryukin liked our regiment commander, and all other regiments that “decayed” to 2-3 remaining airplanes passed them to us before being pulled out to the rear. We kept flying reconnaissance missions.

— What was the condition of the planes that you received? Was it acceptable or you had to perform miracles to keep them airworthy?

Usually regiments did not exist long there. Two weeks after arrived we had only 6 planes remaining. Those planes that were not battle damaged were almost brand new. Those that were damaged were passed to us without repairs.

— You said that there were no booklets on repairs procedures. When did they appear?

There was a repair unit in each division, and in case of serious damage they worked with the plane. Regiment technical crews changed engines, fuel tanks. Simple repairs...

— Who repaired bullet holes?

Repair unit did it. Pe-2 was all metal, I didn’t even have tools for this procedure.

— How this unit was called?


— You said that you hanged bombs under both SB and Pe-2. What was their standard load?

Maximum external for both planes was FAB-250.

— One bomb?

No, on each side… FAB-100 was used in bomb bays. Four bombs. But if internal load was hanged, external one was not used, because airplane couldn’t lift it. It hardly could carry 900 kilograms. Maximum that can be added was photo camera and a FotAB.

— That is, standard load was 750 kilograms?

Yes. SB could carry 6 bombs in bomb bays, and two FAB-250 or even FAB-500 externally.

— That is, it could carry 1 600 kilograms? Its payload was larger?

Yes. Pe-2 allowed to bomb from a dive… Right before war broke out SB’s were also equipped with similar devices.
We trained to dive bomb, Zhukov came and controlled training. He used to be a commander of Kiev Special Military District, a part of which we were, and made us bomb “front line”. 80 kilometers away from our airfield was a practice range with trenches which we had to bomb. That was with SB in the autumn right after liberation of Moldavia. We received first Pe-2s later.
There were special wrenches for lifting bombs… FAB-250 sometimes was hanged be hands – eight men would lift it…

— A question about first day of war: there was a ram during first air raid. Can you describe how did it happen?

Yes, Malienko. Capitan Malienko was a commander of on duty squadron. When all flight crews left, he did not allow his crews to go along. When Germans began second run he took off alone. {4} Gunner and navigator did not make it to the airplane, they were killed on the ground. How he managed to take off and not get blown by German cassette bombs I still don’t know. He rammed Dornier at low altitude and they fell into the ditch behind the airfield. He perished… Germans were also killed. No one bailed out…

— What other Germans did after that?

They performed third run. Those days Germans were young and reckless.
Untill March 1940, when we graduated from military technical school we received a rank of military technician 2nd rank. 2 cubes. And after graduation from flight schools pilots were ranked accordingly… We graduated with “cubes”. But in March 1940 minister of defense Timoshenko changed the rules. Autumn graduates were in sergeants’ rank.

— What it lead for?

It had negative effect. Especially for flying crews. Even during war young pilots kept arriving in sergeants’ rank.

— What about barracks regime?

We always lived in barracks when studied in the school. In active units it was different. Sometimes there were no barracks at all. When I came to Belaya Tserkov, there was no place to let us live in, so we were told:
— Buy bicycles and rent apartments in the village.
So we did. Of course we rented apartments for our salary, there was no compensation meant.

— Let’s return to Stalingrad.

So we kept flying reconnaissance missions till the end. We were stationed at Vishnevatka airfield, not far from Agalatovo station on Saratov-Astrakhan railway, when snow fell. There was main ammo and supplies depot, so we saw how Germans bombed Agalatovo every night.
Situation turned such way that there was no work for us. Mostly there was work for our fighters – they shot enemy Ju-52s that carried supplies, food and ammunition to surrounded German troops. Their closest airfield was Tselina in Rostovskaya oblast. When Stalingrad battle ended our regiment was rebased to this airfield. We, technicians, had a “feast” – there were a lot of damaged german airplanes, Ju-52s, Messers and Focke-Wulfs. We took spares from them.

— Which parts from German airplanes you could use?

Basically fixture. For example, German loose straps for fastening were much better and more convenient than ours. And they always did with excess so always it was possible to adjust them. But it was later, So far we were sent to airfield 100 kilometers away from Volga. On the left shore - Vishnevatka, with a huge airfield. There were steppes all around, but planes were in refuges. They were built by mobilized civilian population. But people were brought from far away, because local population mostly consisted of Kazakhs, who were not too keen to work. They topped their horses and camels and simply disappeared in the steppes…
There were a lot of planes based there. Our regiment, remains of some other Pe-2 regiment. They flew from Moscow area in the middle of September, but got into bad weather. Some planes made it to our airfield, others landed where they could find a spot. In October there was a regiment of Il-2s.
Our regiment was closest to the Vishnevatka, just one kilometer away. By the planes there were dug outs for two men each: a crater with poles and hay on top. Good thing was that it was dry area, and no ground waters.
In our regiment, like in all others, we were planning to celebrate 7th of November. It was not too cold an no wind… We wormed up the engines and coated them. We gathered, drank a bit, Belyi read us a notification with a lot of expression…
And suddenly storm came, with ice wind. Alarm was sounded, and we ran to the planes. My airplane was pretty close, together with crew and mechanic we ran to it, uncoated it. One engine started, another one already froze and wouldn’t start…
By the way, engine start up caused us problems. First we had to inject some fuel into engine with special syringe, and only then it should be started.
Good thing, that one engine started, so we warmed up second engine with hot exhaust. Everything ended well for us. But for many planes that night ended badly. With Ils about 60 planes were frozen that night. On the next day a special commission came from Moscow… It seems that regiment commanders and regiment engineers were severely punished.
What I noticed: around refuges there were trenches where earth was taken from, so they were filled with frozen frogs.

— One technician told us that there were not enough heating lamps to warm-up the engine. In order to keep engines worm without spending engine resource they made special lamps. Did you make such lamps?

We did, but not for every plane, not to speak for every engine.

— He also told that they warmed engines by heating a list of metal under it by open fire…

We tried to do so, but there were several cases of engine fires, and this practice was forbidden.
In BAO (Airfield Service Battalion) which served us there were old water heaters, a barrel on wheels, heated by burning oil. There were several such water heaters for a regiment. And some other inventions…

— Engine coolant on Pe-2 was water or some kind of antifreeze?

Water. That’s why so many planes were damaged. Frozen water tore engines to pieces.

— Let’s return to utilizing enemy planes, did you try to adjust enemy armored glass to your planes?

Armored glass? Of course. But there were problems with adjusting them to our framework. So we called repair brigades for this work…

— Did you try to taste trophy food on previously German airfields?

We were forbidden. Doctors were afraid that it was poisoned.

— When you arrived to new field, BAO was already there or arrived later?

Differently. When we came to Tselina BAO was already there.
On 19th November fighting near Stalingrad almost ended. There were a lot of damaged planes that required repairs, so large groups of technicians, including me, were left behind in Vishnevatka for repairing them. We were brought there, but BAO was already gone. We were supplied by what we could get. Food consisted mostly of porridge and noodles. But we had a lot of tea, it was in pressed plates, so we took it to local Kazakhs and traded one tea plate for one sheep. That’s how we lived…

— A sheep for a tea plate?

Yes. They liked tea a lot… And they had herds of over 100 sheeps.

— Still, just a plate of tea…

They were large, and locals loved this tea. Then you could have traded young, fat sheep for it…

— When you landed on German airfields, their airplanes were left where they were or pushed aside?

There was no such case except Tselina. I had never seen anything like this again. Wrecks were taken away somewhere, either for repairs or for scrap metal.

— You had a chance to closely examine German planes. Were they better from technical point of view?

For technicians they were much easier to use. There were cases… An engine boiled, after start up. To stop it faster I climbed to the wing and opened radiator intake… For two weeks I had to lie in the hospital with vapor burns to my face. In German plane construction everything was thought of, so nothing like this could happen.
And all adjustable to the engine parts could be easily dismantled: carburetor, magneto… Specialist saw it straight away.

— What kind of tools you had to lift engines?

Mostly wrenches. There was good wrench, with 8:1 reduction, but it had to be operated manually.

— How much time engine replacement would take?

If by dusk a plane returned with damaged engine, regiment engineer gave us time up till dawn. By morning airplane had to be airworthy. That’s six-eight hours. That’s if we had to change complete engine.

— What about water radiators?

Oh, that was a torture. First of all, to reach them we had to take off skinning. It was removable, but then you had to reach incoming and outgoing tubes. But everything was uncomfortable there, and we had to work on high ladders. That is, we had to work in a very unstable position…

— How many planes you repaired before you return to Tselina?

When we came to Tselina, our regiment received reinforcements. From our regiment 12 airplanes remained in Vishnevatka. I remember one case. There was a fighter, I don’t remember which one exactly, La or Yak. It was repaired, pilot took off, test flew it, but misjudged landing trajectory, and hit U-2 in refuge. Plane broke in two. Pilot came out laughing, while we were distressed and insulted. We repaired it with all possible speed, and he simply broke it.

- That is, you helped mechanics from other regiments?

Yes. Because we prepared our own food. I was a chef.

- Let’s return to Tselina.

There we immediately began training flights, but not for front. It was pretty far away. That’s why in the beginning of April some commander came to us, if I remember correctly - Polukhin.
He commanded similar Pe-2 regiment. But he used to be an ace of dive bombing. He let all our crews through dive bombing. Live ammo was used, a piece of steppe was fenced out, target crosses were placed and bombing began.

— That is, no one used dive bombing before this day in your regiment?

There were aces, which did. For example, our first mission at Stalingrad was to dive bomb river crossings. Then they flew with incendiary bombs to set steppes on fire…

— Did you take dive brakes off?

No, they were retractable. We did not remove them. There was a reason to remove them, to increase airspeed. But Messers still had advantage. Pe-2 officially had airspeed of 535 km\h. Messer could fly faster than 600. But, to be precise, if they missed in the first pass, he had no second chance to catch up Pe-2.

— Was there a practice in your regiment to use mechanics as gunners?


— Did you have extra gunners?

No. We had no extra gunners. It was very cramped there, so if anyone would be placed there gunner would be unable to operate turret. On a transfer flights technicians were carried with short supply of spares and tools in the rear fuselage, behind armor plate.

— What happened next?

We sat in Tselina, then, in April we were moved to airfield Kerchik. That’s Donetsk Steppes, closer to Donbas. By this time a question of its liberation had risen. Our main task was bombing enemy airfields in Donbas.

— How effective were strikes against enemy fields?

Different. It all depended on luck. I can tell you one case. In Donetsk, then it was called Stalino, Germans had large airfield with concrete runway.
They had more than one regiment there. Our crews flew reconnaissance missions there several times. At that time reconnaissance missions were less dangerous because there were few Messers, and our crews gained experience… That April was cloudy. We managed to identify when Germans rested, flew and ate. They were very prone to schedule.
Beliy decided to visit them by breakfast by whole regiment, that’s 18 planes. On 9 May 1943, regiment took off in two columns. One squadron bombed canteen, second hit parking areas.
German losses were large. They lost a lot of flying and technical crews in the canteen. After that case Germans began paying our regiment special attention and chased our planes.
When we were rebased to that same airfield, we had a chance to take a look at the results. It must have been a nightmare. Wrecked German planes were all around the airfield. Most importantly, a lot of flying crews were killed – one FAB-250 in the beginning of the attack hit the canteen. When in the end of 1943 our regiment was titled Guards, this mission was taken into account.
Then we flew to Zaporozhye Steppes. Bombed German river crossing sites over Dnepr. When we liberated Donbas and reached Zaporozhe two regiments from our Division were titled Guards. We were stationed at the field near Lake Sivash, preparing to liberate Crimea.
Then we bombed Crimea: airfield Veseloye, port Sevastopol where there were ships.

— Germans had a lot of AAA in Sevastopol. Did you suffer losses?

I can’t say. Those were not mass raids. A flight maximum, against ships. Did they sink any ships, I can’t say. No one told us about it. Our planes kept returning. Damaged, but they still returned. I have to note, that after summer 1943, our losses drastically reduced. Both in the air and on the ground.

— Were you bombed often then?

No, we were visited by solitary Messers then. German aviation sharply fell.

— Who repaired airfield after enemy raids?

Mostly technicians and mechanics, servicing personnel. And BAO. Manually. I never say bulldozers repairing runways. I only saw those clearing roads.
In the end of April an assault began, our troops crossed Lake Sivash by foot, and our regiment was moved to Simferopol. We landed at the airfield Veseloye. Part of personnel lived in barracks, part on rented apartments. I, for example, rented a flat.

— How did you pay for it?

Money. Canned meat.

— Did you have money for renting apartment?

There was no special fund. We had money from our salary. I didn’t send it all home, a part of it I left for myself… The rest I sent to my mom, but unluckily she did not receive them, because at first she was in blockade in Leningrad. In august 1942 she evacuated to Omsk, she had one of her brothers there. But, soon she died of flu. I didn’t know it all, and sent her money till the end of 1944. When I found out it all, I wrote to financial department for a refund. They sent me a letter: «Send us confirmation papers from all BAOs which served you that money were really transferred, and we will return them». Of course I didn’t know which BAOs served us, and where they were now…
In Simferopol my aviation life ended. The reason for it was that in February 1942 I joined the Party…

— In the movies it is often shown that a meeting is gathered for this case under airplane wing…

Party membership card could be handed over this way. But that was only solemn moment. Entrance on its own was much harder and took great amount of time. Question about acceptance was raised on a party meeting. Necessary for acceptance was a year of candidates’ qualification. To be accepted to candidate you had to pass special commission too. I became a candidate in February 1940.

— Nowadays youth has no idea how it was done. How many people had to be guarantors for you?

Three. There can be more, but no less.

— And who were your guarantors?

My guarantor was regiment engineer Shapiro, can’t recall his name, squadron engineer Ivan Ivanovich Voronin and flight technician…
So in Simferopol my life in aviation ended. Soon after we were moved to Simferopol I was summoned by regiment commissar Colonel Khlestin. He told me:
— Leonid Fedorovich, you are a Party member. Party has a new task for you: we are transferring you to counterintelligence SMERSh. You are to report to SMERSh department of 4th Ukrainian Front.
I replied:
— What kind of counterintelligence officer am I? I know nothing about it, had nothing in common with this service before. I’m a technician by nature, not a psychologist…
— Don’t worry, you will make it! You will be directed to 3 month courses for training.
Two more men from our regiment were selected to work in SMERSh.
It happened so that at this time a lot of locals were enlisted into the army from liberated Western Ukraine and Moldavia. There were a lot of nationalists among them. SMERSh was not effective in dealing with them anymore. Sometimes they arranged mass desertion from army or even defection to the Germans.
First thing that we were ordered to do was evict Tatars, Armenians and Greeks from Crimea.

— How families obliged to leave were selected?

Every single one.

— But there was an order of Beria, which appeared after Crimean Tatars began complaining that their families were evicted while they fought. This order is never citied fully, while there is a direct orders that if commanders of soldier or officer confirm his active participation…

I can’t remember such cases. Tartars were moved first, I didn’t take part in it, and then Armenians and Greeks were moved. There was a large diaspora. I participated in surrounding of two houses. My task was to make sure that no one will escape from there. They were given time only to gather most necessary stuff. Then they were moved by trains.

— What for?

They were in very good relations with tartars, while they helped Germans… There was no other way.
Then I arrived to stab of counterintelligence department of 4th Ukrainian Front. There I was questioned, wrote my autobiography, who am I, where I came from… Then we were lectured about general situation. What was situation in the army, who were banderovtsy, Ukrainian nationalists, how they fought against us. Our task was formulated as follows: Not to try to catch every single one, but only organizers, instigators.

— How you were armed? What was your rank?

I was Lieutenant. When we received shoulder boards I became technician-Lieutenant. I was promoted in October 1942, after Stalingrad battle. Weapon was most usual: TT.

— By the way, how you accepted shoulder boards?

With “Hurrah!”. It was a celebration. We lined up, and regiment commander Beliy personally handed them over.

— Did you know that shoulder boards will be introduced again?

There was a famous Stalin order: «Not a step back!» Penalty battalions were introduced then. Next memorable order came after liberating Stalingrad, it was about introducing officers’ ranks. Then we began saying “officer” instead of “commander”.

— That is, there was no objection against word “officer”?


— SMERSh was quite a specific organization. You still had aviation uniform, or you received new one?

Aviation. The one that I came in with. Then, when we graduated, I was transferred to airborne troops. At first we were stationed in Simferopol, then we were moved to Kurskaya Oblast, to reserve. We were not a frontline unit, we just were reinforced and rearmed there. We stayed there for about two month. My training ended on 31 August 1944. I received a rank of Lieutenant of NKVD. I was sent as a representative of NKVD and SMERSh to 2nd Descent Division, which fought in Carpathian Mountains. In the area of Uzhgorod and Mukach. We travelled there by train and willyses. There we fought as light mountain division, because we had only light weapons. I came there and reported to chief of counterespionage department. He sent me as a special service department representative to “semi-reconnaissance” battalion…

— Your opinion about political officers?

Fine, our regiments’ political officer was Khrustin. We had good relations. I thought of him like of any other officer.

— Were they needed?

Nowadays they introduce priests to the army, to fulfill the same role – to raise fighting spirit.

— So, if commander was good one, there was no need for political officer?

Of course. For those who were “against” there was counterespionage. It was much more effective than political department.

— Were there cases of anti-Semitism at the front? I asked many veterans, including Jews, they all answer: «No, never. It was common after the war.». Now there are a lot of memoirs published by people who live in Israel. They write: «A lot…»

You shouldn’t believe them, because they lie in half of the cases. They got a possibility to show themselves as victims and get something out of it.

— What was your attitude towards counterespionage before you began working there?

There was no attitude, because I had no idea how it all worked…

— You should have had your own NKVD representative in your regiment?

There was one, but I had no contacts with him. But I was still sure that he looked for spies, who interfered in our effort…
So I came to the battalion. It was north of Ivano-Frankovsk. Area of the most nationalistic attitude. We searched forests there, had gun fights… But my first task was to guard wine cellars in a captured city.
Well, then I was sent to the front. We had a piece of frontline as a part of 1st Guards Army. It was just on the border of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, town Bodrok. There we stood for a long time. We fought there not against Germans, but against Hungarian troops. For some time it was silent there. When in the end of October Horti took power, we thought that Hungary will quit fighting. For some time it was quiet…
Once Battalion Commander took us to Hungarian side. We had to crawl through minefield. If a single mine would blow up, we would have been killed by mortars. Sometimes Ukrainian nationalists shot at us from the forest. After serving with aviation unit impression was… Sour.
I had to talk to soldiers. That is I had to go to the trenches and talk to my agents. My main task then was to prevent mass desertion from frontline.

— What kind of punishment unit commander could get if his soldiers deflected to the enemy?

Penal company… But usually he was transferred to a position one step lower…

— What was considered to be “mass desertion or deflection”?

Five men was a mass. Then I would have received “my share” too.

— How often did it happen?

Not a single case in my unit. From our division there were maybe five deserters in all… In other units there were such cases.

— It happened in 1944?

Those, who were enlisted from Moldavia and Western Ukraine.

— Were there cases of mass deflections in the beginning of the war?

You should know what encirclement is… There were a lot of POWs without defection.

— You said that you were shot at from the forests, and that you “combed” it afterwards. Where the orders and troops came from?

I received an order to “comb” the forest from Division stab. After the war it was true operations. They had fortified camps in the forests.

— How many troops were used for such operation?

Our whole battalion. We were given general area without precise location. For that we had to have agents among nationalists, but they had a KGB even better than we had. The one suspected in treason was simply killed. Very cruel policy.

— Did our army suffer from maraudering?

Well, there was a case when our troops wanted to rob spirit warehouse that I had to guard. But no one took goods. Although I heard that in Koshitse… When local wealthy population escaped they hid their valuable items hoping to return. There were rumors that some officers and soldiers tried to locate such stashes. But there definitely were no court martial’s over this.

— It was considered to be a war trophy?

Trophy, it’s when military hardware, weapons or uniforms were found on a battle field. When local population is robbed – that’s marauding.

— What if our soldier is searching fallen enemy corps for valuable items?

We did not pay attention for it. We thought of those watches or rings as of trophies.

— What about raiding merchants?

Can’t remember such cases. Neither in Poland or Czechoslovakia…

— What was attitude of locals towards our troops?

Worst of all were nationalists in Western Ukraine.
There were some rare cases in Poland. For example I was almost killed in one of the towns. We were patrolling town, when polish civilian tried to ram us with his car. But we managed to hide behind some brick wall. Pole ht it at full speed and was killed.

— What kind of weapons you had then?

TT pistol and ladies Walther – a trophy.

— Did you have a machine pistol?

No, my striker had one. He was a Jew from Romania; he fluently spoke Moldavian, German, Jewish and Ukrainian languages. These abilities were very useful later.
I was at the battalion for a short period of time.
My last operation took place during quiet time, when we still had no idea if Hungarians will quit fighting or not. Somehow we received information that just 5 kilometers away behind frontline there was a colonel, chief of intelligence department of 1st Hungarian Army with inspection or something. Can’t remember his surname.
I received an order from our counterintelligence department to capture him and deliver him to our side alive. I received a detachment of fully trained and prepared soldiers. We crossed the frontline. Without a single gunshot we killed all Colonel's security, and delivered him to our side. I don’t know how useful he was to our counterintelligence, but from this moment on I was a considered to be on good account.
Several days later Hungarians announced thet they will keep fighting and war continued.
Soon I was transferred to counterintelligence department of 1st Guards Army.
While retreating Germans left behind a vast network of spies. I was attached to special group that had to uncover these spies. Here my striker, who knew several languages, was priceless.
Usually we started from visiting local police department or city hall. There we looked through documents, and quite commonly we found who collaborated with Germans.

— Were Germans really foolish enough to leave such documents?

Very-very rarely. No. We usually found indirect documents, such as receipts and such. Sometimes we found out who sympathized Germans from local population, which might have complaints about such people.
We took them into custody, and part of them really was those who we were interested in. This work continued almost till the end of war.

— Did enemy agents try to resist arresting?

Usually we tried to evade direct confrontation. We asked them to come for some sort of official business, and then… Counterintelligence works quietly…
In October 1944 there was an uprising in Slovakia. Twelve men from counterintelligence department were sent there to try and help arranging counterintelligence work in the guerrilla forces. Uprising was suppressed. When this happened we had to move through Tatry to the South in an attempt to cross the front line. We ate what we could find. Out of 12 men only 7 made it. One was wounded and we left him with the local woman, we had no idea what happened to him. All others were killed in skirmishes. First with Hungarians, then with Ukrainian nationalists.

— We heard that Hungarians sometimes fought even more fanatically then Germans?

Hungarians fought excellently. They did not quit fighting because most of the troops wanted to continue.

— How you were awarded?

For recovering airplanes I received a medal «For combat achievements». And I was never awarded as a technician… I didn’t even receive a Guards title. I became Guards Senior Lieutenant in counterintelligence.
Next award I received on 31 January 1945. For Hungarian Colonel. I also caught several spies by that time.

— What was soldiers’ attitude towards you as of special department representative?

Everyone in battalion knew that I was NKVD officer, and attitude was different… Nationalists hated me. So I had to be cautious not be backstabbed.

— Was one NKVD officer enough for a battalion?

Mostly yes. But when new reinforcements arrived, especially potentially hostile, then I was overloaded. I had to talk with each one, feel what he thought. Then I had to understand to which group he tries to make contacts. I had to try to send new coming Ukrainians and Moldavians to different detachments.

— How war ended for you?

Strangely. In the end of war we were stationed at the border of Czechoslovakia and Poland, near town Moravskiye Ostravy. There was no real frontline. On 25 or 26 April 1945 our truck with coding\decoding unit and division banner was going to division stab. Accidently they passed frontline, it was shot up, secret codes and banner were lost.
On 15 May an order came from Moscow: «2nd Guards airborne division to be disbanded for loosing combat banner. We were reformed into 50th rifle division. That’s how war ended.
We didn’t make it to Prague just 130 kilometers. We stayed at new place for 10 days, and then we were sent through Germany and Poland to Lvov. In the end, we arrived to new location place. We were stationed at most Nationalistic area - Hyrov. That’s not far from Stanislovo.
There was an old fortress 12 kilometers off Hyrov. During polish times there was a prison. There our battalion was based. Stab was in Hyrov, department of counterespionage of 50th rifle division in Dopomyl. I lived in the village, where I brought my wife. I married in 1945, right after war ended.
I remember that I walked to stab with my striker. 2 grenades through the belt, 2 pistols…
Nationalists did a lot of atrocities there… Several our officers married local girls. There were several cases when nationalists came to such houses and hanged them both on the gates… They killed locals just because our soldiers or officers were stationed at their homes… The fact that Ukrainian government tries to show them as heroes nowadays is just insane. They were simple raiders, and had nothing to do with “liberation” of their country.
But heaviest losses we suffered during elections to Supreme Council in February 1946. There were election sites organized at all villages. Our battalion was ordered to guard them. We lost 13 men during those days. 13 men just from our one battalion!
When we searched for weapons, nationalists futilely resisted. They could kill one our soldier, when he went to the attic – they shot at our soldier when his head appeared through the hatch.

— But you would kill that bandit?

So what… Our man was lost any way.

— What about “American way” – throw a grenade in before entering?

We had a direct order to avoid losses among local population. It was no longer enemy territory and population was our… Throwing grenade meant killing innocent people.
Then I was sent to work in “filtration”. A time came to enlist those who were on occupied territories or POWs. Counterintelligence was ordered to “filter” these people. We had to find out how he was captured, what he did in captivity, we had to check reports of neighbors. We raised his file from archive to find anything unusual… Part of former POW was sent to jail…
It was not a work that I liked. I went to chief of department of counterintelligence. There I asked to be relieved from active service. Then I went to medical commission, which showed that I was not fit for active service.
On 6 July 1946 I left Ukraine and headed towards civilian life in Leningrad…

1. There must be a mistake – 15th IAP was based in Baltic’s…
2. From friendly fire by I-16 at least one crew had perished: Pilot Captain T.F. Parkhomenko, navigator Sr. Lieutenant I.N. Tarasov and gunner sergeant H. A. Anuryev
3. On 26.6.1941 a crew of regiment commander Lt. Colonel N. F. Sorokin, navigator Sr. Lieutenant K.G. Krasnolutskii, gunner Sr. sergeant N.F. Solonitenkov did not return from combat mission.
4. In the loss list of 16th SAD a full crew is mentioned as KIA: Lieutenant T.S. Malienko, Lieutenant S.I. Kostik and Jr.Seargeant N.D. Petrov