|The Hot War |
POD: November, 1950
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Nationality:||Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union|
|Date of Birth:||1926|
|Religion:||Officially atheist (Closeted Christian)|
|Military Branch:||Red Army (World War II, World War III)|
|Professional Affiliations:||Ukrainian Kolkhoz 127|
Ihor Semyonovich Shevchenko (b. 1926) was a Ukrainan farmer and veteran of the Great Patriotic War. When World War III broke out in 1951, he and his wife Anya lived on a kolkhoz (collective farm), designated 127, outside Kiev.
He and his family had survived Joseph Stalin's purges and collectivization of the Ukraine throughout the 1930s. When he was 15, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Unlike some of his neighbors, Shevchenko didn't quite accept the Germans with open arms. Once the Nazis showed their true colors, Shevchenko joined a partisan band operating outside of Kiev.
In January 1951, as tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union mounted over the Korean War, Shevchenko learned that the Kiev Military District was mobilized. Like many in the Soviet Union (and the world), Shevchenko watched anxiously as the Soviet Union and the United States traded atomic bomb attacks against in their respective spheres of influence. While Shevchenko had his doubts about the Soviet regime, he was careful to keep them to himself. Two days later, the Soviets and their allies invaded West Germany.
On 24 February, the MGB came to the kolkohz to collect men for the infantry, ultimately taking four. Shevchenko was examined by an agent until that agent was satisfied that Shevchenko's old injury would not make him a good infantryman. After they left, Shevchenko and Anya were left to contemplate how the loss of the four men might impact the farm's quotas. The next day, Radio Moscow broadcast that the Soviets had plunged deep into German territory, and that the U.S. had attacked both Soviet cities and key cities of its allies with conventional ordinance. Among these was Leningrad. Radio Moscow claimed the night attack killed children playing a park. Shevchenko wondered what children were doing in a park during a nighttime raid, but kept it to himself.
The war continued on. On 2 March, the Soviets launched an audacious bombing raid against the U.S., successfully destroying several cities in the western part of the country, as well as Bangor, Maine, and a location in Newfoundland in Canada. The kolkhoz celebrated over the next days, although Shevchenko had his private doubts about the course the war was taking.
On Sunday, 4 March, Anya was sick, and could not go to Kiev as she usually did. To avoid catching what she had, Shevchenko decided to walk in the woods. At one point, he saw three women on bicycle head for Kiev, and wondered if Anya had gone after all. A mere 15 or 20 minutes later, he heard the sound of sirens, jets and guns in the distance. Then an atomic bomb exploded over Kiev. He was able to get home, and began praying, even though he was not supposed to, as he realized that if Anya had not been sick, she would have gone to Kiev, and most likely have died. As a consequence, Shevchenko felt his long dormant belief in God rekindling. He didn't make too much of a spectacle in public, and Anya discouraged him from being too loud even in private.
With Kiev gone, life on the kolkhoz was rather uncertain. The MGB didn't come nearly as much during March. Shevchenko realized that the grain the farm harvested usually went to Kiev. Since Kiev no longer needed it, he wondered who'd get it. In the meantime, he slaughtered a personal pig he kept, and judiciously distributed some of the meat among the community, sharing a goodly portion (effectively a bribe) with the kolkhoz chairman, Petro Hapochka. The chairman admitted that he had no idea when Kiev might be rebuilt. In the meantime, the farm began sowing their crop in May.
In June, the MGB returned to the collective farm. This time, Shevchenko was taken (along with Bohdan Gavrysh), even though the MGB had previously decided Shevchenko's wounded leg was too bad for the Army. When the MGB agents made it clear that Shevchenko would face consequences, Shevchenko and Gavrysh went with them to the recruiting station in Vasilkov (the temporary capital of the Ukraine), where they learned they'd be on a train west the next day.
Shevechenko soon found himself easily falling back into the groove of life as a soldier. He even took young Misha Grinovsky under his wing for a time, showing the young man various tricks, such as wrapping footcloths, and the proper care of his rifle. Once the unit was up to strength, they were sent by train to West Germany.
The unit was fed into the line at Rheine. Just as he fell back into the habit of personal maintenance, Shevchenko was astonished by how easily he returned to actual combat. Prior to the battle, he met Dmitri Karsavin, another veteran of the last war, who'd lost half of his right buttock to shrapnel. Their company commander, Lt. Smushkevich, charged the two veterans with keeping the new recruits from being stupid. The next day, the attack on Rheine began, and Shevchenko made a point of finding Grinovsky, and ordering him to keep close. Sadly, Grinovsky didn't learn in time; while Shevchenko and Karsavin knew to hit the dirt during an artillery bombardment, Grinvosky stayed on his feet too long, and was ripped apart by shell fragments. Shevchenko was part of the actual invasion of the city. While the Americans resorted to house to house fighting, Rheine fell to the Soviets by the afternoon.
By July, the unit was near Hörstel when Shevchenko sat on a glass bottle and cut up his left buttock. After examining the wound (and further embarassing Shevchenko), Smushkevich deemed it serious enough to transfer Shevchenko back to Hörstel, and ordered Karsavin to drive him. Once he arrived, a doctor stitched the wound, then sent him to the field hospital in town, as they were out of tetanus shots at the station. That night, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the unit's position. Shevchenko, safely in the hospital, never knew how many in the unit survived, and was relieved when the U.S. did not launch a ground assault.
With their forward positions smashed, the Soviets and their allies were in retreat for the remainder of September. Since his own regiment was destroyed, Shevchenko was free to roam the German countryside as he looked for comrades. Soon he joined a roving band, most of whom hadn't wanted to be in the war in the first place. They frequently looted the various backwater towns they came across, until they got into a firefight with an American advance. The group retreated again, and were promptly picked up by a Red Army sergeant. Shevechenko and the group returned to Soviet lines.
He was sent to company just west of Paderborn, and placed under the command of Sgt. Anatoly Privshin, a Russian who was suspicious of, and abusive to, most of the men in his section, Shevchenko included. He also befriended an Armenian named Aram Demirchyan, who also suffered Privshin's abuse. When the Americans opened up with a German MG-42, Privishin decided his section would take the gun, much to Shevchenko's horror. However, Privishin proved to be a brave and reasonably competent sergeant. The section took the gun, and Shevchenko even killed an American who was about to ambush Privishin, an act he rather regretted.
As the fighting outside Paderborn continued, Shevchenko grew to hate Sgt. Privishin more and more. Demirchyan shared that hatred, as did the other men under Privishin's command. Finally, during an assault on Paderborn, which sent Soviet troops into the path of an American machinegun, Privishin went too far. After watching several Soviet troops go down, Demirchyan included, Shevechenko shot Privishin in the back, killing him. When everyone saw Privishin go down, the remaining soldiers realize knocking out the machine gun was going to be impossible, and called for a retreat. Shevchenko joined them, hoping no one had seen him kill Privishin. As Shevchenko received a promotion to corporal in January 1952, either no one had seen it, or no one cared.
The regiment, now under the command of Lt. Stanislav Kosior, once again made an attack on Paderborn, supported by T-34s and T-54s. The drive once again came to a halt when it was clear that the initial shelling had not broken U.S. defenses. The Americans soon started destroying tanks and infantry with abandon, and Shevchenko ordered the men under his command to dig in. The unit remained dug in for weeks after. Shevenchko survived an American drive that was itself halted after the Soviets destroyed several M26 Pershings.
In May 1952, Shevchenko's division was pulled out of the line and sent to Poland to help put down the insurrection that had flared up there. Their first engagement with Polish rebels killed Lt. Kosior. Koisor's successor, Sgt. Pavel Gordeyev, was careful not to get himself or many of his men killed, which Shevchenko appreciated. Shevchenko was also careful not to get himself killed, at one point forming a truce with a Polish partisan named Miecyslaw to loot a house, although it was touch and go.
Shevchenko was surprised by how much the death of Stalin affected him. Like so many in the war, Shevchenko was left to wonder how the Soviet Union would carry on under Lavrenty Beria. Beria seemed determined keep fighting. Consequently, an attempt to end the fighting in Poland went nowhere, and the fighting continued even after Vyacheslav Molotov replaced Beria and brokered an armistice in July 1952. He did well enough that he received a promotion to sergeant. As part of his duties, he made sure to treat all of the men under his command as equally as possible, irrespective of their ethnic background. His approach to his men and his experience made him a valuable resource to his superiors, especially as whole Soviet Units were surrendering en masse to Polish bandits, and soldiers from the east were deserting and heading home to help in rebellions against the Soviet Union. Shevchenko stayed and kept fighting the Poles until September, 1952, when Radio Moscow reported that there were no uprisings in Ukraine. Shevchenko realized that meant that there were uprisings in Ukraine. He approached his commanding officer, Captain Pavlov, who confirmed that things were indeed bad, though not as bad as other places. Shevchenko then asked for leave to return home. Pavlov agreed to try. A few days later, Shevchenko was transferred to the Kiev Military District to become an instructor. He quickly impressed his superiors, and so received leave to return home to Anya.
- Bombs Away, pgs. 45-46.
- Ibid., pgs. 46-47.
- Ibid., pgs. 48-49.
- Ibid., pgs. 102-105.
- Ibid., pgs. 110-118.
- Ibid. pg. 118.
- Ibid., pgs. 119-120.
- Ibid., pgs. 120-121.
- Ibid., pgs. 151-155.
- Ibid., pg. 159.
- Ibid., pg. 161.
- Ibid., pgs. 162-163.
- Ibid., pgs. 197-198.
- Ibid. pgs. 197-201.
- Ibid., pgs. 255-259.
- Ibid., pgs. 369-372.
- Ibid., pgs. 419-423.
- Fallout, loc. 604-6662, e-book.
- Ibid., loc. 1200-1214.
- Ibid., loc. 1214.
- Ibid., loc. 1230.
- Ibid., loc. 1260.
- Ibid, loc., 1275.
- Ibid., loc. 2030-2093.
- Ibid., loc. 2829-2898.
- Ibid., loc. 3718.
- Ibid., loc. 3743.
- Ibid., loc. 3766-3778.
- Ibid., loc. 4609-4680
- Ibid., loc. 5034.
- Ibid., loc. 5083-5095.
- Ibid., loc. 6199-6257.
- Ibid., loc. 7116-7176.
- Armistice, pgs. 6-10, ebook.
- Ibid., pgs. 57-62.
- Ibid. pgs. 98-101.
- Ibid., pgs. 166-169.
- Ibid., pgs. 223.
- Ibid., pgs. 224-228.
- Ibid., pgs. 288-292.
- Ibid. pgs. 319-233.
- Ibid., pgs. 353-356.