By TSATYANA SHVETSOVA
On the occasion of the important 60th Anniversary of the ending of World War II, we’re going to print stories of some of the individual heroism of Soviet people in fighting Nazis and thus helping to save the world from the scourge of Fascism. This is a heartrending tragic tale about a heroic Soviet Komsomol.
At the beginning of December 1941, in the village of Petrishchevo in the Moscow region, the Nazis executed an 18-year old Moscow girl. She told the Nazis that her name was Tanya. Her real name was Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya.
Those were very grim days, when the threat to Moscow was most grave. Fighting continued in Moscow’s countryside, where many Muscovites had their summer cottages. In Moscow, the bravest volunteers were selected and sent across the German lines to help the Soviet partisan units fighting in the enemy rear.
Once the Germans arrested a partisan, who had cut all the field telephone lines of the Germans in Petrishchevo and was about to set fire to a horse stable of the Germans. The circumstances of the arrest of the partisan, pieced together from various accounts by the local peasants, were as follow: a man, wearing a fur cap, fur-lined jacket and fur-lined trousers and felt boots, ad carrying a shoulder-bag, made his way to an important military objective, took a bottle of benzene from his bag, poured it over the wall and was just bending down to set a match to it, when a German sentry crept up behind and grabbed a hold of him.
The partisan managed to push the German soldier away and draw his revolver, but that was as far as he got. The sentry knocked it out of his hand quickly and raised the alarm.
The partisan was taken to a house where the officers were billeted, and then to their astonishment, the Germans saw that the partisan was a girl, a very young girl, tall and slim, with big dark eyes and dark hair cut very short.
The owners of the house were ordered to go into the kitchen from where they could not hear the German officer’s questions and the girl’s quick unhesitating answers: "No, I don’t know.", "I won’t tell you". Then the owners of the house heard the unbuckling of the leather belts and the swishing noise striking the girl’s body. A few moments later, a German officer, a very young man, came rushing out of the room and sat down in the kitchen, until the interrogation was over, his eyes shut tight and his hands over his ears to drown out the noise.
There was not a sound from the girl, however. After the execution was over the interrogation resumed, but the only words the captive girl pronounced was: "No, I won’t talk". In the same deliberate tone, except that her voice sounded very hollow now.
After the interrogation, the girl was led to the house of the Kuliks family. She was wearing only a scant chemise, and was made to walk barefoot in the snow. She had bruises all over her body, with scores of welts on her back, legs and arms from the buckles. Her lips were swollen from the beating, plus from biting her lips and not uttering a sound or a scream.
The Germans would not allow the Kulik family to give her any water… they were threatened with a beating also. The German soldiers that were quartered in the house surrounded the girl and made cruel fun of her. Some of them pummeled her with their fists, others held lighted matches under her chin, while one officer ran a handsaw across her back!
When they had had their fill, they went to sleep. The German sentry waved his rifle at her and ordered her outside. He walked behind her, fully clothed in the bitter cold, the tip of his bayonet almost touching her back. He kept Zoya walking back and forth in bare feet with no clothes, only a scant shift on her, until he himself was frozen through and decided it was time to go indoors.
Zoya was taken out in the bitter cold for 15-20 minutes each hour. This torture lasted all night…
In the morning the interrogation began again. The owners were ordered out of the house, so that they could not hear anything.
Then the soldiers began to erect a gallows in the center of the village…
The Kuliks then put her in trousers and a jacket. The Germans hung the bottles of benzene they had found in her bag and a sign over her neck with the word "Partisan" and then walked her to the gallows.
Two packing cases were placed one on top of the other under the noose. Zoya was lifted onto the top of the case and a noose was placed around her neck. One of the German officers trained his camera on the gallows – the Nazis were notoriously fond of taking pictures of executions and punishments. The commandant made a sign to the hangman, bidding them to wait.
Zoya took her chance now and called out to the peasants that were forced to come and watch this execution.
"Hey comrades, why do you look so glum? Show more courage! Fight and kill the Germans!
I am not afraid to die, comrades, It’s happiness to die for you and our Motherland!
German soldiers! Surrender before it’s too late. Victory will be ours anyway! My death will be avenged. Yes, you are going to hang me, but I am not alone. There are two hundred million of us, you can’t hang us all!"
Goodbye comrades! Don’t be afraid - fight!"
The hangman kicked at the bottom case and it slipped down the icy slope. The crowd backed away in horror. People screamed and the echo of those screams rolled over the forest…
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya died in enemy captivity, on the Nazi gallows, betraying neither her suffering, nor her Partisan comrades, not so much as a sound. She died a martyr’s death - she died like a hero, like a true daughter of the great people who will never bow to any conqueror.
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