Now and Then - People's Militia

people's militia volunteers leningrad 1941 war

Roshal embankment, Leningrad. July 1941 / Admiralty embankment, St. Petersburg. April 2021

People's militia volunteers marching across the city while their relatives walk along to see them off to the front.

From the diary of Vasily Churkin (1901-1986)

Volunteer of the 1st Guards People's Militia divison (reformed into the 80th Rifle Division in September 1941)

Diary entry from July 29, 1941:

"Our division (called 1st Guards back then) marched for 25km to Pulkovo. We had a knapsack on our back each and rolled overcoats. We walked along Sofia Perovskaya street [now Malaya Konyushennaya street], then across the Michael's Garden to Sadovaya street. My wife and sister came to see me off. They walked next to the moving column. My sister told me: "You'd rather leave your watch to your friends". I had a Paul Buhre pocketwatch with thick lids, but I took it with me as I got used to carrying it. My sister thought I might perish at war, but it all turned out to be exactly the opposite way around: the watch is still with me, it returned back home after a long hard 4 year journey of war, while all of them, my wife and my sister, died during the Siege, and both of my sons died in battles around Leningrad. The column approached Nevsky prospekt. At the corner of Nevsky and Sadovaya street my wife and sister stopped and bade me farewell. They stood and kept waving to me until they vanished out of sight.

We turned left to Nevsky prospekt, then at Moskovsky train station we turned right to Ligovsky prospekt, then we turned to Moskovsky prospekt (it was called Stalin prospekt back then) and marched towards Pulkovo. On our right a long wooden fence stretched all the way up to "Skorokhod" factory and on the left site of Moskovsky prospekt, up to the very belltower of Novodevichy Convent, there was a long stone fence. A beautiful staircase - the entrance to the convent - led up to the very sidewalk of the prospekt. Huge letters sprawled across its entire length: "Badayev warehouses".

As we passed Pulkovo, we turned off the road and walked right on the grass, reaching the village of Vitalovo. We lodged ourselves in deep trenches and village huts. Three German bombers flew over us towards Leningrad. We saw them drop bombs over the meat processing combine, this was followed by explosions and then thick black smoke rose in the air."

Google Maps links:

Former Vittolovo village

Meat processing combine

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