1 Декабрь 2014| Korneyeva V.M.

About Liudochka

In 1938 I finished medical school and worked in a polyclinic of one of the factories in the town of Liubertsy. I was drafted into the army on the fifth day of the War (27 July 1941), but given a temporary determent: in my town bottles with incendiary mixture were manufactured. Soon I found myself at the North-West front, and in July 1943 close to Belgorod, near Prokhorovka.

The medical battalion is in tents, in a small forest, along which a railway line goes. To the right of the railway there is a dirt road leading to a village where a red-brick building can be seen. Probably, there was a time when cows were kept in it.

In my charge the most “serious” patients are: brain and cranio-facial injuries, abdominal cavity wounds, wounds to both legs. You cannot step away from them, it’s impossible to carve out a single minute for rest. Days and nights spent in hard stress. Nerves are strained to the limit. The mood is pessimistic: young handsome guys in soldiers’ uniform are dying. “Good bye, sister”, they whisper. Is impossible to describe this picture, you should see it, you should transmit it through your heart…

The trouble increased when, together with a legless combatant, a girl about 4 year old was brought in a carriage. She was left with me.

I looked at the thin dirty child, at her frightened trusting eyes, fragile thin arms, and I felt uneasy. My God, why should she have anything to do with all this. Ah, damned war!

I learned that her mama had been killed in bombardment, and the kid spent the whole day by the corpse. They said she cried herself hoarse: ”Mama, mammy…”

She was picked up by first-aid men. They could barely tear her from the body of the dead woman. The girl called herself Liuda. She was silent, only her shoulders were jerking. At first Liudochka [1] did not answer any questions, only asked everybody around her: “Where is my mammy?” People around her sympathized with her, tried to comfort her, and we, girls, cried bitterly.

Liudochka was washed (two cans of hot water were heated), fed with wheat porridge and put to sleep. Tired, frayed, frightened, she did not wake up till morning. An when she opened her eyes, she called,,, mama. Instead of her mama, it was I who leaned over her, stroke her head with blond fuzzy ringlets. Then I put my soldier’s blouse on her, rolling up the sleeves and girding with a roller bandage. I washed her old children’s clothes and hung them to dry on a tree branch.

Gradually the girl got attached to me, not leaving me alone for even a single moment, and, clutching at my skirt, she kept repeating the same words: “Auntie, you won’t give me up will you?  I’m very scared”. Oh, how pity I felt for the poor little orphan, and I pressed her tight, tight to my bosom. Unintentional thoughts arose: “What’s to be done further? Where to place her? After all, I cannot take her to the front lines with me!“

“She should be given to a rear hospital”, — my fellow female soldiers advised me. — “They will figure out something there…”


And everything around is on fire. Over and over again the ground shakes from heavy bombs and shells. The enemy aircraft do not leave the sky. Death hangs thick in the air. New wounded men are brought…

Liuda gradually began getting used to everybody who was near her. But after every thundering explosion she rushed to me like a bullet from a gun, clutching at my skirt:

— Auntie, auntie, I’m scared!

Doctors and medical nurses loved her; the wounded delighted her too, — when she grew bolder, she brought water to them. Coming to some of them, she asked in a very soft, gentle voice:

— Uncle, shall I bring some water to you?

Tears appeared in the wounded man’s eyes, and she, tiny thing, did not understand and asked why the uncle was crying. One of the wounded, feeling that death was coming, gave Liuda a sign with his hand, calling her to come up. And when she ran up to him, she heard:

— Good bye, Liudochka. I’m dying …

She rushed to me in all haste:

— He is dying, auntie!

O Lord forbid anybody from seeing and hearing such things…

Our forces began to drive the fascists away from Belgorod; after the airborne units medical battalions, field hospitals, all military medical-treatment facilities started moving in the wake of them. We also were given a command to prepare for departure. There was a great hurry in our medical battalion. Two automobiles drove up, a lorry for cargo and a field ambulance. Into the first one the medical battalion’s equipment was loaded, and into the second one only four wounded combatants who remained alive, of thirteen, were loaded.

So, we are moving. In some village we stopped on a hill, near a red-brick building. Here a hospital is located, but I don’t know of which army. I hand over “my” wounded men and — Liudochka, too. “What shall we do with her otherwise?”, — my colleagues complained — Here there are more than enough troubles with adults”.

The little orphan is looking at me entreatingly and whispers: “Auntie, don’t go… I’m scared”. And I’m not strong enough to hold back my tears. I myself got attached to the blood and soul, it’s hard to separate… I am reassuring her and calming her as I can. But tears are showering from her eyes. She is now weeping to the utmost. With her tiny fists she is spreading tears over her cheeks, she reaches out for me with her entire body. A soul breaks into pieces by such parting. Goodbye, forgive me, — my conversation with the child is confused. — You cannot go with me, just cannot, do you understand? For the last time I stroke her little head. I pressed her to my bosom and kissed…

We drove off for about thirty meters. “You’d better not look back, — the driver advises. — Just wait, we’ll make a turn in a minute …” I would be glad not to look back, but I can’t help doing it. And I see, my “goddaughter” is running, stumbling, waving her arms, and her cry — not a cry, rather her wail — reaches me, and her words: “Auntie, don’t go, aunti-i-e!”

What I was feeling then — only my heart remembers. Lord forbid to experience such a moment again. I don’t remember how we raced down the bumpy road, how I completely drooped and sobbed till night…

Liudochka, darling, are you alive? If you remained alive in that stormy troubled years, then do respond! Already half a century has passed since we parted, in tears, But I remember you, think about you and pray that God help us come together.


Source: Women Fellow-Soldiers at the Firestorm Arc [2]. — Belgorod: “Vezelitsa” Publishing Company, 1998 — pp. 184-187.


[1] Liudochka – a diminutive for Liuda.

[2] “Firestorm Arc” — informal name for “Kursk Arc”, the arc-shape front line near the cities Kursk, Belgorod, Orlov and Kharkov, where a 49-day battle (5 July— 23 August 1943) took place. It was one of the key battles in the WWII and the Great Patriotic War on the territory of the Soviet Union. It remains the largest-scale tank battle in history. The participants of the Firestorm Arc battle were about 2,000,000 people, 6000 tanks and 4000 airplanes.

Translated by Maria Aleksandrovna Shelyakhovskaya for


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