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Through the Fire of Many Battles

Pictured: Lieutenant-General V. I. Chuikov on the bank of the Volga River in Stalingrad.

He who thinks about the past means the future. He who talks about the future has no right to forget about the past—these are words of truth from a soldier of the front line. As a person who has never been in the fire of battles, I am in awe of those who served and sacrificed, and their stories are deeply meaningful to me. My own grandfather battled in Europe in General Patton’s 3rd Army in 1945, and I have been a student of WW2 history since childhood. Although I never had the blessing of meeting my grandfather due to his untimely passing, his story still inspires me. I see it as a moral obligation to keep the memory of our heroes alive.

It was two years ago when I first heard about Marshal Chuikov—in an age of digital streaming, I was introduced to the story of Stalingrad thanks to a documentary on Netflix—“The Greatest Events of WW2 in Colour” to be precise. I was immediately impressed and read his translated works, all of which held me spellbound. His writing is straightforward and descriptive, and I found myself “experiencing” the war right along with the 8th Guards Army. Not only does Chuikov tell the sequence of events that happened, but he illustrates the sights, smells, and emotions of the war—and he tells the stories of the soldiers who peopled the ranks of the 8th Guards Army. His experience inspired numerous books and journal articles which enjoyed a wide audience at the time and are still read and researched even today. In his memoir titled From Stalingrad to Berlin, Vasily Ivanovich summarizes his thoughts about the Great Patriotic War after the final surrender:

“I look at the faces of the fighters, tired and joyful. Here it is, the real happiness of a soldier! The war is over. A long and difficult path has been covered. If all the trenches, communication tunnels that we had to walk during the war years—if all the routes of rapid marches and roundabout maneuvers were combined into one straight line, it would encircle the entire globe along the equator. And I am proud that I walked this distance together with the soldiers of the army—under enemy fire, through water lines and mined fields.

What fell to the lot of our soldiers, of the entire Soviet people in this war, has never fallen to anyone's lot. This war was the bloodiest and most destructive of all wars in the history of mankind. What can and should we, who survived her trials, tell our children, grandchildren, and all future generations?

Each line of these memories is the result of my observations, experiences and reflections, sometimes, perhaps, subjective, but always sincere. I have spoken, I am speaking and will speak about the war without concealing everything that I think that disturbs my soul.

The ominous flame of the last war shot up from the center of Europe, from Nazi Germany. How much suffering, what sacrifices the peoples have endured in order to extinguish it! Tens of millions of killed and maimed, many thousands of cities, villages, townships were destroyed and burned.

The Soviet people suffered the greatest sacrifices because we, the Soviet people, bore the brunt of the blow of Hitler's war machine. The war passed through our land from the western borders to Moscow and Leningrad, to the Lower Volga and back. We have every moral right to judge both the aggressor and those who untied his hands. By the joint efforts of the peoples of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, the flame of war was extinguished where it had started.

He who thinks about the past means the future. He who talks about the future has no right to forget about the past. Having gone through the fire of many battles, I learned the severity of the war and I do not want this fate to fall to the lot of the peoples again. But the threat of a new world war cannot be considered completely eliminated. Reason requires not to forget the lessons of history. Let those who make new plans of aggression also remember about them.”


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