I was holding an awarding list in my hands, found in the documents archive through a public access. It dated back to April 25, 1945. I applied all my efforts to pull myself together and read it for everyone at the celebratory lunch on May 9th, Victory Day. I had a couple of reading rehearsals, however, the more I sank into those words the more I realized the importance and significance of that historic contribution of a young lad from a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere in Russia.
I started to follow the lines: “Alexander Garshin, a gefreytor, is an active participant of the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk, liberation operations of Belorussian cities of Rechytsa, Mazyr, Kalinkavičy, Kovel and The Vistula-Oder Offensive.
Developing a bridgehead on the west bank of the Oder river Alexander Garshin was selflessly committed to ensure a flawless sound-ranging operation. He personally detected twenty artillery batteries and destroyed fifteen ranging points of the enemy, thus initiating a counter-battery fire in support of the infantry attacks.
For his personal exploits in the service to his country, for performing a heroic deed, Alexander Garshin is to be conferred with a governmental award, the Order of the Red Star”.
The hot tears of pride burnt my cheeks. I glanced at my dad, he was tearing too. He was never told this story. He never knew his dad was a hero!
Hardly had he turned 19, Alexander went to the front in 1942 and was immediately sent to the battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943), the largest confrontation of the WWII, in which Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in Southern Russia. It was the bloodiest battle in the history of the warfare. As the Battle of Stalingrad slowly ground to its conclusion, Alexander’s group was brought forward to the battle of Kursk (5 July — 23 August 1943). Having destructed German forces and won the strategic initiative, the Red Army advanced 2,000 km front.
He was lucky twice to be the only survivor out of his battalion after the direct fire attack of their trench shelter. Twice…The only one, while losing his comrades, friends, everything…
I always wondered what moved him, how mentally strong he was, how the soviet storm managed to change the tide of the war.
In spring of 1945 his unit reached Berlin. His deeds were marked with six medals, including one “for Courage and Bravery”.
My grandad came back home in 1947 without a single injury.
That’s it, farewell to the arms.
He married my grandma and soon my dad was born in 1950 and two more children followed afterwards.
They say he wasn’t very talkative, quiet. He couldn’t watch neither parades nor wartime shows, he used to say that even those documentaries never revealed all nightmares they had had to go through. And teared… He knew real values.
He always stayed honest, responsible, humble, strict and disciplined. The echo of the war didn’t leave him unimpacted.
My deepest disappointment is I’ve never seen him as he passed away in 1975 at the age of 51.
I often draw an avalanche of pictures in my mind of myself sitting at the table over the cup of tea and listening to his stories.
All I have from him is the only photo I can stare at for hours…
Can you imagine if any of the circumstances he had been in, would go different way?
I'm really privileged and proud to carry his name and although he’s gone he will be always alive till I keep him in my memory.