Independent Ukraine inherited the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland from the USSR. Despite the fact that the official celebration of February 23 was canceled by President Petro Poroshenko in 2014, this day is still considered by many to be an unofficial “men’s day”, a kind of counterbalance to March 8, when men receive gifts from women.
Given the threat of war now looming over Ukraine, Vesti.ua decided to remember the stars of Soviet cinema, who had to fight in World War II, and their personal stories. In their autobiographies and interviews, the actors bitterly recalled how they managed to survive the war, and told about the most memorable cases from their military life.
Yuri Nikulin suppressed the fear of death
One of the most popular Soviet clowns and film comedians Yuri Nikulin got into his first war at the age of 17. He was drafted into the artillery in 1939, when the Soviet Union tried to capture Finland. He did not say much about how he had in this war, but in his memoirs he wrote that it was there that he first tasted vodka.
“We were given 100 grams of vodka every day. After trying it once, I really didn’t like it. And in addition to it we were given 50 grams of lard. I loved him very much, so I always exchanged vodka for lard. “, – recalls the artist. The only exception he made was a month after the service began. He turned 18 that day.
In 1940, the Soviet-Finnish war ended, and in the summer of 1941, Nikulin awaited demobilization. However, the service could not be forgotten – on June 22 their battery was attacked by German planes.
Interestingly, Nikulin talked about how the fear of death manifests itself in war, and then dulls.
“I can’t say that I belong to brave people. No, I was scared. In those seconds as the projectile flies, approaching, you say to yourself, “Well, that’s all. This is my projectile.” Over time, this feeling dulls, too frequent repetitions. But the first person killed with me is impossible to forget. We once sat in a firing position and ate from pots. And suddenly a shell exploded next to our gun, and the head of the charger was cut off by a fragment. A man is sitting with a spoon in his hands, steam is coming out of the pot. And the upper part of the head is cut off, like a razor, clean“, – Nikulin wrote in his memoirs.
But most of all during the whole war the future artist remembered January 14, 1944. That day, the Germans opened heavy fire from long-range guns. But, despite the roar, after several sleepless nights, Yuri turned off in the dugout. This was noticed by the platoon commander and he ordered the fighter to be taken out. And immediately a projectile hit this dugout.
Innocent Smoktunovsky suffered from women’s caresses
One of the best Soviet dramatic actors, whose Hamlet is still considered one of the most expressive in the entire theater and film world, began fighting in August 1943, when he was 18 years old. Smoktunovsky recalls that of the 125 people who arrived with him at the front, only four survived.
And this was not the only test for the young man. He spent more than a month in captivity, where he was covered by several serious illnesses – both physical and mental.
“It was unbearable to feel that any of the guards could have killed you for nothing at any time“, – he recalled in his last TV interview.
The POW camp was then in Ukraine. And when the future movie star managed to escape, he came to the village of Dmitrovka, Khmelnytsky region, where there were no Germans.
“I was washed in a bath and fed. But I couldn’t eat because my body rejected food. And Ukrainian girls washed me. It was funny and tragic – they and I were young. But I was completely exhausted, and they were torn from excess. Two of them kept me from falling and took up a place I can’t say in public right now. And they washed there with a special onslaught“, – says Smoktunovsky.
In a normal peaceful life, almost any man would be happy with such attention, but Innokenty Mikhailovich was so weak that all he could squeeze out of himself were the words: “No need!”
The actor recalled that he received two medals “For Courage” because he did a brave deed at the front. “But this courage was unreasonable. I just climbed on the rojon. I was waged throughout the war by some mad force, and I was sure that no bullet or shrapnel could knock me down. ” said Innokenty Mikhailovich.
Anatoly Papanov survived where others died
The actor got into the Finnish war at the age of 18, and then was transferred to the war with Germany. According to Papanov’s memoirs, he was often on the verge of death, when almost everyone around him died, he managed to survive: in one of the first battles, when only six men remained from his platoon, and when a random projectile hit them. He and his comrades went into the first dugout to warm up. Very soon an explosion erupted, and Papanov woke up with a concussion and three injuries in a hospital bed. It turned out that after the projectile hit the dugout, all the fighters were covered with earth, and when other soldiers dug them up, only Papanov was alive from the whole platoon.
Zinovia Gerdt was saved by dude’s fingernails
Even before the war, Zinoviy Gerdt became an actor and joined a professional theater troupe. Therefore, his armor from conscription was guaranteed. All actors, including himself, were obliged to join the front brigades, whose task was to raise the fighting spirit, performing in units. However, he chose to volunteer. After joining the army, the actor became a sapper. His responsibilities included demining the areas where the offensive was to take place.
Gerdt differed from his comrades-in-arms in that he preferred to wear dude-grown nails. The soldiers laughed at such a whim, but it was these nails that saved him during the next mission. Finding a mine, he almost exploded, but at the last moment he was able to unscrew the necessary screws with his long nails and avoided the explosion.
But after a while there was still a tragedy: a fragment of the shell Zinoviy Gerdt was wounded in the leg. A nurse pulled him out of the battlefield, writhing in pain but not saying a word. It would seem that life is saved. But that was only the beginning of the suffering. The wound turned out to be so severe that he could not be helped at the field hospital and was sent by ambulance to the capital.
The train lasted a month, and during this time Zinovy Efimovich underwent ten operations. But it didn’t help, the blood infection started. So when he was taken to the hospital, the doctors wanted to amputate his leg, but the leading surgeon Ksenia Vincentini (the first wife of the designer Sergei Korolev) decided to try to save the leg. And the eleventh operation was successful. However, the leg became shorter by eight centimeters.
However, Zinoviy Gerdt learned to play movies with this disease, so much so that no one noticed. But some colleagues still knew about it, and Valentin Gaft even wrote an epigram that he once read on television:
Oh, the extraordinary Gerdt,
He has retained since the war
One of the best features –
His knee is unyielding.
Mikhail Pugovkin was treated with maggots
The war for the actor began with the fact that he enlisted in the People’s Militia, because he was not yet 18 years old. On the first day, when he and fellow soldiers were sent to the front in thirty buses, he was bombed. Only two cars survived – the wounded were taken away. The survivors brought shovels the next day to bury the dead, and more than 150 people died then, according to the actor’s memoirs. After that, the soldiers began digging anti-tank trenches.
Pugovkin fought the year and already began to feel spoken, because many died around, and he has no scratches. But in another battle he was wounded by a grenade in the leg and face. Severe wounds were the beginning of the ordeal he had to endure. There was a catastrophic shortage of antibiotics, so the soldiers cleaned the wounds with maggots. The spectacle was horrible, but the method of treatment was effective.
However, this did not help Mikhail Ivanovich – the doctors were going to cut off his leg. But on the day of the operation, a directive came to minimize amputation, then the surgeon literally scraped the pus with a spoon and sewed up the leg.
Then Pugovkin was transported from one hospital to another many times because the wounds healed very poorly. Eventually, he ended up in Tbilisi. When the actor was discharged, he was given new documents. However, an error was made in the surname. Thanks to her, he became Pugovkinbecause his real last name was Pugonkin. But he did not ask to correct the mistake, because for a long time many fellow soldiers and just acquaintances called him Pugovkin.