Skip to comments.Stalingrad Medic says Mass for Fallen
Posted on 05/12/2005 7:36:45 PM PDT by struwwelpeter
"Now I pray for those who died before my eyes..."
"Sixteen boyhood years..." An age when others playfully run after a football with their peers, the first desperately shy invitations of neighbor girls to a cinema on Sunday, reading Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne. For others, in a different life, a peaceful one. Young graduate of school number 5, Vladikavkaz resident Lev Temirov, is now a priest of the Ilinskaya church, but at that age, during the days of fiery '42, Father Levan went to travel frontline roads. To travel these with honor.
This junior medic was called to the front from his native Vladikavkaz in June of that year - after finishing a shortened course of field medical training. He was entered into a medical platoon which had been organized in Grozniy, and at first sent to Makhachkala, later to Derbent, Khasabyut, and later still to Beslan in Northern Osetia. Cannon fire was roaring in the republic at the Ehlkhotovskiy gates, shaking the earth, and heavy fighting went on. The platoon received the order: quick-march to the center of the fighting in Elkhotova. There Lev Termirov and his comrades were to aid the wounded. There the sixteen year old boy saw the terrible face of war, without the romantic coloring. He discovered what real human suffering was, and blood and death.
Later his medical platoon was transferred to defend Malgobek. There, under the explosions of shells and land-mines, he had to carry stretchers, bandage wounded men in the dug-outs, and search among the bodies of the dead for those in whom a spark of life still burned for a bit. During those days under Malgobek, Lev Temirov was mentioned in dispatches and decorated for dragging his platoon commander to safety on a trenchcoat-stretcher.
German bullets and shrapnel had no pity for anyone - not those who went to war with machineguns in their hands, nor those who carried a medic's kit with a red cross. But Lev did not hide from bullets or shrapnel. He received a concussion, and was wounded several times. At the end of 1942, near Temryuk, he was seriously wounded and hospitalized for two months. The physicians' sentence: the young man would never use his right arm again. He had not even seen his 18th year, but here he was demobilized from the active army for wounds, and declared an invalid.
He returned to his native Vladikavkaz, which also had just suffered fighting. Life went on, young hopes, despite it all, one must live and work... and here the biography of Lev Temirov coincides with that the 'Socialist Osetia' newspaper for a few years, which was editted then by I. Shapovalov. The young man got a job in type-setting at the print-shop. Later he was offered work in the republic's main newspaper as a publisher - this was a job title between editing and typography, and under his eyes and with his help words went from lead type to columns in fresh editions of 'Socialist Osetia'. "What the newspapers printed in '44 and '45, the readers already know. More or less connected to the Great Patriotic War: the rear's aid to the front, letters from the defenders of the fatherland, military dispatches from the field of battle, orders of the commander in chief," so reads a character sketch of Lev Temirov from our paper two decades ago, written for the 40th anniversary of Victory Day by 'SO' correspondent A. Aleshkin.
"Work at the paper - back then it was like it's own frontline. It was so tense," remembers Lev Avdeevich - Father Levan - these days. "Quite frequently we spent entire nights in edit and typography: new articles from Sovinformburo about this or that city being taken, or new orders from the commander in chief - and we'd have to 'break' an entire column. I was at work on May 9th. Of course, it's impossible to forget. It was a terrific joy, we all rejoiced and embraced, and that night we had to take everything from typography, 'pull out' all the material from the columns and re-do the edition. But no one felt tired, everyone was so lifted up."
But Lev Avdeevich did not entwine his fate with printing: because of health reasons he had to leave typography, he could no longer 'breath the lead'. He got a job at the city distillery where he worked for the next 45 years. ("My friends would always joke, how could I work there and remain sober?" smiles Father Levan.) He got married. His wife Zina presented him with sons - Georgiy and Sasha. At work he was active: Komsorg, head of the local committee, and he organized at his firm one of the capital's leading field medic friendship clubs. He received the honorary title of 'Expert Field Medic in defense of the USSR'. He was an activist in the republic's Red Cross.
But in 1961, in Tbilisi, Lev Avdeevich took Holy Orders. Today he is serving pastor of the Vladikavkaz Ilinskaya church, of the North Osetian diocese. He received awards for his many years of faithful service to the Russian Orthodox church from the Patriarch of all the Russias, and the metropolits of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz. In answer to the question, what awakened this faith in him - was it what he witnessed or experienced during the war? The answer is - no, not even the war. He simply grew up in a religious family. He always attended church, even during those days when it was - to put it mildly - frowned upon. And despite being scolded: 'How could you, you're a komsomolets!', attending God's services became for Lev Avdeevich - Father Levan - a conscious and strong free choice, while faith became a beacon which lit his path during his entire life.
But those Grozny roads of '42 remained in his memory forever. Whenever they ask him: "How was it at the front?", he answers simply: "Terrible."
"Whenever there were a few quiet hours between battles, they were always coming into the medical unit to warm up, these young fellows, soldiers and junior officers. Some would be lightly wounded and need a bandage changed, or to ask for some pills. Some would just come in to chat and laugh with our girls. And so here we'd be sitting around in the evening, laughing and joking. They were all happy and handsome and strong. Alive. But in the morning - battle. And you go out with your medical bag with the stretcher detail, you lean over these familiar boys, laying there in blood, and they are already cold... I remember all of them, those who died before my own eyes," quietly says Father Levan. "Obviously, the Lord wanted me for this, and protected me during the war, so that I could pray for them."
And he prays to God every day, for those whose lives that war carried away.
It is interesting that he has all of those medals on him. I've never seen an Orthodox priest with those -- I wonder if they are military medals, since generally Orthodox awards to priests come in different forms. The Russian Church has a particularly complex system of awards (gold cross, jeweled cross, palitsa, miter, etc...) that I can't even begin to understand. But none of them are these kinds of medals.
Thanks Peter, very touching article.
Wonderful article. Thanks for posting.
They're most military medals, I think I also saw an Order of Lenin, but not 100% sure. That's a strange medal for a priest to wear...
In answer to the question, what awakened this faith in him - was it what he witnessed or experienced during the war? The answer is - no, not even the war. He simply grew up in a religious family. He always attended church, even during those days when it was - to put it mildly - frowned upon. And despite being scolded: 'How could you, you're a komsomolets!', attending God's services became for Lev Avdeevich - Father Levan - a conscious and strong free choice, while faith became a beacon which lit his path during his entire life.
May 11th, 2005
"I'm not afraid of death, but I'd like to live"- wrote the soldier to his loved ones back in Karaganda, shortly before his death near Stalingrad
Running his finger along the pale lines of text, Vladimir Petrovich Bliyalkin reads aloud: "Papa, it's hard for me to write this, but I'll write it anyway. They gave me a medal for bravery. You can congratulate me and wish further success in the fight against the German occupiers." These are letters from his older brother. Nikolai Bliyalkin was taken to the front in June of 1942. That December the soldier perished near Stalingrad.
Now Vladimir Petrovich keeps five of his brother's letters. The thin, wrinkled pages are frightening to pick up: it seems as if they will simply fall apart.
"Nikolai was only 22 years old when they took him to the front. He worked as an art teacher in the school number one," recounts Vladimir, carefully placing the letters on the table. "I was five years old back then.
Judging from things, the retiree reads the letters frequently. Nikolai's simple messages provide their own commentary.
Vladimir Nikolaevich brings out the next letter. "Look here: 'Death follows us at each step. But we insist on life and happiness and we live. If I have to die, I'll die for the homeland as a hero. Don't think that I'll surrender'... 'If I find a free minute I spend it on letters to home'... 'I miss you all a lot, but I have to say that we're used to combat conditions'... 'We go into battle without fear in our eyes, I'm not afraid to die, papa, but I'd like to live'."
Sixty-three years later, the retiree cannot accept that Nikolai is no more. Nikolai loved his little brother very much, and he never forgot to send greetings to him: 'A burning front-line greetings from your son, Nikolai. And the same to my little brothers and sisters. Most of all, of course, to little Volodechka. Stay well, and wait for your brother, Kolya. I sent some verses, father, don't forget to transcribe them, and read them to him'.
When I return, if only you knew'Hello, dear papa and mama! I'm alive and well for now. I'm living alright. In general, life goes on as usual. We fight and beat the German. Combat life goes by fast and unnoticed. Days follow days and months. It seems that it wasn't so long ago that I was home with you, but here it's been already seven months in combat. Papa, it would be interesting to know if you celebrated my namesake's day or not. If not, too bad. I'm going into battle, wish me luck. For now, until we meet again. Kisses'.
How I'd like to be with you, my dear Vova.
But I'm in war, and the time in the front lines
Will be over once we've beaten the German.
When I come back with victory,
I'll put by duffle bag on the table,
Probably you won't recognize me at first,
I'll wash up from the road and tell everything
Or perhaps... Anything can happen,
But remember, one is never alone:
You don't have to make way for other people,
You'll never have to be ashamed of me.
This was the letter that Nikolai Bliyalkin wrote before his last battle.
'Papasha and Mama, don't worry about me'
The district government archives preserve letters from soldiers who never returned from the front. The letters of the Zabara brothers lay side by side. Official documents are attached to the sheets: one brother 'in combat for our socialist homeland, true to his military oath displaying heroism and courage' was killed on September 18th, 1942. The second was missing in action a year later.
After studying the 'funerary notices', it is impossible to read the brothers' letters with indifference.
'Hello, parents. Papasha, mama, and brothers Fedya, Kolya (the same one who later was MIA - author), Shura, Vanya, and all our friends, relatives, and acquaintances.
'My parents, right now I'm in a reserve rifle regiment (the next lines are blotted out by military censors - author). Our mood and feelings are great in all regards.
'...Papasha and mama, don't worry about me, don't be sad. I don't have an exact address, since I'm not going to be here long, but we're going to protect Leningrad. When I know the place I'll write, and you can send a telegram on how things are back at home. Well, goodbye for now. With greetings, your son Pyotr.'
'Greetings from the front!' - This is from brother Nikolai's letter. 'Right now I'm on the road, we're coming up to a transit camp. As soon as we settle things with Hitler, we'll come back, since victory is already coming closer (the message was sent in 1943 - author). The weather here is unenviable. Freezing rain'...
Marina Gorobtsova, photo Valeriya Kalieva :