The Signatures of War
The Valaam Asylum for the Great Patriotic War Wounded and Disabled Veterans, a pencil story from a Russian artist Gennady Dobrov (1937–2011)
Portrait of a woman who had her face burnt when she passed out by the kitchen stove on hearing the news about the war and her husband ordered to report to the Brest Fortress; the mask is her hands is her face from the photo.
“….UND NIEMAND WOLLTE STERBEN — AND NOBODY WANTED TO DIE.”
Faces of War: the truth we’d rather not remember and which will never be a distant memory to all of us.
The Soviet Union paid a terrible price for the VE-Day 1945: 27 million people lost their lives; furthermore, according to the St. Petersburg Military Medical Institute more than 46 million Soviet people were wounded, and that included 10 million disabled/wounded soldiers: 54 thousand lost their eyesight, 3 million were upper extremity single amputees and 1.1 million were upper extremity double amputees. Tens of millions of people had their lives and fates destroyed or broken.
On seeing all those blind, legless, and armless WWII soldiers, Gennady Dobrov knew they were still standing strong as Victory Soldiers should: sad, proud, and strong; they knew they had fulfilled their soldiers’ duty to defend their Motherland and protect their people, their spirits were high and nobody would complain about their life and fate even though it was evident how hard, desperately and hopelessly painful all that might have been to them. From DAY ONE, the pro-Nazi and pro-Fascist forces inclusive of Germany, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Finland, Croatia, Slovakia, Spain, Bulgaria, and the SS-volunteers from nearly all European countries as well as their collaborationists of all colors from within and without East and West Europe* stood no chances to beat them.
*The NKVD Statement of Status of POWs of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and its satellite countries and volunteers as of 22 April 1956; the nationality/ethnicity profile
They had enough guns, they had enough munitions, they had entire Europe and its resources under their total control; yet, there was one thing they lacked: they just didn’t have the guts to beat these men, women, and their children, hence is their ultimate defeat. These men, women, and their children ripped the guts of those armies and this is a stubborn fact one cannot overwrite.
Gennady Dobrov was the right man, at the right place and at the right time meeting them to tell us their story.
Alexander Podosenov, volunteered when aged 17. In Karelia, a bullet pierced his head to render him motionless; he had lived the remainder of his life sitting on the cushions, paralyzed, at the Valaam Asylum, the Ladoga Lake.
Vladimir Eryomin, an upper double extremity amputee from the town of Kuchino, Moscow region. He learned to write again and took his diploma from a law college.
Taking a rest on the way; Aleksey Kuganov from Takmyk rural community, Omsk region. He fought his way from Moscow to Hungary where he was severely wounded and lost both legs.
Mikhail Koketkin from Moscow; he saw action fighting as a paratrooper when he lost both legs due to severe injuries. He never gave up; he enrolled to take his Masters Degree and Diploma of Higher Education in Statistics; he was also a recipient of war and peacetime awards and medals for his national and civil service.
On January 16, 1945, an air force fighter pilot Grigory Voloshin rammed a German FW-190 fighter plane so that to protect his squadron leader during an air battle in East Prussia. Eyewitnesses saw both planes colliding and exploding in flames. The rescue team failed to recover his body and he was listed KIA. However, the infantrymen found him for the surgeons to do their job and save his life. He lost all his upper and lower extremities; he also lost his memory and faculty of speech. They took him to the Valaam Asylum after the hospital. Gennady Dobrov drew his portrait entitled, The Unknown Soldier. Later on, his son Nikolay Voloshin recognized a printout of the portrait, though it was too late, his father, Lieutenant Voloshin had died in the summer of 1974.
Yulia Yemanova, aged 17, volunteered to go to war as a frontline radio operator. During the Battle of Stalingrad where she was severely wounded and lost her arms and became dumb and deaf. She could only see. No one knows anything about her life.
Vasiliy Lobachev took part in the battle of Moscow. He lost his arms and legs due to gangrene. Had it not been for his wife Lidia, it would have been utterly hopeless and hapless. Lidia also lost her legs in the war. They built a family to support each other and raised two sons.
In the winter of 1945, a squad of Soviet marines rescued the Royal Palace in Budapest from demolition. Alexey Tcheidze was the only survivor in the battle; he had both arms amputated, his ability to see and hear was extremely limited for him to crack a sad joke when he would ironically call himself a prosthesis-man. He also wrote and published his autobiography.
Boris Mileyev from Moscow lost both hands in the war and refused to surrender. He mastered his typing skills to write his war stories and perform typist jobs.
The veteran of three wars, Mikhail Kazankov was 90 years of age when this portrait was sketched; he saw action in the Russo-Japanese war, 1904–1905; in WWI, 1914–1918; and in the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945.
Ivan Zabara from Bakhchisarai, the Crimea, saw action at Stalingrad, “It was all hell breaking loose.”
The Artist’s Talking Drawings
Family Records Coming Alive Again
TURNING THE PAGES OF THE BOOK OF LIFE
THE ENCHANTED TRAVELER
First on-site trips to see the world outside the studio, the Valaam Island, etc.:
HIS NEVER ENDING MONOLOGUE TALKING TO HIMSELF AND TO THE WORLD…ONE WILL CONTINUE WANTING TO WATCH THE UNFOLDING STORY OF LIFE FROM THIS DAY ONWARDS INTO ETERNITY IN QUEST OF A RUSSIAN MAN COMING TO GRIPS BETWEEN THE GOOD AND THE EVIL WITHIN HIMSELF AND WHICH IN KIND OF AN UNCANNY WAY COEXIST, THE PATHETIC AND CATACLYSMIC IN SEARCH OF ENORMITY OF THE DIVINE THOUGHT BURSTING THROUGH THE THICKNESS OF…….
P.S. The Artist Gennady Dobrov’s Story and ‘A Mass for Peace’ videos as well as The Artist’s Talking Drawings Coming Alive Again Musical Presentations and permission to use these and other included materials have been provided courtesy of Mrs. Lyudmila Dobrova, the spouse of Gennady Dobrov.