What is a silent forest? How the memory of the heroes of the Karelian Isthmus is restored

“Every time the field search period begins, you can not get rid of the thought: there will be nothing special this year, well, the legacy of this war can not be endless,” said journalist Sergei Zagatsky, governor of Ozerny. search quote. “But every time it seems to overtake us and we open the forgotten pages.”

What is a silent forest?  How the memory of the heroes of the Isthmus of Karelia is restored  PHOTO by Sergei ZAGATSKY

PHOTO by Sergei ZAGATSKY

For the second year in a row, the squadron is on a mission across Vyborg – near the village of Gvardeyskoye in the Karelian Isthmus. Where, in early July 1944, several battalions of the 265th Division tried to break through the enemy defense. The battles turned out to be fierce, bloody, many of our heroes died on the shore of the lake, then called Salo-Yarvi, and now Bolshoye Lesnoye.

A few years ago, search engines went to these places for identification: they knew there was a failed passage somewhere. But then nothing was found. And last year, continuing the search, it fell on the ruins. And they discovered that the fighters remained lying where they died during the battle. And then, step by step, they unleashed this completely unknown story of the “valley of death” on the Isthmus of Karelia.

– For many years I have not seen such that in the forest everything was almost exactly as then, in July 1944. To avoid traces of excavations, garbage from tourists and fishermen, says Zagatsky.

Lake Salo-Jarvi is long and narrow, like a river. The Red Army soldiers were tasked with organizing a crossing, landing on the opposite bank occupied by the Finns and occupying a bridgehead. As the passage continued, the enemy was silent, but as soon as the first boats reached the shore, they opened heavy fire from what was there.

Nevertheless, two battalions managed to pass and develop into battle formations. Trying to grab the enemy from two sides, pinching him, one battalion moved west, the other east. The battle took place in a forest scattered with granite rocks. The Finns, sitting on a rocky high-rise, literally pushed the Red Army soldiers to the ground.

The battle report states that Soviet troops managed to repel eight enemy counterattacks. After the ninth, the commander ordered them to withdraw.

In the evening the attackers tried to deliver reinforcements and evacuate the wounded, but the enemy sank rafts with guns and boats. The search engines found the place where the headquarters was, they even found the remains of a stretcher on which the soldiers tried to evacuate the severely wounded commander of the regiment on the other side of the river …

More recently, search engines have been able to find the descendants of the owner of this bottle, found in the “Death Valley” in the Karelia Isthmus. It turned out to be Vladimir Slesarenko, who served in July 1944 in the air surveillance, warning and communications company. He went through the whole war, after the Victory he remained in the army. And just lost this flask in battle / PHOTO by Sergei ZAGATSKY

“Now, after almost eighty years, this coast remembers everything in the smallest detail, says Zagatsky. – At the water’s edge – mountains of used cartridges. Countless queues from Finnish mines. Fragments embedded in trees. Barbed wire, broken in many places and cut by our swordsmen. From the hill of the forest, the bed of an old stream descends into the water. There is no water in it for a long time, but there are no measurements of Soviet grenades and cartridges …

As a result, despite the incredible heroism of our fighters, the battlefield was left to the enemy. No further attempts were made to force this lake. And after a while, about a week later, the Finns themselves left their posts.

– We managed to find out that the dead fighters remained lying in the forest. No one buried them; in fact, they were simply forgotten. Hundreds of people – individuals and commanders, signalmen, snipers, scouts, even nurses … You can literally recreate the image of the battle, how the soldiers went along the slope of the height and fell, hit by bullets and shrapnel. All their names are known, according to the documents they are said to be buried in the nearest military monuments. But, unfortunately, only on paper – this is what our search mission showed, – said the commander of the Lake.

Lists of fighters of the 265th Division were found in the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense. According to casualties, in the first days of July, 73 Red Army soldiers were killed in the water while crossing Lake Salo-Jarvi. The same number is recorded as abandoned off the coast of Finland, 46 are missing.

However, according to search engines, it has not yet been possible to relate the lists to the relics found: all the warriors found remain anonymous. There are very few personal items: apparently, after the battle, the Finns collected as many trophies as they could.

– The division arrived here from the Volkhov front, we find captured German bottles in many soldiers. For some reason, they did not care about the Finnish soldiers, they did not take them away, says Zagatsky.

In a bottle there is a carefully embossed star and winged lightning, as in the emblems of military signals. On the other hand there is a message: “1944! Sl. Vl. Al. 1925. 1 / X Tikhoretsk. Tajikistan USSR! Art. Proletarsk. ag. October…”. For some reason, the fighter did not have time to add the street name to the bottle of his trophy …

Search engines found a simple soldier spoon from one of the unknown heroes. When they cleaned it, they received militant greetings. The soldier, apparently, wanted to preserve the memory of those who had lived, he wrote: “Memory of the Patriotic War of 1941-42”. But it so happened that an ordinary spoon kept his memory.

This year, divers will come to the aid of search engines. They examine the bottom of the lake in the area of ​​the passage. So, little by little, the search engines return from oblivion the achievement of the soldiers of the Red Army, which was completed on these lines in July 1944 … There is no doubt that in time a monument will appear here that will perpetuate the memory of heroes.

The material was published in the newspaper “Saint Petersburg Vedomosti” No. 93 (7176) on May 26, 2022 with the title “What the deep forest is silent”.

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