Gennady Komissarov: «I Survived Thanks to My Grandmother»

The war made him grow up. By a whole year earlier. But it also made him strong, manly and tough. A battle-front veteran Gennady Komissarov, who has long entered his tenth decade, is still optimistic and to a question «Any successes recently?» he replies with a smile: «Mine are still ahead».

Brief Personal Records Information

Gennady A. Komissarov is a battle-front veteran, Candidate of Sciences (Engineering), ex-Chairman of the SUSU Council of Veterans. He graduated from Chelyabinsk Polytechnic Institute (CPI) and became Dean of the university’s Faculty of Energy and Power Engineering, and Head of the Department of Power Supply to Industrial Enterprises and Cities. At the Third Belorussian Front and the First Far Eastern Front he fought against the Fascist Germany and militaristic Japan. He also participated in the Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation known as Operation Bagration. He served as a radio man in an artillery regiment. He was awarded the Order of the Great Patriotic War of the 2nd class, the Order of the Red Star, the Order of Glory of the 3rd class, as well as many medals, including Medal for Bravery, and Medal for Combat Service.

Son of the Enemy

He has a very long list of combat and labour awards. Everyone loves and respects Gennady Komissarov, and his name is included into the university’s Book of Honour. Could an ordinary Ural boy, for many years castigated by fate with a mark of shame of a «son of the enemy of the people», dream of becoming a person he is now? And when the war began…there is but one dream — to stay alive.

Back then, in the year of 1944, everything started with a curious incident. Gennady was called into the Army when he had not yet turned 18, and at that time those who had been born in 1925 were called for the service. The call-up commission secretary briefly discussed this situation with the headquarters and simply changed the recruit’s birth year to 1926, to make it consistent with data of other young soldiers. Thus, Mr. Komissarov grew older before his due time and for the next years to come.

Later on, already when the war ended and he entered his civilian life in 1950, Gennady thought of correcting it, but he would have had to make changes to all his documents and award sheets… He gave it a thought once again and decided to leave it as it was.

Before the call-up, he managed to study in a power engineering vocational school for a year and a half. So, he could tick off «seven years and higher» in his education column, and it was considered good education back in the war time. That is why Mr. Komissarov was sent directly to Infantry School from Elansky distribution camps. The young soldier was asked only one question by the general at the credentials commission: «Who are your parents?» Gennady honestly replied that his father had been arrested in 1937. The general said he had no more questions, and so the doors of that educational institution were shut for Mr. Komissarov. He was sent to Sverdlovsk military school, where his studying began. But there also at a certain stage “horrifying truth” became known of. He would not be allowed to graduate from that school. A son of the enemy of the people did not deserve an officer rank.

Radio and Artillery Man

Back to the Elansky camps and to a new distribution destination. In Molotov Shooting and Mortar Bombing School everything was going well. Mr. Komissarov was a clever cadet, and his vocational school studies helped him a lot. But right before the graduation it was the same story all over again. The head of the political department summoned Gennady and told him that he was to be sent to a different military unit. He was accepted into the air-borne forces, into the brigade where very little people had been left after a failed combat assault on Kiev. He was trained in the speciality of an «artillery regiment paratrooper»...

«When for an already well-known reason I got kicked out of there as well, I asked to send me to the artillery regiment since I had gained some skills by then, — shares Gennady Komissarov. — They bathed us in the Russian sauna, cut our hair (all over the body), put us in the heated freight cars and sent us to Vitebsk, which was still under siege. I was placed into the 41st artillery regiment of the 97th rifle division. These military units were in need of radio communication in case of an offensive operation. They made us stand up in line and asked who had an education of seven grades and higher. And that's how they started training me as a radio man, as an addition to my skills as an infantryman, mortar gunner and artillerist.

Out of the brigade’s 10 people I turned out to be the most clever one, so they kept me in the regiment’s headquarters battery. And that means that the son of the enemy of the people got to learn the most important military secrets! How could that happen? There were many guys from the occupied territories in the division. Members of SMERSH (Counteragency for Sabotage and Espionage) held inspections all the time. And soldier Komissarov was the only one from the Ural region, and he simply was at the back of the list. I provided communication both for the regiment’s commander and the headquarters’ director. I spied on the Germans to gather information and passed the data to our artillery men. I proved myself when the army participated in the battles for the liberation of Byelorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, and East Prussia».

War after War

During the final battles over Konigsberg, the Komissarov division was brought out of action. Soldiers were put into the heated freight cars and sent to the Far East. When they almost reached Sverdlovsk, it was announced that the war was over. Gennady Komissarov will never forget how people greeted their echelon on every station. How much happiness and joy people showed! Only the war was not over for everybody.

They were told to get off on a small station in Primorye and to settle in a gorge. It was raining. There were surrounded by only bald peaks and not a single house was in view. Soon the gorge filled with water, and they had to carry the cannons to a higher ground. When the heavy shower stopped, they began to settle down. They were felling trees, building hut barracks, and sleeping on bare ground.

And then, manoeuvres began. They were given a task to combat the Japanese amidst the bald peaks packed full of weapons. The Kwantung Army prepared for the war very thoroughly. There many-storey facilities inside every mountain peak. The upper combat storey contained small-calibre main guns. This was followed by a combat supply compartment — ammunition. Below that was a compartment for communication and a diesel power plant. Such a caponiere had metallic walls 20-30 centimetres thick. Soldiers had to combat through all of that.

In the night they formed in a line and attacked the caponiere. They surrounded those and left deminers there. 300 kilograms of explosives could not break through the first fortification. Only five hundred kilograms of explosives managed to crack the «shell». The fifth army division, where Mr. Komissarov served, was successful in completing the tasks set before them during the Soviet-Japanese conflict.

— Was it more frightening to combat the fascists, or the Japanese?

— It was frightening everywhere. In Manchuria, the kamikazes pursued our troops even at night. When the exhausted soldiers got tired and were falling asleep on the bare ground, they would crawl up to them and cut their throats with daggers. We had major losses. It wasn’t a good combating, to be honest. It was all clear with the Germans: here are the trenches, and here are the Hitler’s forces. And in this war… we didn’t know where our death could come from. Luckily, it all ended soon.

An Atheist’s Prayer

God kept Gennady Komissarov safe for two wars, though he never was a believer. As no one in his family was, especially after what happened to their father, who was by the way exonerated in 1956. Their mother, who was left with four children, had to work day and night to support them. Only their grandmother was devout, and once her faith saved her grandson.

Near Konigsberg, the regiment reconnaissance group came under heavy fire. It was like in hell. The missiles exploded every second, trees were burning like flares all around. Gennady knew it would be impossible to get away from that trouble. He buried his face in the ground and actually prepared to die. Then he remembered his grandmother and how she had been seeing him off for the military service. She taught him one prayer then and asked him to say it if he came to a critical moment in life. He did not doubt that it was the very moment, so Gennady, trying to suppress his shame, as he was a Komsomol member, said his grandmother’s prayer...

No rational explanation could be given to that, but Gennady Komissarov remained safe and sound. And together with him, all ten members of the reconnaissance group who came under the horrifying fire. Though, that incident did not shake the atheistic beliefs of Gennady. He kept on fighting with his faith in the Victory. He was not afraid of the bullets, and performed exploits, not even fully realizing it.

A Helping Hand

Also, near Konigsberg, as a result of shooting, a house with many soldiers in its basements caught fire. The basement windows had been bricked up on purpose to protect people inside from shards and bullets. The partner of radio man Komissarov wearing earphones kept the communication running. Having noticed that people are trying to break through the bricks from the inside, Gennady rushed to help them.

«Eyes burn from the acrid smoke, missile explode all around,” recalls the battle-front veteran. “I reach out a hand, haul out one officer, then another one... — and instead of helping me rescue others from the basement, they run for shelter. And here, a nearby truck catches fire, too. The missiles in the car body start exploding. All I hear is cracking and rumble...When I returned to the trench, sweating and smutty all over, the commander rather quaintly showed his appreciation of my act. First, he told me off for leaving the radio station without permission. But later he recommended me for a decoration for saving the headquarters officers».

That day a shell splinter did scratch our fellow countryman. But his ushanka hat softened the blow. It resulted in only a mild concussion. And in his first Order — the Order of Glory.

Tatiana Stroganova; photo by the author
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