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Keeping This Day In Memory

Text: RusNavy.com, Timur Gainutdinov
Translation: RusNavy.com
Photo: WW2 veteran Ilya Pistun. RusNavy.com, Timur Gainutdinov
The Victory Day is a strange date. The state which had won that murderous war no longer exists. Soviet ideological officialese evokes smiles of young and some elderly people. Everything has been changed flags, battle colors, insignia, and names. Even national emblem not even remotely resembles that seen on the old medals. Remained only veterans, people who gave us this holiday.
By the day of June 22, 1941 Ilya Pistun was 14. Big and united family (out of six brothers, Ilya was the youngest) lived in Poltava region, Ukraine. Although named village, Yeremeevka was quite huge population center 12 km long and 8 km across, it contained 12 kolkhozes and 3 village administrations.

In that morning Ilya went to bring lunch to his father who was working at watermill. When returned home, Ilya heard the bad news about the war. Three brothers were called in the military at once. The fourth one, Nikolai had been already serving in Zhdanov. He failed to return home; on May 30, 1942 he died in battle near Kursk. Late June 1942 the second brother Jakov was severely wounded by air bomb explosion near Belaya Tserkov, Ukraine. He had been gasping for life in hospitals till July 1942 but could not resist the Reaper and died far in Sarapul, Central Russia. Another brother Afanasiy died a hero's death in 1944 during the Iasi-Kishinev operation. The elder brother Andrei appeared non-effective for the military due to sight disability.

In September 1941 the village fell into heavy times of occupation. Germans did not disband kolkhozes, although took away all crops leaving negligibly small portion to people, simply to keep them alive. Being too young to serve in the army, Ilya and Georgy were hiding from polizeiers who uprooted people to work in Germany. The cruelest polizeier was Atamas, once friend of Pistuns' family, the life-of-party guy always loved to sing and play accordion. Honeying up to the Nazis, he took no compassion even to his brother Nikolai who was a guerillaman; Atamas nosed for him and killed. At his command, a subordinate broke collarbone of Ilya's mother by butt stroke. Later on, when the Read Army freed the village in September 1943, Atamas was arrested. The polizeier was on trial for a week, since there was huge number of witnesses of his crimes. Legally noosed, the traitor had been "decorating" the village's central square for twelve days.

But that day was still far distant. Grigory Pistun was arrested by polizeiers and deported to work in Germany. Three times he tried to escape, imprisoned in concentration camps, and only in 1945 was freed by Soviet troops Nazis' heelers failed to catch Ilya for he was hiding in neighbor sheds, haymows, meadows

On January 5, 1945 Ilya Pistun was called up for military service in the Red Army. No later than in February, the boy was trying on marine's uniform; Ilya was posted to serve in 76th battalion, 13th marine brigade, Pacific Fleet. The brigade was under command of Gen. Maj. Vasily Trushin.

On August 15, 1945 at 5 am. marine Ilya Pistun holding sub-machinegun PPSh set foot on Korean land at Seisin. The company suffered casualties in the very first attack; squad leader was killed and two seamen were wounded. The Japanese maintained desperate resistance. Marines lost 15 men more in the battle against cadets of a military academy located nearby Seisin. In contrast to units battle-hardened in the war against Germans, Far East troops had no fighting experience. Unskilled commanders sometimes gave inadequate orders. In such cases the veterans came from hospitals were quite helpful. When Japanese machineguns made marines fall down and executive officer began to commit the company to attack, master sergeant Sushkov took over command; he had been fighting since June 22, 1945 and was evacuated to Far East after injury in Moscow battle. Along with few marines Sushkov crept behind the enemy's lines and suppressed fire positions; many soldiers owed him their lives.

After reorganization, the battalion headed for the port of Wonsan on American-built small landing ships. Ahead on PT boats was recon unit led by legendary marine Hero of the Soviet Union Capt. Lt. Leonov who went through the war at Northern Fleet. This time, however, the heroic marine did not have to demonstrate his combat skills, since Japanese defense was collapsing like a house of cards. The land of the rising sun was getting to surrender, and Japanese servicemen held off on displaying notorious "spirit of Yamato". 6,000 samurais laid down their arms in front of 1,800 marines. Ilya Pistun saw the Victory being in Wonsan which was triumphantly greeting the liberators.

After war Ilya Pistun took a dive into hard but eventful life. He did not return to Ukraine and decided to stay in the Far East serving in marine units on officer posts. Having the rank of senior lieutenant, he was retired in 1955 by Khrushchev's army reduction program, although maintained connection to Pacific Fleet and worked on various posts as a civil employee. To him, May 9 is a Day of Memory; memory of three brothers failed to return from the war; memory of comrades-in-arms laid down their lives in Korean land; memory of all those who had no chance to see the Victory and build a new life.