Table of contents:
- Troubled fate of Berestye
- Cultural nineteenth
- They died but did not give up
- The rails lead into the distance
There were legends about the courage of the defenders of the Brest Fortress, but not a single legend could overshadow the historical truth - it was so incredible.
Sometimes one inscription, clumsily scrawled on the wall, can tell more than dozens of historical documents.
The small Belarusian town of Brest, which has stood on the border for many centuries, has gone through many battles and battles, was among the first to take on an unexpected blow from Nazi Germany on the morning of June 22, 1941, is worthy of admiration for this alone. There were legends about the courage of the defenders of the Brest Fortress, but not a single legend could overshadow the historical truth - it was so incredible.
Troubled fate of Berestye
On the island, at the confluence of the river with the beautiful name Mukhovets, a river with a beautiful name Mukhovets, at the end of the 10th - beginning of the 11th century, a wooden castle was built around which the city began to grow. "The Tale of Bygone Years" calls this settlement Berestye, mentioning it in connection with the events of 1019. It is believed that the city got its ancient name from the trees. However, it is not entirely clear which one exactly. Either there were quite impressive thickets of birch bark around the settlement - of one type of elm, or local residents were able to skillfully make all kinds of crafts from birch bark - birch bark. Nevertheless, the city over the Bug River grew and soon appeared on the arena of political and military struggle of three powerful powers - Russia, Poland and Lithuania.
|Kholmsk gate of the citadel of the Brest fortress. The Gilters were tasked with capturing them and the Brest Gate with lightning speed in order to block the exit from the citadel, but this plan was thwarted.
Photo: Szeder László wikimedia.org
Brest - a border town, or, as the Polish historian Jan Dlugosz (Jan Dlugosz, 1415-1480) beautifully put it, “a marina in the Russian lands”, so its entire history is somehow connected with wars, armies, attacks, offensives, victories and defeats. Russian squads, Mongol-Tatar hordes, Lithuanian knights, Polish cavalry - all tried to occupy this important strategic point.
If initially Berestye was part of Turov principality, then already in the XIV-XVI centuries the city belonged to To the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and in 1569, according to the Union of Lublin, departed Commonwealth … And only in 1795, according to the third partition of Poland, Berestye, now Brest-Litovsk, became part of the Russian Empire. It is clear that all this was not complete without political intrigue and military clashes.
A city with such a "precarious" geopolitical position required a good system of defensive structures. Therefore, in the middle of the 19th century, when the tsarist government paid special attention to strengthening the western borders of the empire - after World War II, during which, by the way, the long-suffering city was occupied by the French - Nicholas I ordered to build in Brest-Litovsk a powerful fortress capable of repelling any enemy. For six years - from 1836 to 1842 - a well-fortified citadel arose over the Bug on the site of a medieval city, while almost all the historical structures of ancient Brest were destroyed (and this is no less than five hundred buildings), and a new city arose two kilometers to the east.
|Barracks at the Kholmsky gate of the citadel. It was in this, the smallest in area of the fortress, that there was the greatest concentration of material resources and personnel. Photo by the author.|
It turns out that in the 19th century we gained a powerful outpost, the most modern by those standards, but lost the monuments of the ancient city, which regularly served on the border for more than eight centuries. Archaeologists could not come to terms with such a loss. Thanks to their work, today on the territory of the fortress (on the Hospital Island) there is a unique archaeological museum "Berestye", where you can see with your own eyes the Berestye settlement of the XI-XIII centuries. The museum makes an impression both with its size and content: from the observation deck, a beautiful view opens up of a huge pavilion, where, at a depth of four meters, the excavated remains of two streets of ancient Brest with pavements and three dozen different buildings are presented. For those who have a good imagination, it is easy to imagine how everything was arranged here several centuries ago. Perhaps it was along this street in 1019 that the wounded Svyatopolk, who had lost the battle with Yaroslav the Wise and fled from the battlefield, was carried.
|A schematic map of the Brest Fortress and the forts surrounding it. 1912 year.|
It is convenient and pleasant to walk in the center of modern Brest: there are extremely wide sidewalks and a lot of greenery, which greatly adorns historical buildings that are not quite rich in "masterpieces". However, in Brest you can still admire the architecture of the 19th - early 20th centuries. In some places (for example, on Moskovskaya and Sovetskaya streets) you come across especially beautiful houses typical of that time. In general, the 19th century left a significant mark on the cultural history of Brest. Since the city was located on the border of Orthodoxy and Catholicism (in 1596 a union was signed in Brest on the unification of Orthodox and Catholic churches), both Orthodox churches and churches were erected here at the same time.
More than other religious buildings in Brest, I was struck by the garrison St. Nicholas Church, built in 1876 in the central part of the fortress: massive, in the Greek style, with a huge dome. They say that it used to be heated with fireplaces like palaces or baths. When Brest once again belonged to Poland (after the Riga Peace Treaty of 1921), the temple was rebuilt into a Catholic garrison church of St. Christophe … And from 1939 until the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army club was located there. In the 1990s, the temple was restored and now appears before the visitors of the memorial complex in all its splendor.
|Polish FT-17 tanks blocking the northern gate to the Brest Fortress against German forces in September 1939.|
It is noteworthy that in the city there is another Orthodox church in honor of St. Nicholas - city St. Nicholas Church on Sovetskaya street. At the end of the 19th century, it was wooden and completely burned out in a fire in 1895, but it was then that a miracle appeared to the townspeople - only the icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. In 1906, a new stone church in the Russian-Byzantine style was built on this site.
In the 19th century, well-known Russian writers, for example Peter Vyazemsky, Wilhelm Kuchelbecker, Peter Chaadaev, Alexander Griboyedov … By the way, here is a very interesting fact. In 1814 in Brest, with a noisy holiday, Russian officers celebrated the rewarding of the commander of cavalry reserves, General Kologrivov, with the Order of St. Vladimir of the first degree, about which Griboyedov told the Vestnik Evropy magazine. And this holiday happened, oddly enough, it was June 22, exactly 127 years before the start of the Great Patriotic War … Still, June 22 is a strange day: the longest in the year, the holiday of the beginning of summer, the summer solstice and … Day of Memory and Sorrow …
They died but did not give up
|By the mere sight of these terrible ruins, one could judge the strength and cruelty of the battles that took place here.
Photo: Lite wikimedia.org
Just step into the territory memorial complex "Brest Hero-Fortress" - and immediately you begin to feel what Sergei Smirnov described so vividly in his famous book: “By the mere sight of these terrible ruins one could judge the strength and cruelty of the battles that took place here. These heaps of ruins were full of harsh grandeur, as if the unbroken spirit of the fallen fighters of 1941 still lived in them. Gloomy stones, in some places already overgrown with grass and bushes, beaten and chipped by bullets and shrapnel, seemed to have absorbed the fire and blood of the past battle … "The German attack was unexpected, swift and powerful for the defenders of the fortress, as for all Soviet soldiers. The small, scattered garrison of the fortress at four in the morning on June 22 was not even ready for coordinated actions, let alone a long defense. However, you can't argue with the story, no matter how incredible it is. The fortress held out for about a month!
Here is the Kholmsk Gate, which is reminiscent of a medieval castle. Every brick here tells the story of a brutal massacre. The Germans walked across the bridge on the other side of the river, ours defended themselves within the walls of brick barracks. And the factor of surprise, and numerical superiority, and great technical capabilities - all played in favor of the Nazi troops. On our part, there was only courage, courage and a sense of duty. The gate is literally riddled with bullets and shells, there is not a single whole brick. What was it like for the defenders of the fortress under such heavy fire?..
Here is a Soviet soldier, bending down, fleeing enemy bullets, reaches for a helmet filled with water. He froze like a stone statue in the "Thirst" monument. There was no water in the fortress. For several weeks the garrison was tormented by a terrible thirst in the sultry June heat, in constant proximity to blazing fires, shrouded in smoke, fumes and an intolerable smell of decay. And although there were rivers around, it was almost impossible to get water from there: the Germans did not let anyone near the shore. Many risked their lives, under cover of night trying to scoop up at least a little water into a helmet or bowler hat and deliver this most valuable moisture to women and children, who all this time were hiding in the deep basements of the barracks. What was it like to see water all the time and not be able to drink it?..
Here is the Museum of the Defense of the Brest Fortress, located in one of the more or less surviving barracks. You stroll through its darkened halls, looking at old photographs, helmets pierced by shrapnel, bowlers, faded banners, and you don’t want to say a word. I would like to be silent and listen to how all these objects found in the fortress tell the story of a truly heroic defense. An alarm clock stopped by an explosion in the first minutes of the war, a torn piece of paper with Order No. 1 drawn up on the third day of defense, the banner of the 393rd separate anti-aircraft artillery battalion, hidden by soldiers in 1941 and found by one of them in 1956, trade union card head nurse, where she wrote down the names of the wounded and the dead …
|The entrance to the memorial complex "Brest Hero-Fortress" is through a hole in the form of a giant star cut into a reinforced concrete rectangle.
Photo by the author.
Many sad events for Russia took place in this fortress. On March 3, 1918, the notorious Peace of Brest was concluded here, in 1939 a joint parade of German-Soviet troops took place here, in August 1941 Hitler and Mussolini visited the already captured fortress. We remember, to put it mildly, the unworthy attitude of the Soviet authorities towards the captured defenders of the citadel and the negligent treatment of the fortress itself in the first post-war years … But the feat of 1941 is the most important association with Brest.
Yes, only ruins remained from the fortress, among which monuments and memorials proudly rise now. And although the archives contain dozens of documents officially confirming the heroic defense of the Brest Fortress, no reports and orders can convey what the inscriptions left by the defenders of the citadel on its walls convey: “We will die, but we will not leave!”, “There were three of us, we it was difficult, but we did not lose heart and will die like heroes”,“We will die, but we will not leave here!”, and the famous“I am dying, but I do not give up. Farewell, Motherland!”, Scrawled on July 20, 1941, on the 29th day of the war. And nothing can overshadow the power of these words.
The rails lead into the distance
|The main monument “Courage” of the memorial complex “Brest Fortress-Hero” is the head of a warrior against the background of an unfolded banner. On the back side of the Main Monument there are bas-reliefs telling about the defense of the fortress. Photo by the author.|
I am standing at the Brest railway station, which itself is a monument of history and architecture. At the end of the 19th century, it was the second largest train station in Europe. A station connecting East and West. What can we say about the level and achievements of local railway workers, if already in 1888 electricity was used here (light bulbs illuminated the platform and the premises inside)! With such a station, and with such railways leaving for Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Brest has become a major transport and trade hub. And a tidbit for any general during the war.
This station on the morning of June 22, 1941 also turned into a real fortress. A small group of brave railroad workers, policemen and passengers who spent the night here organized the defense of the building. Given the strength of the enemy, I would say a desperate defense. For seven whole days, the volunteer defenders of the station, hiding in the basements, ignoring the gas attacks and ultimatums, repulsed the attacks of the Germans. And when the ammunition ran out, they secretly fled to the front to continue the fight there.
It's pretty quiet and calm here now. Trains come and go, people overloaded with things scurry back and forth - the proximity of the Belarusian-Polish border affects. I also take something from Brest. I take away a feeling of gratitude and gratitude to those who with such zeal defended our future during the Great Patriotic War. I take away a piece of courage, courage and courage, which literally permeates the entire Brest land …