The Soldiers of World War II: Petr Eremin

May 2013

Lgov is a small city in Kursk region. Petr Eremin, a World War II veteran, recollects his time during the war and what happened here during German occupation.

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He gathered a reconnaissance team when he was only 15

Back in 1939, the Eremins moved to live and work at railway station Lgov-2 that eventually became a most important transportation hub for German Wehrmacht. Just during the first days of their occupation, fascists tortured and killed over 300 civilians. But Russian betrayers who collaborated with enemies were even worse than occupants – they committed ferocious deeds.

When the regime of the Third Reich was firmly established in the winter of 1941, Lgov became a transit point through which endless trains with personnel and armour were heading for the East. To the West, they returned with people: railway cars were filled with captured Russians to the full capacity. People cried and begged to give them water. A woman with son as if incidentally walking nearby started throwing snow behind the bars under pain of punishment when German guards were shortly distracted. That boy in a rural jacket was the hero of our publication.

Petr Eremin was 15 when the war broke out. The young man wasn't going to put up with atrocities against the people around. He teamed up with his friends to make up a reconnaissance troop. Their dangerous activity was coordinated by Sentyurev, the chief of Lgov partisans. The teenagers had a radio that they used to transmit data about detected field airstrips, arrivals of trains, locations of SS guards and polizei. Once they took prisoner a German infiltrator who was disguised as a woman with the mission of roaming around still unoccupied villages and adding poison to drinking water wells.

When the battle for Lgov started, the entire city's right bank part was overwhelmed by fire from Katyusha artillery rockets, and German tanks with fuel exploded at the terminal due to air assaults. The freed city became the site for the headquarters of General Chernyakhovsky, the Commander of the 60th Army, therefore the enemy increased the intensity of bombings. In such a difficult situation, Eremin was restoring railways and depot day and night. Then he made fake documents where he added one year to make the age 18 and went to the war.

The rookie who had distinguished himself in the long-range shooting discipline during a short-term training was assigned to the reconnaissance company of the 1713th Air Defence regiment. Soon he came to know the first attack near Poltava, first successes in the battle and first losses among friends. Eremin was a scout-observer whose prime task was the timely sighting of the enemy. Without state-of-the-art equipment, which was available to the enemy, our soldier relied on his acute eyesight and sharp ears: he got very close to German troops, he tracked their tanks and air planes thus gathering information that was crucial for future battles.

Eremin received his first and therefore the most memorable Bravery medal in Ukraine in Yasso-Kishinev strategic offensive. He with a group of ten fighters smashed a large German command unit. There were many more new battles ahead: in Moldova, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria...

It Seemed the Water was Burning

The defensive line from the Carpathian Mountains to Budapest was breached. Petr Eremin's commander ordered him and two other soldiers to make a raid into the territory controlled by the enemy to capture a "tongue". In a half-abandoned village, the reconnaissance troop found a church with a German base inside. After Eremin broadcasted the coordinates of the fascist den, Russian bombers emerged in the sky in a few minutes. As a result of the air strikes, the ammunition supply warehouses started to explode. The sky burned with a thousand of fires. Being just a step away from death, Eremin and his mates managed to get out together with the captured through gusts of fragments augmented by bullets of Germans who noticed them. The Soviet brigade was also surrounded. Having demolished a good deal of airstrips, bridges and enemy armour, the military unit lost a significant part of personnel and therefore needed reinforcement. The officer on the other end of communication line made it clear that the help wouldn't arrive. In addition, the Russian Command received a report that the enemy's expectations had been greatly exaggerated and they had sent 15 armoured divisions to suppress the Red Army soldiers!

Eremin was in the night watch and was the first to spot the approaching German divisions. He raised an alarm. What happened next was later called "inferno" – it seemed the water was burning and there was no land left intact. Petr Eremin was badly wounded in the unequal battle, in which the enemy forces exceeded ours by ten times, – a fragment hit his head. However, two months later he was already active in new battles. He celebrated the Victory at a battlefield in Austria. Petr had remembered that sunny day and tears in the eyes of his war mates for his entire life.

The war wound disturbed him many times but Eremin refused to live off a disability group and entered a job in Lgov railway depot instead. He had worked there as a crane operator for 46 years until his retirement. Together with spouse Yulia they have raised five children: four daughters and son. Now they have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. So, a large round table, when the whole family gathers around it in summer, hardly sits all who want to listen to the stories of the brave soldier.