3
Records were made wherever and whenever possible – in dugouts, between the battles, on wallpaper, exercise books, office books…

Handwritten partisan journals were kept together with important documents. They contained facts and figures interspersed with stories about the daily grind, battles and heroes. Handmade 'books' were pepped up by pictures and unfailing sense of humor. They were circulated to raise morale. They were read to draw strength.

PAGE
This battle lasted more than three hours and took the lives of over 100 Nazis. Partisans lost 17 people, the youngest of whom was only 16 years old.

BATTLE OF KUCHIN
The battle in the Krushnikovsky Forest described in a handwritten partisan journal is also mentioned in other sources as the Battle of Kuchin.
A group led by Yakov Kovshirko from partisan unit No. 61 was tasked with destroying a police station near the Kuchin village and seizing trophies. On 26 July 1942 after completing the mission, the partisans made a stop 3km to the northwest of the village.
"The enemy ring around us was getting smaller and smaller. Bullets were raining down. The fascists enraged by the stubborn resistance from a small group of partisans were pressing hard, though our shots were dropping them one by one...Groans of the wounded and cries of dying people were heard everywhere.

The battle was growing fiercer. Our comrades fought bravely. But enemy fire was taking the lives of our soldiers one by one…"


Excerpt from the National
Avenger journal, Issue No. 3,
November 1942,
Partisan Unit No.61
Photos from the museum's archives
"We had to camp out in a small forest because the forests in Klichev, Berezino and Belynichi districts were cordoned off and the entire right bank of the Drut River was occupied by fascist thugs. The enemy had considerable forces on the left bank of the Drut River as well…"

From the memoirs
of Stepan Gordeyev,
a participant
of the Battle of Kuchin
Simultaneously, the occupants launched a punitive operation against the partisans from Mogilev District, Klichev District and Osipovichi District of Mogilev Oblast.
"In July 1942 the enemy pulled three full-strength divisions from the frontline to assist the punitive forces. They launched an offensive from four sides aiming to box in the partisans in the Klichev-Usakino forests and destroy them completely. In early July the first big enemy groups showed up near the villages. However, they were repelled by the national avengers."

From the memoirs
of Stepan Gordeyev,
a participant
of the Battle of Kuchin
In the morning of 9 August the Nazis encircled the forest where the 15- strong Kovshirko group and four partisans from unit No. 255 were hiding. The Nazis deployed several dozen vehicles with soldiers, light tanks, artillery and mortars.
Partisans in a firefight. BelTA's photo reproduction
"Our stay in such a small forest was not left unnoticed. Traitors tipped off the head of the Hitlerite punitive expedition that a large group of partisans was hiding in the Kuchinsky Forest. He sent a punitive mission that outmanned and outgunned us more than 100 times. The mobile infantry alone had 2,500–3,000 soldiers and officers and 81 large vehicles."


From the memoirs
of Stepan Gordeyev,
a participant of the Battle of Kuchin
It was too late to run from the forest. Actually, there was nowhere to run as the forest was surrounded by fields. The Kuchinsky Forest was 3km long and 1km wide. The group began to maneuver to avoid being detected by the Nazis. The enemy launched heavy mortar fire at the forest.
Photos from the museum's archives
"The Nazi opened artillery and mortar fire shooting the forest through and through. A plane was adjusting the fire, while small tanks and armored vehicles were patrolling between the firing points. The forest was sealed off. Our group was in dire straits. We decided to maneuver. We made the enemy spin their wheels; they used up a great amount of ammunition without killing anyone of us…"


From the memoirs
of Stepan Gordeyev,
a participant of the Battle of Kuchin
The only way out of the forest was a narrow pathway to an open field between Brody and Nezovka. That was where the partisans were heading when the Germans started a comb-through operation. The partisans had to hurry up. Yakov Kovshirko sent two people on a reconnaissance mission but they were killed never reaching the pathway. It became clear for the partisans there was no escape from the forest, and they began preparing for an all-round defense.
"Vladimir Zayats with an assault rifle and Mikhail Leibovich with a rifle went to scout the area in order to cross the open field and reach the large forest… But they managed to run some 200–300 meters away from the edge of the forest… The Nazi 'dropped' our comrades and the enemy's light armored vehicles moved out into the battlefield…"

From the memoirs
of Stepan Gordeyev,
a participant
of the Battle of Kuchin
The ring of the enemy was shrinking fast. The partisans repelled two attacks with the enemy suffering great losses. However, the Nazis continued attacking never stopping for a minute. Nine partisans, including Yakov Kovshirko, were killed.

Photos from the museum's archives
Shortly after, the Nazis ceased fire and called on the partisans to surrender. Political instructor Vasily Kraiko decided to approach the Nazis to throw grenades on them to give the other partisans a chance to escape amid panic.
"…We had very few firing points left… Under the pretense of surrendering the heavily wounded political commissar Kraiko, the section leader Polikarpov, Valendo, and Saitov stood up and went towards the enemy… Each of them had two grenades ready to detonate. The Germans surrounded every one of them… Our comrades simultaneously pulled out the safety pins… The first grenades were thrown at the feet of the enemy…"

From the memoirs
of Stepan Gordeyev,
a participant
of the Battle of Kuchin
When grenades ran dry, partisans Hamat Saitov, Vladimir Valendo, Nikolai Vikhritsky and Vasily Zuyev attacked the enemy with bayonets.

Hamat Saitov broke his bayonet and took out a knife. He killed several Nazi soldiers before a German officer shot at him. When the Fritz bent over him, Hamat grabbed his hand, pinned him down and clutched at his throat.

Vladimir Valendo used the butt stock to knock down the enemy.

Pavel Koblov and Stepan Gordeyev, the authors of the article, were the only ones who managed to escape. They came back to the detachment five days later to tell the story to their comrades. The terribly wounded Vladimir Valendo was found by scouts who found their way to the battlefield. He died in their arms but managed to tell what his comrades had accomplished.

According to the museum's information, the partisans killed over 100 Nazis. The oldest partisan – Mikhail Leibovich – was 38. Yakov Kovshirko was 22 years of age. The youngest one – Vladimir Valendo – was only 16. Partisans wrote a song in memory of their heroic comrades.
A piece of poetry dedicated by the editor of the partisan journal A. Tarnetsky to his fallen comrades

(Excerpt from the National Avenger journal, Issue No. 3, November 1942, Partisan Unit No.61)
The remains of the fallen partisans were moved to the graveyard of the village of Kuchin in 1948. Names of 13 heroes were initially inscribed onto the tombstone. The fact that there had been 17 partisans – four fighters from another partisan unit joined Kovshirko's group – became known later.

Here are the names of the partisans, who died fighting near the village of Kuchin:

Vladimir Valendo, Boris Vasyanin, Nikolai Vikhritsky, Pavel Zhyonin, Vladimir Zaitsev, Grigory Zaitsev, Vasily Zuyev, Ivan Karnetsky, Piotr Kovalyov, Yakov Kovshirko, Vasily Kondratyev, Vasily Kravtsov, Vasily Kraiko, Mikhail Leibovich, Mikhail Polikarpov, Hamat Saitov, Nikolai Ushakov.
Yakov Kovshirko
the group’s commander
Vladimir Valendo
(16 years old), the youngest participant of the Battle of Kuchin
Hamat Saitov
was born in the Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1911
Vasily Zuyev
Vladimir Zaitsev
Grigory Zaitsev
Mikhail Polikarpov
Ivan Karnatsky
Stepan Gordeyev
one of contributors to the National Avenger journal
Excerpt from the National Avenger journal, Issue No.3, November 1942, Partisan Unit No.61

Vladimir Valendo was born in the town of Klichev, Mogilev Oblast in 1923*. After finishing secondary school, he went to work as an assistant to the cinema technician of the Klichev House Building Factory. In late 1940 he joined the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol). He died heroically as part of the partisan unit, sacrificing his life to help free his homeland.

* Valendo's age indicated in the handwritten journal was incorrect. He pretended to be several years older than he really was, which was done by many youngsters seeking to join partisans. His real age was established later using archived documents.
Excerpt from the National Avenger journal, Issue No.3, November 1942, Partisan Unit No.61

Yakov Kovshirko was born in the village of Olkhovka, Klichev District, Mogilev Oblast in 1920. He received the military rank of lieutenant and served in the army as artillery reconnaissance commander. He fought on the frontline during the Great Patriotic War. While in the enemy rear, he joined the partisan unit as deputy commander.
National Avenger journal, Issue No. 3, Partisan Unit No. 61, November 1942
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