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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.

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"On 18 May 1944 during the retreat from the superior German troops, being in a dead-end situation, the Bolshevik Partisan Unit threw a journal and the documents of Company No. 3 in the river between the villages of Pristan and Kobylichi. Later on, the papers were retrieved, dried out and brought back to life."
RECORD EVERYTHING DOWN AND SAVE.
HOW PARTISANS SAVED HANDWRITTEN JOURNALS
This fact was recorded by A. Baturchik in the supplement to journal No. 1 of the Bolshevik Unit of Belarus Brigade. Partisans had to survive in the harsh conditions of the war. So did their handwritten journals. When encircled, partisans would bury them in ammunition boxes or throw them in lakes or rivers and hope that the paper would survive everything...
Amateur art of partisans, Belarus Brigade. Photo from the museum's archives
Interesting is the story of creation and salvation of the whole collection of Kutuzovets handwritten journals of the Mikhail Kutuzov Unit of Minsk Partisan Brigade No. 2. The events were inextricably linked to the life of the spouses Didenko, Grigory and Zinaida.
Kutuzovets journal of the Mikhail Kutuzov Unit of Minsk Partisan Brigade No. 2., 1944
Grigory Didenko was born in the city of Kurgan, Karaganda Region, in 1917. Before the war he attended Voronezh State Drama School, and then was drafted to the army. He was enlisted in the song and dance company of the border troops of the BSSR NKVD together with his elder brother Piotr. Grigory emceed concerts and recited poetry.
In June 1941 the company was on a tour in Vilnius. Grigory Didenko wrote affectionate and touching letters to his beloved wife who was about to deliver.
Song and Dance Company of the Border Troops of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the BSSR. Photo from the museum's archives
Grigory Didenko and Piotr Didenko. Photo from the museum's archives
"My dear angel, you will be reading this letter in a maternity house getting ready to give birth to a baby boy or a baby girl. My dear Zina, maybe you will already be a mother by this time? My thoughts are with you now. I wish I were there…"

Excerpt from Grigory Didenko's letter to his wife, 1 June 1941
Baby girl Alla was born two weeks before the war… On 22 June 1941 the company found itself in the enemy rear. The artists decided to cross the frontline in small groups. Grigory Didenko managed to make it to Minsk to see his wife and daughter.
Didenko family. Bialystok, 1941. Photo from the museum's archives
Friends of Grigory Didenko helped him get a temporary passport and find a job. In February 1943 the Didenko family joined the Mikhail Kutuzov Unit of Minsk Partisan Brigade No. 2. Upon the initiative of the talented artist, a small music group was set up at the unit to raise the morale of the comrades-in-arms.
Partisans of the Gastello Unit are taking a break, spring 1943. Photo from the museum's archives
"Partisans, commanders and political workers of the unit! At the initiative of the commander, a decision was taken to make a book of stories, essays and recollections of life and combat activities of the Mikhail Kutuzov Unit. Only with active participation of all the partisans can we fully display all the combat operations of the unit. Write about your assignments, about the best people of the unit. Submit your materials to the editorial board."

Excerpt from the Kutuzovets journal of the Mikhail Kutuzov Unit, Issue No.1, Minsk Partisan Brigade No.2, 1944
Grigory Didenko and his comrades were also engaged in the publication of the Kutuzovets journal. All in all, it ran 13 issues. The journal narrated about the deeds, fates and daily life of the partisan unit: Spring Sowing, Healthcare Unit, Death of the Patriot, Demolition Men and others. Songs and lyrics by Grigory Didenko were regularly published in the journal.
Editors even asked for reader feedback about the journal content in the 5th issue.
"Your journal Kutuzovets has made a great impression on me both in terms of its content and design ..."

"Your journal tells the truth about our life and fight in the rear of the enemy. It educates us, the partisans, in the spirit of commitment and love for our homeland..."


Excerpts from the feedback to the Kutuzovets journal of the Mikhail Kutuzov Unit, Issue No.5, Minsk Partisan Brigade No.2, 1944
Shortly before Belarus was liberated, Minsk Partisan Brigade No.2 was trapped in a Nazi encirclement. The Didenko couple wrapped the published journals in sackcloth and buried them in the forest. After the partisans reunited with the Red Army the handwritten documents were extracted from the stash and sent to the Belarusian partisan movement HQ. Nine remaining issues of the journal were handed over to the Great Patriotic War Museum in 1945.
Years later Zinaida Didenko recalled those hard days. The Nazi drove the partisans into a swamp where they had to stay for three days. Zinaida had to hold her three-year-old daughter above her head. Fortunately, bitten by mosquitoes and hungry, the daughter survived…
After Belarus was liberated, the Didenkos came back to Minsk where they worked in the Belarusian State Philharmonic. In 1947 Grigory Didenko became a standup comedian in the Belarusian State Variety Show. In 1963 he was awarded the title of Merited Artist of the BSSR. For 25 years he remained one of the prominent figures on the Belarusian stage.
The Didenko couple and their daughter Alla, 19 May 1945. Photo from the museum's archives
Grigory Didenko and Zinaida Velikanova. Photo from the museum's archives
Variety show playbill
Clipping from an article, 1968
Journals handwritten by Belarusian partisans hold a mirror up to life in the years of war. They describe the fate of the people who endured defeat and took joy in combat victories. They loved and lived hand in hand with hope and faith. Many were ruthlessly mangled by the war just like these paper pages but they persevered.
Handwritten partisan journal Kutuzovets, Issue No. 5, 1944
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018
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