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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 1 January 1944 a group of saboteurs of the Za Rodinu (For Motherland) partisan unit set off on a military mission to blow up an enemy train going to the frontline. The partisans accomplished the mission having derailed the train, killing and injuring about a hundred Wehrmacht soldiers. That was how the fighters of one of many partisan units of Minsk Oblast celebrated the new military year of the fight for freedom.
NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS
DURING THE WAR

Later the Patriot of the Motherland journal (issue No. 4) of the Za Rodinu unit of the Belarus Brigade dated 1944 published this entry:

"Every saboteur was burning with the desire to derail military echelons of the enemy, thus making a gift to our homeland… The new year of 1944 will make us stronger and more determined. We will reinforce attacks on the enemy to make this year the year of final victory."

These words reflected common New Year sentiments in the partisan units.
Even in the difficult wartime the tradition of celebrating the new year did not go away. It was just that the circumstances, greetings and wishes were different.
Piotr Goncharov, commanding officer of the Za Rodinu partisan unit, recalls:

"Our nearly 400-strong unit operated near Rudensk, some 25km from Minsk. Proximity to the enemy kept us alert all the time. I never allowed my fighters to relax even during holidays. Alcohol was absolutely off limits. However, Belarusian partisans knew how to have fun even without this New Year tradition."
The partisans created a festive atmosphere any way they could. They decorated a fir tree, but not with candies or toys, but with empty cartridge cases, grenades and even mines… They also used strobiles and crafted toys from the journals received from the rear.
Resistance fighters ring in the New Year. Photo from the museum's archives
Just before midnight the partisan unit would read out a special message of congratulations, honored the best fighters and reviewed their combat achievements.
Blown-up bridges and enemy tanks, derailed trains, dead Nazis and freed territories were mentioned during the New Year meeting. And then they would gather up at the festive table. The commander would give orders to cook a "better than usual" dinner.
Partisans' field kitchen, winter of 1943. Photo from the museum's archives
"New Year greetings were extended to local residents, too. Together with the chief of staff, we would wear camouflage cloaks to pose as Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden and bring a sleigh-load of bread and scones to kids in various villages. The partisan unit had a chorus of seven people."

Piotr Goncharov, commanding officer of the Za Rodinu partisan unit, recalls

Partisans would stage plays and sing not only for their own partisan unit: the soldiers would bring joy to residents of the nearby villages, too. They would spread messages broadcast by the Sovinformburo radio and would talk to peasants. Children particularly looked forward to meeting with the partisan Grandfather Frost. Despite hunger and hardships the soldiers would always try to make it a festive occasion for the kids.
"The school of the family camp, which was under the protection of the partisan unit, gathered students to celebrate the new 1944 year. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree was erected in the middle of the school hall. Commissar of the partisan unit Fyodor B. made a report on the 25th anniversary of the BSSR. The celebrations featured a school concert. Students also received gifts from partisans: footwear, clothes, school supplies."

Excerpt from an article in the Zarya newspaper, 5 November 1944
The partisans particularly looked forward to the year 1944. In the outgoing 1943 the Red Army struck a devastating blow to the enemy and liberated over half of the occupied lands. The partisan movement was rapidly expanding. The success of the Soviet troops made people even more determined to fight against the enemy. Entire villages joined the partisan movement. More than 17,500 people joined the partisans in August- early September alone. Ahead there were great victories and small defeats, bloody battles and glorious deeds of ordinary people… People who believed in the inevitable victory over the enemy in the new 1944 and fiercely fought for the freedom and independence of the Motherland.
Patriot of the Motherland handwritten journal (issue No. 4) of the Za Rodinu unit of the Belarus Brigade, January 1944
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018
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