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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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"Rise up and join the fight against the enemy of humanity – Nazi Germany! Take up weapons and join us, partisan units, to bring closer the liberation day, to avenge your brothers and fathers, wives and sisters, for mothers. We are waiting for you! We will welcome you as brothers!"
FYODOR YURCHENKO PARTISAN UNIT
Secretary of the Brest Underground Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus Sergei Sikorsky thanks kolkhoz worker Maria Shish for her three sons who fought in partisan units. Photo By BeTA
In late December 1943 Polish partisans and the command of the Yurchenko partisan unit of Minsk Brigade No. 1 wrote a letter to Polish compatriots. The three pages written on what once was a banking statement reflected it all: worry, determination, appeal and firm belief that the victory would come soon.
Photo by BelTA
More than 4,000 foreign fighters fought together with the Belarusian people in the occupied territories against German troops. Mostly they were former members of Wehrmacht units. Once on the Belarusian land, some soldiers of the German troops turned their arms against the occupier and joined the partisans.
The international presence in the partisan movement grew stronger particularly after the victories of the Red Army at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk. Anti-fascist sentiment among foreigners was growing. So was the partisan movement. Foreign anti-fascists set up platoons, companies and entire units.
The new page of the Partisan Chronicles is dedicated to the Yurchenko partisan unit of Minsk Brigade No. 1. Starting out as a small group of nine fighters, in 1942 it grew into a powerful combat force of 400 partisans, including foreigners.
The partisan unit came into existence in the forests of Begoml District in early 1942. "This small group of comrades engaged in a variety of activities: they mobilized people, urged them to rise up, conducted morale-boosting and patriotism promotion campaigns and collected weapons" – this is how the evolution of the unit was described in the first issue of the Strike From The Rear partisan journal as of November 1943. The work on this handwritten edition started when the unit was led by Vasily Rebrov.
Commander Fyodor Yurchenko
Vasily Rebrov joined the partisan movement in June 1942. Since 1 September 1942 he was head of staff of the partisan unit, in charge of reconnaissance operations of Minsk Brigade No. 1 till February 1943. In February 1943 he took the lead of the Yurchenko partisan unit.

Excerpt from the Strike From The Rear journal, Yurchenko partisan unit of Minsk Brigade No. 1, November 1943
The first commander of the unit – Fyodor Yurchenko – was killed during the attack on the Nazi ambush in the village of Skobrovka on 11 February 1943. After that, the brigade command decided to name the unit in his honor.
Reconnaissance detachment of Yurchenko partisan unit. Photo from the museum's archives
The Strike From The Rear partisan journal has a special section titled People of Our Unit. It honors distinguished partisans of various nationalities, including the Slovaks who had fought on the side of Germany at the beginning of the war.
"Just like many others, Iosif Leshchinsky was deceived by Hitler and sent to the eastern front to fight the Red Army. He voluntarily went over to the partisans to join the fight against the enemy of the entire humankind – bloody fascism. He fell while on a combat mission on 29 November 1943."
"Jan Petras voluntarily joined the partisans. He was disciplined and precisely followed orders of his commanding officer. He took part in partisan operations and turned out to be a daring and resourceful fighter against the German invaders."
Partisan Jan Petras
Note: United against the fascists, Belarusians joined forces with about 3,000 Poles, 400 Slovaks and Czechs, 235 Serbs and Croatians, 70 Hungarians, 60 French, 31 Belgians, 24 Austrians, 16 Dutch, about 100 Germans, and representatives of other European nations.
The anti-fascists went to join the partisans as individuals and as entire groups. Foreign soldiers made up a Czechoslovakian squad in the Formidable partisan unit of the Assault brigade in Minsk Oblast, a Polish unit named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko in the Pinsk brigade, a Polish company operating as part of the M.N. Chernak unit in Brest Oblast, and an international squad in unit No. 600 in Mogilev Oblast.
"In anticipation of the 26th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution the Yurchenko partisan unit accomplished the following deeds: it blew up and derailed 64 trains of the enemy, destroyed two enemy garrisons, fought six engagements with the punitive forces, and organized 16 ambushes. The enemy lost 2,173 soldiers and officers…"

Excerpt from the Strike From the Rear journal of the Yurchenko partisan unit of Minsk Partisan Brigade No.1, November 1943
This issue of the handwritten journal contains mainly propaganda articles and materials. Propaganda and morale-boosting campaigns largely predetermined the success of not only an individual unit but also of the entire partisan movement in Belarus. Partisan propagandists cooperated closely with the locals, encouraged them to rise up against the enemy and demoralized Nazi garrisons.
"More than 300 people, encouraged by propagandists, have come from different villages... The bulletins of the Soviet Information Bureau, the Soviet newspaper make their way into the enemy's garrisons and disintegrate their ranks by spreading the Bolshevik word of truth. As a result, over the past few months, as many as 56 people, including an officer and a soldier of the Czech army, have left the enemy's garrisons with weapons to join our unit."

Excerpt from Strike From the Rear journal, Yurchenko Partisan Unit, Minsk Partisan Brigade No.1, November 1943
Photo from the museum's archives
"No matter how hard our struggle is, the victory will be ours." These are the words that end one of the chapters of the Strike From the Rear handwritten journal of the Yurchenko Partisan Unit. These are the words that started the story of the partisan unit. Day after day, in a continuous fight, a small unit of partisan fighters was growing bigger to become a formidable, Soviet, anti-fascist international force against the enemy. The force that united nations in a partisan movement against the Wehrmacht.
Strike From The Rear journal No.1, Yurchenko partisan unit of Minsk Brigade No. 1, November 1943
To be continued...
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018
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