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.

At the end of 1942, German forces launched a punitive expedition against partisans in Kopyl District, Uzda District and Nesvizh District of Minsk Oblast. In December, 7,000 fascists launched an attack on the Voroshilov brigade with tanks, mortar and artillery fire.

In order to evacuate the wounded and focus on the decisive battle, one of the units under the command of Vikenty Drozdovich was redeployed to defensive positions. The entire unit was killed in the unequal engagement at the Lavy Forest having destroyed 85 fascists.
Vikenty Drozdovich's commendation list said that "the heroic feat of the young partisans made it possible to evacuate the hospital and repel a sudden attack of the fascists, played a significant role in the wrecking of the punitive expedition by the fascists".
Painting "The Feat by the Seventeen (Engagement at Lavy)". People's Artist of the USSR Mikhail Savitsky
The engagement at Lavy was immortalized in the painting by People's Artist of the USSR Mikhail Savitsky "The Feat by the Seventeen". The plot is based on the events described by V. Yeremenko, commander of Voroshilov Brigade No. 300. The original manuscript is kept in the National Archives of the Republic of Belarus. The document mistakenly indicates that there were 17 partisans, hence the name of Mikhail Savitsky's painting. In fact there were 18 partisans who engaged with the Nazis in the battle on 3 December 1942. The youngest was 15.
"From the first day of December the Germans aggressively pursued the Voroshilov Partisan Brigade. After several marches and attempts to break away from the Nazis, the brigade stopped to rest in the Lavy Forest. The Germans began to surround the forest from three sides. The brigade took up the defense on the edge of the forest. "

Excerpt from the after-action report on details of the engagement
After two weeks of fierce fighting with the German troops, a decision was made to redirect partisans to the village of Lavy where a partisan hospital was located. In order to strengthen their positions, the command ordered to arrange ambushes and send covering forces to prevent the advancement of the German forces. The most crucial was the ambush near the village of Kletishche at the junction connecting the roads leading from the villages of Lotviny, Telyadovichi and Yazviny to the village of Lavy. The ambush operation was led by Vikenty Drozdovich, commander of a platoon of the Kotovsky Partisan Unit.
"On the night of 3 December 1942 the Hitlerites unexpectedly launched a massive attack on the partisan brigade. The brigade commander ordered to dispatch covering forces consisting of partisans from the Vikenty Drozdovich platoon. The partisans found a convenient place for the ambush in the cemetery near the village of Kletishche, Kopyl District, Minsk Oblast. 18 partisans engaged in a battle with a battalion of punitive expeditionary forces and halted their advance."

Excerpt from the commendation list of Hero of the Soviet Union Vikenty Drozdovich
House in the village of Kletishche, Kopyl District, Minsk Oblast, which accommodated partisans of Vikenty Drozdovich' platoon, 1959. Photo from the museum's archives
After amassing large forces, the enemy embarked on a major assault in order to encircle and destroy the partisan group. The fascists hoped for an easy victory, because the assault had been preceded by a massive artillery attack during which shells were incessantly fired towards the cemetery. The Nazis took all the roads trying to encircle the partisans. Part of them crossed the bridge near the village of Telyadovichi heading for the cemetery; others made their way to the village. The partisan platoon took up all-round defense. Three comrades – Ivan Zhigalkovich, Sergei Dukhanov and Sergei Petkevich were sent for reconnaissance to the outskirts of the village. The Zhigalkovich group fired at the enemy approaching from the side of the roads Lotviny – Telyadovichi and Lotviny – Kletishche.
"When the heroes became engaged in combat, the Germans had already flanked them and had nearly cut off their way of retreat. Comrade Zhigalkovich, who was sent to deliver the report to the brigade HQ, still managed to reach his destination and deliver a warning about the dire situation: the Germans deployed two battalions against the partisan unit at the forest edge…"

Excerpt from the after-action report on details of the engagement
A striking force was assembled to support Vikenty Drozdovich but it couldn't reach the graveyard because the path of advance had been cut off.
"Supported by mortar and artillery fire, the Nazis attacked the handful of brave fighters eight times and each time they were repelled suffering big casualties. The engagement lasted for four hours. When ammunition was depleted and the partisans became surrounded, Drozdovich took the few partisans, who were still alive, to close-quarters combat with the enemy. That fight took the lives of the partisans on the ambush mission and their commanding officer Drozdovich".

Excerpt from the commendation list of Hero of the Soviet Union Vikenty Drozdovich
That combat action took the lives of three communists, nine Komsomol members, and six young fighters. A machine gun with a note "We are dying for the Motherland… Count us in as Komsomol members" was found in the battlefield.

The names of the heroes are immortalized by the obelisk erected at the communal grave on 3 July 1960.
Monument commemorating the engagement at Lavy on a communal grave. Unveiled on 3 July 1960. Photo from the museum's archives
Mikhail Desyukevich, Vikenty Drozdovich, Alexander Zhdanovich, Aleksei Korol, Frants Klimovich, Pavel Lych, Grigory Nikonovich, Vasily Ostreiko, Eduard Petrashevsky, Nikolai Sinevich, Ivan Tumilovich, Alexander Kharitonovich, Dmitry Titko, Nikolai Tertychny, Konstantin Shityko, Nikolai Yakimovich, Alexander Yasyuchenya, Vladimir Kachanovsky.
Hero of the Soviet Union Vikenty Drozdovich, platoon commander
Mikhail Desyukevich
Alexander Zhdanovich
Aleksei Korol
Pavel Lych
Grigory Nikonovich
Nikolai Sinevich
Vasily Ostreiko
Eduard Petrashevsky
Ivan Tumilovich
Alexander Kharitonovich
Dmitry Titko
Nikolai Tertychny
Konstantin Shityko
Nikolai Yakimovich
Vladimir Kachanovsky
No photos of Vladimir Kachanovsky, the 15-year-old participant of the engagement at Lavy, survived. The family of the hero suffered a terrible fate. The Nazis burned down the house he was born in and killed his loved ones. The younger sister, who looked very much like Vladimir, died shortly after the war. A portrait of the young partisan was written by his friend from her photo.
By the Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council, Vikenty Drozdovich received the Hero of the Soviet Union title posthumously.
The handwritten journal National Avenger of May 1944 is a result of hard work of partisans. According to the creators, it was made in the deep rear of the enemy during the moments of lull in battles.
The Song The Engagement At Lavy deserves special attention along with the scrupulous details of the partisan battles. The song is dedicated to 18 hero partisans who died in the fierce battle against the Nazis.
Professional writers such as Anatol Astreiko, Adam Rusak and others also dedicated their poems to this heroic partisan battle. Every brigade and every unit could tell a lot about their heroes. The Engagement at Lavy is just one example of the immortal feat of the Belarusian people during the Great Patriotic War.
National Avenger handwritten partisan journal, 1944
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© BelTA News Agency, 2018
© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018