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.

Dear Brigade Commander! According to the Russian tradition, I wish you a Merry Christmas and send my best wishes to you and to the long-suffering Russian people…

Expert from the letter of Father Nikolai Khiltov to commander of the Voroshilov brigade Vasily Eremenko
The letter was addressed to Commander of Voroshilov Partisan Brigade No. 300 Vasily Eremenko. In this letter Father Nikolai Khiltov asked him to grant a leave to wounded Mikhail Shershnev to go to a "health resort" to improve his health. The man was grieving over the death of his commander Anokhin, whose funeral the priest administered.
Priest Nikolai Khiltov with his family. Photo from the museum's archives
In wartime, the clergy performed their civic duties along with their church duties. For example, Father Nikolai was the head of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Kletsk District and also was a contact for the Kotovsky partisan unit of the Voroshilov brigade. He assisted Mikhail Shershnev's reconnaissance group. His house was a hospital, a commanding center and an armory. His wife Natalya treated the wounded.
Handwritten journals of that time contained lots of Happy New Year greetings and no hint of Christmas being a thing. However, Pavel Volozhin, one of the Voroshilov brigade partisans, recalled after the war how he had been a guest of Father Nikolai once. "We were returning after an operation and reached the house on Christmas. The priest's wife gave us a proper reception."
Issue No.2 of the Hurricane handwritten journal of the Hurricane partisan unit in Minsk Oblast, December 1943
In April 1944 Father Nikolai and his brother – priest Georgy – were arrested as partisan aiders. Their wives Natalya and Lidia went to Baranovichi to learn the fate of their husbands but were also seized by the Nazi. The Khiltovs died in the Koldychevo death camp near Baranovichi.
Drawing of the church in the village of Blyachin (the village of Sadovaya now) in Kletsk District
Nikolai and Georgy Khiltov with their wives and children. Photo from the museum's archives
Nikolai Khiltov was tortured to death: he was tied to a bed, under which fire was lit. The priest was burned alive. His wife was shot to death on 30 June, the last night the camp existed. The children – Kira, Nadya, and Valya – survived and were raised by the grandmother.
Yevgeny Krokas, a priest from the village of Milevichi, Pinsk Oblast, and partisans of the Voroshilov partisan unit, October 1943
Photo by BelTA
During the war, the Soviet government took a decision to engage in dialogue with the clergy. Patriarch Sergius died in 1944. Metropolitan Alexei of Leningrad wrote a letter to Stalin.
"... On my mission I will steadily and unswervingly be guided by the principles that marked the ecclesiastical activity of the late Patriarch: I will follow the canons and church ordinances, on the one hand, and stay unfailingly loyal to the Motherland and your government, on the other hand…"

Excerpt from the letter of Metropolitan Alexei (Simansky) to Joseph Stalin, For Motherland newspaper of the Brest Oblast Anti-Fascist Committee, May 1944
In his letter Metropolitan Alexei also spoke about the contribution the Leningrad eparchial clergy and churchgoers made to the defense of the country.
Motherland Patriot newspaper of the interregional committee of the Communist Party of Belarus, 22 January 1943
On the occupied territories, ordinary priests remained faithful to the Christian ethics, helped the partisans, sheltered and rescued civilians and Red Army soldiers. In sermons they preached about the victory of the Red Army, encouraged people and boosted their morale and fought against the enemy themselves.
Issue No.2 of the Hurricane handwritten journal of the Hurricane partisan unit in Minsk Oblast, December 1943
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© Belarusian State Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War, 2018