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.

Another arrest, torture, beating to make him rat out his comrades... This time, Vladimir Deryabin escaped death by sheer luck. Someone started shooting from the forest. The polizei jumped into their cars and rushed out of the village.
"Volodya was arrested six times. But nothing broke his determination to fight the enemy. He would break out from prisons and take up arms again. Brave, fearless and courageous in battle," the partisans would write about their unit commander in the Iskra journal, Razgrom Brigade, Issue No. 1, October 1943.
Vladimir Deryabin took charge of the partisan unit, which would be known as Volodya's squad, in the spring of 1942. The Iskra partisan unit would kill and injure thousands of German soldiers and officers, derail dozens of enemy trains and blow up dozens of bridges. But it would be later. In the early days of the war, Volodya Deryabin served as a gunsmith near Vilnius (Lithuanian SSR). Together with the Red Army he retreated to the East. After being wounded near Molodechno he settled in Berezino District to engage in underground activities and train his partisan squad…
For reference: Vladimir Deryabin was born in Samara province, Russia in 1918. An orphan. He was in an orphanage until 1937. From 1937 to 1941 he worked as a mechanic at a steam locomotive factory in Tashkent. In 1939 he was drafted to the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. Before the war, he was a gunsmith in the infantry school in Vilnius.

From combat performance review of Vladimir Deryabin, commander of the Iskra partisan unit of the Razgrom Brigade
Photo from the museum's archives
In Minsk Oblast Vladimir Deryabin sought for like-minded people, collected and hid weapons in the forest, and distributed Sovinformburo news bulletins among local residents. As Nazis intensified their raids into villages, it became too dangerous to stay there. So Volodya joined partisans.
"It was Kuskov's first organized partisan unit. Volodya was in charge of getting food supplies. However, he wanted to go into action. After all, his comrades who stayed in the villages waited for him to set up their own partisan unit. After staying with Kuskov's partisan unit for some time, Volodya started preparing for combat activities."

Excerpt from the Iskra journal, Razgrom Brigade, Issue No. 1, October 1943

During the entire winter of 1941–1942 Vladimir Deryabin was busy with organizational matters. He wanted to start an armed fight against the Nazis in early spring. He set up groups and sent them to former battlefields to collect weapons, munitions and gear. Those rusty and broken 'trophies' were brought back into service by a team of gunsmiths led by Volodya Deryabin.
The new partisan unit named Iskra was established on 3 May 1942. Vladimir Deryabin became its commander. In October 1942 the unit made part of the Razgrom Brigade.
"Belarusian people know and love Volodya's squad. Vile Hitlerites know it and hate it. Gestapo offered a 10,000 Deutsche mark bounty for delivering a scout from Vladimir's unit dead or alive. Both other partisans and local residents willingly help the partisan unit in everything. This respect has been earned by its commanding officer."

Excerpt from the Iskra journal, Razgrom Brigade, Issue No. 1, October 1943
Photo from the museum's archives
The Iskra partisan unit was the most ethnically diverse featuring Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Bulgarians, Armenians… Representatives of 28 nationalities lived and fought the enemy as a tightly-knit force.
Groups of saboteurs and demolition specialists started working as soon as the partisan unit became operational. Uzbek Gantai Tashniyazov was an exemplary fighter. "He became a demolition specialist thanks to his businesslike attitude, courage, and decisiveness to accomplish a mission under any circumstances. He destroyed a Nazi train, which was on the way to the frontline. He did outstandingly well in a firefight with an enemy convoy of trucks on the motorway where he acted in a courageous and unhesitating manner. He burned down a warehouse for gasifiers," reads the journal written by his fellow partisans.
Gantai Tashniyazov helped educate many valiant partisan saboteurs. A group led by him derailed seven enemy trains, destroyed eight steam engines and 76 railway cars, killed 456 and wounded 583 Nazi soldiers and officers. For his combat accomplishments Gantai Tashniyazov was put forward for a decoration.
Photo from the museum's archives
"There was an armored workshop in our unit. We used barrels of Russian rifles to make machine guns and round steel to forge blocks. The action spring was made from steel wire removed from tires. One day we decided to use guns from shot-up tanks to make our own artillery."

From Vladimir Deryabin's recollections
Photo from the museum's archives
The gun was removed from a light Soviet tank. It had no lock and the locals helped find it. Local blacksmiths helped with the repairs. The gun was erected on seeder wheels. In winter a special sledge was used.
From Vladimir Deryabin's recollections:

"On 1 July 1944 we met tankmen of the 3rd Belarusian Front near the village of Zabashevichi, Borisov District and got an order to travel to Minsk. Our unit took part in the victory parade of partisans on 16 July 1944".
Reference: The Iskra unit started out from 20 fighters in 1942 to comprise more than 300 people in 1944. Eleven percent of the partisan unit received government awards in recognition of their courageous military activities.
Vladimir Deryabin with wife Nina and son Volodya, May 1946
In September 1942 Vladimir Deryabin was awarded the Lenin Order for valor, the medals To Partisan of the Patriotic War 1st Class and 2nd Class, and the medal For Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945. Vladimir Deryabin settled in Belarus after the war. He passed away in 2000.
Vladimir Deryabin's recollections were recorded ahead of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis. The family donated them, together with the documents, personal items and photos, to the museum.
Iskra journal, Issue No. 1, Razgrom Brigade, October 1943
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