MINSK, 22 June (BelTA) – On 22 June Belarus marks the National Remembrance Day of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War and the Genocide of the Belarusian People. On this day, the country remembers those who sacrificed their lives to defend the Motherland, those who were murdered, tortured in fascist captivity, who died in the rear from hunger and disease.
At dawn on 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany, violating the Non-Aggression Treaty, invaded the Soviet Union by launching Operation Barbarossa. The German military leadership expected to conduct a ‘Lightning War' and defeat the USSR with one blow.
The Kholm Gate of the Brest Fortress in 1941
The most powerful group of German troops advanced into the territory of Belarus. Enemy aircraft bombed railway junctions, airfields, the cities of Brest, Grodno, Volkovysk, Baranovichi and others.
On 22 June, border guards were the first to spot the movement near the Soviet border. At 4:00am the frontier outposts came under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. After the inevitable momentary confusion, the Soviet border guards commanders shouted out: “Take up arms!”
Under the cover of artillery, the German troops began to cross the rivers running along the border. Boats and rafts carrying enemy infantry sailed away from the western bank; amphibious tanks resurfaced on the eastern bank ready to move eastwards, towards thoroughfares and important roads. Special light machine-gun units were assigned to destroy frontier posts.
Retreating Nazi troops set houses in Zhlobin on fire, 1944
As early as 10:45 on 22 June, the deputy chief of the Western Border District, brigade commander Kurlykin reported to the headquarters: “Fighting is going on along the entire front, communications are broken in almost all the units, the border guards are fighting as long as they are breathing.”
Fortitude of the border guards, their sweeping heroism frustrated the plans of the German command who planned to destroy the frontier outposts within 30 minutes. The Nazis captured Brest and completely surrounded the fortress, but its defenders stubbornly resisted the invaders. Separate groups of Soviet soldiers continued fighting in the fortress until 20-30 July 1941.
The triptych People's Sorrow, 1973
German troops were also met with fierce resistance to the south of Brest. The Soviet 75th Infantry Division led by General Semyon Nedvigin, together with the Pinsk Military Flotilla stopped the offensive of the 53rd German Army Corp near Malorita on 22 June 1941. Thanks to the skillful actions of the Soviet grouping, three German divisions, including a tank division, were forced to switch to the defensive on 23-27 June.
In the first days of the war, the Western Front fought hard defensive battles in Belarus trying to push the enemy back. The Red Army demonstrated exceptional courage and dedication, which foiled Germany's "Lightning War" strategy.
Over 1.3 million Belarusians and natives of Belarus fought on the frontlines of the Great Patriotic War. As many as 217 generals and admirals, who were Belarusians, commanded army and navy units during the war. Names of many Belarusians became legends. They were well-known on all the fronts. Dovator, Lizyukov, Sychenko, and many other ones distinguished themselves in battles near Moscow. The pilot Aleksandr Gorovets shot down nine enemy aircraft during a firefight at the Kursk Salient. Zinaida Tusnolobova-Marchenko evacuated 128 injured soldiers from battlefields.
Belarus lost every third resident during that war. Memory of them will live forever.
Events of the Great Patriotic War are becoming part of the distant history but heroic deeds of those, who fell on the battlefields, sorrow about the millions of innocent victims, and the tragedy of the occupation remain in the conscience of senior citizens, in the memory of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
A victory salute in 1945
Belarus has done a lot to perpetuate the memory of the fallen. This work continues. A decree "On perpetuating the memory of those who died defending the Fatherland and preserving the memory of the victims of wars" was signed in 2016. In February 2021, a government resolution adopted the state program "Perpetuating the memory of those who died defending the Fatherland" for 2021-2025.
The main forms of immortalization of those, who died during wars, are state record-keeping, beautification, and maintenance of military graves, graves of war victims, the submission of data to the automated databank Book of Memory of the Republic of Belarus, the creation of museums and memorial complexes, the establishment of monuments and commemorative signs dedicated to the most important events of the Great Patriotic War, the naming of geographical objects and organizations after those who died in defense of the Fatherland.
An archive photo
A nationwide patriotic event Minute of Silence will take place at 12:00 on the Day of the National Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War and the Genocide of the Belarusian People.
A city-wide ceremony to lay flowers at the Victory Monument is scheduled to take place in Minsk on 22 June. The new cultural and patriotic campaign Memory Calendar will begin in the capital city on this day.
Brest has prepared a busy schedule of events dedicated to the Day of the National Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War and the Genocide of the Belarusian People. The Brest Fortress will host a requiem concert of the State Academic Symphonic Orchestra of Belarus under the leadership of Art Director and Chief Conductor Aleksandr Anisimov, a ceremony to lay flowers at the Eternal Fire and plates in the necropolis. About 300 military history reenactment fans from Belarus and abroad will reenact the most tragic episodes of the Brest Fortress defense.
A presentation of the book “Partisan movement during the years of the Great Patriotic War” and the roundtable session “Great Patriotic War: Preservation of historical memory” will take place in the memorial complex Brest Hero Fortress today. The exhibition Memory of Generations will be presented at the 10th Belarusian-Russian Youth Forum. It is dedicated to memory about events of World War One and World War Two. The exhibition gathered results of the work of search clubs, in particular, various artifacts: awards, weapons, and photos.
An archive photo
The traditional event Bell of Mourning will gather young people, representatives of worker collectives, active and proactive residents of the city of Mogilev in the memorial complex Buinichi Field. A mourning rally will take place there as well as the laying of flowers and a series of events timed to the memorial day.
The press conference “Unquenchable fire in Belarusian hearts” timed to the Year of Historical Memory and the Day of the National Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War and the Genocide of the Belarusian People will take place in the memorial complex Khatyn today.