To Spite the Death. Four moments of Nikolay Solovov’s Life

There is a Great Patriotic War veteran who went through the whole war without being even wounded. You may not believe in it. Though, it is the truth…

June 22, 1941. At daybreak, a military echelon left the city of Taganrog and reached a small station in Brest suburb. Lieutenant Nikolay Solovov, a military school graduate, was in command of a battery. He just took guns from the platform, as several Messerschmidt aircraft attacked the echelon. The wagons caught fire. Cries of the wounded could be heard. Soviet military lost many soldiers. The enemy infantry launched its passage through Bug River. Young officer Solovov turned over the guns to shot at the Hitler troops. The battery defended itself for 11 days, until an order arrived to retreat. Afterwards, there was a long way to the east: through swamps, woods, rapid rivers, the solders drew their guns, catching on every plot of their mother land to shoot at the enemy.

May 9, 1945. After 1,418 days, in Germany, in Berlin suburb, Nikolay Solovov gave an order to his artillerists to cover the guns. Now, they were needed only to fire a salute. It was time to look over, to sum up. So, what happened between these two days?

Nikolay Solovov entered the war being a lieutenant and now he was a colonel. He deserved seven orders. Being only 24 years old, he was in command of a regiment. He had annihilated numerous enemy batteries, knocked out hundreds tanks, and killed hundreds of Hitler soldiers. He had survived spite being so often on the verge of death. Was it just the fate hand or something else?

I tell you only about four moments of the officer life, and you could make your own conclusions about the reason of his luckiness.

Stalingrad, December 1942. A group of Hitler army, encircled by Soviet military, lived its last days. The captain Solovov artillery division, which defended the Barrikady Factory was advancing. In the cellar of a destroyed house, Soviet soldiers found a German hospital. The captain gave an order to bring out from the ruins the wounded German soldiers and to prepare them for transportation to the rear. The hospital chief doctor came to Solovov. “We were sure of being executed immediately as you found us. We have already prepared us for death. I would like to thank you for your humanity.” The German doctor took out a watch from his pocket. “This watch is our family talisman. My ancestors went through many wars with it and survived. Now, I no more need it. While you have many fights before you. Let this talisman help you return home, to your relatives.

Several days later, a mine split broke through the watch case and got stuck in its mechanism (Solovov had the watch in his left breast pocket).

Kharkov Sector, March 1943. At night, major Solovov returned from the division checkpoint to his unit along with two other officers. When it was dawning, they suddenly understood they were going through a mine field: the inscription on a post read: “Attention! Mines!” The officers stopped rooted to the ground.

“I will go first,” – the major said to his fellows. And he went, and survived. He got over the wire, turned over and cried to the others: “Go!” They moved, carefully stepping the major’s steps in the snow. The saving fence was approaching. But suddenly a fearful explosion sounded, and the two were tore into pieces. While a small mine piece reached the major’s boot and scratched his little toe.

Sevastopol, May 1944. The Sapun Mountain storm. Lieutenant colonel Solovov used a small pause to run forward and to occupy a new position. At this very moment, the enemy opened fire. The colonel jumped into a big shell-hole and nearly set upon an unknown general head.

“You are decamouflaging us!” – the general cried. – “The enemy sees everything. Go away!”

The lieutenant colonel crept over an open slope. Fire was calming down. Several shells burst near Solovov. One of them got exactly into the shell-hole Solovov had just left. The general died, not having understood he rescued the lieutenant colonel by turning him out of the shelter.

Koenigsberg, April 1945. Soviet artillery was attacking stone casemates of the German fortress. Colonel Solovov corrected fire from an observation point. Just for a second, a solar ray glittered in Solovov’s binoculars. This was enough for a fascist sniper to notice the Soviet colonel. The enemy bullet nearly reached Solovov’s temple and left only a small scratch on the finger of his right hand holding the binocular.

Our days. The city of Moscow. We are sitting in a small but comfortable flat with windows looking to an avenue.

“There was a case on Kurskaya Duga,” – Nikolay Solovov says. – “Eight fascist Tigers moved to our division positions…”

Though, I never knew what happened then, for at this very moment, Solovov’s wife entered the room, inviting us to the table. “It is already more than half a century since the war has ended! And you are still talking about it, as if you are still at war…”

Yes, she was right. We are still at war. The war will never leave us, while at least one veteran is alive.

Ilya Shatunovsky PRAVDA

Translasted by Vera Solovieva