Teenage Soviet Union Hero Was Executed 61 Years Ago

Young teenage girl Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya heroically died during the Great Patriotic War

Legendary girl Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was executed 61 years ago. It was the day of November 29th, 1941. The weather was very cold that afternoon. The Germans made the residents of the village of Petrisheva (70 kilometers far from Moscow) gather at the site of the execution for intimidation. The people were growing numb both with cold and with horror, when they saw a young girl walking barefoot towards the scaffold. The girl was abused and tortured,  yet, she still had the proud human spirit.

The girl’s name was Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, or Tanya, as she called herself. Moscow schoolgirl volunteered to be enlisted for intelligence services in the settlement of Kuntsevo. The Russian intelligence headquarters in Kuntsevo trained its soldiers for conducting subversive activities in the fascist rear. Before Zoya was hanged, she shouted out the words, which are still in the memory of the Russian people: “You won’t hang everyone of 200 million! My comrades will take revenge for me! The Soviet Union will win!” Later, those words became winged words in the Soviet Army and amid the Russian people.

It has recently become known that Zoya was betrayed by her fellow-soldier from their partisan group. The three of them approached the village of Petrishevo and then dispersed towards various parts of the village. Their goal was to set the German headquarters and stables on fire, as well as the houses, where fascist aggressors were hiding from freezing Russian winter. The Germans caught one of Zoya’s friends and the man told them about Zoya and their  third solider.

The betrayer, a “Soviet partisan” became a German agent. Some time after, the fascists sent that man back to the Soviet rear, but his activities were soon exposed. The Soviet intelligence questioned the man and found out the details of Zoya’s tragic life. He said that the Germans were beating a teenage girl with rubber batons for two hours. The girl did not produce a sound at that. She was doing her best to show her courage, biting her lips to blood. Years later, a Soviet court martial sentenced the betrayer to death penalty.

The bayoneted body of a young Soviet partisan was hanging on the gallows for more than a month. The Germans did not allow to take the body off and bury it. Zoya was buried only after the beginning of the counter-offensive of the Soviet Army on the outskirts of Moscow.

Military correspondent of the newspaper Pravda, Pyotr Lidov,  learned about this story incidentally, from a village old man. Lidov left for the village of Petrishevo. The journalist was struck with what he heard. The owner of the house, in which Zoya was tortured, told the reporter that Zoya originated from Moscow. The girl called herself Tanya, because she did not want the enemy to know her real name. The grave with Zoya’s body was exhumed on January 24, 1942. However, it was not possible to identify the executed girl. Lidov decided that the identity of the person, who committed such a great deed was not really relevant. The reporter wrote an article entitled “Tanya” and published it in the newspaper on January 27th. A lot of Soviet newspapers reprinted the article, but no one knew, who Tanya was exactly.

One day, an anxious man entered the office of the Komsomol Organization in the Timirazevsky area of Moscow. He said that his name was Alexander Kosmodemyansky. The man affirmed that the photo, which was published in the newspaper next to “Tanya” article, was a photograph of his sister Zoya. This is how the real name of a young Soviet hero became known for everyone. Alexander Kosmodemyansky, Zoya’s brother, was later awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously. He died in a battle on the outskirts of Koenigsberg (currently Kaliningrad) at the end of WWII. 

Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’s deed is memorized in every book on the Soviet history. Every Soviet schoolchild as well as generations of the Soviet youth knew that name and the great deed that a young girl did for her country. Hundreds of poems were written about Zoya, as well as novels and stories. A lot of streets and organizations were named after her in a lot of Russian cities.

It was hard to imagine that there would be some people, who would abuse the girl’s horrible, but noble death. Nevertheless, there were several articles published in the Soviet Union decades after the end of the Great Patriotic War. Those people claimed that the girl set their houses on fire for nothing. Someone even said that there was absolutely no good from her deed.

Zoya and Alexander’s mother Lubov Kosmodemyanskaya told the tragic story of her children in a book. Anatoly Kosmodemyansky, their father, suddenly died in 1933 at the age of 30. It was a great trouble for the family for survive, but the grief did not come alone. Zoya seriously fell ill with meningitis in the fall of 1940. When she recovered in October of 1941, the girl joined the Soviet Army and left to defend her fatherland. She died on November 29th, 1941. Lubov Kosmodemyanskaya children’s names became legendary in the history of the Soviet Union. A monument to Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was unveiled in the Russian city of Tambov in 1947. Another monument to the young hero was erected in the town of Dorokhov.

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka