Today marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
In Belarus, the Day of the National Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War is a commemorative date which is observed at the state level. In memory of the first day of the war Belarus holds commemorative and solemn events with the participation of the president, top government officials, veterans, representatives of labor collectives, youth organizations and public associations, and also guests from foreign countries.
On this day Belarusians lay flowers to memorial places, military graves, hold commemorative rallies, meetings with war veterans, and conduct large-scale historical re-enactments. Traditionally, the legendary Brest Fortress is the center of commemorative events.
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 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 notice the movement near the Soviet border. At 4:00 in the morning 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. A special light machine-gun unit was assigned to destroy frontier posts.
As early as 10:45 on June 22, 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.
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.
Flowers will be laid at the Eternal Fire as part of a commemorative rally, which will begin in the Ceremonial Square in the memorial complex Brest Hero Fortress at 3:30 today. Events with a moment of silence will take place in all the districts of the region. A requiem rally near communal grave No.430 in the agrotown of Lesnaya, Baranovichi District will be the central event. Representatives of municipal government agencies and the general public will participate in it.
Commemorative rallies will also take place in Vitebsk's Oktyabrsky District and in five districts in Vitebsk Oblast: Postavy District, Beshenkovichi District, Braslav District, and Gorodok District. An icon lamp will be lit at the Eternal Fire and will be personally handed from one person to another along a human chain. The human chain will begin in Pobedy Square to end near a military grave in Sovetskaya Street.
The youth event “Nobody is forgotten. Nothing is forgotten” will take place in Gomel Oblast. A requiem rally will take place near the Eternal Fire in Truda Square.
All districts of Grodno Oblast will hold commemorative events with a minute of silence at enterprises, children's summer camps, rural councils. A commemorative rally at the Gillibert Park in Grodno will be attended by senior regional officials, representatives of public administration bodies, teams of workers. A commemorative rally will also take place near the monument to Soviet border guards in Grodno.
A rally at the memorial complex Buinichi Field will be the central event in Mogilev Oblast. A commemorative event will be held at the mass grave to commemorate Soviet soldiers killed by fascists in Bobruisk Fortress.
An event at the Khatyn Memorial Complex in Minsk Oblast will bring together 500 people.
The city of Minsk will host a flower ceremony at the Victory monument with the participation of officials of the State Border Committee. Commemorative events with a minute of silence will take place near the Mass Grave of Unknown Soldier, near the mass grave in Dzerzhinskogo Avenue, the Eternal Flame at Victory Square, the Masyukovshchina Memorial Complex, at the military cemetery, near the mass grave in Tolbukhina Street. A commemorative rally with the participation of senior officials of Minsk City Hall will take place in the Trostenets Memorial Complex.