Anton Kuzmich Dragan

Anton Kuzmich Dragan, a Russian soldier, describes the vicious street fighting in Stalingrad during September 1942.

The Germans had cut us off from our neighbours. The supply of ammunition had been cut off, every bullet was worth its weight in gold. I gave the order to economize on ammunition, to collect the cartridge-pouches of the dead and all captured weapons. In the evening the enemy again tried to break our resistance, coming up close to our positions. As our numbers grew smaller, we shortened our line of defence. We began to move back slowly towards the Volga, drawing the enemy after us, and the ground we occupied was invariably too small for the Germans to he able easily to use artillery and aircraft.

We moved back, occupying one building after another, turning them into strongholds. A soldier would crawl out of an occupied position only when the ground was on fire under him and his clothes were smouldering. During the day the Germans managed to occupy only two blocks.

At the crossroads of Krasnopiterskaya and Komsomolskaya Streets we occupied a three-storey building on the corner. This was a good position from which to fire on all comers and it became our last defence. I ordered all entrances to be barricaded, and windows and embrasures to be adapted so that we could fire through them with all our remaining weapons.

At a narrow window of the semi-basement we placed the heavy machine-gun with our emergency supply of ammunition—the last belt of cartridges. I had decided to use it at the most critical moment.

Two groups, six in each, went up to the third floor and the garret. Their job was to break down walls, and prepare lumps of stone and beams to throw at the Germans when they came up close_ A place for the seriously wounded was set aside in the basement. Our garrison consisted of furry men. Difficult days began. Attack after attack broke unendingly like waves against us. After each attack was beaten oft we felt it was impossible to hold off the onslaught any longer, bur when the Germans launched a fresh attack, we managed to find means and strength. This lasted five days and nights.

The basement was full of wounded; only twelve men were still able to fight. There was no water. All we had left in the way of food was a few pounds of scorched grain; the Germans decided to hear us with starvation. Their attacks stopped, bur they kept up the tire from their heavy-calibre machine-guns all the time.

We did not think about escape, but only about how to sell our lives most dearly—we had no other way our....

The Germans attacked again. I ran upstairs with my men and could see their thin, blackened and strained faces, the bandages on their wounds, dirty and clotted with blood, their guns held firmly in their hands. There was no fear in their eyes. Lyuba Nestercnko, a nurse, was dying, with blood flowing from a wound in her chest. She had a bandage in her hand. Before she died she wanted to help to bind someone's wound, but she failed....

The German attack was beaten off. In the silence that gathered around us we could hear the bitter fighting going on for Mameyev Kurgan and in the factory area of the city.
How could we help the men defending the city? How could we divert from over them even a part of the enemy forces, which had stopped attacking our building?

We decided to raise a red flag over the building, so that the Nazis would not think we had given up. But we had no red material. Understanding what we wanted to do, one of the men who was severely wounded took off his bloody vest and, after wiping the blood off his wound with it, handed it over to me.

The Germans shouted through a mega-phone: "Russians! Surrender! You'll die just the same!"

At that moment a red flag rose over our building.

"Bark, you dogs! We've still got a long time to live!" shouted my orderly, Kozhushko.

We beat off the next attack with stones, firing occasionally and throwing our last grenades. Suddenly from behind a blank wall from the rear, came the grind of a tank's cater-pillar tracks. We had no anti-tank grenades All we had left was one anti-tank rifle with three rounds. I handed this rifle to an anti-tank man, Berdyshev, and sent him out through the hack to tae at the rank point-blank. But before he could get into position he was captured by German tommy-gunners What Berdyshev told the Germans I don't know, bur I can guess that he led them up the garden path, because an hour later they starred to attack at precisely that point where I had put my machine-gun with its emergency belt of cartridges.

This time, reckoning that we had run our of ammunition, they came impudently out of their shelter, standing up and shouting. They came down the street in a column.

I put the last belt in the heavy machine-gun at the semi-basement window and sent the whole of the 250 bullets into the yelling, dirty-grey Nazi mob. I was wounded in the hand but did not leave go of the machine-gun. Heaps of bodies littered the ground. The Germans still alive ran for cover in panic. An hour later they led our anti-tank rifleman on to a heap of ruins and shot him in front of our eyes, for having shown them the way to my machine-gun.

There were no more attacks. An avalanche of shells fell on the building. The Germans stormed at us with every possible kind of weapon. We couldn't raise our heads.

Again we heard the ominous sound of tanks. From behind a neighbouring block stocky German tanks began to crawl out. This, clearly, was the end. The guardsmen said good-bye o one another. With a dagger my orderly scratched on a brick wall: "Rodimtsev's guardsmen fought and died for their country here." The battalion's documents and a map case containing the Party and Komsomol cards of the defenders of the building had been put in a hole in a corner of the basement. The first salvo shattered the silence. There were a series of blows, and the building rocked and collapsed. How much later it was when I opened my eyes, I don't know. It was dark. The air was full of acrid brickdust. I could hear muffled groans around me Kozhushko, the orderly, was pulling at me:

"You're alive..."

On the floor of the basement lay a number of other stunned and injured soldiers. We had been buried alive under the ruins of the three-storey building. We could scarcely breathe_ We had no thought for food or water--it was air that had become most important for survival. I spoke to the soldiers:

"Men! We did not flinch in battle, we fought even when resistance seemed impossible, and we have to get out of this tomb so that we can live and avenge the death of our comrade"

Even in pitch darkness you can see some-body else's Ewe, feel other people close to you.

With great difficulty we began to pick our way out of the tomb. We worked in silence, our bodies covered with cold, clammy sweat, our badly-bound wounds ached, our teeth were covered with brickdust, it became more and more difficult to breathe- but there were no groans or complaints.

A few hours later, through the hole we had made, we could see the stars and breathe the fresh September air.

Utterly exhausted, the men crowded round the hole, greedily gulping in the autumn air. Soon the opening was wide enough for a man to crawl through. Kozhushku, being only relatively slightly injured, went off to reconnoiter. An hour later he came back and reported:

"Comrade Lieutenant, there are Germans all round us; along the Volga they are mining the bank; there are German patrols nearby..."

We took the decision to fight our way through to our own lines.