Alexandra Cherkasova, during the fighting in Stalingrad, along with her two young girls, was among the men in the dugout on the steep bank of the Volga. She was washing the soldier’s underwear, boiling bloodied bandages for the medical battalion on an iron stove. Next - assistant and friend Olga Dolgopolova, who had three children. The explosions shook the walls of the earth shelter. Her friends promised each other: if trouble happened to one of them, the other will not abandon her children, accept them as their own. “Sasha Cherkasova was fearless,” she told me when she met Dolgopolov. - How many times it happened: the battle is going on, the wounded man's cry is heard: “Help!” Alexandra immediately jumped out of the dugout, crawling between the ruins. On the poncho, which she always had in readiness, she dragged the wounded to the bank of the Volga. ”
For this, Cherkasova was then awarded the medal "For the Defense of Stalingrad."
She grew up in the Volga village Zubovka. Father died in the First World War. From an early age worked in the garden, in the field. In the educational program I learned to read and write - that's all the writing.
At the beginning of the 30-x went to Stalingrad. She married Ivan, a kind, hard-working guy. He worked as an assembler in a team that laid a telephone line in the city. In the first days of the war, my husband went to the front. And gone. Letters from him to the city, which also became the front, did not reach.
When the war in the city died down, she went to the foot of Mamayev Kurgan, where the house had stood with her husband before. They built it with their own hands before the war. Now only a charred furnace was sticking up on the ashes ...
How to live? Where to find work in a ruined city? Alexandra found out that Tatyana Murashkina, chairman of the Dzerzhinsky District Executive Committee, had returned to Stalingrad, and went to her place. They knew each other: in the summer of 1942, before the Battle of Stalingrad, Cherkasov, a worker at a meat processing plant, organized a team of volunteer sandwiches. They met ambulance trains, helped transport the wounded to hospitals, fed the fighters, and cleaned the wards.
Along the paths along which the shields stood: “Beware, mines!” Alexandra came to the ruined building of the district executive committee. That landmark conversation took place in his basement, which predetermined her special role in the fate of the long-suffering city. The chairman of the district executive committee suggested Cherkasova: “You will go to work in kindergarten. Let's make you a nanny. But you know, there is no kindergarten yet. We must look for - what kind of house can be repaired as soon as possible. Let's pick up the brigade. Alexandra Maksimovna, you can do everything. I remember your story about how you and your husband built the house. And now the most important thing is to gather the children, feed them, distract them from the suffering they have experienced. ”
In our pragmatic time, it is already difficult to imagine the psychology of the people of those war years: the sacrificial beginning was literally spread in the air. Without loud speeches, straining all forces, old and young worked to "help their homeland."
That was Alexander Cherkasov. She understood that restoring a kindergarten would have to work for free, somehow survive. Alexandra Cherkasova turned thirty at that time. She was tall, stately, beautiful. By nature - cheerful, mischievous. In short: “A horse will stop on skok, it will enter a burning hut ...”.
The Cherkasova volunteer brigade included kindergarten teachers, nannies, cooks. Together they found a house with walls pierced by shells. Bricks were sealed with holes, repaired the roof, whitened the ceiling and walls. Iron beds, pots, bowls, spoons were collected on ashes. From the boards made tables and benches for children. Lay down the stove.
And soon in kindergarten children's voices rang.
“We tried as best we could to please the little ones,” said Olga Dolgopolova. - Once I was dressed as a parachutist. They put on a jumpsuit, a duffel bag in the background, in which cookies and donuts, which we baked ourselves. Found in the ruins of this parachute. Appearing in front of the guys, I said that I got down from the plane. I brought gifts from children from other cities. ”
All those who worked in Cherkasova’s brigade were still huddled in dugouts and cellars. Helped each other settle.
Valentina Trennikova told me: “I worked as a kindergarten teacher and joined the Cherkasova brigade. She lived under the staircase of a broken house. Once I saw on the ground floor of a neighboring house three preserved walls of a room. Cherkasova said this. A few days later she brought here our entire brigade. All day they built a wall for my new home. Made a window. From the gearboxes they made a bench and a large table to fit the whole team. They cooked porridge on the fire and sat down to celebrate my housewarming party in the evening. I will never forget that day! Come on jokes, laugh. We knew how to rejoice! ”
It was difficult life in the ruined Stalingrad. Women sewed their sweaters and skirts from soldiers' blankets and ponchos. On their feet - soldier's boots. Bathed children in iron barrels. Food cooked on fires. Water buckets were worn from the Volga, climbing a steep slope.
It would seem that among the ruins and ashes all worries should be only about yourself, about how to survive. And what Cherkasova’s brigade has accomplished over the decades is striking in its reckless dedication.
They decided to take up the restoration of the famous Pavlov House, whose defenders of the 58 days had fought at the forefront of the defense. It was an ordinary 4-storey residential building.
The fighters inscribed on the brick wall of Pavlov's House on the days of fighting: “We will defend you, dear Stalingrad!” After the victory, someone added one letter to this inscription, and now it looked like this: “We will rebuild you, dear Stalingrad!”
By that time, 19 people were working in Cherkasova’s brigade. At the public building came Anna Semiletova, head. kindergarten, who lost on the front of his only son, Maria Kuzubova, the wife of a front-line soldier, the mother of two young children. The oldest in the brigade by age was 52-year-old Anna Martynova. Her four sons fought at the front. She brought a 14-year-old daughter Lucy to work with her. From the first day Olga Dolgopolova worked in the brigade. Her friends knew how she received the latest news from her husband. Before the start of the fighting in Stalingrad, her husband Fedor drove past Mamaev Kurgan in a soldier's maid. He peered into his native yard, which was located next to the railway. But neither Olga nor the children were in these moments. Fyodor saw a neighbor and threw down the mitten: “Tell Olga!” In the mitten, Olga found a note, two folded notebooks, pieces of sugar and a toy for children - a whistle. Olga hurried to the train station, ran, screamed between trains. But she never met her husband.
... Cherkasova Brigade walked through the floors of the Pavlov House. Everywhere - the traces of fighting: piles of shells, machine-gun belts, bloodied bandages. “We came to the construction site after the shift, cleaned the floors — let down pieces of cement and fittings,” Alexandra said. - We were sent an experienced foreman Strelbitsky. He conducted classes with us, showed how to knead the mortar, how to conduct brickwork so that the wall would not turn out to be a curve. After all, we were all self-taught. ”
Every woman who came to Cherkasova's brigade had a pain in her soul brought by the war. The friends read letters received from the front, comforted each other, cried together. They worked, overcoming fatigue, anxiety, and sometimes despair - they saw too much hardship in the ruined city.
“Shura Cherkasova was a born leader,” said Olga Dolgopolova. - She was able to rally the brigade. He sees that everyone is tired. Sit down to rest, and Shura usually said in the breaks: “Of course, it’s not easy for us, but let's think about how hard our men are at the front. After all, we have seen what war is. ” And where did the forces come from? We went up and worked again. ” No wonder the inscription on the restored House of Pavlov will later appear: "In this house the military and labor feat merged together."
In those early days of rebuilding, there was no construction equipment in the city. Everything had to be done manually. Women on a stretcher raised bricks to the top, kneaded a solution in troughs. Plumbing was destroyed. Water from the Volga on the yoke worn. There were not enough bricks at the construction site. They began to look for them among the ruins.
“After work, we often gathered around the campfire,” Olga Dolgopolova recalled. - And we will prepare food, and we will sing songs. Which songs? They loved funny, comic. Our fervent choruses flew over the ruins: “A sauna is heated, a bath is heated in a vegetable garden!” The young ones seemed to be nothing. ”
From the windows of Pavlov's House opened the streets, piled with blocks of concrete, destroyed boxes of houses, fallen pillars, tram rails twisted by explosions. It seemed impossible to revive these streets. Once, during a break, Cherkasova's brigade wrote a letter to a regional newspaper, in which she called on residents to go out to rebuild the city, create volunteer brigades, and work for free on construction sites after a work shift.
The appeal was read by Stalingrad people near charred houses, destroyed open-hearths, blown-up substations, broken conveyor lines ...
Cherkasova recalled: “It was Sunday. As usual, at the weekend we came to work at Pavlov’s House. And suddenly we see - people are coming to us from all sides. Climb up the broken stairs. They ask: "Who is the brigadier?" Write us down! ”Our team then grew to a 100 man.”
In Stalingrad, which became a symbol of Victory, a movement was born, until then an unprecedented stories - volunteer brigades, which began to be called Cherkasovskys, were created from now on in each work collective.
Residents after their work shift for free 2-3 hours necessarily worked to rebuild the city. They began by clearing the roads, filling up the craters, unloading boards and bricks from the barges. And to raise the spirit of personal Cherkasov books, in which the foremen noted how many hours worked free of charge for the restoration of Stalingrad.
The Cherkasov movement, in which thousands of Stalingrad residents participated, was a continuation of the feat of arms accomplished on the Volga. Volunteer brigades, already under the guidance of specialists, rebuilt houses, schools, kindergartens, and polyclinics.
In the very first month, the 87 Cherkasov brigades, in which 1180 people worked, were created at the tractor factory. Volunteers cleared the territory of the maternity hospital from debris, gathered it in ruins and brought thousands of bricks to the site of the future construction of 4. At the plant, under the guidance of instructors, blacksmiths, mechanics, and metalworkers mastered construction trades. In the factory village between the shops distributed destroyed brick houses. Each building was restored for its workers. Of course, life in these first houses was fraught with great difficulties: there was no glass - the windows were planked, or even laid with bricks, inside it was stuffy with soot - heated with iron stoves, they were also used to cook food. They made homemade lamps from shell sleeves - they were called "Katyushas". But there was no other housing in the destroyed city.
... In Pavlov's House it smelled of plaster and paint. Brigade Cherkasova with a banner in their hands climbed to the roof of the building. So they celebrated their victory. The commission accepted the restored house. “Now, friends, let's move to a new facility: we will repair the school,” the brigadier immediately said.
The war did not spare anyone. In September 1943, Alexandra Cherkasova received a letter from a stranger. Unfolding the envelope, she saw the bloody pictures that she sent to Ivan to the front.
A resident of Kharkov wrote to her that after the liberation of the city near his house he saw the killed fighter, found these pictures, as well as the address and decided to write to the family in the pocket of his tunic. Soon came the official message - "funeral." Alexandra cried, screamed out loud from heartache. Her friends asked her to move away from hard work. They were afraid for her health. But she firmly replied: “We have to work. You know yourself - the whole city is watching us. ”
And from the front a new letter. Maria Kuzubova, the mother of two children, received the “funeral”. Widow's fortune overtook Olga Vasilievna Dolgopolova. Died her husband Fedor. She alone will have to raise three children.
But none of them will leave the brigade.
They received letters from all over the country. On the envelopes it was written: "Stalingrad, Cherkasova Brigade". Delegations from Voronezh, Smolensk, Rzhev and other cities destroyed by the war came to them. Cherkasovtsy shared their experiences. On one thing, they were always silent - what kind of pain they have when they lose their relatives in the war.
From the besieged Leningrad, an echelon passed under fire, in which typical projects of buildings, building mechanisms, electric motors, and books were sent to Stalingrad as a gift. Residents of the city of Kirov donated a steam locomotive, a wagon of spare parts and tools for railway workers, as well as dishes for canteens and reproducers. In Cherepovets, Stalingrad children collected clothes and shoes. In Buzuluk, on Saturday work days, 1078 chisels and hammers, 40 stools, 25 metal cans, 43 mugs, 120 spoons were made and sent to Stalingrad. For every little thing the inhabitants of the ruined city were inexpressibly grateful.
There were still many days of war ahead. But the spirit of Victory, its hidden code was felt in this sacrifice, the ability to help each other, the readiness to selflessly serve their country.
Such were the moral principles of the military generation, which had the heroic and tragic fate of defending their Fatherland.
Alexandra Cherkasova’s team worked for free on the construction sites of Stalingrad for more than 10 years.
Powerful construction trusts have already appeared in the city, but Cherkasy people, most often as auxiliary workers, still carried their disinterested service on Sundays. Their last work was on the improvement of the city embankment. But in total in Stalingrad, according to the calculations of historian G.A. Yaskovets, Cherkasov volunteer brigades on the restoration of the city worked more than a million hours.
... Once in the Pskov region, I participated in a search expedition. A troop of trackers - they were students, went to the battle sites during the holidays to find and bury the remains of our fallen soldiers. Not everyone is capable of such a thing. Search engines with probes, sweeping the fetid water, passed through the swamp, took out the yellowed remains. In the palms they rubbed the swamp slush, hoping to find the soldier's medallions. Looking at their hard work, it was thought: if there are such guys, all is not lost. Let them only thousands among millions. But they are there!