The wooden streets around our house burned down, and Mamaev Kurgan, dug in craters, moved to us even closer. For hours I wandered in search of crates from under the shells. Of these, we folded the bed-beds, built a table and stools. These boxes stoked the stove.
We lived in huge ashes. From the houses around there were only charred stoves. And the feeling of hopeless longing, I remember, did not leave me: “How will we live?”. Before leaving the city, the field kitchen fighters left us briquettes of porridge and half a bag of flour. But these stocks were melting. A cold mom and 4-year-old sister lay in the corner, hugging each other.
I drowned the stove and cooked food, reminding myself of a cave man: I spent hours tealing silicon stones, holding tow, ready to make fire. There were no matches. I collected snow in a bucket and kindled it on the stove.
A neighbor boy told me: under Mamayev Kurgan in the destroyed shop of the Lazur plant, they give out food. With a bag over my shoulders, in which a German kettle was booming, I went for groceries. We have not been given them since the first days of the defense of Stalingrad, even the blockade 100 grams of bread. We were fed fighters.
Under Mamayev Kurgan in the ruins of a brick building I saw a woman in a shabby sheepskin coat. Here, food was issued without money and without ration cards. We did not have them. “What kind of family do you have?” She asked me only. “Three people,” I answered honestly. Could say ten - among the ashes it can not be checked. But I was a pioneer. And they taught me to lie shamefully. I got bread, flour, in a pot I poured condensed milk. They gave American stew.
Throwing the bag over my shoulders, I walked a few steps, and suddenly on a charred column I saw a sheet of paper stuck on which was written: "Children from 1 to 4 are invited to school." The address was indicated: the basement of the Lazur plant. I quickly found this place. Clouds of steam burst from the wooden door of the basement. It smelled of pea soup. “Maybe they will feed here?” - it was thought.
When she returned home, she told her mother: “I will go to school!”. She was surprised: “What school? All schools are burned and broken. "
Before the siege of the city began, I was about to go to the 4 class. Joy knew no bounds.
However, to reach the school in the basement was not so simple: it is necessary to overcome a deep ravine. But since we played in this ravine both in winter and summer, I quietly set off on the road. I routinely slipped into the ravine on the floor of my coat, but getting out on the opposite steep snow-covered slope was not easy. I clutched at the chopped off branches of the bushes, at the bunches of wormwood, rowed thick snow with my hands. When I got out onto the slope and looked around, the children were climbing up and to my left and right. “Go to school too?” I thought. So it happened. As I learned later, some lived even farther from school than me. And on their way overcame even two ravines.
Going down to the basement, above which it was written: “School,” I saw long tables and benches made of boards. As it turned out, each table was assigned to one class. On the wall, instead of a blackboard, a green door was nailed. Between the tables went the teacher - Polina Tikhonovna Burova. She managed to give a task to one class and call someone from another to the board. The discord in the basement has become familiar to us.
Instead of notebooks, we were given thick office books and so-called "chemical pencils." If you moisten the tip of the rod, then the letters came out fat, clear. And if you stab the rod with a knife and pour water over it, you would get ink.
Polina Tikhonovna, tried to distract us from hard thoughts, selected texts that were far from the topic of war for dictation. I remember her soft voice was associated with the sound of wind in the forest, the tart smell of the steppe grasses, the glitter of sand on the Volga island.
The sounds of explosions were constantly coming to our basement. This sappers cleared of mines railway, which encircles Mamaev Kurgan. “Soon there will be trains on this road, builders will come to rebuild our city,” said the teacher.
None of the guys, having heard the explosions, was distracted from their studies. All the days of the war in Stalingrad, we heard explosions and more terrible, and closer.
Even now, remembering our basement school, never ceases to amaze. Not a single pipe had smoked at the factories, not a single machine had been started, and we, the children of factory workers, were already at school, drawing letters and solving arithmetic problems.
Then from Irina, daughter of Polina Tikhonovna, we learned how they traveled to the city. On the days of the fighting, they were evacuated to the Volga village. When they heard about the victory at Stalingrad, they decided to return to the city ... They went into a blizzard, afraid of getting lost. The only guide was the Volga. In passing farms, strangers let them in. Gave food and a warm corner. Polina Tikhonovna and her daughter walked fifty kilometers.
On the right bank through the haze they saw the ruins of houses, broken buildings of factories. It was Stalingrad. On the frozen Volga got to their village. Only charred stones remained in the place of their homeland. Until the evening wandered along the trails. Suddenly a woman came out of the dugout. She saw and recognized Polina Tikhonovna - the teacher of her daughter. The woman called them into the dugout. In the corner, huddled together, sat three thin, war-hunted children. The woman treated the guests with boiling water: there was no such thing as tea in that life.
The next day, Polina Tikhonovna drew on her own school. Built before the war white, brick, it was destroyed: there were battles.
Mother and daughter went to the center of the village - to the square in front of the Red October Metallurgical Plant, which was the pride of the city. It produced steel for tanks, aircraft, artillery guns. Now powerful open-hearth pipes were collapsed, broken by bombs of the workshop building. In the square they saw a man in a quilted sweatshirt and immediately recognized him. This was the secretary of the Krasnooktyabrsky district committee of the Kashintsev party. He caught up with Polina Tikhonovna and, smiling, told her: “It’s good that you returned. I am looking for teachers. We must open a school! If you agree, there is a good basement at the Lazur factory. Children remained in the dugouts with their mothers. We must try to help them. "
Polina Tikhonovna went to the plant "Lazur". Found the basement - the only one preserved here. At the entrance stood the soldiers' kitchen. Here you can cook porridge for children.
Fighters MPVO carried out of the basement broken machine guns, shells. Polina Tikhonovna wrote an ad that she placed next to the food stall. Children reached for the basement. So began our first school in the ruined Stalingrad.
Later we already learned that Polina Tikhonovna and her daughter lived in a soldier's dugout on the Volga slope. The entire shore was dug by such soldierly dugouts. They gradually began to occupy returning to the city Stalingrad. Irina told us how they, helping each other, with difficulty crawled up the Volga slope - so Polina Tikhonovna got to the lesson. At night in the dugout, they laid one coat on the floor, while others hid. Then they were given soldier blankets. But Polina Tikhonovna always came to us smart, with a strict hairdo. I was most impressed by her white collar on a dark woolen dress.
Stalingraders at that time lived in the most difficult conditions. Here are the usual pictures of those days: the breach of the wall is covered with soldiers' blankets - there are people there. The light of the oil lamp makes its way from the basement. Under the housing occupied by broken buses. Movie shots have survived: female builders with towels on their shoulders emerge from the fuselage of a downed German aircraft, banging their boots on a German swastika on the wing. There were such hostels in the ruined city ... Residents cooked food on fires. In each dwelling there were frontal katyusha lamps. The projectile cartridge was squeezed from both sides. A strip of fabric was pushed inside the gap, some liquid was poured into the bottom that could burn. In this smoky circle of light, they cooked food, sewed clothes, and the children prepared for lessons.
Polina Tikhonovna told us: “Children, if you find books somewhere, bring them to school. Let them be even - charred, whipped by fragments ". In the niche of the basement wall they nailed a shelf on which a stack of books appeared. Famous photojournalist Georgy Zelma, who visited us, captured this picture. Above the niche in large letters was displayed: "Library".
... Recalling those days, I am most surprised at how the craving for learning has been felt in children. Nothing — neither motherly instruction, nor the strict words of the teacher could force us to move through deep ravines, crawl along their slopes, walk along the trails among minefields to take our place in the basement school at the long table.
Having survived the bombings and shelling, constantly dreaming to eat their fill, dressed in patches, we wanted to learn.
Older children - it was the 4 grade, they remembered the lessons in the pre-war school. But first-graders, wetting the tips of the pencils with saliva, brought out only their first letters and numbers. How and when they managed to get this noble vaccine - we must learn! Incomprehensible ... Time, apparently, was such.
When a radio appeared in the village, the reproducer was placed on a pole above the factory square. And early in the morning, over the destroyed village, it was heard: “Get up, the country is huge!”. It may seem strange, but it seemed to the children of wartime that the words of this great song were addressed to them.
Schools opened in other areas of the destroyed Stalingrad. Years later, I recorded the story of Antonina Fedorovna Ulanova, who worked as the head of the department of public education in the Traktorozavodsky district. She recalled: “In February, 1943, at the school where I worked after the evacuation, a telegram arrived:“ Drive to Stalingrad ”. I went on the road.
On the outskirts of the city, in a miraculously preserved wooden house, she found workers oblon. Received such a task: to get to the Traktorozavodsky district and on the spot to determine - in which building you can gather children to start lessons. In the 30s, fourteen excellent schools were built in our area. Now I went among the ruins - not a single school was left. On the way, I met teacher Valentina Grigorievna Skobtseva. Together we began to look for a room, at least with strong walls. We went into the building of the former school, which was built opposite the tractor factory. The stairs of the broken stairs went up to the second floor. We walked along the corridor. Around were pieces of plaster after the bombing. However, in the midst of this pile of stones and metal, we managed to find two rooms where there were undefeated walls and ceilings. It was here, it seemed to us, that we have the right to bring in children.
The school year began in March. They posted an announcement about the opening of the school on the broken columns of the tractor factory aisle. I came to the planning meeting conducted by the management of the plant. She spoke to the heads of workshops: “Help the school” ...
And each shop undertook to do something for the children. I remember how workers carried metal jugs across the square for drinking water. On one of them was written: "To children from blacksmiths."
From the press shop to the school brought the metal sheets polished to a shine. They put in place of blackboards. They turned out to be very convenient for writing. Fighters mopo whitened in classrooms walls and ceilings. Here are just a window glass not found in the area. Opened school with broken windows. "
School classes in the Traktorozavodsky district opened in mid-March on 1943. “At the entrance, we waited for our students,” said A.F. Ulanova. - I remember the first-grader Gena Khorkov. He came with a large canvas bag. The mother apparently put the warmest on the boy that she had found - a quilted wool sweater that reached his toes. Jersey tied up with a rope so that it does not fall from the shoulders. But it was necessary to see - with what joy the eyes of the boy were shining. He went to study.
The first lesson was one for everyone who came to school. Teacher V.G. Skobtseva called him a lesson of hope. She told the children that the city would be reborn. New quarters, palaces of culture, stadiums will be built.
The class windows were broken. The children sat in winter clothes. In 1943, the cameraman captured this picture.
Subsequently, these shots entered the “Unknown War” film epic: children wrapped in headscarves, display their letters in notebooks with chilled hands. The wind, breaking into the broken windows, pulls the pages.
The expression on the faces of the children and the focus with which they listen to the teacher are striking.
Subsequently, through the years I managed to find students of this first school of the Traktorozavodsky district. L.P. Smirnova, Candidate of Agricultural Sciences, told me: “We knew the difficult conditions in which our teachers lived. Someone in a tent, some in a dugout. One of the teachers lived under the school’s staircase, enclosing a corner with boards. But when the teachers came to the class, we saw before us people of high culture. What did it mean for us to learn? It is like breathing. Then I myself became a teacher and realized that our teachers were able to raise the lesson to spiritual communication with children. Despite all the difficulties, they managed to instill in us a thirst for knowledge. Children not only studied school subjects. Looking at our teachers, we studied hard work, perseverance, optimism. " L.P. Smirnova also talked about how, while studying among the ruins, they were carried away by the theater. According to the program, “Woe from Wit”, A.S. Griboedov. Children under the guidance of teachers put this work in school. Sophia went on stage in a long skirt with lace, which her grandmother gave her. This skirt, like other things, was buried in the ground in order to save them during a fire. The girl, feeling herself in an elegant skirt to the heels, uttered monologues of Sophia. “We were drawn to creativity,” said L.P. Smirnov. “They wrote poems and poems.”
Thousands of young volunteers came to Stalingrad at the call of the Komsomol Central Committee. On-site, they studied construction. A.F. Ulanova told: “Our factory was defensive - it produced tanks. It was necessary to restore the shop. But part of the young builders sent to repair schools. Piles of bricks, boards and a manual concrete mixer appeared near the foundation of our school. So looked omens of a resurgent life. Schools were among the first objects to be rebuilt in Stalingrad. ”
1 September, 1943, a rally was held on the square in front of the tractor plant. Young builders, factory workers and students came to him. The rally was devoted to the opening of the first school restored in the district. Its walls were still in the woods, inside there were plasterers. But the students went straight from the meeting to the classes and sat at the desks.
In the basement at the Lazur factory, our teacher Polina Tikhonovna in the summer of 1943 offered us: “Children! Let's collect bricks to rebuild our school. ” It is difficult to convey the joy with which we rushed to fulfill this request. Will we have a school?
We collected suitable bricks in the ruins and piled them into piles near our broken alma mater. It was built before the war, and then it seemed to us a palace among our wooden houses. In June, 1943-th here appeared bricklayers, fitters. Workers unloaded bricks and bags of cement from barges. These were gifts to the destroyed Stalingrad. The restoration of our school has begun.
In October 1943, we arrived at the first, renovated classrooms. During the lessons they heard knocking of hammers - restoration work continued in other rooms.
We, like our neighbors - the children of the Traktorozavodsky district, also took a great interest in the theater. On the classics did not dare to attack. They themselves came up with a simple scene, which took place in Paris. Why we among the ruins took it into my head, I do not know. None of us have even seen pictures of Paris. But we were preparing hard for the production. The plot was simple and naive. A German officer comes to a Parisian cafe and an underground waitress must serve him poisoned coffee. The cafe is also a group of underground workers. They have to save the waitress, because the voices of German soldiers are heard behind the wall. The day of our premiere has come. Instead of an apron, a waiter towel was attached to me as a waitress. But where to get coffee? We took two bricks and rubbed them. Brick chips poured into a glass of water.
The “officer”, barely touching his glass with his lips, falls to the floor, depicting instant death. The "waitress" is quickly taken away.
I can not tell you what stormy applause was in the hall: after all, there was still a war, and here on the stage, in front of everyone, an enemy officer was killed! This simple plot was liked by children, tormented by war.
Years passed, and when I first flew on a business trip to Paris, where I was to meet with Princess Shakhovskaya, a member of the French Resistance, I remembered our naive play in destroyed Stalingrad.
... And then, in the summer of 1943, at night I saw tanks walking by our house from a tractor factory, on board each of them was written in white paint: "The answer is Stalingrad." The factory conveyor has not yet been launched. These tanks specialists assembled, removing parts from broken tanks. I wanted to write these words “Answer of Stalingrad” in chalk and on the wall of our restored school. But for some reason I was ashamed to do this, which I still regret.