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Defender of Brest Fortress recollects Nazi invasion of Belarus on June 22, 1941

Now let's talk about those days when people considered an honor to die for their Motherland. June 22 is a historic and tragic date - this was the day Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and Belarus, then the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, was among the first to suffer casualties.

Everything associated with the Great Patriotic War is cherished in Belarus. On June 22, the legendary defense of the Brest Fortress began. The stories of the participants of those days formed the basis of numerous books and films... Soldier Piotr Kotelnikov, who was 13 at that time, and 15-year-old young boy Zhenya Nesteruk, who is a fan of battle re-enactments, met on the day of the beginning of the war in Brest. Our correspondent Alena Syrova organized the meeting.

Piotr Kotelnikov, defender of the Brest Fortress:
Shots. On that side of the Bug, large-caliber guns and mortars were installed - there were about 1000 of them. And at one point, at 4 am, they gave the command to open fire on the fortress. Everything rumbled, all this was on fire, in the smoke.

Today Piotr Kotelnikov knows exactly how many and what shells were prepared to deal with him and thousands of others on Sunday morning on June 22, 1941. The 13-year-old boy dreamed of becoming a musician and hoped that the roar of planes that had awakened him were only an off-schedule exercise. But the shells flying from the sky meant the beginning of war.

Piotr Kotelnikov:
The roof was broken, the ceiling was pierced in several places. The ceiling collapsed, part of the wall collapsed. There were dead. We ran towards the three-door gate. Constantly, shells were exploding in one place or another. I felt a blow to my head, fell down and lost consciousness for a while. Soldiers helped me up and I found myself in the barracks nearby.

He still remembers by name all those nights and days, which seem like one nightmare.

Piotr Kotelnikov:
Petya Klypa, Kolya Novikov, Petya Vasilyev. And all the next days we were together. We knew that there was a tank division in Southern Town. In Northern Town, there were the military units too and an artillery regiment. And they thought they would come to our aid, but this did not happen, they could not get in here. The fortress was surrounded.

The only surviving defender of the Brest Fortress has poor sight but remembers the location of casemates correctly and knows exactly how many steps from them to the water...

Piotr Kotelnikov:
The air was hot, it was hard to breathe, children were crying. And it was almost impossible to get water during the day. Germans discovered us and shot constantly. And we saw people swimming and dying in waters.

Evgeny Nesteruk, military reconstruction fan:
I call this river red, because a lot of people were killed there; those who just wanted to get water to live. But, unfortunately, it did not help them. On the opposite side stood machine guns and fired literally every centimeter.

Evgeny is not a witness, but the guardian of those terrible events. The boy today seemed to have gone through decades. Four years ago he became fond of military reconstruction.

Eevgeny Nesteruk:
Reconstructors are people who have one purpose: to show what was really happening. Those torments and sufferings of our people during the Great Patriotic War.

They study all the circumstances of particular battles for a long time, find out and collect information about what soldiers wore, where they stood, and how they spoke during the war.

Evgeny Nesteruk:
I am a person who does not want to forget history and wants to bring it to others. If I stop doing this... If everyone forgets these battles, a generation will pass, everyone will only know tablets and screens; everyone will not care about what happened on these lands. I do not want this to happen.

Evgeny Nesteruk:
When we ran along the battlefield with my "brother-soldiers", we fell together. And I, when I fell, I asked God that my mother does not come to me. The death of the son would be the greatest grief for her. She walked over, walked steadily, did not want to approach me at all, but found me. Nothing can convey this.

Piotr Kotelnikov still remembers that morning and values every peaceful day in his life.

Piotr Kotelnikov:
I lived probably because I'm lucky, maybe God gave me a chance to stay alive.

Evgeny Nesteruk:
As our ancestors said it's better to know everything, but not experience everything This is very wise.

Defender of Brest Fortress recollects Nazi invasion of Belarus on June 22, 1941