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Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya inspired people in every corner of globe to extinguish fascism

By Harsh Thakor*
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya sacrificed every ounce of her energy to defend socialism from the Nazi Fascist invaders. When she was 17 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Stalin made the call to the Soviet people, instructing that, “In the occupied regions conditions must be made unbearable for the enemy and all his accomplices. They must be hounded and annihilated at every step, and all their measures frustrated.” ,Zoya anwered this call and became “Tanya”, a partisan guerrilla.
She was captured following an operation behind the German line, tortured and executed. The story of her life and her struggle, and ultimately, her martyrdom, became an inspiration to the Soviet people as they repelled the fascist offensive to gain a glorious victory. The story of Zoya illustrated how the war was dealt with by ordinary Soviet people, who witnessed all that they had struggled so painstakingly to build collapsing like a brick wall razing to the ground.
On 29 November 1941, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, aged 18, was executed by German occupiers. Zoya was born 13 September 1923 in the district of Tambov, about 300 miles southeast of Moscow. Zoya was one of the roses that bloomed who planted seeds for new ones to blossom, to extinguish the weeds of fascism. She manifested how Marxist-Leninist ideology could overcome the most adverse circumstances and how a Socialist state b read a new man, who could take self-sacrifice to zones untranscended in rendering service to humanity.
Zoya blended the creativity of an artist, with the methodology of a sugeon and the courage of a soldier. Her sacrifice and life story burns like an inextinguishable flame, manifesting the contribution of USSR in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War 2. On 13th September, we commemorated her birth centenary.
Kosmodemyanskaya was a mascot ordered by Stalin to burn down populated settlements behind German lines. Many locals living in these towns were naturally opposed to the destruction of their homes, but Kosmodemyanskaya accomplished her duty, by enduring torture in German captivity at a scale rarely penetrated, before meeting her death.
Zoya was highly cultured and relished the works of Tolstoy, Dickens, Shakespeare, Goethe and Pushkin and loved the music of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, and was a member of the Soviet youth Komsomol organisation. (Pictured below is Zoya’s Komsomol membership card).


The Germans had invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 and by late November had trapped Leningrad and were marching towards Moscow. The Soviet authorities were recruiting volunteers to penetrate the German lines and operate as partisan fighters in German-occupied areas. Their task, generally, was to break the German advance. It was a dangerous assignment but one which 18-year-old Zoya readily volunteered for.
Having been enrolled as a partisan, despite her tender age, Zoya was given the name ‘Tanya’. Handed a revolver and trained how to use it, she was allotted control of a small group of partisans and given instructions. Their first task was to lay mines on the Volokolamsk highway, just behind German lines, about 80 miles west of Moscow. Another task involved laying spikes in the road but the more hazardous jobs were reserved for the young men. Zoya pleaded her case, stating, ‘Difficulties ought to be shared equally.’ Her commander, a man who went by the name of Boris, acquiesced.
Thus, on 27 November, Zoya was sent into Petrischevo, a village occupied and flooded with Germans. She went alone while Boris and his team waited anxiously for her return. After a few hours, Zoya emerged from the woods, victorious at having burnt down a house and a stable. However, unbeknownst to Zoya, a village collaborator identified her and notified the Germans.The following day, Zoya returned to the village. This time, she didn’t return. After three days, Boris knew that she was dead.
What happened to Zoya is based on a report written by a Soviet journalist, Pyotr Lidov, pieced together from various eyewitness statements and published in the Soviet newspaper, Pravda (‘Truth’), on 27 January 1942. Lidov returned to Petrischevo shortly after its recapture by the Soviets and spoke to various villagers about what had happened during the brief spell of German occupation.
On basis of the information provided by the collaborator, the young girl was caught red-handed setting light to a stable. The Germans pulled her off and interrogated her at length while beating her with their belts, punching her, burning her with lighters, and cutting the skin on her back with a handsaw. One overheard exchange went as follows:
‘Who are you?’ ‘I won’t tell you.’ ‘Was it you who set fire to the stables?’ ‘Yes, it was.’ ‘Why did you do it?’ ‘To destroy you.’ A German sergeant, later taken prison-of-war, described the scene:
‘The young Russian heroine displayed nerves of steel. She would not yield and betray her friends. Inspite of being drenched with the cold, blood flowed from her wounds, but still she disclosed nothing During the night, they forced her outside, barefoot, in subzero temperatures.’
Zoya was hanged on the morning of 29 November 1941. The Germans hung a sign around her neck, saying, and ‘Incendiary’. The Germans gathered around, some with cameras at the ready, and ordered the villagers to witness the scene. Perched on a box, with the rope around her neck, she called out to the villagers, ‘Comrades! Why are you so gloomy? I am not afraid to die! I am happy to die for my people!’ Then, taking death defying courage to soaring heights, and spirit of self sacrifice in regions almost unparalleled she cried, ‘You’ll hang me now, but I am not alone. There are two hundred million of us. You can’t hang us all.’ The box was then kicked away from beneath her.
The Germans took photographs of Zoya’s body, her breasts mutilated, as she lay dead on the ground. When the photos were later taken off captured Germans and published with Lidov’s article, it shook the entire Soviet Union.
Her body was left to hang for many weeks, the villagers were forbidden to remove it. A new unit of Germans, passing through on New Year’s Eve, subjected Zoya’s corpse to more indignities. Finally, in New Year 1942, she was buried.
On reading Lidov’s article in Pravda, Stalin reputably remarked. ‘Here is the people’s heroine’. She was bestowed the award, ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’, and immediately eulogised throughout the country. Poems, plays, novels and films were made about her life; streets and buildings named after her. To this day, the name Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya is known throughout Russia.
Narration of action and execution of Zoya Anatolyevna and Vera Danilovna
Armed with Molotov cocktails, a combat friend's pistol without self-cocking,she gave her revolver to her friend before going out as more reliable weapon, having missed the group's comrades, which obviously thwarted the group's exit plan, in the terrible frost, without a parking lot in the forest, independently decided to continue setting fire to the winter apartments of the Wehrmacht servicemen.
So, left without a group, without a parking lot or a secret in the forest, with a partially completed combat mission, in a terrible frost, the fighter Zoya with unflinching resilience continues the sabotage alone, in extremely adverse circumstances. She perfectly understood that the successful sabotage on the night of November 27 attracted the attention of the Germans and the proposed circumstances were developing according to the scenario with her inevitable death or capture, followed by torture and inevitable s execution as a saboteur or partisan.
On entering the military unit No. 9903, the Komsomol commanders were told in detail by the commanders that the fate of the fighters is inevitable, and 95% of them will die, or will be captured and tortured with subsequent execution. On the same day, November 29, 10 kilometers from the village of Petrishchevo, near the village of Golovkovo, another saboteur was hanged on a willow - 22-year-old Vera Danilovna Voloshina, her group was ambushed by military outposts and, having no serious weapons, was dispersed, and she herself was caught. Vera was mercilessly tortured, beaten, trying to investigate the combat mission of the group, but Vera Danilovna, displaying courage and heroism in metaphysical proportions, did not yield to the Germans and give information.
- You came to our country and you will find your death here! You cannot take Moscow ... Farewell, Motherland! Death to fascism!
A worthy award for the heroism of Vera Voloshina was awarded posthumously to her mother only in 1966, after the essay "The Order of the Daughter" by Georgy Nikolaevich Frolov in the newspaper Pravda - the Order of the Patriotic War, 6st degree, awarded to Vera posthumously a year earlier on May 1965, XNUMX.
The fact that there are also exceptional cases when a citizen who does not have the opportunity to evade, chosen by a time, a difficult year for the Fatherland, with a certain time place, also himself, independently chooses a place and time in the given circumstances! We call such people heroes. And their choice is an act.
Zoya Anatolyevna and Vera Danilovna, at their 18 and 22 years old, respectively, chosen by the time, performed d an act - they made a choice of place and time, bravely plunging into the abyss. Even in the training unit, they were made clear that this was not a linear front-line unit, death was a virtual certainty! They then made their choice They pursued their decision to the very end, , commited to continuing the combat mission in the frosty forest, under brutal torture and cruel violence, bullying, realizing the inevitability of execution. With a noose tied around their necks, they took revolutionary courage or personified spirit of liberation to scales rarely transcended.
At 7 pm on November 28, while trying to set fire to the barn, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was captured by the Germans. It is known that Kosmodemyanskaya did not retaliate with fire Perhaps, engaged with arson, Zoya simply did not have time to combat with her revolver, it is known that she did not have time to get her revolver, given to her friend in exchange, due to the group's departure on a mission.
In the interrogations and subsequent brutal torture, according to eyewitnesses, soldiers and officers of the 332nd Wehrmacht Infantry Regiment took part. During interrogation, Zoya called herself Tanya and did not disclose anything definite. Then Kosmodemyanskaya, an 18-year-old girl, was stripped naked and flogged with belts. After beating her with no respite with bare feet, they took her out into the cold, the frost was so strong that the sentry periodically warmed himself in a warm room and occasionally took Zoya into the room. It is known that Zoya received severe frostbite of her legs.. Then, beaten, frostbitten and mutilated with belts, Zoya was put on a bench, where she remained until the morning.
On a frosty morning on November 29, 1941, in the village of Petrishchevo, Vereisky District (now Ruzsky District) near Moscow, an 18-year-old Komsomol member, a native of the Tambov Region, Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya, soldiers of the 332nd Infantry Regiment of the 197th Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht hung a sign on the chest near the erected gallows the inscription in Russian and German: "The arsonist of houses." An exhausted, bloody, disfigured, still very young girl was executed by hanging in front of the villagers and the Wehrmacht soldiers. With a noose around her neck, the heroine made a short speech At the execution itself, the brave girl also made a short fiery speech which manifested courage to confront iron feet of oppression in depth almost unprecedentedand spirit of self sacrifice in regions almost unparalleled . Zora’s voice manifested the aspirations of people in every corner of the globe to extinguish fascism, like a soul or poetry of the anti-fascist resistance. She cried “- Hey, comrades! What are you looking at sadly? Be brave, fight; beat the Germans, burn, poison!
A German standing nearby swung at her and wanted to interrupt, but a brave girl, on the threshold of her end, pushed his hand away and continued: “I’m not afraid to die, comrades. It is happiness to die for your people ...”
"Tatiana" (the episode is taken from the essay "Tanya" by the military commander Pyotr Lidov) turned towards the commandant and the German soldiers and said: “You’ll hang me now, but I’m not alone, there are two hundred million of us, you don’t outweigh everyone. You will be avenged for me ...”
The Russian people standing in the square were crying. Others turned away so as not to see what was about to happen (this is from the fresh testimony of the villagers, interviewed by military commander Peter Lidov in 1941, much more truthful than those ugly and dirty speculations from the 90s about the villagers' hatred of arsonists). Were they arsonists in the cold of the huts of their compatriots? No, the servicemen of military unit No. 9903 were executing order No. 428, which spoke of the "scorched earth" tactics!
So, the executioner pulled on the rope, and the noose strangulated Tanino's throat. But she defied the noose with both hands, raised herself on her toes and shouted, straining her strength: “Farewell, comrades! Fight, don't be afraid! Stalin is with us! Stalin will come!”
In the morning, Zoya was executed by hanging in front of the Wehrmacht servicemen and residents of Petrishchevo. The body of Kosmodemyanskaya hung on the gallows for about a month and was repeatedly abused by Wehrmacht soldiers passing through the village. And on New Year's Eve (1942), her body was stripped and again mutilated, stabbing with knives and cutting off her chest.


Zoya’s identity became disclosed over the course of time in the months following her death. She was first identified as "Tanya" by villagers who shared the story with a newspaper correspondent. Zoya’s brother later verified her true identity after reviewing Soviet newspaper accounts of the incident at Petrischevo. Her body was exhumed from Petrischevo and she was returned to Moscow for burial. On February 16, 1942, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was posthumously awarded the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union." She was the first woman to receive this distinction.
The Germans had documented Zoya’s execution by taking photographs beforehand and afterward. These photos were later found on the body of a dead German officer and shortly thereafter, the rest of the world became eyewitnesses of Zoya's fate. The Nazi regiment responsible for Zoya’s murder was destroyed by Red Army forces under the command of General Poketkin in late 1942.
Lyubov Timofeyevna Kosmodemyanskaya, mother of Zoya and Shura, memorialized her children with her book, The Story of Zoya and Shura. Reflecting upon the ultimate fate of Zoya’s executioners, Kosmodemyanskaya said:
“…as for them — they are not human. They are not men. They are not even beasts. They are fascists. And they are doomed. Alive they are dead. Today, tomorrow, in a thousand years, their names, even their graves, will be hateful and vile in the eyes of men.”


Although post-Soviet revisionism has included bids to downplay n the heroic story of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, her story is revered by many to this day. Monuments to Zoya still stand in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Tambov, Dorokhov, and Petrischevo. Her grave is in Moscow. The 1944 Lev Arnshtam film "Zoya" tells the story of her arrest and execution.
*Freelance journalist



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