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Vasiliy Grigoryevich

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19.05.2014 | Vladimir Kiyashko

Moments of happiness can sometimes look peculiar. Just imagine, it’s Friday, you come home tired, all the tasks have been done, everything is settled. You take a seat in an armchair in front of the TV, poured glass of wine. And tomorrow is Saturday, and you can lie in bed all day.

But the moment of happiness can look slightly different, like in the story by Vasiliy Grigoryevich.

Vasiliy Grigoryevich lived in a village; he had a family, wife and four children - three girls and one boy. The family lived in harmony and enjoyed every day. This man worked as a bookkeeper in a sugar factory. His workplace was located in the countryside - 5 kilometers from home. Transport did not go there, and all that distance he had to cross either on foot or by bike, which was at the time a rarity. Autumn, winter and spring made commuting by bike almost impossible, because it was impossible to pass through dirty road that was not paved and at the same time blurred by rain and snow.

So, he had to walk the distance of 10 kilometers on foot in any kind of weather most time of the year. His footwear was one for all seasons and therefore was worn out very quickly. Clothes and shoes at that time were very hard to obtain, so they were sewed by local artisansthemselves from material provided by the customer. He came home from work, which as it seemed never ended because he always had to do a lot on the farm.

All the food they had to grow and harvest themselves. In fact, the family worked all year round. It was hard, but in general, no one in the family complained. Anyway, in those days there was a war and the land where Vasiliy Grigoryevich lived with the family was occupied by foreign troops. Near to this site partisans acted. The man helped the partisans to resist the invaders, passed on information, facilitated the movement trough territory, gave shelter in his house for a short period of time - night, maximum a day, and assisted the transfer of arms.

Such actions were highly dangerous. His 6-year-old son did not understand what his father did, but he was very pleased with his father. Despite all conspiracy processes there were two times when the son saw weapons. And one day, when some of the arms, due to lack of storage space, were temporarily put into the stove, he even got luck to touch these with his own hands.

It happened at one autumn night. The parents had already put the kids to bed, and began to carry arms from the shed in the stove. At this time, the boy woke up, but did not show it and saw his mom and dad put something in house. When the parents went outside for a while, the boy quietly crept to the stove, opened the stove door and stood still, his eyes were large and round, his heart was beating so hard that for the moment his hands became cold. This was what he had never seen before - the entire stove was filled with arms, automatons, guns. He wanted to escape in bed immediately. But how could a real boy see arms and not touch them? The boy reached out to the trunk with his hand and touched it. It was one of the most memorable moments of his life.

So, Vasiliy Grigoryevich helped the partisans for one and a half years. But, as it usually happens in a war time, there were always traitors who helped the invaders in their activities. Guerrilla activities of Vasiliy Grigoryevich were exposed. He was arrested and sent to the district jail. In it the man spent four months. The district prison was located 15 kilometers from home. All these long four months, sometimes by hitching sometimes walking, his wife brought him parcels with foods and underwear once in two days. Not all parcels reached her husband. But everything that did - helped him survive.

Thanks to an underwear set, which reached Vasiliy Grigoryevich, he negotiated for a transfer to the camera with a smaller number of prisoners. Without minimum of food, he would starve to death, as many other prisoners did. After four months in the local jail, Vasiliy Grigoryevich was sent to Lukyanovskaya prison in Kyiv for further investigation related to aiding the guerrilla. Sending to the Kyiv prison meant almost death, as in Kyiv the most intense interrogations were conducted. In prison wards agents of invaders were integrated and the decisions on the fate of prisoners were taken pragmatically and without delay.

It was the fifth month of his imprisonment inLukyanovskaya prison. Once in two days someone was shot. Exposure scheme[skim] in most cases was the same. In a ward with the other prisoners there were one or a couple of agents who gained trust and received at least a hint of necessary information and then the prisoners were questioned and shot. Vasiliy Grigoryevich got very thin and exhausted from the constant questionings, malnutrition and staying in appalling conditions. Because of the specifics of the interrogation Vasiliy Grigoryevichfelt could either be shot or dead from a disease, even the most insignificant.

And he decided to do something incredible – he wanted to escape from Lukyanovskaya prison. The entire territory of the prison was clearly seen by the guards in at the watchtowers. How to escape from the ward, how to escape from the prison territory? There was not a strict plan. But there was also nothing to lose. During the walks, which were periodically conducted for the prisoners in the yard, Vasiliy Grigoryevich saw a wooden closet, which was near the wall of the prison. During one of walks he asked permission to go to the toilet. But while he was approaching it, Vasiliy Grigoryevich did not go into it, but slipped behind the toilet. To his left just 15 meters away there was the prison’s building, fenced by an outer wall.

But to reach the prison’s building he had to cross an incredibly long 15 meters. Before ending of walk, prison warden inspected the toilet, making sure there was no one inside. The prison wardens and prisoners were changed quite often, the former were replaced by the invaders to exclude the possibility of collaboration, the latter were shot and new ones were brought in. Therefore, nobody remembered the faces of each other. At the time when a warden was placing the last three prisoners into the prison building and turned back to the Vasiliy Grigoryevich, he slipped from the toilet into the passage between the fence and the building.

He was a lucky because none of the wardens in the watchtowers and below saw anything. But now Vasiliy Grigoryevich had to overcome a flat wall. The distance between the building and the wall was very small, about 1 meter and the height of the wall was about 4 meters. To get the top of the fence Vasiliy Grigoryevich leaned back against the wall and took a firm stand by his legs in the prison building. So, he was going slowly upstairs. It was incredibly difficult to climb, as he was very weak. But it had to be done no longer than in two minutes, until they noticed the absence of the prisoner. Every meter of the wall was getting hard and harder, but the feeling that he would be shot anyway forced him to climb higher.

With great efforts Vasiliy Grigoryevich got to the top of the wall, and for the first time in 9 months of his general imprisonment term he looked at the world not through the bars. He was filled with joy for a second until the man looked at the height of the fence from the top down and realized that he needed to jump very quickly. 2 minutes had been over. He knew that by that time he might have been detected absent from the prison. Actually 5 minutes passed already. It was necessary to act immediately. Holding hands against the wall and taking firm fence by elbows, Vasiliy Grigoryevich began to descend along the wall. Fully hanging on while holding the edge of the fence by his hands the man looked down; there were about 2.5 meters to the ground. Pushing away from the wall by the foota littleVasiliy Grigoryevich jumped off the wall and fell to the ground. “Here is the freedom” - thought Vasiliy Grigoryevich, but from the prison he could hear voices of the wardens and noise. The absence of the prisoner was detected.

Vasiliy Grigoryevich jumped up and with all his last forces and ran as far away from the prison building as he could. He did not know where he is running to, because he could recognize neither streets nor houses. It was not the Kyiv that he had known where he used to come personally to sell grown foods locally. Many buildings were destroyed, some streets had lost their forms, and he could not go through some of them because of their destruction. It had already been dark outside. He could hear sounds of patrol from the prison’s side who had left the prison in search for the fugitive. But they also couldn’t go far to walk or drive. The man knew an approximate direction to the railway station, as he previously had traded near it. By 3 o'clock in the morning Vasiliy Grigoryevich got to the station. But it was dangerous to go inside, as the invader’s patrols were walking everywhere. The man decided to wade directly to the train that would go towards his home and negotiate with the machinists to take him in.

Detecting a station patrol, Vasiliy Grigoryevich hid behind one of the corners to wait until it passed and then ran to the trains. He waited for a few minutes until the patrol walked away. The man hunched his shoulders and bent down slightly, looking around at the sides and making sure that he could go, quickly came around the corner. But suddenly to his own surprise he bumped into at an old woman. Being frightened by his own surprise the man took one step back. He looked at her and apologized, he wanted to run further. But suddenly the old woman spoke to him: "Do not worry son. I see where you are from and where you run to. You will do it, you will see your wife and children. Take this small knot to anyone you haven’t seen" - said the old woman and put a handkerchief with tied knot into the hand ofVasiliy Grigoryevich. Uncomprehending it with amazement the man took the knot silently, thanked and ran to the trains.

Having found the train that was heading to the direction he needed, the man waited for the driver. He explained the situation to machinist, and asked him to help to get to the destination, so that no one could check the documents. The machinist agreed to help, and said that Vasiliy Grigoryevich had to pretend being a second machinist in case of a check when leaving Kyiv. There were usually two machinists in the cabin, but on that day the train was leaving Kyiv with one machinist only. It was because the second machinist went to see relatives and on the way back he had to be picked up. After the pick up the real second machinist, Vasiliy Grigoryevich had to go into coal wagon, which was right behind the machinist cabin, and machinists had to bury him in coal so that only his face could be left.
…and that was agreed.

Before leaving Kyiv the invader’s patrol checked the train and cab of machinists, looking carefully at the face and checking all possible places where somebody could have hidden anything or anyone. But all was going well and the train left Kyiv. After 50 kilometers away from Kyiv, the second machinist got into the train, and Vasiliy Grigoryevich was buried in coal, leaving only the face. At the entrance to one of the small bridges, the train was being passed by the watchtower with the warden, who inspected all wagons of all trains. There was exactly the same watchtower with a warden on the other side of the bridge. Machinists warned Vasiliy Grigoryevich about wardens and told him to close his eyes until they passed both watchtowers. Before entering the bridge the man closed his eyes, the train slowed down and passed the bridge.

The bridge was passed, and even some yards of the ground were also passed. The man opened his eyes and saw the leaving look of warden. Would Vasiliy Grigoryevich open his eyes for a second earlier, he would have already been dead. But judging by the fact that the man was still alive, he was sure that the warden had not detected him. At this time, the coal was warmer than Vasiliy Grigoryevich. About 20 minutes later the train was approaching the next station. As the train entered into the station, the invader’s soldiers with dogs appeared on the platform. Machinists saw this and reported it to the passenger. "This is the end," thought machinists. "The warden on second watchtower detected me still," thought Vasiliy Grigoryevich. The train stopped at the station, soldiers with dogs got on the train and checked each car, all passengers and the cab of the machinists. The check lasted for about 15 minutes. Of course, nobody reported the reason for checking. Suddenly, the soldiers left the train as unexpectedly as they had appeared, and the train was allowed to move on. There were no more checks and Vasiliy Grigoryevich even slept a little bit, lying in the corner.

In the late afternoon the train arrived at its final destination. "Man, you're lucky," said the machinists. In parting, the machinists gave him a piece of bacon and a couple of slices of bread. Vasiliy Grigoryevich greedily ate them as he had not eaten for almost a day, thanked the machinists for everything, said goodbye and left. It was the homeland. But he still had to cross 30 kilometers to his native village. Not knowing what the situation in the village was, what was with family, whether the wife and kids were alive, it was dangerous to hitchhike. He had to go on foot so that nobody could see him. Thanks to the sleep he had while traveling and the piece of bread with bacon Vasiliy Grigoryevich felt a small surge of energy. So, he hit the road without delay. He walked through the fields and unknown road. It was an uncharted road for him.

He knew only a rough direction. It was complicated to move at night. The man wandered all night. And then about 4 o'clock in the morning he was exhausted, feeling an enormous sense thirst, he saw an outline of his native village. Vasiliy Grigoryevich went through the vegetable garden to his home. When he got into the garden, he fell prostrate in the beet leaves, which had already been quite large and thick to hide in. There were about 150 meters away from the home. But the man decided not to risk and wait for someone who would come out of the house. The thirst and hunger tormented enormously, but it was impossible to identify himself.

The man has incredible sense of thirst. But there were only the beet leaves around him. He wanted to try to chew them to get at least some moisture. But the man remembered the stories of his father how the beet leaves could be nasty taste and how bad feelings could be after their eating. There was dawn. He could hear some sounds of moves in the house. The man began to gaze anxiously at the door, from which someone would walk out. It could have been that his family had already been shot, and there in his house could live someone else. But there at home the door opened and his wife came to the courtyard. "Finish, I’m home," he said. Vasiliy Grigoryevich leaned back, pulled a bunch of beet leaves, shoved them all entirely in the mouth and chewing eagerly to quench his thirst, he said to himself: "Today is Friday. And tomorrow is Saturday; I can lie in bet all day. And then… … death for all invaders to the Ukrainian land!"