Feb 21, 2021
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Maiden Eaglets

In January 1943, seven boys were shot by the Nazis in the village of Devitsa, Voronezh Region. Kolya, Vanya, Tolya, Mitrosha, Alyosha, and another Vanya, and another Alyosha … The guys were killed in front of their fellow villagers and their parents. When the Germans started shooting, Mitrosha managed to shout: “Mom!”, But immediately fell down dead … The feat of the brave boys, whom after their death the locals began to call “Maidens Eagles”, is not so well known as the stories about the “official” pioneer heroes, which the textbooks told us about …

Children harmed the fascists as much as they could

In the summer of 1942, the Nazis occupied the right bank of the Don, among the settlements they occupied was the village of Devitsa, Semiluksky district. The enemies established their commandant’s office there, a department of the Gestapo, punitive counterintelligence agencies, and a post office.

On the central square in a dilapidated Orthodox church, the Nazis set up a prisoner of war camp. The wounded Soviet soldiers and officers were kept behind barbed wire for 700-800 people without food or medical assistance.

The invaders blew up the local school, they began to regularly take food from the villagers, and some were taken to Germany. Those who remained were herded into general work. In general, the Maid suffered the same fate as many other occupied villages.

Partisans worked in these parts, but they could hardly at that moment influence life in the village occupied by the Nazis. And the role of fighters against the invaders on their own initiative was taken on by eight boys from the neighboring village – young fearless heroes. The guys were determined to harm the Germans with all their might. Who else can …

Ivan and Mikhail Zaitsev, Alexey Zhaglin, Mitrofan Zhernokleev, Alexey and Ivan Kulakov, Anatoly Zastrozhnov and Nikolai Trepalin – the names of these heroes, who were only 12 to 15 years old, should be remembered by everyone. Children pierced the wheels of German cars with nails, stole weapons from the Nazis and then secretly handed them over to the partisans, cut telephone wires, secretly fed Soviet prisoners, and also regularly pulled letters and parcels from the Nazi postal carts for the Germans with metal hooks. Sometimes the boys even managed to steal important documents from enemies and also transfer them to the partisans.

Schoolchildren who had the courage to fight the Nazis who seized the village.

For several months, the guys did not give rest to the invaders, but the Germans could not figure out and catch them – the schoolchildren were too careful, and the villagers did not betray them. Some local boys also helped their comrades (for example, they worked as messengers, passing information from them to the partisans), but the main backbone of this children’s “sabotage group” was made up of the eight above-named guys.

Schoolchildren who had the courage to fight the Nazis who seized the village

Every day, they performed their small (however, if you look at it, then not at all small, but very important) feats. For example, there is a known case when guys imperceptibly crept up to a wagon train of 30 carts and unharnessed the horses, which were supposed to deliver a large batch of shells to the front line to the Nazis. The horses scattered, the ammunition could not be delivered on time. And such “tricks” the guys arranged constantly, pretty much spoiling the life of the fascists.

Schoolchildren who had the courage to fight the Nazis who seized the village

They were shot in front of their relatives

Unfortunately, the boys were eventually found. The Germans seized eight schoolchildren and kept them locked up for several days, trying to knock out information about their activities and the location of the partisans. The guys were heroically silent, patiently enduring the torture of the fascists. One of the students, Misha Zaitsev, broke down and lost his mind. Then the Germans threw him out into the street, saying that he could go home. The other seven continued to be tortured.

On that January day, the Nazis took them out into the field, gave them shovels and ordered them to dig and expand the crater left over from the exploded bomb. The children were not told that they would be executed, so the guys thought that the Nazis simply gave them such a task – to clear the snow and for some reason make a large hole. There was a severe blizzard, but the schoolchildren obediently wielded shovels, trying to finish the work as soon as possible. And when everything was ready, the Germans suddenly opened fire. Seven boys were shot in front of their fellow countrymen and relatives, because the Nazis drove the whole village to the place of execution. Schoolchildren died in silence. Only 13-year-old Mitrosha, as soon as the shots rang out, managed to shout: “Mom!”

The bodies of the guys were thrown into the pit. The villagers were forbidden to approach this mass grave. From day to day, the place of death of the children was covered with snow more and more.

And just a couple of weeks later, the village of Devitsa was liberated by Soviet troops …

In the spring, when the snow began to melt, local residents carefully pulled the bodies of the children out of the pit and reburied them at the local cemetery. 24 years later, a modest monument was erected to the pioneer heroes.

And three years ago, by the efforts of residents and the local administration, a new, majestic monument was erected in the village – the same as a monument to war heroes should be.

New monument to Devitsky Eaglets

Well, in the village school for many years there has been a museum dedicated to the feat of the Devitsky Eaglets and everyone who defended their native land during the war. Several years ago, thanks to a 7,000-ruble grant won by students and the help of a local deputy, the school museum was renovated. New racks, showcases, stands have appeared.

The villagers cherish the memory of the boy heroes. / Photo: archive of the Devitsky Museum of Local Lore

Anna Belova

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