Jan 7, 2021
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Where did the Spanish “Private Ryan” find the “Russian steppe” near Leningrad?

The Spanish newspaper ABC published a curious article “Private Ryan” in the ranks of the Blue Division “- about the formation of Spanish volunteers who fought on the side of Hitler in the USSR during the Second World War. The article (authors – Mónica Arrizabalaga), Federico Ayala Sörenssen is curious, quite informative.

According to the authors, 18 thousand soldiers entered the ranks of the division. At the end of the war, 45,000 volunteers participated. More than 16 thousand Spanish soldiers were injured: 5 thousand were killed, 8.7 thousand were injured, and 3 thousand were left disabled.

The division’s personnel are described: “Among the volunteers there were a variety of people: idealists, adventurers, desperate, young people who fought on the side of the republic, dreamers who already saw themselves as participants in a victorious march through the streets of Moscow, and loners – they had nothing to lose.”

Among those who fought on the side of the republic were those who joined the division in order to defect to the side of the Red Army – some managed to do this.

Among other things, the article tells the story of five brothers – three of whom died during the Spanish Civil War, fighting against the Republicans, and two in 1941 volunteered to fight in Russia. After the death of one of them, the last surviving brother was sent by order to Spain in order to save his mother’s last son. But the person who returned soon died in a traffic accident.

Hence the mention of Private Ryan in the title of the article, because associations with the famous American film “Saving Private Ryan” arise immediately.

But there is one amusing detail in the article – the mention that “the soldiers of the Blue Division buried their youth in the harsh Russian steppe.”

In what steppe? In the description of the division’s combat path, we read: “From October 1941 to August 1942, the division occupied positions north and south of Novgorod along the river. Volkhov and lake. Ilmen (50 km section of the front). The division headquarters was located near Novgorod in the village of Grigorovo. Then the division was transferred to Leningrad and took up positions in the area of ​​the river. Izhora (Pushkin, Kolpino, Krasny Bor) “. In 1943, the division returned to Spain, leaving only the most hated volunteers on the Eastern Front to fight along with the Germans. How can the above-mentioned places be called steppe? Steppes around Leningrad? Oh, you, Izhorskaya, Kolpinskaya and Novgorod steppe …

Involuntarily, I recall the articles of the Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg about Spain in the thirties of the last century. He was there in a cafe, where at the entrance stood a shveytsar, dressed like a Cossack, he discovered something called a “snack”. The “snack”, from the Spanish point of view, was a quiche. So the “funeral of youth in the harsh Russian steppe” not far from Novgorod or near Leningrad strongly resembles a Spanish “snack” with custard …

Maxim Kustov

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