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Petr Chetyrev, about WW II and the construction of the Astrakhan-Kyzlyar railway

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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Petr talks about the construction sites he worked on during World War II: I was born on 16 July 1928 in the village of Danilovka in the Kharabalinsky district of the Stalingrad oblast. The Kalmyk name of that village was Sukhata. After the war, the village became part of the Astrakhan oblast. In 1940, after finishing 4 grades in my school, I was sent to the village of Yust in Kalmykia to stay with my maternal uncle Namrush Dordzhiev. The war broke out on 22 June 1941. My older brothers went to the front. Children, women, and old people stayed behind to work. A Komsomol brigade, formed from pupils of 5th to 7th grades, was sent to build an airfield. We all lived in two yurts on the construction site. A separate yurt was erected for a kitchen. Afterwards we were sent to build a railway to connect Astrakhan with Kizlyar. Out of the planned 410 kilometers, we the Kalmyks were supposed to build 386 kilometers. The workforce consisted mainly of children, women and old people. Our fathers and older brothers were away fighting the Germans. That railway was built to quickly transport oil from Baku and Grozny to Stalingrad, which took a month by conventional water routes. 25 thousand Kalmyks worked with pickaxes and shovels. Construction materials were carried on wheelbarrows, dragged in bags on the ground, or sometimes transported on oxen and camels. The construction site was periodically attacked by the Germans from the air. We managed to build that railway in a year, instead of the planned two. General Zhukov said that the timely construction of that railway had saved the whole country. When I was building the railway, one night I could smell roasted meat. Curious, I went in the direction where the smell was coming from only to hear German speech and singing. I told my friend who was a Ukrainian soldier who in his turn reported it to his officer. For this I was awarded a horse.



World War II, work, construction

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Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin