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7 May, 2010 05:41

Battle of Stalingrad – one of the crucial points of WWII

The southern Russian city of Volgograd, at that time called Stalingrad, where one of the decisive battles of World War II took place, is preparing to the celebrations on a massive scale.

Volgograd is on of the 16 cities that are joining Moscow for the big parade on the May 9th at 10am [Moscow time]. Those parades will be happening simultaneously.

During preparations, tanks are rolling across the city center of Volgograd and parades of troops dressed in authentic replica uniforms of the Great Patriotic War and military bands playing patriotic songs form Soviet era. The city is being beautified with flags and decorations.

Called Volgograd now because it stands on Volga River, during WWII the city was called Stalingrad after to the leader of the Soviet Union at that time.

In fact, the war here became an ideological battle between Hitler, who wanted to take the city with Stalin’s name, and Stalin, who, of course, did not want to let that city fall. So, the famous phrase for the battle was “There was no land beyond the Volga” and “Not one step back!” was the order from Stalin which proved to be very fateful.

One of the most significant spots of the war was at the tractor factory, which before the siege of Stalingrad was responsible for about 50 per cent of the T-34 tanks that went in to the front lines.

Aleksandr Klemenko was not a soldier by trade. In fact, he was a simple factory worker. When his city came under siege, and the battle for Stalingrad loomed, it became clear that Aleksandr’s fate would be very different. The decision was made to put the workers of the factories into tanks and have them build defensive barricades.

From that moment, Aleksandr Klemenko was an active member of the Soviet fighting forces.

“We were just factory workers, but we all just left our presses, dropped our tools, picked up our rifles and ran to the front line to fight the Nazis,” Klemenko recalls.

In mid August 1942, the tractor factory where Aleksandr worked was the target of a concerted effort to push the Red Army back to the Volga and finally take Stalin’s prized city.

“The Germans knew for sure that there weren’t any Red Army soldiers here and on the 23rd of August, they came here to the tractor factory and they were expecting to take this position to repair their own tanks here in just three days, but they made a mistake,” says historian Nadezhda Belousova.

After the siege started, the tanks went from the factory straight to the front line of the battle. At some point in the fight, the tractor factory workers had to defend the factory themselves.

“Using just their own wheels, we sent them straight from the building into battle – without any adjustments, scopes or modification – to the front line, which was just outside the gate. Then, as the line pushed back we started using the railway again to get the tanks out,” Aleksandr Klemenko remembers.

That was a decisive moment in the battle that made the factory famous, the workers heroes and allowed for the Red Army to start their push to Berlin.