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2 Feb, 2009 09:05

Crucial WW2 battle remembered

Probably the most decisive battle of WW2 is marking its 66th anniversary. One of the bloodiest in human history, it lasted 200 days and claimed the lives of more than a million Soviet people.

’Defend Stalingrad no matter what the cost’ was the motto. It took the Red Army almost seven months to beat the Axis Powers, who were striving to gain control over the city. The Soviet Union sacrificed more than one million lives to win the battle, which many historians see as a turning point in WW2.

Sixty six years on the horrors that the city went through are still fresh in the memory of war hero Aleksey Voloshin, who's now 89.

“I remember crawling in ruins and looking for a hole to hide in from the bombings. There was nowhere to hide. When the bombs come down on you, you feel almost ready to cling to the paving with your chest for dear life,” Aleksey recalls.

Thousands of bombs dropped by the Nazis on the city left those on the ground little chance to survive. The life expectancy of a Stalingrad defender was often less than twenty four hours. The battle was fierce for every street, every house, and every square foot. The Nazis bitterly joked saying “We've conquered the kitchen, but we're still fighting for the bedroom.”

The bravery of Soviet Soldiers has provided plots for many films, books and even computer games.

Slava, whose grandfather was also a war veteran, says he wants his nine-year-old son Misha to learn about the events, and believes an educational computer game, which simulates the battle for Stalingrad, could be a good start.

“I want my son to know the history of his country. If he’s more interested in computer games than in schoolbooks, let it be through the games,” he explains.

In July 1942, when the battle started, Stalin gave an order: Not One Step Back, meaning any attempt to escape the battle would be seen as treachery. Aleksey Voloshin says that out of his regiment of 2,000 men, only 14 survived.

And there were those who ran.

“I remember once when Germans attacked, I looked backed and saw some soldiers leaving. I was shouting: how can you leave us here? But, you know, most of the soldiers I knew were ready to stand to the last. We just realized we had nowhere to go but fight,” says Aleksey.

The Battle for Stalingrad was far from the end of the war, there were more battles to come, but Aleskey Voloshin says it was after Stalingrad that he felt they would eventually beat the Nazis.