Interview by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin.
Interview with Antipina Raisa Yakovlevna by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin
Edited by Igor Zhidov
Big thanks to Svetlana Spiridonova and Eugene Rudman
Raisa Antipina: I was born on 30th April, 1921. There is a place on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland – Ruchii, it is located almost opposite Kronshtadt. A little to the west, new docks were built. It was supposed that part of the Baltic Fleet would be based there. They were built by convicts, who were guarded by NKVD personnel, and lived in a “closed” city, “Building site-200”… It was in the middle of four prison zones. There were different nationalities serving there – Russians, Finns, Greeks... There were a lot of Greeks there for some reason. Although it was a secret object, there were military specialists there, as well as hired personnel. So our family lived there…
— Was it a political prison zone?
No. It was an ordinary prison zone. There were thieves, murderers, rapists…
All kinds of scum…
Let’s return. My father was a military doctor, and he served at the garrison which covered the Russian-Finnish border. We used to live there with him, but, in 1936 dad died. A new doctor arrived, and we had to move to another house. There were four of us: my mother, myself, and my two brothers. Mom started to look for a job, and found a place as an accountant at “Building Site-200”. In 1938, my younger brother died from gas gangrene. When I turned 17 years old, I was also allowed to work there, at the “first department”. (First department was a personnel registry part which was directly connected to NKVD, and was responsible for “early detection” of “spies” and “unreliable” people. O.K.)
When war began, we were having a picnic, which was organized by Komsomol. The weather was great, and we were not planning to return before sunset, but someone came running, and shouted: “War!”. We ran to the city, and saw that people were raiding shops, trying to get as much supplies as possible. All kinds of canned food, which no one would buy in peace time, were stolen in a matter of seconds. My mom managed to get only 5 kilos of sugar from somewhere. But it turned out that all of this raiding was senseless, since we were ordered to prepare ourselves for evacuation, and we were not allowed to take heavy stuff with us.
Our garrison was blown to pieces, convicts were sent by trains to Kandalaksha, some of the NKVD officers were moved with them. We were hired personnel, so we had to take care of our selves. We had no idea where to move. My chief, Alexandrov said to me:
— If you have no place to go, come to Kronshtadt with me.
As we prepared to move, the survivors from Libava Naval base started arriving. Most of them lost their families there. There was one Captain, who was wounded, and whose wife was raped and killed for fun by German soldiers… He tried to save her, and saw what happened with his own eyes. He, himself, made it out of the Libava at the last possible moment.
Altogether our column consisted of almost 100 military men, and about the same amount of hired personnel. We were brought by trucks to the Oranienbaum area, and we hid in the forest during the daytime.
There was some General, and he ordered:
— If someone moves from this place, I will personally execute him! I’m going to Oranienbaum to find out where to go next…
And he left. For about 24 hours we heard nothing from him. We would cook food on a field kitchen, which was based on a truck. By the next morning we ran out of water. So, the officers told me and Shura (a typist from political department):
— Here is a 20 liter flask, there is a water tower across the road. You don’t look military in your civilian dresses. Go and bring some water.
So we went. The road was quite wide, and we were not in a hurry... And, suddenly, we heard the sound of airplane engine. At that time we did not know the sounds of German planes… Later we were able to tell from the sound, type, altitude and in which formation they were flying… But that was later. So this fighter dove on us and started firing with machine guns. Soldiers and officers were shouting to us from the forest:
— Run to the roadside!
So we did. I ran to one side of the road, Shura ran to the other… Meanwhile the German turned around, and fired at the flask that we dropped at the road, and flew away. For some time we did not dare to get out of the drainage trenches. When we got out, we found out that the flask was completely torn to pieces!
That was my “Baptism by fire”…
— When did it happen?
End of July, or maybe the beginning of August… Can’t say exactly – too
many years have passed.
So, we are waiting for our General, but he was not coming. Then, suddenly, we heard Germans speaking, and weapons clicking. They must have been no farther then 300 meters, if we heard them in the forest…
Alexandrov was the senior at the time, but he did not know what to do, so Capitan Konstantin Barabanov said:
— All responsibility will be on me. For now, everybody, keep quiet. Tonight we will try to get out of here.
With great difficulty (since we couldn’t switch the headlights on, in order to avoid detection), we managed to get out of that forest to the road, and raced towards Oranienbaum. It happened so that we met our General, who was going after us. He got out of the car and started shouting:
— I will execute you! I will personally execute Barabanov when we will get to our destination point!
— What should we have done? We would all be shot by Germans… Would you like to go back and check it by your self?
— Was it really necessary for you to flee from the Germans? You weren’t enlisted in the army at the time?
If I stayed, I definitely would have been killed. First of all, I worked
for NKVD. Secondly, I was a Komsomol member, and thirdly, I was a member
of the family of a Red Army officer. If these three reasons wouldn’t work,
I was a young girl at the time, and I definitely would have ended my life
as a slave in a concentration camp. Several families decided to stay behind,
but they were all killed in the first days of German occupation.
So, let’s return… They shouted at each other, and we went to Martyshkino, and then to Oranienbaum. At night we were loaded on barges and towed to Kronshtadt. There I was enlisted in the Navy, as a typist to the Staff of KBF. There were two of us – girls. Me, and Shura. At first, there was no place for us, and there was not even uniform small enough for us. So I continued to walk on high-heel shoes, with long hair. Soon, our commanding General started inspecting our department, and found me not dressed as regulation required. He was an extremely strict person. There was one of the prosecutors – a Georgian, or Armenian by nationality, and his beard was growing very rapidly. Our General made him shave every two hours or so – until his face started to bleed.
So, when he found me, he started yelling:
— Get her dressed as ordered!... Why she is dressed as she pleases!… I will punish her!...
Our direct commander tried to defend me:
— There are no boots of size 34 in the warehouse.
— I don’t care! Either you will find her boots, or I will arrange guard’s room imprisonment for both of you!
Eventually, they found me boots of size 33, and I still was unable to wear them. He was strict well beyond any reason. I remember, I was walking on the street, and suddenly someone pushed me to the door. He brought me to the barber shop, and ordered my hair to be cut away. But usually he was only yelling – he could do nothing about us, if we wouldn’t do our job, all the paperwork at the prosecutors office would be halted.
I was in Kronshtadt for about three or four months. What do I remember most? Air raids. They were extremely massive – up to 150 bombers. They came in as a cloud or in waves, each wave once every 30 minutes.
We were told that an arch is the sturdiest construction, so we used to run out of building, and hide under the arch. We saw some dogfights, but who shot down whom? Our pilots shot Germans down, and Germans shot our planes down. I know where a Junkers bomber fell in the marsh on the western half of the Kotlin Island… Fights were very fierce, and losses from both sides were very heavy, and I’d say - equal.
What else did I see? I used to bring secret documents from Kronshtadt to Lisii Nos to a small dock. Each time we arrived there we had to get out of the boat as fast as possible, because the Germans and Finns used to hunt after every boat. Once we barely made it – as soon as we got out, a plane came in and shredded our boat to pieces. On the other occasion we were returning with documents, and just as we were going past the battleship “Marat” we heard a siren – air raid warning. Sailors from the “Marat” shouted to us:
— Come up here! You will be safe here!
But we went to the pier… And a few seconds later, a bomb hit the “Marat”. It jumped out of the water and broke in two pieces. The rear, larger one still was firing at the enemy, while the nose sunk…
Before that day, the Germans had tried to bomb ships in Kronshtadt harbor, but with no luck.
— Was AAA firing?
Yes, of course. On that same occasion, I saw a really terrible thing. At the park, there was a huge bomb shelter, and one of the large caliber bombs hit the entrance door! The roof of the shelter was moving, as people trapped inside tried to make their way out, but they all suffocated to death. Hundreds of dead people were brought out of this shelter later… I saw a similar picture at Palanga at the end of war, but this time it was German corpses.
— What happened to your family?
My mom, with my 16 year old brother, was evacuated from Kronshtadt to
Lebyazhye. They suffered from hunger there, and I asked to be transferred
to Lebyazhye, to work at the prosecutor’s office. I hoped that I would
be able to help my mother. This help wasn’t great. I used to take a small
piece of meat or a frozen potato from my ration, and bring it home. Mom
would mash what I brought, and served it with cold water. This was called
a “soup”. As I was fed at our canteen, I told them that I was not hungry.
This ended when I became dystrophic myself…
Right before I felt sick, my colleague, Evgenia Shagarova, gave me some water from the Neva river, and on top of it all I got disentria. When I became so weak that I was unable to talk, she took my ration cards and ate my portion at the canteen… She was such a… Don’t want to say rude words…
— How did it happen that your colleague got your ration?
If you had ration cards, you would simply get what was on the menu in
exchange. They were not personalized. I really don’t know, and I really
didn’t care at that time. It was November or December of 1941, a really
cold time. There was a senior prosecutor of KBF, Makuhin. When he came
into our room, I made some noise. He heard the sounds, and asked:
— Who’s making strange noises?
Our secretary, Paluiko, answered:
— Raisa got sick.
— Yes, I noticed her absence… Where is she?
Our beds were placed between two large safes. We slept at the same place where we worked, we were not allowed to leave. Even if we would be allowed to leave – there was no place to go… Makuhin asked something else, and ran off. When he returned, he asked me:
— Can you hold anything?
— Yes, I can.
He gave me a bag of dry bread pieces… My colleagues got me dressed and carried me to the ambulance. When we arrived to the hospital, I was almost dead. At my age I weighed 24 kilos. Doctor looked at me and said:
— This is not a hospital for children!
Everything was crowded, people were lying on the floor, everywhere. They found a place for me on the window sill. I looked out of the window and saw a stack covered with snow. I decided that it was a firewood stack, and thought that it is going to be warm here. But this stack was made of dead bodies…
A doctor came to look at me, and said:
— A woman is about to die in that ward, and when she dies, move to her place.
The woman died in about an hour. I was moved to her bed. Immediately, I was attacked by millions of lice. There were 7 patients in a ward, and when someone died, lice would march in columns to new victims – it was a clear and absolutely correct sign… “Horrible” does not describe the situation! But, we lay there with no emotion, and people died. This was a ward for dying patients, and they changed once in three or four hours…
The doctor came to me, and said:
— How should I feed you? If I will give you milk or meat, you will die instantly… Give her a glass of weak potassium permanganate solution for the day.
So they did. But I still had my dry bread! So I would make a sip of water and suck on a bread… On the second day the doctor came:
— She is not feeling worse, give her two glasses of potassium permanganate solution for the day.
I can’t remember well what was going on, but I still remember the taste of the bread in my mouth… When war ended, even after thirty years had passed, I still had a habit of first drinking a liquid part of the soup, and after that eat the hard stuff…
On the third day I felt better, and was able to walk. The doctor came, and did not find me in the bed:
— Where is Mikhailova? (That’s my maiden surname.) When did she die? Why was the body carried away without my knowledge?
But patients replied:
— She walked away.
Doctor was very surprised. She found me in the toilet, where I was sitting, unable to stand up. She picked me on her hands and carried me to another ward:
— Oh, dear, it seems that you will be able to survive!
When I started to receive full rations, I cured quite fast. On the sixth day I was discharged from the hospital, and I returned to work.
In 1942 I was sent to Leningrad, and I was wounded there. Up to this day I have some fragments in my skull… I had just returned from our canteen, when an air raid alarm was sounded. But they were sounded too often, and usually we stayed at our working place. It was too difficult for us to go up and down the ladders… Until I got wounded I never went to the bomb shelter, but after that they used to say about me:
— A ship had whistled in Kronshtadt, and Mikhailova is already in bomb shelter!
So, the alarm was sounded, but I was still typing. Then an inspector Lavrusenko came in:
— Raisa, you are going to “Dacha”.
Our prosecutions office was moved from Leningrad to Vsevolozsk at the time, and we used to say – “going to Dacha”. I replied:
— I don’t want to.
— You are enlisted to the Navy. You have to follow orders. Here is an order. You, Shahov, Kuznetsov Vasilii Ivanovich and Krutskii Vasilii Egorovich.
Prosecutor Krutskii was very strict man. If he saw a mistake in the document, he made me re-type it completely. I understood how it helped me only several years later – I became more careful with documents. I said:
— No way, I’m afraid of Krutskii...
I stood up, and walked towards Lavrusenko, and he was walking towards me. At this moment exactly at the place where my type-writer was standing a bomb exploded… I flew through two doors straight to Krutskii’s office. I stood up, and we ran to the corridor. There everything was in dust, a dead soldier was lying on the floor…
We were based in a former Frunze academy building, and the cruiser “Kirov” was anchored near by. German pilots aimed for the cruiser, but hit our building. I was wounded rather lightly, but Lavrusenko was hit in his forehead, I was even able to see his brains… We stood talking to each other, as if nothing happened. Then Lavrusenko’s eyes were covered by blood, and he tried to wipe his face, and his fingers touched his brains. By this time the doctor appeared, and ordered Lavrusenko to be carried away. I never saw him again. He died several hours later…
(24.04.42 6 small bombs hit a building of KBF Staff. 9 men were killed, and 47 wounded I.Zh.)
I was trying to understand what happened – I was covered with blood, and my finger wasn’t working. Doctors wanted to amputate it, but I said:
— No way!
They took some of the bomb fragments out, but not all...
My finger did not work for a year. Then, one day, I was washing floors, when I noticed a fragment protruding from my finger. The doctor took it out, and now my hand works well…
— How long you were in hospital?
I was wounded on 24th April, and stayed in a hospital for about a month…
— Could you describe what kind of cases prosecutors worked on at the time?
Different ones. For example, there were a lot of deserters, and most of them were caught. After the Prosecutor had established the reasons why a soldier had deserted, his fate would be decided. One such deserter nearly killed a prosecutor during interrogation. He was executed later – he had done something else, apart from deserting.
— Where were they deserting to? What was there to do in Leningrad?
Anywhere away from front line.
— We talked to a Leningrader, and he said that there were spies who fired colored signal flares to show German pilots where important targets were…
Yes, such cases happened. If these spies were caught, they were executed…
As I said we were situated near “Kirov”, and that area was heavily bombarded, until someone noticed a spy with a radio transmitter, who directed the bombardment. He was caught and executed…
— You prosecution office was military organization?
Naval. VVS KBF, to be exact. Our Chief prosecutor was Krutskii. Chief naval prosecutor of the KBF was Fedor Makuhin.
— Why were you involved in different cases, not only concerning aviation?
There were not so many cases from aviation… But there was a lot of work for us – there were only two typists in the prosecutor’s office, and sometimes we were invited to NKVD to type their protocols…
— Did your office investigate cannibalism cases?
No, but I know about the cases. There were people who ate dead and even
sold them for meat. But cannibalism was treated as such only if our people
were eaten. What happened to German corpses was not of anyones interest…
When I lived in “Building Site”, there was a special zone for cannibals, where they were kept for the rest of their life… They were considered too dangerous to let them loose.
— Was the law upheld, or did everything depend upon the prosecutor’s will?
Everything was decided by court martial. Although, Judges are also people…
One of the Judges was very keen on executions… In Lebyazhye there was a case: someone told the NKVD that one woman came to work and complained:
— What’s going on! The Germans robbed us, our soldiers came, and took all the potatoes away…
She was arrested, court martialed, and executed for “comparing Soviet soldiers with occupants”.
Eventually that Judge was executed himself for “acting in excess of authority”.
In 1948 there was a horrible case which is connected to the war. There was some regiment commanders deputy, he lived on 5th Krasnoarmeyskaya street… He oppressed his soldiers, and they wanted revenge against him. They killed his wife, and put his child into the gas oven. When the older child came home from school, she felt the gas smell from the apartment, and called help… The deputy commander went mad… And, what do you think? The soldier who did it, came to us himself! He said: "He was a beast, not a commanding officer, I avenged, and now you can execute me!"… The punishment was death, of course… War severely twisted people’s minds, you know…
But different prosecutors approached cases differently. For example, one of the pilots killed a woman in Palanga. Pilots were sitting in the canteen, and one of them decided to make a salute for some reason, and fired his pistol at the floor. The bullet ricocheted to the waitresses head, and killed her… It was a stupid accident, and our prosecutor tried to turn everything into an accident. Eventually, he closed the case with some slight punishment to the pilot, and sent the case to Moscow for approval. It returned with an order of harder punishment. Everything ended in “dishonorable discharge, and penal squadron…".
After some time, we met him with an HSU star on the chest! And he even brought us some presents… In gratitude of our attempt to save him.
— Did you deal with false accounts and overclaiming?
There were a lot of interesting things in my work… Here is one, for
I was asked to type a list of pilots, suited for HSU, and someone suggested that I include one pilot, so I did. I had never heard of this pilot before… And, what do you think? He was the only one from the list to get the HSU!
— As we understood you were in the Leningrad during first blockade winter?
— How you were fed?
As I was enlisted, I was fed in our canteen. In Lebyazhye I brought part of the food to my mother and brother, and ended up in hospital. And my mom…
— Did they make it through blockade?
My brother went to the naval infantry, and was killed near Narva. He
was just seventeen years old.
Mom died, or to be exactly correct, drowned because of dystrophia. She used to wash clothes for a loaf of bread, but lost consciousness, and fell into the river five meters wide and a meter deep, and drowned… She was only 45 years old.
In Leningrad I was fed rather well, because I ate everything myself.
When we were stationed in Vsevolozsk rations were very good, and we even had enough strength to go to dances.
— What was your salary during war, and what you could buy on the market for it?
We were on full State ration, but I managed to stay alive only because I was enlisted. I can’t remember any salary.
— Did your office deal with pilot’s Kulakov case? It happened during winter of 1941\42, he fled to Germans with his girlfriend in I-16.
Yes, there was such a case. If I’m not mistaken, he was sentenced to death, in absentia. No idea if the sentence was carried out.
— Have you ever heard of price being posted on someones head?
Never. A person could be announced an outlaw, and anyone could have killed him with no further investigations, but not for the money.
— What were the most common cases with our pilots?
They could have got drunk and start fighting, for example, or every case of airplane crashes was a case of investigation…
— What about cowardice…
It happened, a dozen maybe… But since they were investigated in Leningrad, the rumors spread fast and grew…
— What happened to them?
Up to execution.
— Speaking of executions, were you present during ones?
No. The prisoners were taken to a special place, and were executed there…
But our subjects knew that they will not be forgiven, and some of them
were so dangerous, that they had to be interrogated in the presence of
escort. Once, I was going to Leningrad with documents, and a prisoner was
transferred to execution in the same car. He kept asking me:
— What do you think, will they execute me or not?
— Don’t worry, you will live…
Very handsome guy, and his father was very important person in Moscow. But he was executed anyway, as many other deserters…
— Do you remember whose son it was?
I do. But I won’t tell. He was executed in Petropavlovskaya Fortress.
— When did it happen?
In the beginning of 1942.
People were executed for bad jokes. There was Grigorii Mazepa... He did ballet very well.
Just before war ended, he called to Kronshtadt to his friends by phone:
— Guys! War ended!
Everybody got excited… War was already coming to an end… Joke was not taken warmly… He was sent to penal squadron and got killed.
What else… At Libava, the Germans shot down a lot of our planes, and HSU Pysin was shot down, Germans caught him wounded… He was placed in a German hospital, and he kept his Gold Star in his mouth, to avoid execution. During one of our air raids, he managed to escape and return to our forces. And we checked him…
— How did you meet Batievskii?
I met him after the war in Kolberg. I was flying in a Catalina as passenger…
— You even remember what the plane was called?
"Remember?"— it is something never to be forgotten! I flew in a plane
for the first time! They took me out of the plane on a sheet — I was so
sick, I couldn’t move. When we were flying out, some woman found me, and
gave me a letter, and said:
— Give this letter to Batievskii, and be careful, do not fall in love with him.
I found him at the dances. He was very handsome… I gave him the letter and he invited me to dance. I can’t say that he danced well, though. In a few months I married him… But he was an extremely difficult person. That was a common problem with all those who fought. Eventually we divorced.
— What do you think, wasn’t the law too harsh? For minor offences, a major punishment?
My opinion? It was needed, otherwise the city would have fallen. Harsh? But this was war time. Dura lex, sed lex.
— How many people were there in your office?
Ten people. 5 doing the investigations, two typists, a cleaning lady and two handymen…
— Do you remember cases when our pilots shot our planes down?
There were several cases. Only in one case pilot was punished.
— Do you remember how our pilots bombed Berlin in 1941?
Yes, there was a celebration… It was a sign that Preobrazhenskii made to Germans: “Wait for us… We will return…”
— You mentioned how you saw a lot of killed Germans in Palanga?
The Germans were evacuating Libava, and our planes caught some ship. There was a big fight. At first, one of our planes was shot down, then two German ones. At this moment, three of our torpedo boats appeared.
— You saw it with your own eyes?
We were standing on the shore, and saw everything. It happened no further
than 2 kilometers away. So, this ship was sunk, and there were German civilians
on board. They shouted, no, roared… Our planes flew home, while three boats
started picking people up from the water. Suddenly, three German planes
appeared and strafed everything in the water. All the boats were sunk,
and a lot of people were killed in the water.
There were two boats on the shore, with no oars. Our sailors, who watched this from the shore tried to save who they could… They picked a sailor whose intestines were floating in front of him… He fell out of the boat, and crept on the sand… They saved about a dozen people only…
The next day, the bodies were washed to the shore, and we were sent to bury corpses. I remember there was a woman with a child, a German officer nearby, some civilian man… There were about a thousand people onboard that ship. And how they roared when the ship started to sink…
In about two or three days, POW’s from Libava started to arrive. You should have seen them – dirty, hungry, clothing torn to pieces… Together with them there were ROA soldiers. But it was obvious that the Germans also hated and despised them…
— Were there cases when some Soviet would kill some of German POWs?…
You should have seen them. There was no anger towards them, only pity…
— Did your office work on ROA soldiers cases?
— The penalty must have been death?
Very few, actually. Mostly, 10 to 25 years in prison.
— Tell us, what was your relationship with the local population?
With Germans – very good. In Estonia it was very bad. Estonians were
close to SS. In the evening we couldn’t go outside.
There is a park – Kadriork. They used to hang our sailors on the trees there. In 1941, when our Fleet left Tallinn, Estonians threw many remaining Russians, not necessarily military, into the water and did not let them get back to the pier or shore, waiting for them to sink…
When we returned to Tallinn an Estonian came to us, and said:
— I’ll show you where three of your pilots are buried.
Near Tallinn, our “Douglas” had fallen. Three crew members were still alive. They were dragged from the wreckage, given shovels, and made to dig holes. They were thrown in these holes, and covered with ground to the neck. The next day they returned, and finally killed our pilots… We exhumed the bodies, and buried them as it is supposed to be done.
I’m really sorry that Estonia goes the Nazi way these days. Politicians there seem to forget, where it brought the Third Reich…
— You managed to live through the blockade… Many years have passed and, for example, if we were to present you a German who fought near Leningrad… Would you be able to talk to him?
No way! Why did he come here? To drink tea with honey, or to kill us and destroy our city and country? There is no way I could talk to him…
— So many years have passed…
Yes, so many years… But vengeance is a dish to be served cold!