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Tuva: Commander of legendary mine-thrower detail of Brothers Shumov celebrates his 99th birthday

Tuva: Commander of legendary mine-thrower detail of Brothers Shumov celebrates his 99th birthdayDecember, 15, the commander of legendary mine-thrower detail WWII veteran Alexander Terentievich Shumov celebrates his 99th birthday. Six brothers Shumov, Tuvan strong men, have entered all artillery encyclopedias of the world for their feats, fearlessness, accuracy and speed of shooting.

Alexander Prokofiev wrote the poem "Rossiya" about them - this work was awarded Stalin's Prize. The heroes spoke in their own "Tannu-Tuva" language, as the military journalist Pavel Luknitskiy, who spent time at the Leningrad front where the Shumovs fought, noted in his reportage. We present some fragments from it to the attention of our readers.

"Their family is patriarchal, it could be said almost a clan. Luka, Ivan and Avksentiy are "Nikitich"; Vasiliy's father Yegor Fadeyevich Shumov was a partisan killed in the civil war; Alexander's father Terentiy Shumov, a party-member since 1926, is an ancient old man. All five of them consider Nikita Fadeyevich Shumov the head of the family and their "only" father; they address him in the respectful "they" format.

Ivan was the one who came up with the idea to join the army. The others took up the challenge. Only then did they go to tell Nikita Fadeyevich. The old man seated them around himself, and said angrily: just how did they come up with this idea without his orders? "Since you came for your orders here they are: in this war, two of our brothers have been killed by the Germans, Galaftion (Galaktion) and Andron. And since the times are what they are, go ahead, make them pay for your older brothers, and make your family proud!"

On one January evening in 1942, they slaughtered a ram. There were roast geese, a suckling pig. They drank two buckets of home-brewed beer - sugar was cheap, 1 kg for one rouble. Alcohol…They got together at Luka's house. In the morning, their father rode up on his sleigh with a red flag. "Time to go!" they went to Balgazik to the meeting place, seven kilometers away. Their father went first, on his sleigh with the red flag, six other sleighs following him - brothers with wives and older children. They went, singing the song: "They came flying the red flag, leaving their work inn the fields…"

The commander - 30 year-old Alexander Shumov, a senior sergeant; gunner Luka, corporal, four years older; Vasiliy, also corporal, one year older than Alexander; back-up gunner Avksentiy, one year younger, and charger - Ivan, the elders, born in 1905. Semyon joined them later after discharge from the hospital.

Three of them - Vasiliy, Luka and Ivan were true giants-heroes, each 190 cm tall; only Alexander was of average height, but he was also stocky. All of them were hugely powerful. Vasiliy's hands were like bears' paws. One day the detail's truck got stuck in a pit with one of its back wheels. Luka and Vasiliy lifted it up and pushed it out of the pit. But the driver, because of inexperience put in the reverse. To keep the wheel from falling back into the pit, the brothers pushed against the truck engine, overpowered it and did not let the truck back up.

One day when all the communications were destroyed, Luka crawled there to repair the connections, and a bullet hit him in the lower back. He did not even notice until his comrades pointed it out to him. Another time Vasiliy, working as a machine-gunner against a counter-attack, carried away by excitement also did not notice a bullet which perforated his cheek and continued out of his open mouth without touching his teeth - he felt the wound only after he tasted blood in his mouth. Luka agreed to go to the medical point only the next day after the battle, and Vasiliy did not bother to leave his mine-thrower at all.

All of them were calm, balanced, cold-blooded. Their faces were open, bright, kind and concentrated. They were all blond or with light-brown hair. They spoke between themselves quietly, deliberately, in that Tannu-Tuva language which was their native language since childhood; with others they switched to Russian.

They each brought almost a whole ram along to eat. At first the commander assigned one and a half rations to each of them. Then they were fed the usual way. But apparently it was not enough - they became pale and sickened.

The brothers talked willingly about themselves and their families in Tuva, but when you asked about their feats at the front, (of which there were quite a few), you could not squeeze a word out of them. They were modest - you could not find them bragging or even exaggerating about themselves.

"Why are we so well coordinated in battle? In other details, everybody hopes to do something easier and to leave the hard stuff to others. But us? We depend on one another, there is nobody else! Our father told us: ""Together, in one bunch like a broom, you are better off - but if you separate, you can be broken one by one, and things will be bad!" So we decided: "That is what we'll do, brothers!" and it works. If a truck gets stuck, - "Heave-ho!…" all together. We do not like to depend on others."

Ideally one should shoot ten mines in a minute, but in practice it works out to seven or eight. But Vasiliy was so fast that he was shooting fifteen to seventeen mines. And there were times - in the January battles after the blockade was broken through - that there were up to eighteen mines "hanging in the air". That means that when the first mine explodes at the target, the brothers are already loading the twentieth - and there are eighteen mines flying one after another, approaching the target. And when the explosions follow one another, the resulting impression is like a "katyusha". A mine every three seconds!"

On the account of brothers Shumov are: two battalions of destroyed fascists, dozens of machine-guns, more than twenty mortars and cannons, twenty-nine bunkers and pill-boxes. Their first mortar under the number 1099, model 1938 is stored in the Military Historical Museum of Artillery in Sankt-Peterburg.

Today Alexander Terentievich lives with his daughter Valentina. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren visit the veteran. On 9 May 2012, the legendary commander was awarded the Diploma of "Public Recognition".

Dina Oyun, translated by Heda Jindrak, photo by Alexandr Yenzak
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