Alyosha and his horse
a Russian partisan fighting his war against the German invador
The town of Novogrudok in Belarus is surrounded by one of the last pristine forests in Europe, some 1000 square miles in all. Before the war, the town had a population of 10 000 people, 63 % of them were Jews but people from different other nationalities lived in the town as well: Belarussians, Tatars, Ukrainians and other origines.
During World War II, these forests around Novogrudok were the hiding place for partisans fighting a guerrilla war against the German occupation forces and the Russian Schutzmannschaft units.
Once the Russian army retreated from this area, fighting the Germans was left to partisan groups. Among these partisans were some hundreds of Jewish people, who escaped from nazi persecution by fleeing in the woods. For three years they fought to survive, relying on their persistence and the resources they could find in the forest.
These groups were different from the other partisan groups in the area. The leader of the partisan group around Novogrudok, Tuvia Bielski, believed it was his duty not just to fight the Germans but also provide a safe haven for fellow Jews fleeing the deathsquads.
In December 1941, Tuvia Bielski escaped together with his three brothers from the ghetto and fled into the woods. Deep in those forests, they assembled with other refugees and started to develop their own partisan fighting group. In the following two years, hundreds of men, women and children found their way to the Bielski-camp. No-one was refused.
Under the protection of the Bielski-partisans, more than 1000 Jews survived the war.
In this little project, we'll not illustrate the whole history and life of the Bielski partisans because this theme is just too extensive.
Instead, we follow two partisans during their provisioning duty.
Alyosha and Nikolai are guiding their horse through the woods with some captured German army bread and additional supplies provided by the local population.
When Germany invaded the Sovjet Union in June 1941, the Russian army was surprised and overwhelmed. By June 28th, six days after the beginning of the attack, large groups of Russian Army troops were surrounded in the Minsk - Bialystok area. Among them was Alyosha. He saw the dangerous situation and went on the run, desperately trying to stay out of German hands. With some luck, he could hide himself in the dense woods. It was there that he met the Bielski brothers some months later.
Nikolai is wearing German gloves and a Wehrmacht belt taken from a dead soldier. You can not be picky in this times.
The partisans created their own well organized community in the forests. They lived in underground dugouts that were very well equiped, having for example their own clinic, bakery and bathhouse infrastructures.
With the right skills, they could survive in the wild and making the environment their brother-in-arms, providing them safety and home.