Novgorod, Russia
I was impressed by Nina’s testimony today. She is a Soviet survivor of Cholm. She remembers that the town was divided in two, one side was the German position and the other side was Soviet partisans. The partisans were trying to hold their position until the Red Army arrived.
With her family, they tried to escape to the outskirts, but the Germans caught them and brought them back to Cholm, where they lived in an abandoned house until the neighbor, an old man, helped them to escape into the woods to another abandoned house. They closed the windows so no one would suspect that someone was living inside. The snow was very high because it was during winter. The Germans found them, closed the doors and set fire to the house, while all of them were still inside. The old man knew another hidden exit and they managed to escape and hide in a banya building (a traditional Russian steam bath), but the Germans found them and shot at the banya. The old man’s wife died there and he was injured–they escaped to an abandoned church. The church had no windows and there were other families escaping. It was so cold (-30• / -35•) and some lost their fingers. The partisans arrived at the church and took them with them while retreating because the Red Army was delayed on a fight with the Germans and could not get to Cholm in time to defend the position. She remembers that the Germans were chasing them and they were running and running away from them. There was no food, they were starving and they had bloated bodies, due to starvation.

-2In 1944, her mother heard the news that Cholm was liberated and they decided to go back. The city was totally destroyed, burned… No houses left. They dug holes and lived under soil. They found German subterranean passages that led to a central point where they found ammo and some supplies. She said that the kids took grenades and threw them into the lake to kill the fish to have something to eat… A lot of kids died by not handling the grenades properly.
Nina, during the whole interview, was very serious. Even though I found her testimony to be shocking, she had no emotion in her face, her tone of voice was the same (almost monotone).

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