Yuriyus Trakshyalis, Chairman of the Institute for Military Heritage, Honorary member of the Academy of Military Sciences of the Russian Federation, Laureate of the International Prize “Faith and Loyalty" of the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation in 2018, took part in the International Space Bridge “Meeting on the Elba 75”, dedicated to the historic meeting of the Red Army and Allies of the anti-Hitler coalition on the Elba.
Yuriyus Trakshyalis sent the organizers of the Space Bridge the text of his statement:
- Dear sirs, colleagues and friends!
We all owe our birth to our parents. Parents are not bad they are always good for us and the only one.
My grandfather, who lived in the Paplyushchyu farm in the Krazhai Region of Lithuania, was a well-to-do man before the Second World War and owned a mill that brought good income.
However, under the pretext that the farm was defined as “kulak”, my father, as the eldest son, was exiled to the Bezvodnaya station in the Gorky Region, where he worked for almost ten years. My father was very reluctant to talk about those times, but he used to say: “Stick to the Russians - only they will help you in a difficult moment.” He survived in exile thanks to his friendship with the Russians.
I was raised by my Muslim grandmother, who came from a Tatar noble family. She kept her first love for the Russian officer for the rest of her life, so, when the time came, she did everything possible for me to enter the Kiev Suvorov School. Later, I received military education at the Kiev Military Combined Arms Command School and at the Frunze Military Academy.
Each of us, citizens living in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, owes its second birth to the Soviet soldier who liberated the peoples of the Baltic States in 1944-1945. Therefore, we should come to the monuments of Soviet soldiers-liberators as to the graves of our father and mother, with reverence, respect, appreciation and love. When visiting the grave of the Soviet warrior we should talk about the most important things, ask for forgiveness, and give vows of loyalty, as we do visiting the graves of our fathers and mothers.
On October 24, 1945, the United Nations was established in order to maintain and strengthen international peace, security, and develop cooperation between countries. The preamble to the Charter of the United Nations refers to the determination of peoples “to save future generations from the scourge of war.”
The Soviet government, even before the end of the Great Patriotic War, sought to preserve not only the cultural but also the historical identity of Lithuania. On February 6, 1945, at the famous Yalta Conference, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Vyacheslav Molotov made a forward-looking proposal for the admission to the United Nations separately from the USSR three of its allied republics - Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. This was motivated, according to Churchill, by the fact that the said republics “suffered a lot during the war, and were the first to be attacked and severely damaged.” And it was also noted that the USSR also had agreed to the partial entry to the UN of only two Soviet republics. The Western partners of the USSR had no objection to this. Thus the Ukrainian and Belarusian SSR were among the first ones to become members of the United Nations, just on the day of the official establishment of the United Nations, on October 24, 1945.
Heroic life and heroic deeds of the Fatherland defenders of different nationalities are the examples of our common history and common memory. The feat of the pilot Alphonse Iosifovich Shimenas deserves memory and honor. Alfons Shimenas was born in 1908 in Riga to a Lithuanian-Polish family. His first battle took place in 1937 in the skies of China; he was a volunteer in the national liberation war of the Chinese people with the Japanese invaders. He was a commander assistant of the I-15 Squadron. During the period from 24 October 1937 to 12 September 1938, Lieutenant Shimenas made more than 100 successful combat missions, shooting down three I-96 fighters and two bombers in ten aerial battles. He was awarded the Order of the Red Banner on the 14 November 1938. During the Great Patriotic War, in December 1941, at his personal request he was sent to the front. According to the documents, he personally shot down two enemy aircrafts and two in a group with comrades in air battles. On the 21 July 1942, the commander of the 484th Fighter Aviation Regiment (1st Special Air Group, 8th Air Army), Major Shimenas, did not return from combat assignment.
The name of another hero is Romualdas Marcinkus, a famous Lithuanian pilot and football player; he was a prisoner of the war camp Stalag Luft II. Romualdas was born in the small Lithuanian town of Jurburg (now Jurbarkas) within the Russian Empire. Thanks to the multinational area where he lived, Romualdas, in addition to his native language, could also speak German, Russian and Polish. During World War II, on 12 February 1942, a Lithuanian pilot was shot down and captured while raiding the battleship “Scharnhorst”. While at the Stalag Luft III Prisoner of War Camp, Romualdas Marcinkus became an active member of a secret organization that carried out an escape from the camp on the night of March 24-25, 1944. A few days after the escape, the Lithuanian pilot was captured, along with 49 other escapes participants of various nationalities, and was shot on Hitler's personal orders. This escape attempt was the basis for the plot of the 1963 American film “The Great Escape”.
Another striking example of the international cooperation during the Second World War of 1939-1945 and the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 is the mutual assistance of pilots of the anti-Hitler coalition and Soviet pilots imprisoned at the German prisoners of war camp Stalag Luft VI in Matsikäi (near Shilute, 50 kilometers from Claipeda (then - Memel)). According to survivor’s eyewitnesses, in this camp the pilots shared provisions and chocolate among themselves, together endured all the hardships and deprivations behind the barbed wire and were united by the desire for freedom. There was a case when American Air Force soldiers made a sub-cop in the camp, but at the last moment did not risk fate, but gave a chance to five Soviet pilots who managed to escape. It was the one and only successful escape from this camp, all Soviet pilots survived and fought in a guerrilla unit in north-eastern Lithuania until the defeat of the German-fascist occupiers.
At the moment, the public organization “Institute of Military Heritage” together with the Publishing House “Chelovek,” and the editor-in-chief Valeriy Lvovich Steinbach, begin to collect archives about the camp of prisoners of war Stalag Luft VI and invite to join Russian, Lithuanian and American historians to publish a book.
During 2019, thanks to the support of the charity Foundation of Veterans of the Foreign Service represented by Director Vladimir Viktorovich Chhikvadze and Publishing House “Chelovek," we released a three-volume “Book of Memory. Europe” (an album of Soviet military graves and commemorative sites in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia).
Our highest priority is to unite caring people of different nationalities in the Baltic States for the sake of preserving our common history and memory.
This project is intended to remind of the Allies Victory in World War II, to draw the attention of the public to the threat of rehabilitation of Nazism, as well as to propose new ideas for preserving the planet from wars, extremism and other threats.