Saturday, August 26, 2023

Vladimir Podgorbunsky: The bandit who became a Hero of the Soviet Union

The trials and tribulations that befall people during the war can change their lives forever. War brings tragedy and tears, but it can also be a turning point that inspires courage and heroism. A striking example of such a transformation is the amazing story of Vladimir Podgorbunsky, a former criminal from Chita.

Born in the Irkutsk region, Vladimir Podgorbunsky lost his father soon after his birth, and then tragically lost his mother, leaving him in the care of an orphanage . To survive, he became a thief and quickly became a leader among the inmates of the orphanage. He was sent to a juvenile colony at the age of 18, from where he repeatedly escaped, continuing to lead a life of crime.
During one of the escapes, Podgorbunsky met with a tank colonel, who became his mentor and protector. Under the influence of the colonel, Vladimir decided to change his life and wrote a letter to Mikhail Kalinin, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, in which he expressed his desire to join the army. The letter was delivered, giving Podgorbunsky a chance for redemption.

Soon Vladimir was released early from the colony and entered the service in the tank unit as a driver. Fate decreed otherwise, however, and during the war he ended up in the infantry. In 1942, Vladimir showed courage by destroying an enemy tank and killing several German soldiers. For his heroism, he was awarded the medal "For Courage " and, despite his turbulent past, was accepted into the ranks of the Communist Party (CPSU (b)). Over time, Podgorbunsky became an experienced commander of a reconnaissance detachment and made a great impression on others.

A turning point in the war

The summer of 1943 was a turning point in the course of the Second World War. During the Battle of Kursk, Podgorbunsky received a responsible task - to capture an enemy officer. Using his military ingenuity and experience, he secretly crept up to the enemy's bunker, neutralized two German soldiers, and captured the third who was taken back for interrogation. Later, in the same year, during the liberation of the city of Kozyatyn, in the Vinnytsia region, he once again demonstrated his military skills.

Kozyatyn is a small settlement that served as the most important transport artery for supplying the entire German Army Group South. Leading a group of Red Army soldiers, Podgorbunsky with two tanks and a handful of machine guns approached the German invaders. Using the surprise factor, the scouts destroyed the enemy defences, which consisted of artillery pieces and two companies of infantry. For courage and conducting an attack with minimal losses, Podgorbunsky was awarded the prestigious title of "Hero of the Soviet Union".

Podgorbunsky's feats were not, however, limited to these battles. In the memoirs of General Katukov, several more episodes are described, in which Podgorbunsky's unit participated. Sadly he did not live to see Victory Day. On 19th August 1944, during the Lvov-Sandomierz offensive operation, Vladimir Podgorbunsky fell, steadfastly holding the captured bridgehead.

Oleg Loginov  

The New Worker, 18th August 2023