On the Internet, a photograph of a young partisan in an SS cloak and a rare Steyr-Solothurn machine gun on a belt is often found, buying a signature under the photo: S.S. Jankovic. What did this guy do when he was 17?
The National Library of Belarus has a book that describes the exploits of Stepan Yankovich under the title “Fearless Demoman”.
Stepan Stepanovich Yankovich during the Great Patriotic War (since May 1942) fought in the V.P. Chkalov brigade named after Ya.M. Sverdlov. For military merit he was awarded many government awards.
The date under the combat characteristic of Stepan Stepanovich Yankovich is July 25, 1944. The characteristic was signed by the commander of the Sverdlov brigade I.P. Marinyako, brigade commissar G.A. Dudko, commander of the V.P. Chkalova P.L. Gubarev. Behind her stingy and laconic words, the image of the people’s avenger rises, on whose account more than 40 military operations. Among them, the undermining of 12 echelons, participation in the routing of the Peskovsky and Sporovsky garrisons, in numerous battles with punishers.
The Germans arrived in Starye Sands on the fourth day of the war. The enemy marked his arrival with a mass execution of the activists of the Soviet regime. The cruel occupation regime was supposed, in the opinion of the Nazis, to break the will of the Soviet people. But two weeks after the arrival of the invaders, 17-year-old Stepan Yankovich received the first combat mission from the servicemen P.I. Gubarev and V.M. Monakhov (foremen of the 459th Infantry Regiment of the 42nd Infantry Div.), Who had lodged before the outbreak of the war at the Yankovichi neighbor: to collect cartridges and grenades, “which are now needed like bread.”
V. M Monakhov
Stepan willingly took up this assignment. Together with his peers S. Mshar, P. Yankovich, V. Volk, he looked for weapons in the forests, took out cartridges, grenades and weapon grease, transferred bread, bacon, makhorka to the forest. They tried to do everything secretly, but soon noticed that they were being watched by the police. This alarmed the guys. And on one of the May nights in 1942, young patriots, one by one, quietly left the village and disappeared into the forest. And the next day with the partisans of the detachment to them. V.P. Chkalov, they took part in the attack on the Peskovsky police station.
Partisans of the detachment to them. Chkalov brigade them. Sverdlov
Under cover of darkness, the partisans entered the village, killed the police officers, took away their weapons and, having freed the arrested, set fire to the building in which the pre-trial detention cells were equipped.
This was the first baptism of fire for Stepan and his peers. The success inspired the people’s avengers, and they decided to consolidate it – to sabotage the crossing near the Bronnaya Gora station, dismantling the rails.
The operation was a success – the echelon with enemy manpower flew downhill at high speed. The sabotage seriously alarmed the German authorities. The security of the railway in the area of Bronnaya Gora was strengthened. But soon, near Bronnaya Gora, a group of partisans led by Stepan Yankovich derailed a freight train that was carrying food to the front. The Germans took a number of emergency measures. They deployed 7-8 soldiers for each kilometer of the railway track, forced the population of the surrounding villages to cut down the forest along the track. But these measures did not help either – as before, Stepan Yankovich, together with a group of demolition men, regularly performed tasks of the detachment command. When the Germans mined the slopes, Yankovich’s sabotage group began to operate on the Drogichin-Kovel railway.
To disrupt the movement of troops and cargo, partisans ambushed highways, blew up bridges, and damaged communications.
On the Moscow highway between the villages of Zarechye and Smolyarka there was a bridge twenty by eight meters in size. Jankovic was instructed to destroy him. Stepan established that every night 5-7 Nazis, patrolling a section of the highway, cross the bridge exactly every hour. Deciding to play on German punctuality, Stepan, together with Andrey Procurator from Sporov, brought a cart of straw to the bridge, scattered it on the flooring and doused it with kerosene. Stepan laid down the igniter with the fuse-cord tied to it. He quickly stepped to the side of the road and set it on fire. After 10-15 minutes, the bridge flared up like a torch. Indiscriminate shooting began, but the partisans were already at a safe distance.
The Nazis attached great importance to the bridge over the Zhegulyanka River on the Moscow Highway. Day and night there were sentries here, machine-gun barrels stuck out of the bunkers in different directions. It was impossible to get to the place. However, even here ingenuity helped out, Jankovic decided to use an old horse. At night I harnessed it, put a 50-kilogram artillery shell in the cart. Attached to the projectile was a fuse with a tied telephone wire 150 meters long. In the middle of the night, the wagon was directed towards the bridge, while the demolition man himself remained in cover. The horse walked forward slowly. Stepan unwound the wire and listened.
– Stop! Who goes! – shouted the German.
“What if the horse stops, then my idea will fail, all my work will be lost,” Stepan thought with excitement.
But the horse trudged slowly forward. The hooves could be heard dully clattering over the bridge. “Well done, old, did a good job,” Yankovic whispered and pulled hard at the end of the wire. There was a deafening explosion. Immediately submachine guns and machine guns crackled. What’s the use!
Once intelligence reported that a detachment of one hundred Germans was to move from Birch to Peski. A group of partisans of about 40 fighters moved forward to meet the uninvited guests. They approached the ambush site at dawn, disguised themselves, set up hidden posts and patrols. We didn’t have to wait long. From the secret they reported the approach of the Nazis. The detachment prepared for battle. As soon as the enemy appeared on the road and caught up with a wide swampy clearing, a command was heard. Partisan machine guns, machine guns, and rifles were stitched together. The suddenness increased the force of the blow. The enemies were confused and began to scatter in panic. In this battle, 26 soldiers were killed, the same number were wounded, three were taken prisoner. There were no losses among the partisans. The defeat of the column made a stunning impression in the Berezovsky garrison. The corpses of enemy soldiers lay for a long time in the clearing – the invaders were afraid to return to this place.
In December 1943, Yankovich, together with his fighting friend Andrei Procurator, was tasked to take important information from a liaison in the village of Sokolovo. Stepan changed into a German uniform, Andrei – into a policeman’s uniform. Let’s go on a cart. Having passed a little, they noticed that a wagon was moving towards them.
– There are Germans in the sleigh! Three. What do we do?
-Forward! – Stepan said quickly.
The carts drew closer. In the sleigh sat two officers and a soldier. Stepan raised his hand and asked in broken German:
– Who are you and where are you going? The commandant of the Peskovsky police station is talking to you.
– Gut, – the Fritzes answer, – we are just heading to you.
– It is very dangerous to move along this road. According to our information, the partisans mined it in several places. We’ll have to take a detour, – finished Stepan.
While they were talking, from Sokolov, about half a kilometer away, a string of carts with Germans appeared. The situation became much more complicated. Stepan frantically sought a way out of this situation.
– Here’s what, Panov, – he said to the officers, pointing at the moving wagon train, – let’s stop by my commandant’s office, I will take my people, and they will be good guides to you.
The officers conferred and agreed to be the guests of the “Pan Commandant”.
– I think, sir, everyone should not go. Someone must stay here and warn ours about the danger.
– Gut. Zer gut. Very correct, sir commandant, – answered one of the officers.
– I ask the gentlemen in my sleigh, – invited Stepan.
The officers moved, and Jankovic started the horse at a large trot.
Ahead appeared the beautiful house of Ignat Trutko. Stepan abruptly stopped the horse.
– Here is the commandant’s office. Get off, let’s get warm, ”he suggested to the Germans.
Stepan, like a real owner, walked 5-7 steps ahead of his guests, quickly drew his pistol in the entryway.
– Hands up!
The Germans were taken aback and immediately obeyed the order. Andrew quickly disarmed them. Literally right in front of the enemy, the daredevils slipped into Voyteshin, from there – across the Black Lake to the village of Chryso. The officers were taken to the brigade headquarters.
Soon after that, a resident of the village of Yartsevichi Tsibulsky came to the detachment and said that two unknown persons had wandered into his farm and were interested in partisans. A group of partisans led by Yankovich immediately went to the farm. There they saw two men – one was forty-five years old, the other not more than thirty.
– We want to fight the enemy. Take us to the detachment, – they declared with one voice.
The partisans came to the detachment late at night and lay down to rest under the reliable guard of sentries. Jankovic deliberately settled down next to the guests and pretended to be asleep. It took about an hour and a half. And suddenly Stepan heard a whisper. Spoken in German:
– I see, we got to the wrong place. And, perhaps, we are unlikely to get out of here.
– By all means, we must run at the first opportunity.
Waiting until morning, the partisans carefully searched the newcomers, ripped at the seams of their clothes and shoes, and found suspicious documents. During interrogation at the headquarters, it turned out that these were spies who were tasked with scouting the place of deployment of the partisans and killing the commanders.
It was February 1944. On one of these days, the detachment spread heavy news: during the next mining operation, Stepan Yankovich was seriously wounded by an exploded mine, both hands and eyes were injured. The partisan doctors did everything that could be done in field conditions. The first plane to arrive from the mainland, the fearless demolition man, was sent for treatment. Even the doctors themselves doubted that the human body would be able to cope with such a severe injury. But Jankovic survived. Soon after the liberation of the area from the Nazi invaders, the former partisan returned to his native Sands. But the meeting with the most dear people did not take place – the Nazis took out their anger on the parents of the brave partisan: they shot their mother, brother and sister, their father was taken to Germany.
Soon, Stepan started a family, became a permanent resident of the village of Niva, and in 1954 joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Peter Mamertovich Kovalsky described these and a number of other events that took place in the partisan detachment named after. Chkalov brigade them. Ya.M. Sverdlova in her book “In the Brest forests. Partisan’s Notes ”.
Kovalsky P.M. 1929
The article is based on materials from the book by Ivan Shamyakin “Memory. Historical and documentary chronicle of the Berezovsky district of the Brest region “(1986).