Ina Konstantinova: July 16, 1941

On June 22, 1941 the German army invaded the Soviet Union with almost four million troops along a broad front that stretched approximately 1800 miles. They did so in violation of a non-aggression pact that the Nazi and Soviet governments had signed almost two years earlier. The invasion was an audacious move by the Nazis, who hoped to defeat the Soviet Union quickly and decisively. A rapid German victory would have made it very difficult for Great Britain to have continued the fight in the west.

Looking back today, we know that the initial German advance managed to achieve the element of surprise. As a result, the Wehrmacht advanced rapidly and Soviet forces retreated, giving up ground in order to buy time. This strategy was successful in the end, but must have come as quite a shock to Soviet citizens. One of these people, Ina Konstantinova, was a young girl of sixteen who had been keeping a diary when these monumental events occurred.

Ina was very patriotic and volunteered for service in her home town of Kashin within a few days of the beginning of hostilities. At first, she helped to care for wounded soldiers coming from the front, but eventually she volunteered for service in the combat zone and even as a partisan behind enemy lines. On July 16th, though, she recognized that she might not have to travel far to reach the front. Instead the front was moving rapidly in her direction. She wrote, “A terrible misfortune has befallen this country. The Germans are already so near… They are bombing Leningrad, Mozhaysk. They are advancing toward Moscow…” Ina observed increased military activity as new Soviet infantry and aircraft units moved into the area. She could tell that the fight was drawing near. She was working in the hospital, but her thoughts were elsewhere. She continued, “Even the atmosphere has changed somehow. What does the future hold for us? I am anxious to finish training, and… to go to the front. I dream of … Nazi defeat, of defending our Homeland and making us happy again!”

Ina would achieve her dream of joining the active fighting. She joined the partisan resistance and fought the Germans behind enemy lines. Sadly, she didn’t live long enough to witness the defeat of Nazi Germany, but she certainly did her part in helping to make it happen.

You may read entries from Ina Konstantinova’s diary in Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries by Laurel Holliday.

You may read more about the Soviet/Russian partisan resistance here.

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