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City Teacher, Nurse, Actress Gave War a Female Face

Published: May 6, 2005 (Issue # 1067)



  • Yekaterina Bazarnova in a group of Soviet soldiers on May 8, 1945, as Germany capitulated. The next day she entered Berlin.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

On June 21, 1941, she was 16 and acting in a drama group's performance of the Ukrainian play "Platon Krechet" in Bolshaya Murta in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region. The play was a success. Everybody congratulated her. Life was filled with joy, happiness and laughter. Her friends took her home.

The next morning she woke up with happy feelings - the sun, summer ... but suddenly the good times were all gone - Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union and it would be almost four years until peace returned.

Yekaterina Mikhailovna Bazarnova, who at 80 still works as a history teacher in St. Petersburg, spent most of her teenage years at war. From 1941 to 1945 she was at the front, from the first till the last day, even despite the saying that "war does not have a woman's face."

Bazarnova doesn't tell her story often. She remembers the horror of it all too clearly. And she is by nature humble and becomes very shy when someone asks her about the war. Her colleagues at school No. 327 in St. Petersburg learned her story by accident, after seeing her photographs. There are only three. She has saved them with great care. One was taken on the first day of the war, the second on May 8, 1945, and the last, on the next day, Victory Day.

"I never told them about my war. I kept it to myself. It's painful to remember," she said.

Nor did she mention the many medals she was awarded. Among them are a "Medal for Capturing Koenigsberg," "War Honors, first class, of the Great Patriotic War," "For Victory Over Germany," the "Order of the Great Patriotic War," and the Order of the Red Star.

And when she was asked to describe what she had done during the war, she smiled and said: "What deed? I didn't accomplish any feat. I was just living and doing what I had to."

Before she can be coaxed to start her tale, tears fill her eyes and her voice begins to tremble. She apologizes and starts to speak.

"Our family lived in Tambov in southern Russian. My father died before the war. Mom was left with three children. Of course, it was rather difficult. My oldest brother went to work at a factory. I dreamed of becoming an actress, studied in a drama group, and acted.

Bazarnova had a normal childhood. She was fond of sport, loved skating and participated in city hockey competitions and gymnastics. She was full of life and devoted a lot of time to ballet and drama. And the ardor of this young girl was infectious.

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Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.