The feat of Jack reconnaissance group, which operated in 1944 behind the Nazis lines in East Prussia, is forever inscribed in the history of the Great Patriotic War. Of the ten reconnoiterers, only three survived by the end of the operation. One of the survivors of that operation was Napoleon Ridevsky. He described his story in the book Parachutes on Trees, and in 1974 a film of the same name was released.
Recently his widow Galina has visited our convent. She has told us about events that were not included in her husband’s book. During the war, he twice met with Saint Valentina of Minsk and only 25 years after the Victory he told his wife: “Let’s go to that woman, thanks to whose prayers I returned from the war alive…” In Koski, where the saint lived, they found an empty house, and a local resident showed the saint’s grave to them, which pilgrims from all over the world are flocking to today…
Napoleon Ridevsky was born in a village near the place where Valentina Sulkovskaya lived, within walking distance. But first, he will go another way…
Napoleon met the war in the summer of 1941 in Leningrad, as a student at a pedagogical university. He was mobilized, after a month of fighting he was captured and spent a long time in a concentration camp in Lithuanian Kaunas, he fled from the third attempt. He got to his native places through forests. Upon having strengthened, he became a partisan reconnoiterer.
— One of the tasks that he and his friend Victor received was the reconnaissance of the German-guarded railway junction in Stankovo, — recalls Galina. — They saw that the garrison was well armed, and, returning from the mission, they thought about how to report to the command about our unpreparedness for the battle. Victor suggested: “Do you see the house in which the light is on? A woman lives there, she tells the future”. My husband replied: “Well, okay, let’s go in and chat.”They were met by the saint’s cell attendant Euphrosyne, she led them to a tidy, but very poor room with icons, where mother Valentina, dressed in all white, was lying, and a candle was burning on the window. Because of such situation, the guests were silent.
My husband remembered the glowing eyes of the woman. She called Euphrosyne and said: “Pour water into a bowl, give them two spoons and let them wiggle”. (There is play on words: Russian ‘болтать’ (chat, talk) has two meanings – chat and wiggle) My husband just stuck to the wall after such words. Mother asked: “Do not engage, otherwise you will die, you need to unite with Uzda brigade” (and in Uzda there already were a partisan brigade and underground).
The husband recalled that after these words he felt real ease. He realized that he would survive. Command canceled the order to attack the junction. In order to thank mother, they gathered presents and rode to her on horses.They didn’t manage to enter the house, Euphrosyne ran out and shouted: “Run! Run! The Germans will be here now… “How much mother felt who and what for was going to her!
But this meeting with the saint was not the only one. Before, mother told him: “You will come to me again …” And so it happened.
After the liberation of Minsk in July 1944, Napoleon Ridevsky, who spoke German and English, was included in Jack sabotage and reconnaissance group: the army needed reconnoiterers in East Prussia.
This was a very dangerous task. It was allowed to tell the closest about it, and his mother urged Napoleon to “go to this saint.” How can a son disobey his mother?
Near the saint’s house there were a lot of waggons with sick people. He thought that it would take a very long time to wait for a meeting. Suddenly the door opens, Euphrosyne comes out and asks loudly: “Who is going to the front line? Go to matushka”. No one else responded, and he entered the house.
The conversation was long. “You are going to the front line, and there will be very difficult conditions. Here you fought the enemy, and everything is familiar to you here – every tree, every bush, every house and people are yours, and there everyone will be strangers”. The saint saw that the man that came to her did not pray, but she prayed for every believer and unbeliever who did a good deed. So she could not tell: “Pray,” she told him a brilliant thing: “Be attentive”. If you think about it, attentiveness is a universal concept. It is applicable not only in prayer, but in any area of our life. If we begin to live an attentive life, it changes, because we ourselves choose a person and a friend, and circumstances. Distinguishability leads to a conversation with God, to spirituality.
Matushka Valentina gave Napoleon a small icon – but at that time such things could not be kept openly. Mother admonished: “Put it where you want. She is above all. Mom sent you here? It will be your Mommy”.
The young scout sewed the image of the Mother of God into the collar. After the war, he recalled that throwing himself into the darkness from an airplane was scary, and he shouted: “Mommy, Dear, save me!”
Matushka Valentina also said: “You will survive and be with the child …”The husband did not believe: “Common, what kind of child can be on such task?” The “child” turned out to be 15-year-old Gennady Yushkevich, the youngest of the group, he is still alive.
Scouts landed on July 27, 1944 at about one in the morning.The operation was calculated to be a month-long, but it was going long, until winter. For 179 days they gave 67 radiograms. My husband said that it was both luck and happiness: “We were united, everyone was very friendly and we all think together, and this icon … I kept talking about attention.”
How this boy Genka(Gennady Yushkevich) and Napoleon survived
Once they were surrounded. The commander decided to split up.Napoleon could not move due to severe pain in his leg. The scouts gave him the necessities and left. He prepared for the last battle and suddenly heard a conditional signal.It was Genka who came back and said: “You know, we started together, let’s finish together as well”.My husband later recalled: “Suddenly, words about attention surfaced, and I began to study the area with my eyes.Dog barking was already heard. It was the Germans approaching.About fifteen meters from us I saw an upright pine with roots sticking up, and under it there was a pit.We crawled into this pit under a pine tree, closed these branches, Genka sprinkled with powder so that the dogs would not smell.Each of the Germans passing here shot to the pit, but not a single bullet hit us. We sat there until darkness, then got out.”
Then they were lucky to meet the forester, who was an anti-fascist and German communist, and with his help wait for the arrival of their troops.