August 23, 1943, area of Semyonovka, Western front
A huge burning, roaring gulf of smothering, suffocating blaze bursting from underneath, hit me straight into the face, then threw me out of the seat and up to the roof of the tank turret.
Automatically, I grabbed the hatch handle, but suddenly some heinous force is dragging me down, into the hell. I opened my mouth because of the severe pressure and then it is filled up with flame, I try to gasp for breath and I got choked. I am on fire! A few more moments and I will be dead.
Using all my strength desperately, I push the hatch over my head and fall out of the turret next to the burning tank. The tank is bubbling with flame, the dying engine is roaring. Blow, another blow. Maybe it is the ammunition box that is blasting? Maybe Nazi German is knocking down? Where are my tank crew buddies? Where is Zhenya? Did he manage to escape? And our mechanic probably is dead!
It hit him. The throbbing pain is slicing my heart. I am dizzy and nauseated. Did the flame cause the damage? I think it is a shock. In Stalingrad, when my KV, Kliment Voroshilov tank, (type of the Soviet tank in WW II-- Translator's note, PKK) was on fire, I had the same shock. But it went away. I need to crawl back, I need, but how? The left leg does not obey me. I cannot get up. And hands? What's wrong with them? I bring my hands close to my eyes. I can see! God Gracious I can see everything!
I cannot comprehend everything that I see: my burned fingers with hanging black crusts, what just recently used to be skin. I try to balance my body on my elbows and right leg and I fall into oblivion. Again I come back to my senses. I am touching some shrubs. Is it a bush or tree? I can't figure it out. I can't lift my head. My back is hurting too. The main thing is after all this trouble, my backbone is not broken. Otherwise, I would not be crawling.
At-a-boy- I am moving on, but where? Time to make a decision or I can get into the Nazi Germans' tricky-sticky trap …"