October 4, 2023

Having crossed the boulders, previous outdated tires and scrap steel lined with mollusks, Alexander Shkalikov ventured out to the dry backside of an enormous reservoir.

On this wasteland rested a haunting reminder of long-standing battles in the identical strip of southern Ukraine: a swastika carved into the rock emerged from the receding water. The yr “1942” was written subsequent to it.

“Historical past repeats itself,” mentioned Mr. Shkalikov, a tanker on depart from the Ukrainian military, of the World Battle II carvings. He famous the time: the swastika was made seen by a latest act of struggle, an explosion on the Kakhovka Dam in June that drained a reservoir the dimensions of Utah’s Nice Salt Lake.

“We’re combating this struggle on the identical terrain and with the identical weapons” as throughout World Battle II, he mentioned, recalling the heavy artillery and tanks that also decide the course of floor warfare.

World Battle II was an ideological battleground in right now’s struggle in Ukraine, the place Russia falsely labeled the Kiev authorities as neo-fascist and cited this because the rationale for its invasion. The nation’s army historical past additionally resurfaces on the battlefield, not solely with artifacts within the floor, but in addition with classes Ukraine has discovered from the long-standing struggle.

Terrain and rivers have usually guided right now’s armies to the toughest battles of World Battle II, as German and Soviet troops swept throughout valleys and open plains.

Certainly, key battles matched so intently with World Battle II fight areas, Ukrainian army officers say, that troopers took shelter in 80-year-old concrete bunkers outdoors Kiev. They discovered the bones of German troopers and Nazi shells within the dust that they had faraway from the trenches to the south.

World Battle II started in what’s now Ukraine in 1939 with a Soviet invasion of what was then Polish-controlled territory in western Ukraine, at a time when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had been allied. When this pact was damaged in 1941, Germany attacked and fought from west to east by way of the Ukraine. The tide of the struggle modified in 1943 when the Germans had been defeated within the Battle of Stalingrad after which the Pink Military fought the Nazis within the Ukraine as they superior west.

One among Germany’s first successes got here on the Battle of the Sea of ​​Azov in 1941, when its troops superior from Zaporozhye to Melitopol. For 3 weeks, the Nazi troops lined this territory with a purpose to take up positions for an assault on the Crimea and encircle the Pink Military within the Kherson area.

Ukraine is now repeating the offensive of World Battle II, combating in amenities southeast of Zaporozhye in what the Ukrainian army calls the “Melitopol path.” The strategic purpose is similar because it was eight a long time in the past—to isolate enemy troopers within the Kherson area and pose a menace to Crimea—however Ukrainian forces are advancing way more slowly, shifting only some kilometers in additional than a month.

“Historic parallels, sadly or fortuitously, proceed to floor,” mentioned Vasily Pavlov, an adviser to the Ukrainian Basic Employees who has intently studied the similarities between the 2 wars.

Based on him, within the strategic plan, the Ukrainian generals most straight relied on the historical past of World Battle II when creating the protection of the capital Kyiv final yr.

Within the early days of the struggle, the Russian military superior from Belarus to the floodplain of the Irpin River, solely to search out that the Ukrainians had blown up a dam and flooded an unlimited space of ​​fields, blocking the advance. Based on Mr. Pavlov, it was a response to a Soviet ploy in 1941, when Moscow blew up a dam on the Irpin River to dam a German tank assault.

“Generals are all the time making ready for the final struggle,” he mentioned. “However the Russian generals did not even put together for the final struggle.”

German troops ultimately captured Kyiv in 1941; the Russians fought for a month within the suburbs final spring and retreated.

As the present struggle turned from Kyiv to the east, it adopted in the identical means the battles of World Battle II. Then, as right now, the winding course of the Seversky Donets River grew to become the entrance line – its excessive banks and swampy banks served as pure limitations when rival armies fought for neighboring cities and cities.

Throughout World Battle II, the river fashioned a part of the so-called Mius Line, a defensive place constructed by the Nazis to decelerate Soviet counterattacks after the Battle of Stalingrad.

Within the present struggle, numerous cities and villages alongside the Seversky Donets have entered the trigger. Ukrainian forces used the excessive bluffs and floodplains of the river, for instance, to try the protection of town of Lysichansk, which was finally unsuccessful, and to forestall the Russians from crossing within the space of ​​town of Belogorovka.

Each wars left coastal cities and villages in ruins. The present combating has additionally broken monuments erected to commemorate the battles of World Battle II with shrapnel.

The village of Stary Saltov within the Kharkiv area was touched by each wars, and every time it was largely destroyed.

Lydia Pechenizka, 92, who has lived within the village all her life, recollects that in each conflicts, the combating was largely decided by artillery shells flying over the river at enemy troopers entrenched within the village. The civilians skilled the identical factor: hiding in cellars and cellars.

“It was horrible,” Ms. Pechenizka mentioned in an interview this spring.

Since neither Russia nor Ukraine can achieve air superiority, the present combating is principally depending on artillery and tanks, similar to throughout World Battle II. Along with including drones and complex anti-tank missiles, armies are combating with related weapons.

The Ukrainian counter-offensive south of town of Zaporozhye is, in line with Mr. Pavlov, “a direct analogy” to the German offensive in September 1941. The objectives had been the identical: transfer throughout the plain, minimize off the provision traces of the Russian troops on the japanese coast. Dnieper and attain a place threatening the isthmus of the Crimean peninsula.

However the parallels go solely thus far.

Throughout the Second World Battle, the Pink Military didn’t have time to strengthen the defensive traces on the plains; the Germans rapidly superior to the Sea of ​​Azov, encircling tens of 1000’s of Soviet troops from the north in a pocket.

This time the Russians had months to dig in. Because of this, the Ukrainian counter-offensive stalled within the face of formidable fortifications of minefields, trenches and bunkers.

In different respects, the combat can be completely different. The Nazi and Soviet armies fought on the territory of Ukraine, shifting perpendicular to the course of the primary rivers from north to south. Ukraine within the counter-offensive primarily strikes parallel to the rivers, offering at the very least one army benefit; he doesn’t must make many harmful crossings by way of the water.

Within the winter of 1943-1944, the Soviet Union misplaced a number of troopers whereas crossing the Dnieper from east to west.

A few of the our bodies had been discovered a long time later by the Ukrainian non-governmental group Reminiscence and Glory, which looked for World Battle II lifeless from each side to make sure respectable burials. Based on him, since its founding in 2007, the group has discovered greater than 500 stays of troopers who fought in World Battle II on the territory of Ukraine.

Final yr, members of the Reminiscence and Glory motion joined the Ukrainian military to go looking the battlefields for lacking troopers. Based on director Leonid Ignatiev, greater than 200 our bodies from the present struggle have been discovered, usually in the identical locations the place the our bodies of those that died throughout World Battle II had been discovered.

“Once you dig in a trench” for the our bodies of lately killed troopers, he mentioned, “you discover a World Battle II trench.”

Close to town of Novye Kamenki, Kherson area, the group lately looked for a lacking Ukrainian soldier. The bones of a German soldier had been discovered as an alternative, Mr. Ignatiev mentioned. The stays had been despatched for burial on the cemetery of the German struggle lifeless in Ukraine.

“Top, locations for protection are all the identical,” Mr. Ignatiev mentioned.

Zaporozhye, a sprawling industrial metropolis on the banks of the vanishing Kakhovka Reservoir, was occupied by Nazi troops throughout World Battle II and right now is a front-line metropolis the place air sirens wail a number of occasions a day and Russian rockets fly in and explode on occasion.

However when the water receded from town’s lakeside embankment after the dam broke, the best hazard was the unexploded ordnance of the previous. The emergency providers of Ukraine mentioned that the sandbars and new islands rising from the reservoir “turned out to be surprisingly cluttered with explosive objects from the Second World Battle.”

Based on the service, sapper brigades discovered and eliminated aerial bombs from the Second World Battle.

Mr. Shkalikov, a tank driver whose house is a brief stroll from the coast, fought within the early days of the Ukrainian counteroffensive within the fields southeast of town.

After his tank hit a mine, he obtained a depart of absence, returned dwelling and commenced to discover the underside of a dried-up lake. The invention of the swastika rising from the water, he mentioned, “did not shock me in any respect.”

The wars are separated by a long time, however “the panorama hasn’t modified,” he mentioned.

Maria Varenikova and Yuriy Shivala supplied a report from Zaporozhye, Ukraine.

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