Bukrin Bridgehead

It is necessary to remember.
Bukrin Bridgehead is a place on the right bank of the Dnieper River not far from Big Bukrin, 80 km far from Kyiv (southern-eastern direction). During the World War II it was in the center of “Battle for Dnieper River” operation in September 1943. It was captured by the forces of Voronezh front. Bukrin Bridgehead is still a blank page in the history of Ukraine.

Bukrin Bridgehead

The territory of bridgehead covered 11 х 6 km along the front line. The Soviet Army scheduled Kiev liberation from the fascists for October 1943 by the attack from Bukrin Bridgehead positions. However both attempts of the attack failed, as the counter-force was superior. The official version of the defeat at Bukrin Bridgehead (in accordance with Stalin instruction) was unsuccessful attack and lack of knowledge about the territory features. Only these factors were able to excuse the heavy losses for the Soviet Army occurred at time of unsuccessful attack. Kiev was successfully liberated on November 6, 1943 after the operation carried out on the positions of Lutezh bridgehead in Novi Petrivtsy. But it was impossible to return the lost dead soldiers. As witnesses say 25000 soldiers entered the water and 5000-6000 got out of it at time of forced crossing the Dnieper River to liberate Kiev... For forced crossing the Dnieper River near Bukrin Bridgehead the Soviet Army had only 16 pontoon bridges. As a result the soldiers were able to carry only one tank over the huge river! The soldiers had to cross the river in the boats of the village inhabitants, or using the soldier's blouses and ground sheets filled with straw, on the boxes and logs and simply swimming. Dnieper width at that place was more than 1 km and the soldiers had to swim in cold autumn water. Wounded soldiers who crossed the cold river grasped the other soldiers and a lot of them sank. There were so many dead people that the Dnieper stream brought the corpses of the Soviet soldiers to the Black Sea coast and Turkey!.. As witnesses say there was blood in the land holes instead of water at Bukrin Bridgehead. Due to the wrong weather report 3000 paratroopers got right on the bridgehead and not to the enemy rear. Thousands of paratroopers burnt right in the sky not reaching the land. The ones who manage to land were killed by the bursts of submachine-gun fire or sank in the Dnieper waters. The terrible and little-known fact: the survived paratroopers were killed by their own ground forces by mistake, who mistook them for Vlasovites (from Khruschev memoirs). It was real hell and thousands of dead people fell under the continuous enemy fire.

Such losses were too high a price to pay for victory. The amount of people killed at Bukrin Bridgehead in that bloody autumn is still unknown. The following numbers are known: 417 000 people were killed at time of the battle for Dnieper and 250 000 people were killed in a fire at time of the battle for Bukrin Bridgehead. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded to 361 military men. However, knowing about the data misrepresentation at time of Soviet Union we could assume that much more people were killed at fire. According to the official information German army also had huge losses – 55 000 people! But it is impossible to calculate the real losses. 3 316 Soviet soldiers were buried in the mass grave in the village of Balyko-Schuchinka. Today there is Bukrin Bridgehead memorial complex. A few tens thousand of people are buried in the mass grave in the village of Khodorov in Mironovsk district in Kiev region. Dnieper which was a witness and direct participant of the bloody events in 1943 has also hidden the secrets of Bukrin Bridgehead and thousands and thousands of military and civilian people in its waters forever.

The tragedy also laid in the fact that in the attack near Bukrin Bridgehead took part not regular troops of the Soviet Army. Mostly the soldiers were the adolescents mobilized a few weeks earlier before the operation. Not everybody turned 16 years old. They had no appropriate military training, they were hungry and not armed. Three such soldiers had only one rifle.

Confession of the people taking part in the battle at Bukrin Bridgehead – It was terrible to see how the recruits were sent to the firing line. Young people from Chernigov, Kiev regions – they were new to war and had no uniform. They were driven like the calves for the slaughter. The officers tried to explain in motion what a soldier should do in a battle. They were sent and the machineguns were shooting! The machineguns even warmed up and moaned from the bloody work…
Even the German captive officer told Marshal Zhukov during questioning – Everybody knows Marshal Zhukov. But how marshals could fight this way! To send the soldiers to the machinegun fire ... To send them when our machineguns are aimed at your every bush.

The operation of Kiev liberation is the most contradictory achievement of the Soviet Army at time of the World War II. The experts say that the attempt to capture Kiev via Bukrin Bridgehead was a large-scale strategic mistake of the Soviet command which always strived to heroic propaganda which cost life of thousands of people. Nobody recollected about Bukrin Bridgehead, as this fact was really considered to be a mistake – like it has never existed.

National museum - Bukrin Bridgehead memorial complex

Memorial complex was opened there only 40 years after the battle for Kiev in 1985 at time of Brezhnev government.

National museum – Bukrin Bridgehead memorial complex was built at the place of Chuchin town-fortress (founded in 1110) (there is a monument to Boyan, the author of The Song of Igor's Campaign), which defended access to Kiev at time of Kievan Rus. It consists of 3 groups of sculptures representing the battles for Dnieper, a stele with the inscribed names of the killed people, and the Eternal Light. The pedestal (27 meters high) to the soldier stands near the memorial. It symbolizes the victory and grief. The architects of Bukrin Bridgehead memorial are A. Zakharov and Yu. Platonov, the sculptor is the famous Ukrainian sculptor Valentin Znoba. The authors managed to create the enormous sight which is worth the events occurred here in autumn of 1943 when the young soldiers of the Soviet Army crossed the Dnieper River under the enemy fire. The powerful spirit of soldiers directed to Kiev is presented with thousands of real details which make the bronze panel absolutely realistic.

It is amusing but Bukrin Bridgehead memorial complex does not cause oppressive feelings. Everything is very beautiful, decorated with flowers and grass. You can enjoy an incredibly beautiful panoramic view on the Dnieper River and the opposite bank from the high slopes. All injuries of the Ukrainian land were healed with time and nothing recollects about the terrific war tragedy which occurred there 60 years ago except of monuments and memorial plates with the names of the killed people. Visit this interesting project – Bukrin Bridgehead memorial complex to pay a tribute to the soldiers killed at the terrible war – it does not matter what army or nation they belong to. The beautiful slopes and waters of the ancient Dnieper River accepted and balanced them all.

Annually in the middle of the summer in Balyko-Schuchinka a large-scale 4-day festival takes place - Tripolsky Circle.

The address of Bukrin Bridgehead memorial complex: 09200 Kagarlyksky district, village of Balyko-Schuchinka, tel.: (04473) 4-12-46.
Museum working hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, lunch time: 1 pm – 2 pm, days off: Saturday, Sunday.

How to get to Bukrin Brіdgehead memorial complex (village of Balyko-Schuchinka): minibuses from subway station “Vydubichi” (Kiev, Kyiv), by car on Obukhov highway (80 km from Kiev).

You can stay at Zvenigorod hotel in the village of Balyko-Schuchinka, Polevaya str, 22, tel.: 22 (050) 444-68-79, (04573) 2-33-33.

Museum-diorama “Battle for Dnieper near Pereyaslav and creation of Bukrin Bridgehead in autumn of 1943”: Voznesensky Cathedral (dated by 1695-1700), Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, G. Skovoroda str. 54. Tel. 5-18-79.

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