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5th SS Battlefield
at Uspienka, Ukraine

NOTE - This emblem of the 5th SS is NOT a Swastika with rounded legs.  This is the ancient Germanic Sonnenrad - the German Sunburst.

 
     
 

In May 2008 Sharkhunters President HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983), was invited by some friends of Sharkhunters; some veterans and some not - to accompany them to the battleground where the 5th SS confronted the Red Army at the little town of Uspienka, Ukraine which is right at the eastern border of Ukraine with Russia.  This was as fearsome a battle as that fought at Stalingrad, but perhaps not quite so well known.  To those who struggled there - it was very real.  To those who lost loved ones in the farmlands around Uspienka, it was very real.  And to anyone and everyone interested in the true and honest history of the men of the Waffen SS - this is a very real place with very real history of brave soldiers and a valiant struggle.

We are told by the residents of Uspienka that their village name is pronounced oos-pee-YEN-kah in Ukrainian but in Russian, we are told, it is pronounced oos-pen-SKY-ah.  Okay - it is whatever it is, but it is a beautiful place with friendly people.

 

 

         The travelers - from the left
Harry Cooper - Sharkhunters President
   'Sepp' Dorsch - WW II veteran, 3rd SS
      Gerhard Sellin - 5th SS Combat veteran who fought here
         Another veteran who fought here
            Paul Rösch - 5th SS Combat veteran who fought here
               Dieter Bunge - his brother was killed in combat here
             Heinz Keith - retired from the Bundswehr
 

 

 
The church they passed on the road was indeed beautiful.    
     
 

Some collected holy water while the thirsty heathens (our

 

group) walked across the parking lot to the beer store.

     
 
After about 90 kilometers, we arrived Uspienka, and the
village had turned out to watch the children play soccer.
  All this soccer equipment was brought by these veterans.
Weren't we told they were all Godless Nazis who hated
everyone and helped no one?  They did a lot for these kids!
     
 

and our group was quickly and warmly welcomed as if we

 

were part of the family - which we quickly were.

     
 

HARRY slept on the fold-out sofa, and the

 

meals were served in the next room.

     
 

The meals were absolutely wonderful!  They were delicious,

 

and nobody left the table hungry!

     
 
"Sepp" Dorsch, PAUL RÖSCH (7019-LIFE-2005) and COOPER enjoy another great meal.  Each man got such a pot filled with meat, potatoes, cheese and onions then baked in an oven - it was fantastic!    

 

 

A view to the garden of our host........and the red arrow points to the little building where - well, you can figure it out.  It appeared that none of the homes in the village have indoor plumbing, but it was neat and clean and if one is going to be an adventurer, one must get used to leaving some amenities back in the city.


Invasion of Russia!
Then it was time to "invade" Russia!  Crossing the border from Ukraine into Russia is about as easy as crossing the southern border of the United States.  But there was no place to get free health care, free food, welfare, free housing or anything like that.  Actually, they learned that if they were caught, they would at least go to prison if not be shot on the border.  Maybe they have an idea there.................  Our "invaders" merely drank a toast of vodka (there is a lot of that there!!!) and returned to base.

 
     
 

That sign, we are told, says that we will be imprisoned or shot if caught crossing this border.....no sense of humor at all!


The Battlefield

Actually, this entire area was the battlefield, and these veterans were remembering some 65 years back in their memories.

 
It is almost as if they never left..........   They have found something..........
     
 
     
 
Yes indeed - almost as if they had never left.   Some of the old fortifications are still there.
     
 


........in the village of Uspienka

 
Our host, Serge, drives the school bus - this is it.     One of the villagers walks past.
     
 
Rush hour on "Main Street" is usually this busy.   It is really peaceful, a welcome change.
     
 
     
Another day - another great breakfast.    The guys sure ate well!
 
     
 
The tiny Orthodox Church is the central point in    town and the bells rings for the services.


The Memorial Service in the village cemetery for the local man who helped so much for the friendship and cooperation between the Ukrainians and the German veterans.  He only recently passed away.

 
     
 
     
and back at the little church.......  

Seated on the bench on the churchyard we see (from the left):
PAUL RÖSCH, HEINZ KEITH, "Sepp" Dorsch, Father Gabriel, Dieter Bunge, Evgeni, Gerhard Sellin, HARRY COOPER
            (the names of Sharkhunters Members are caps and bold)

 
     
 
Bringing water from one of the few deep wells in town.  

PAUL RÖSCH relives a moment from his past.  As an Oberleutnant, it is more likely that he rode in the sidecar some 65 years ago rather than driving it.  No, this is not a museum piece - there are a lot of these old bikes with sidecars in this village.  There are not so many cars, but we counted at least half a dozen of these bikes.

     
 
Village children swim upstream of the bridge  

Cattle are in the river downstream of the bridge as PAUL chats with the fishermen.  He speaks the language because he spent many years in a Soviet labor camp after the war.

     
 

They sure ate well at Serge's house!  This is not the breakfast for the three guys staying with Serge - this is breakfast for EACH of us!

  Serge on the telephone making the day's program.
     
 

The river figured prominently into the battles more than 60 years ago.  This bridge - no joke - really is the actual footbridge the villagers use to cross the river..........carefully; VERY carefully!!

  This bridge would frighten Indiana Jones!
 
     
 

As these photographs clearly show -

 

sometimes the results of battle are never repaired.

     
 
     

 

Field HQ of General Steiner  
     

When the visitors travel to the high ridge above the village,

 

they find more small homes.  One is of particular interest.

     
 
    The lady of the house wants to know who are these strangers
and why are they taking photographs of this house.
 
Our host Serge explains that the visitors are Germans who fought against the Soviets here nearly 70 years ago.  She is happy and calls out her husband to have more photos taken.  

From the left:  PAUL RÖSCH; Serge; the lady of the house; HARRY COOPER; the man of the house and Gerhard Sellin.  PAUL and Gerhard are veterans of the 5th SS and they saw heavy combat here.

 

And why is this particular house of such interest?  During the battle

 

in this area, this was the HQ of General Steiner.

     
And on to more of the battlefields.......................    
 
   

Serge has located the son of a man who lived here during the battles and he loaned photos to the group of what it looked like back then.  The son is the young man with the bandaged arm standing between Gerhard Sellin and PAUL RÖSCH - and for some reason, old ladies all over the world seem to love HARRY as we see here while Serge stifles a grin.

     
 

Holding up the photos borrowed from the young man,

 

 they compare yesterday with today.

 
     

They stand exactly where the sentry stood six and a half decades ago, and Serge drives the group to the next place on the former battlefield.  Roads?  Who needs roads?  Serge drove right across fields to the exact spot on the battlefields.

 
  Serge and "Sepp" check the location and sure enough, when compared to the old wartime photo - it is the same place.


The Soviet Memorial
to the eight divisions of the Red Army thrown against the 5th SS

 
   

It can be seen from miles away.  Gerhard Sellin, HARRY COOPER, PAUL RÖSCH and "Sepp" Dorsch at the display.  Gerhard and PAUL saw heavy combat here.  Gerhard (on the left) still has a huge gap in his midsection - the result of a Kytushia rocket attack right here.
 

 
The Red Army won this battle - but the cost was very high.  The names of just some of their men who fell are on these markers.
 
   
 

Huge memorials to the infantry and the armored troops

 

- and more names of the fallen.

     
 

Memorial to the artillery and the Air Force

 

...........and even more names of the fallen.

     
 

Looking from beneath the statue of the soldier and from

 

 the other side, the former battlefield stretches out for miles.

     
 

Above - Never known for doing anything small, this Soviet soldier stands about thirty feet (ten meters) tall and from this memorial at the top of the hill, one can see for miles and miles in any direction.

  Getting up to this memorial is no easy task - it is on the top of a mountain with a very steep path of more than a quarter mile - UP!
 
     
 
PAUL RÖSCH, Serge, Gerhard Sellin and "Sepp" at the summit. 
 
 

Above - Serge sits in the control seat of the Kytushia rocket vehicle.  Weren't these trucks made by Studebaker in South Bend, Indiana USA?

     
 

Our travelers encounter "Rush Hour" traffic here on the

 

 "Autobahn" returning to Uspienka.  Sure is peaceful!

It is somehow difficult to equate this quiet, peaceful landscape of today with the bitter struggle between the 5th SS Division and eight Soviet Army divisions.  Explosions, fire and steel rent the air - men were being killed by the thousands day after day.  Today veterans return to visit with the villagers - some of whom were there during the war, others who are the descendants of those people.

All is calm now.  The villagers welcome the veterans of the 5th SS as friends - no, more like family and the land is again peaceful.
 

 
This truck delivers coal once a week in the village.   The bus stop in "downtown" Uspienka.
     
 
Another of those motorcycles - they sure built them to last!   Another fantastic breakfast at Serge's home.
     
 
Another Rush Hour in Uspienka    PAUL finds a friend
     
 

"Downtown" Uspienka.......the general store, snack bar, tavern, clothing store, fresh fish shop and everything else of interest all contained in this one building.
 

   
 

This little village lost some of their sons in World War II as well.
  The Memorial in the village.


..........to the School
These warm-hearted veterans did not just come here for the battlefield.  They do a great deal for the local school too.

 

Evgeni begins to bring the goodies to the Headmistress

 

of the school then Dieter adds more.

     
 

The headmistress proudly shows the soccer

 

(fußball) banner the school won.

     
 

Gerhard peers in at the 6th grade

 

then we visit the computer lab.

     
 
    More of the computer lab as PAUL looks on
     
 

In the hallway, Gerhard, PAUL and Evgeni check the map while

 

in the classroom, the teacher beams proudly.

     
 
In the classroom, students proudly show their work to the group.    
     
 
The group visited many classrooms.................   Several foreign languages are taught in every class.
     
 

.................and in each classroom, the students were pleased

 

with their visiting friends.

     
 


The poster in the lunchroom tells about the proper food - and the ladies are preparing the lunch.

 

from the left:  HEINZ KEITH (seated), Dieter Bunge, their host Serge, HARRY COOPER (seated), two lunchroom ladies, PAUL RÖSCH (seated), 'Sepp' Dorsch (seated) and Gerhard Sellin.  The ladies served cookies and coffee with sweetened milk.

It would seem that every culture has their fairy tales of the handsome prince coming to capture the heart of the fair princess and Ukraine is no different.  This painting (above right) hangs in the school's main hallway.  Below left - the school's fresh water well.  Below right - one of the students waves farewell to the friends of their school from a former enemy nation.

 


Not only the School, but the Kindergarten as well......
These veterans also help the local kindergarten.  Once having 120 little children, they now have an enrollment of only about 25.

 
Upper left - the kindergarten.
Below left - when it is naptime.
  Upper right - the children eagerly watch their new visitors.
Below right - for playtime.
 
     
 

Above left - the medical supply area leaves much to be desired.  Upper right - the cooking facilities are meager.                                          

  Both photos below - in the kitchen
     
 
     
 
Like anywhere in the world - little children love playtime.    "Sepp" with a child as Evgeni looks on.


What the heck is this?

 

Well - it was built by Germans before the First World War.........the broken windows have been replaced with stone over the years but what is this black granular stuff?  You're not gonna' believe it................

 
Well, that 'stuff' goes down this chute..........Serge watches
as it runs through the system.......but what is it?
  The operator watches the chugga-chugga machine as it
processes this stuff.............whatever it is.
 
     
 

"Sepp" tries it and says it is tasty - TASTY?  WOW, this is some kind of prepared food.  HARRY and PAUL weren't hungry and HARRY said something about not wanting to eat anything that was moved about on a conveyer belt and served on a shovel.

   
     
 
 "Food" going up the conveyer...............and our group
says farewell to the food processing plant.
   


New meaning to "Hands Across the Oceans"

 

The lady who runs this store chats with "Sepp".  You can buy

 

all your food here from beer to fresh fish.

     
 
She joins us for a beer and.........no, it is not
what you think - well, maybe it is..... 
  "Sepp" is merely straightening the pin on her blouse......
at least, that is what he SAYS he is doing.....


Back to Auto Shop 101..........

 
The "CCCP" on the engine tells when and where
Serge's "Mosquva" car was built.
 

Every so often, the car would just stop and Serge would open the hood, beat on something in the engine room, swear a bit in Ukrainian - and the car was off and running again.  Amazing..............

     
 
The veterans who stayed in Evgeni's house ate really well, too    
     
 

Father Gabriel and PAUL chat while the rest of

 

the group enjoys the sumptuous meal.

Next morning - our last morning in town.....below left Serge prepares to pick up the kids for school.

 
but some live near enough, they walk to school.

And now, sadly, friends (PAUL, Serge and 'Sepp') must say their goodbyes.  This is our last day.


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