A monument to the legendary “polutorka” is unveiled today in the village of Kobona in the Leningrad region. The car – one of those which carried supplies, ammunition and refugees during the War – was found on the bottom of lake Ladozhskoye, brought up and restored. Alexey Zhukov with more.
The “Gaz-AA” truck – the legendary “polutorka”. Little less than a million of those had been produced. This car is one of hundreds which worked and were drowned at the “Road of Life”. Divers found it on the bottom of lake Ladozhskoye, it spent 70 years underwater. Wheels, frame, gearbox, junctions, collars and even steering wheel – all intact.
One won’t see fingers on a stretched hand at the depth of 7 meters in lake Ladozhskoye. But divers knew immediately what their find was. Made a few dives themselves, made a couple of underwater tourist excursions – like literally a dive into history – and then decided that the monument is too good to rot on the bottom of the lake.
The ascension lasted a whole day – on ice as thin as in 1941. Tools – haulers and wooden log levers – were brought from the shore. But “polutorka” as if didn’t want to leave the bottom of the lake – kept “grabbing” rocks or underwater trees with its wheels. Eventually, after almost a century, the car was on the surface again.
By modern standards, the “polutorka” is a small car. It can be moved from a spot by a few men. It even received its unofficial name because of maximum carried weight – only 1,5 tons. But its contribution to Leningrad’s salvation is invaluable.
Alexey Zhukov, reporter: “Today Kobona is a popular resort. There are cottages and country houses. In 1941 it was a small village with a passing gravel road. Here the “polutorkas” drove into barely hardened ice to deliver food and ammo there – to cold and starving Leningrad”.
Its 32 kilometers on ice from Kobona to Kokorevo. It’s a fatally dangerous job, under constant fire and bombardments by German artillery and aviation. After every 100 tons delivered, drivers inscribed a star on the trunk of the car. But delivering more than 200 was a task only few have succeeded in.
The base and the body of this “polutorka” were quickly restored. The driver’s cabin was the most difficult one – only separate elements of it survived.
Artem Kiselev, deputy director of resort: “There are no sizes, there are no blueprints, it came with a difficulty. The driver’s cabin was particularly work-loaded process. Its important that all sizes and proportions are kept. The cabin isn’t the original one, it’s a modelled one, but it has to look like a real one”
Now the exhibit is being painted, oiled and hastily prepared in Kobona for May 9th celebrations. There are, meanwhile, dozens of other vehicles lying on the bottom of the lake. Along with the primary find, divers recovered more than 20 War-time items. A license plate, an engine and even a front driver’s panel, all from other “polutorkas”.This is how a museum appeared in Kobona, which is the eastern gate of the Road of Life, instead of the state one which burned to the ground couple of years ago.
Sergey Sklyanin, CEO of “Jolly Rodger” resort: “We’re hoping this is just the beginning. We’re planning to do a real one, completely. Renovated model with an engine, so it could be mobile. We have many people come here and many would love to drive cars of those times. This is memory, after all”
Divers have found 3 fuel tanks on the bottom, a barge and even a German aircraft. They haven’t yet decided whether all findings will be brought to surface. But dreams of a full-blown “Road of Life” museum with retro-machinery are in full blossom. For now the drowned exhibits will be available only to those who literally want to dive into history.