Grigorii Mazin was born in 1914 in Rostov-on-Don. His father Zelman (in official documents, Zelman's sons gave his first name as Aleksandr) was a tradesman; he died from typhus in 1926. Grigorii, as the eldest of four children, had to drop out of school. Upon finishing a vocational school, he worked at a factory. In 1933, Grigorii enrolled in the faculty of geology of the Rostov-on-Don State University, from which he graduated in 1938. In December that year, Mazin was sent to the Leningrad School of Military Engineering. Reluctantly, he began his military career. He took part in the Soviet-Finnish (Winter) War of 1939-40. Afterward, he was transferred to Western Belorussia, where he worked building fortifications on the new Soviet-German demarcation line. In June 1941, when the Soviet-German War broke out, Mazin was on leave, on the occasion of the birth of his son. Recalled from the leave, he was unable to return to his former place of service, and got only as far as Eastern Belorussia. The military engineer Mazin took part in the retreat of the Red Army from Belorussia and western Russia. In winter 1941, he was already busy building fortifications and river crossings near Moscow. During the defense of Moscow, he was shell-shocked.
After a stint at a hospital, Mazin was assigned to the 1st Antitank Artillery Division. In early 1942, he served in eastern Ukraine and southern Russia. During the Stalingrad operation (August 1942-February 1943), Major Grigorii Mazin was attached to the Voronezh Front. Serving temporarily as deputy commander of the operations department at the HQ of the engineering forces of the Voronezh Front, he safeguarded the crossing of the Don River by the Red Army in the area of Liski. For most of the war, Mazin served as chief of staff of the engineering forces of the 69th Army. Staff service in the engineering forces was different from staff service in other kinds of military units: It required the staff officers to be present at the construction site under all circumstances. Mazin's citation for the award of the Order of the Red Star in August 1943 says:
"On more than one occasion, Major Mazin personally supervised the work of the Army's engineering units (camouflage, bridge demolition, bridge reconstruction) under enemy fire. Major Mazin's exceptional abilities put him among the best chiefs of staff of the engineering forces."1
With the 69th Army, Mazin traveled through Kharkiv, western Ukraine, Radom, Warsaw, and Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. He personally supervised the engineering works for the crossing of several rivers: the Dnieper, Western Bug, Vistula, Oder, and others. He met V-E Day near Magdeburg, west of Berlin. It is worth noting that, whereas the war in Berlin ended on May 2, 1945 (with the capitulation of the city), fighting in the Magdeburg area went on until May 8.
While traveling with the army, Mazin noticed the traces of the Nazi genocide of the Jews: in Kharkiv, in the former Majdanek death camp, and in the area of the former Warsaw Ghetto, the ruins of which he traversed in January 1945. Mazin sensed his kinship with the victims and held himself, and the Red Army as a whole, responsible for failing to save them in time.2
In the course of the war, Grigorii Mazin was awarded four orders and several medals. His two brothers, Emilii and Mikhail, were frontline fighters, as well.
After the war, Colonel Mazin served as the chief of staff of the engineering forces of the Baku Military District – and, from 1952, of the Transcaucasian Military District. In 1964, he received the rank of Major General. He retired in 1974 and moved to Moscow in the next year.
Grigorii Mazin died in 2018, at the age of 104, in Los Angeles, where his children had settled earlier.