Ziama Chizhovkin was born in 1915 in Vitebsk as the ninth child in his family. The family lived in abject poverty; Ziama could not even attend the first class of school, simply because he had no footwear. However, in the late 1920s he was able to graduate from a seven-year school. Afterward, he complete a course for radio operators, and worked in this capacity at a local military base. In 1934, he left for Minsk; at this time, he was a professional radioman.
In 1937, Chizhovkin entered the Stalingrad Mechanical Institute (University). However, a year later he had to quit his studies because of a dreadful medical diagnosis: tuberculosis. For this reason, he received an exemption from military service, as well. Ziama came back to Vitebsk.
With the beginning of the Soviet-German war, Ziama Chizhovkin was evacuated from Vitebsk; his parents refused to leave the town. After a two-week trek eastward, he decided to stay in Kuibyshev (present-day Samara, Middle Volga, Russia). There, he tried to enlist in the Red Army; however, the medical commission confirmed his diagnosis and rejected him. Knowing that one of the officers at the local conscription office was Anna Popova, a celebrated Red Army machine gunner who had fought in the Russian Civil War in 1919-20 (the famous "Anka the Machine-Gunner" from the Chapayev division), he decided to turn to her. Concealing his medical condition, he told her only that he was a 1st class radio operator. Anna Popova supported him, and in August 1941 he was drafted and assigned to the 130th bridge-building battalion. In early 1942, Chizhovkin found himself at the Northwestern Front; his battalion built roads there.
It was not the kind of service to which Chizhovkin had aspired, so he asked to be transferred to a combat unit. He became a radio operator on the staff of the 163rd Rifle Division, and eventually became the director of a radio station at the 863rd Separate Communication Company of this division, holding the rank of sergeant major (starshina). The last kind of service also involved reconnaissance duties.
In this capacity, Chizhovkin fought at the Kursk Salient in summer 1943, and then took part in the crossing of the Dnieper River in the fall of 1943. He saw action in Volhynia, Western Ukraine, and Romania, and entered Hungary in 1945. In spring 1944, he was part of a team of seven reconnaissance men (two of them radiomen) parachuted deep behind enemy lines in the Carpathian Mountains. There, the group was forced to engage the enemy, and it was with great difficulty that Chizhovkin preserved his radio station intact and crossed the front lines back to his Red Army unit. Ziama Chizhovkin finished the war in Graz, Austria. In the course of the war, he had been awarded the Order of the Red Star and a number of medals.
After the war, Chizhovkin settled in Kuibyshev (Samara) and worked in the book trade (retiring as deputy director of the city's book storehouse). Ziama Chizhovkin died in 2001.1
- 1. based mainly on Evrei Samary na frontakh Velikoi Otechestvennoi, vol. 1, Samara, 2005, pp. 290-293