Kharkiv Petro Vasylenko National Technical University of Agriculture
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His life is a feat!

Every year on the eve of May 9 at the Kharkiv Petro Vasylenko National Technical University of Agriculture remembers and honors his former employees who were participants in the Great Patriotic War (and now – World War II) and their military exploits brought Victory closer. Both the dead and the living are remembered. Recently, as we have already written, Mykhailo Turchenko celebrated his 99th birthday.

Without any exaggeration, the veteran can be called a legend. And not only because he lived to such a respectable age, but also because he spent many years training future managers and engineers, was one of the founders of the educational and scientific institute of business and management of our university, and left behind a considerable scientific legacy.

Of course, the university has not forgotten about his colleague and combat veteran (especially since many of his former students and graduate students work here). So, this year, as before, representatives of the Rector’s Office and the Trade Union Committee visited Mykhailo Mykhailovych’s house, congratulating him on the upcoming Victory Day and wishing him good health. And he shared invaluable memories of his experiences and creative plans for the future.

It’s just incredible! Former senior sergeant and commander of the tower of the legendary T-34 tank Mykhailo Turchenko is writing memoirs about the Great Patriotic War and plans to finish them by his 100th anniversary. Every day for several hours he scrupulously works on his memoirs to leave for posterity invaluable memories of friends and comrades with whom he once had to go through the fiery roads of war from Kharkiv to the Elbe.

On his desktop are many books, photo albums, documents, with which Mikhail Mikhailovich compares his memories and says that over the years, they only become brighter and more valuable. For a veteran, the memory of the war is sacred – an integral part of the biography. The museum corner in Mikhail Mikhailovich’s office reminds of the heroic past. Here are collected military awards, badges, items of military clothing, books, especially dear to the heart of the former tanker models of combat vehicles (mostly T-34), and most valuable – photos of comrades-in-arms…

Mykhailo Mykhailovych says that he fought in the crew of a tank platoon commander commanded by his peer, Lieutenant Gryhoriy Gapon, and in the future, a Hero of the Soviet Union.

– He was a fearless commander, he was called a “tank sniper”. Once burned with him in a tank. Maybe it was thanks to him that I survived, ”says Mykhailo Mykhailovych. And according to these words, the whole truth about the terrible war, which still does not release the old tanker.

But Mikhail Turchenko did not become a tanker immediately. He says that with the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, he and his mother were evacuated to North Kazakhstan, and from there in 1942 he, a 19-year-old boy, was drafted into the Red Army. At first, he fought as an ordinary infantryman, in 1943 he took part in the liberation of the Kharkiv and Kharkiv region from Hitler’s invaders and immediately, in the Kharkiv region, received his first wound.

– It was in Krasnokutsk region, near Murafa, where heavy fighting continued, – the veteran tells. – At some point ten meters away from me a German mine exploded and one of the fragments hit my right leg. Since then there is a scar…

After the hospital, M. Turchenko was sent to the training tank regiment, where he mastered a new military specialty and became a “tower”, ie commander of the tower of the T-34 tank (charger). He received his first baptism of fire during the summer offensive campaign in 1944. And later he received the first military award – the medal “For Courage”. The award letter to this award states that “on September 16, 1944, during the battle for the village of Ivlya, the crew was the first to break into the enemy’s position, leading all the other tanks of the company. In this battle, Senior Sergeant Turchenko destroyed up to 10 enemy soldiers with machine gunfire. ”

On March 12, 1945, Mykhailo Turchenko was awarded the Order of the Second Patriotic War for courage and bravery shown during the fighting. From the award letter: “On January 26, 1945, as part of the tank platoon commander’s crew, repelling enemy counterattacks, the tower commander destroyed 2 armored personnel carriers, 2 anti-aircraft guns, 6 machine guns, and up to 60 enemy soldiers with machine gunfire. On January 29 of the same year, his tank was the first to break into the village of Buchenau on the east bank of the Oder, knocking out the enemy. During the battle, the tank crew destroyed: 1 tank, 2 mortar batteries, as well as a company of enemy soldiers and officers… »In this battle, Senior Sergeant Turchenko received a second serious wound. However, he remained in service again.

As early as February 23, 1945, in heavy fighting for the village of Zeihau with the overwhelming forces of the enemy, Senior Sergeant Turchenko personally destroyed up to 70 Nazis with machine gunfire. At the same time, he, instantly navigating the rapidly changing combat situation, not only successfully adjusted the fire of the tank gun, but also took on the duties of a loader. These actions of the tower commander allowed the tank crew to destroy 2 mortars, 2 machine guns, and up to 20 more enemy soldiers. Even when the enemy, realizing his numerical superiority, recovered and went on the counterattack, Mykhailo Turchenko continued to defend the captured positions until his tank caught fire when the projectile hit him. For this battle on March 14, 1945, he was awarded the Order of Glory III degree – the most honorable of the soldier’s awards…

In general, during the war, Mykhailo Turchenko was twice wounded, changed seven tanks, and lost many comrades-in-arms. More than once he was on the verge of death and sowed death among Hitler’s occupiers… Perhaps this is what he will write in his memoirs. And we want to remind that back in 1977 in the Kharkiv publishing house “Flag” the documentary essay entitled “They were assigned to lead a tank in Kharkiv” tells about a fighting way of 87th Separate tank regiment of the 7th Guards cavalry of the Zhytomyr Red Banner of the Order of Bogdan Khmelnytsky division. The co-authors of this book are the former chief of staff of the mentioned regiment Oleg Yakovlevich Friedman and the commander of the tank tower Mikhail Mikhailovich Turchenko. In 1989, the second edition of this book was published, corrected, and supplemented, which is still of interest to readers and fans of our history. We offer you only one episode from this book, which mentions our hero Mykhailo Turchenko.


As expected, the enemy SPGs chose firing positions just opposite the dam and the highway. Since our tanks were going one after the other, each of the two lead vehicles came under the sight of 4-5 enemy assault guns, well camouflaged and therefore invisible to our crews. The lead vehicles were the tanks of Gapon and Sergeev. When they approached the outskirts of the village by 200-250 meters, they both received several holes in their frontal armor. In the control rooms of the tank, where there were driver mechanics and radio machine gunners, powerful sheaves of large sparks flared up – white-hot fragments of armor. The onboard fuel tanks were smashed and the fuel spilled from them burst into flames. In this situation, the crew commanders and tower commanders who were in the fighting compartments were forced to abandon their vehicles.

When trying to jump out of the turret, Gapon caught the strap that attached the revolver to the waist belt, over the vertical-aiming flywheel handle of the gun. He had to make three jerks before the strap burst and Gapon found himself in a ditch on the left side in the direction of the tank and began to extinguish the uniforms smoldering in many places. Turchenko did the same in the ditch on the right.

All this happened in a matter of seconds, while the enemy loaders were driving new shells into the breeches of their cannons. And then – the burning car shuddered from new blows. The turret was dropped behind the hull of the tank with the gun pointing upwards. The car turned into a huge bonfire. Every second was now to be expected to explode the ammo rack.

Gapon ordered Turchenko to get over to his side, which he did, accompanied by a long burst of machine-gun, carving a spark from the cobblestone pavement. Then both began to move back along the ditch. At the same time, it was discovered that not all the smoldering areas of his clothes were extinguished by Turchenko and his jacket sleeve was burning more and more, and then the sleeves of his tunic and undershirt were already smoldering. All cost a blister about five centimeters in diameter. But it was a mere trifle»

(From the book by O.  Friedman and M. Turchenko “They were instructed to lead a tank in Kharkiv”).

Prepared by the media communications department.