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One of the biggest tragedies of the Great Patriotic War took place near the village of Myasnoi Bor in the spring of 1942. The 2nd Shock Army of the Volkhov Front, which was ordered to lift the blockade of Leningrad, planned to join the 54th Army of the Leningrad Front but was encircled. The soldiers of the 52nd and the 59th armies, which were giving cover to the units that were trying to break out of the encirclement, held off the enemy on both sides of a narrow 300- or 400-metre-wide corridor. During several hours of fierce fighting, only 20,000 servicemen managed to escape with their lives. Tens of thousands of others remained in the forest, fighting to the last bullet and until their last breath.

On 25 June 1942, the German troops closed the corridor used by the units of the 2nd Shock Army to get out of the encirclement. The Lyuban operation failed. Over 100,000 lay dead in the Novgorod forests. Nevertheless, their determination prevented the Germans from seizing Leningrad.

The 2nd Shock Army routed six German divisions, which had been redeployed from Leningrad to Volkhov, the Volunteer Legion Netherlands and the Flemish Legion. German guns and other military equipment and tens of thousands of German troops remained in the marshes of the Novgorod Region.

The 2nd Shock Army was not defeated, and its story is one of the most celebrated in the history of the Great Patriotic War.

Locals call the Myasnoi Bor area “the valley of death and suffering” because of the tens of thousands of Soviet servicemen who died or were taken prisoner here.

The search movement originated in the Novgorodsky District. Nikolai Orlov, who led the first search party in the Myasnoi Bor area in the 1960s, helping to find and rebury the bodies of Soviet servicemen in the village of Myasnoi Bor. Orlov led the movement for 35 years. The first major success came in 1956, when the search party found the remains of nearly 3,000 servicemen. The first National Memory Watch was held in 1989, when the Dolina Search Party named after Nikolai Orlov was officially registered. Every year, the remains of the servicemen the group finds are reinterred. Over 37,000 Soviet servicemen are buried in common graves there. But very few names have been established and listed on the memorial.

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