Straight A Students
Long before the Great Patriotic War, in the early 1930s, when Soviet armoured forces were just being established, a girl enrolled in the Frunze Military Technical Academy.
Anastasia Poklonnova was first placed into the Faculty of Chemistry, but reached her goal a year later and was transferred to the Faculty of Mechanization and Motorization. It was not easy for her to keep up with the other cadets, but she tried with all her might. A badge on her blouse that read "Excellence in Tank Driving" was evidence of her success.
Many future officers liked the girl, but she responded to only one: Joseph Kotin. Handsome, a straight A student, excellent in both studies and combat, a real gentleman. It is no wonder that the young couple fell in love.
Kotin's military career began well: the graduate was personally commended by Tukhachevskiy, the commander of the Leningrad Military District at the time. Joseph started working at the Armour Academy as a military engineer and lecturer.
Anastasia finished her studies two years later. The lovers got married, but did not have time to build a family, as their duty kept them apart. Anastasia became a military representative at the Leningrad tank factory, and Joseph left for Kharkov to test a new tank. He shared his impressions by mail: "I am working on the T-35 object... The work is interesting, I have never seen anything like it. Imagine, my dear, a dreadnought climbing up on a vertical obstacle. It is a colossal sight. Every other day, I am at the trials, otherwise I am in the assembly lines."
In 1935, Kotin wrote to his wife that it is time to fly and swim. This seems like an innocent phrase, but it had a hidden meaning. Kotin was not just directing work on paratrooper and amphibious tanks, but took part in the work. That same year, the family had its first child, Felix.
In 1937, fortune shined upon the family once more. Joseph was appointed as the chief of a special design bureau at the Kirov factory, the largest tank building factory in the USSR. His job would be to design new heavy tanks. Kotin dedicated all his strength to his work.
In Illness and in Health
The fall of 1937 arrived, and luck turned from the Kotin family. Anastasia Poklonnova-Kotina was fired from the army, accused of contact with enemies of the people and sabotage. During the purge, such an accusation could have terrible consequences. Joseph Yakovlevich could not stand aside. He was not afraid to stand up for his wife even in front of Stalin himself. Kotin wrote: "Comrade Poklonnova and I have been together since 1931, and I am fully responsible for her... Mistrusting her is mistrusting me... This must be the result of misunderstanding or slander. I ask you, comrade Stalin, help me with this difficult and sensitive issue."
An emotional outburst like that could have cast suspicion on Kotin himself, but the risk was worth the reward. Anastasia Poklonnova-Kotina was cleared of all charges. The first female tanker, Military Engineer 3rd Grade, was re-commissioned by the Red Army.
Life went on. The future held more additions to the Kotin family and a difficult trial for the whole country: the Great Patriotic War when Kotin directed the creation of the KV and IS tanks. Ill-wishers spread rumours about the engineer being under Voroshilov's thumb, but history cleared all accusations. Anastasia's achievements were not only the armour and fire of her weapons, but the love and stability of the Kotin family also deserves to be remembered.
Article author: Yuri Bakhurin
- Documents of the Soviet Epoch http://sovdoc.rusarchives.ru/
- Konstruktor Boyevykh Mashin, Leningrad, 1988