These two picture have been shown one next to each other in a Museum dedicated to Andrei Pozdeev, Russian artist who lived during the 1900. The description goes:
“(on the left) the artist Eugeny Stepanovich Kobytev on the day in which he left for the front in 1941. (on the right) in 1945 when he came back”.
The picture represents one of the many faces consumed by the war, a photograph which explains how the second world conflict must have been devastating for those who took part in it.
In 1941 Evgeny was a younge man who was trying to start his artistic career when Germany attacked the Soviet Union and so he had enlist in the army. Four years afterwards the alteration in his appearance is shocking. A lean and tired face, with deep wrinkles and a worried gaze. That was the look of a deeply changed man, after having attended 4 continuous years of horror without any rule on the Eastern front.
The story of Evgeny Kobytev
Evgeny Stepanovich Kobytev was born on the 25th of December 1910 in the village of Altai. after completing a degree in Pedagogy he started working as a teacher in the countryside of Krasnoyarsk. His passion was painting, especially portraits and daily landscapes. His dream to start studying artistic disciplines came truth in 1936, when he started studying at the State Institute of Art in Kiev, Ukraine.
At the beginning of the 1941 he obtained a degree with honours at the Art Institute, ready to start a career in Art. His dreams were shattered on the 22nd of June 1941 when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Evgeny went as a volunteer and joined one of the regiments of artillery of the Red Army. The regiment was employed in a bloody battle to protect the city of Pripyat, between Kiev and Kharkiv.
In September 1941 Kobytov was wounded to a leg and captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war. He was sent to the German camp of Khorol, in the current Eastern part of Ukraine, famous like the”Khorol Well” (Dulag n. 160), in the homonym city where the Jews had been slaughtered by his conquerors. Since the beginning, around 90 thousands prisoners of war died in this specific camp.
Built on the ashes of a brick factory, the camp of Khorol had only a run-down barracks. This laid on tilted columns on a side, and it would represent the only refuge by Autumn storms. Of the 60,000 prisoners of war only one part could find shelter inside and in the building everyone was forced next to each other, gasping amongst organic smells, humidity and sweat.
In 1943 Kobytev managed to escape the prison and joined the Red Army once again. He took part in several military operations in Ukraine, Moldova, Poland and Germany. At the end of WW2 he was prized with the medal of Hero of the Soviet Union for his excellent service during the battles for the liberation of Smila and Korsun in Ukraine.
After the war he worked as an artist by teaching in the Art School of Krasnojarsk. In 1959 he created a series of paintings titled “to the last breath” speaking of camaraderie, courage and determination of the Soviet people. Some time later he realised a second graphic series named “People, be vigilant!” which described the Nazi criminals and the atrocity in the camp of Khorol.
In Krasnoyarsk, along with the artist Karl Waldman, painted the ceiling of the station. With his wife, the artist Tatiana Miroshkina, realised a series of monumental decorative paintings: in the railway palace of Krasnojarsk, in the pioneers palace, in the camp of Atamanovka and in the district club in the village of Bolshaya Murta. The themes of such paintings were the nature of the area and the folk Russian tales. In the last years he realised a huge mosaic in Krasnojarsk, opposide the Rodina cinema.
Evgeny Stepanovich Kobytev died in 1973, 30 years after having left the hell of the Khorol camp and after having seen, on his own face too, the devastating effects of that inhuman war.