5. The Brutality of the Nazi Occupation Radicalized Zinaida Portnova Into Joining the Anti-Fascist Partisans
The Nazi occupation of Belarus was brutal, and Zinaida Portnova became radicalized when a German soldier struck her grandmother while confiscating the family’s cattle. She joined the underground Komsomol – the Communist Party’s youth division – and its resistance group, “The Young Avengers”. Zinaida started by distributing anti-German propaganda leaflets, collecting and hiding weapons for the partisans, reporting on enemy troop movements, and engaging in opportunistic acts of sabotage of enemy vehicles.
After learning the use of weapons and explosives, she participated in raids and sabotage operations against power plants, pumps, and a brick factory near Vitebsk, during which about 100 German soldiers were killed. In 1943, she got a job in a kitchen that served the German garrison of Obol, and poisoned the food. When suspicion fell upon her, she demonstrated her “innocence” by eating the food to prove that it was not poisoned. When she did not exhibit immediate ill effects, she was released. She became violently ill soon thereafter, but survived.