A very touching and informative publication devoted to the Victory Day appeared on the site of the Deafblind House in Puchkovo. It describes the very few people know. It turns out that during the war, the visually impaired were also called up for military service.
It happened in the besieged Leningrad at the very end of 1942. By this time, special acoustic devices, sound absorbers, had arrived in the city on the Neva, the principle of operation of which was based on the reception of sound using the simplest mechanisms of a pipe system of different sizes. And very soon, the seemingly incredible idea appeared at the headquarters of the city air defense to attract blind people to work with new devices. For more than a month there has been debate and discussion of such a prospect, because very many high-ranking military personnel even questioned the idea that people with disabilities could be enlisted in the Soviet army.
But the decisive role in this matter, oddly enough, was played by the book of Vladimir Korolenko “The Blind Musician”, whose blind hero had not only an overdeveloped hearing, but also a very strong character. Under the influence of such a literary example, most skeptics agreed with the possibility of recruiting visually impaired people to military service, and air defense officers turned to the blind society with a proposal to enroll its members in training, and then in the army of the USSR.
Almost all the blind who remained in the besieged Leningrad expressed a desire to defend their homeland, and therefore the selection committee was forced, firstly, to refuse women, and secondly, among men to conduct a strict medical selection. As a result, of the 30 people who successfully passed the medical examination, 20 went to special training courses, at the end of which 12 blind sighted recruits who have the best hearing, were included in the ranks of the Red Army as “listeners”. Each listener was paired with a sighted fighter, who unfolded sound pickup pipes in different directions and helped a blind friend to put his ear to a small hole in the device. Already in the first months of service, blind servicemen managed to achieve incredible success: they learned about the approach of fascist aircraft long before they were in sight.
In addition, by the noise of the engines, the listeners could even determine their brand, telling anti-aircraft gunners that Heinkel or Junkers were approaching the city, thereby giving them the opportunity to prepare for the repulsion of well-planned fascist raids. Thanks to such work, thousands of human lives were saved, hundreds of strategically important objects were saved, and the historical monuments of the city remained unharmed. Unfortunately, in the post-war years, the hearing service was not given due attention; the fact that the disabled served in the active Soviet army was silent and became known only twenty years later, when the last blind Red Army soldier died in 1973. Alas, the memories of people of this unique profession have not reached our days...