Senior sergeant returns from war

Remains of soldier killed during the war, on Estonian territory, solemnly re-buried in Mogilev District

By Olga Kaverina

The Estonian Poisk (Search) military-historical club sent a query to the Central Archives of the Russian Defence Ministry, wishing to discover the ownership of a Red Star Order medal. In fact, it belonged to senior sergeant Belarusian Piotr Velikanov. Born in 1913 in the village of Makarentsy in the Mogilev District, he commanded a machine-gun detachment and died on March 9th, 1944. The head of the Poisk club, Igor Sedunov, then addressed the Belarusian Embassy to Estonia to ask for help in finding the soldier’s relatives.

Piotr Velikanov’s nephew, Valentin Malakhovich, is 78. Sweeping away tears, he recollects that, in 1945, his father was killed near Konigsberg. Neither of the Malakhovich brothers returned from the frontline: Piotr nor Akhrem.

“While we’re alive, we’ll remember this terrible war,” says history teacher Tatiana Golub, from the Mogilev District’s Mostok secondary school, which teaches children from the village of Makarentsy. She holds dear the memory of her brave countrymen, who lived through such hardship. Ms. Golub tells us, “Piotr went to the frontline from Karelia, while his wife and son Vanya were evacuated. Those were cold and hungry times so, to find food for her child, Piotr’s wife stole a sheep from a state farm, in despair. She was sent to prison where she died and Vanya grew up in an orphanage. After the war, he returned to his aunt Agrippina and wrote letters to his uncle Kuzma but, after Kuzma’s death in 1973, all ties were broken.”

Teachers from Mostok school are keen to find Piotr’s four sisters and his son Ivan, who they believe may still be alive. They could then come to Belarus to lay flowers at the grave of the man who died to bring peace through victory.

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