Russian visitor to Perthshire shares extract of her mother’s memoir from 1941

Russian historian Anna Belorusova from St Petersburg has made significant friendly links with Perthshire following her quest to uncover the truth about her pilot grandfather, who spent time at Errol on a secret WWII mission.

Pyotr Kolesnikov, Pilot Commander of the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group, was among the select unit of the Russian allies who came during WWII to be trained alongside RAF at Errol Airfield and ferry Albemarle plans, given as British aid, to Moscow.

Anna’s book ‘Special Assignment Airmen’ was published in Russia in 2019 and she initiated the commemoration of the Russian airmen at two sites in Perthshire.

She organized a memorial stone at Errol and another at Fearnan, Loch Tay. Through Anna, relations with Russia were cordial and dignitaries traveled to Perthshire to lay wreaths on VE Day.

Now Anna has sent us this extract from her book about her family’s experiences of the last war in Europe and hopes PA readers can draw their own conclusions about what her own sentiments on current events are.

Anna began: “On April 3 my mother, Lydia Kolesnikova, turns 86. Her mind, that of a former employee of the National Institute of Physics in St Petersburg, is very strong and precise.

A picture of Lydia Kolesnikova with her mother in 1941. Lydia is 86 now and her daughter Anna has been researching Russian links to Perthshire – when British and Russian pilots fought on the same side

“I based my book about the pilots on her childhood memories. Here is an extract from it:

“In June 1941 I was staying at my grandparents’ village of Rossosh, half way between Kharkov and Rostov-on-Don. I was playing in the garden when the window burst open and my aunt shouted: ‘Lida! War!’ I remember not feeling frightened, curious rather – what that ‘war’ word could mean?

“My father’s DC-3 commercial flight was redirected to Moscow. My mother came by rail from Tbilisi, Georgia to take me home.

“Then there was an emotional family discussion. Granddad insisted that we should stay in the safety of the village, rather than risk a war-torn road. But mum firmly said that we were leaving immediately.

“She proved right. Two weeks later German soldiers took the village and moved into our house. The next-door neighbour, whose husband was a Red Army commander, was hung together with her little daughter de ella.

“Having left in tears, we squeezed onto a packed train and arrived to Rostov. All that remained of the station were brick walls. The former waiting lounge was filled with children’s cots.

“There, in the open air, I slept soundly, while my mum spent the whole night bending over me, to cover in case of bombing.

“Charred frames of carriages kept arriving. We could share the same fate on our way.

“In the morning we managed to get on a Tbilisi train, which the desperate crowds were taking by storm. Mother stood the whole way and I, in the company of two children my age, had fun observing the world from the top shelf.

“There was one scary moment when a Luftwaffe plane started to chase us in an open field.

“Everyone was frozen with fear. Some were praying, some were sobbing quietly.

“The driver was frankly speeding towards a grove ahead. Either the trees’ shelter saved us, or the Luftwaffe pilot got bored, but we arrived safe.”

Anna concluded: “I dare not think what is going on in my mother’s mind as she watches the news these days.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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