Rus News Journal

Last heroes with « the Decembrist »

Tests through which there have passed seamen of a steamship “ the Decembrist “ in November, 1942, also did not dream participants “ the Posledego hero “ on TV.

24 bronze plates with silhouettes of courts lie at bottom of a monument to seamen of merchant marine fleet, victims in fiery flights in days of the Great Patriotic War. On this memorial on the bank of a bay the Gold Horn names of the legendary ships which have found last shelter in an ocean abyss are beaten out. One of become green from time and fogs of plates is devoted a steamship “ the Decembrist “ DVMP. On it the biggest martyrology of names of the lost seamen.

Captain Stepan Beljaev.

Missing persons

In war it there was the biggest in the country a twin-screw steamship. And though the age had respectable - a vessel have constructed in 1904, aboard it could accept 18 thousand tons of cargo. Therefore among the first Far East courts after the war beginning “ the Decembrist “ has left on the western pool to deliver military technology, ammunition from America and England in the Polar region. The captain to it have appointed Stepan Beljaeva, the skilled seaman, almost the coeval to the steamship. In Vladivostok there was wife Maria and the small little son. Five years they, as well as other relatives of seamen, knew nothing about destiny of crew. In shipping company all these years Marias responded: “ Was missing “. But in  destruction of the husband she did not want to believe. Once, already after war, at an apartment door have knocked. Maria has opened and has seen swelled up, with the big beard the man. Only crushed shabby captain`s kitel has prompted to it is Stepan.


... Surprising and the tragic story, fallen to a lot of seamen, has happened in November, 1942. During this period Englishmen from - for the big losses have refused to accompany cargo caravans, and our captains began to leave in single swimming. One has left in the last flight and “ the Decembrist “.

on November, 4th the steamship has reached a hot line between islands Bear and Spitsbergen. In this area Germans usually attacked vessels. And this time at midday when at some o`clock short polar day, " was established; the Decembrist “ attacked ten enemy planes. Them have met furious fire. Suddenly the vessel case has shuddered, as if has flown on a rock. On the captain have reported: the big hole, water arrives in an engine room. The vessel began to heel on the left board. Planes, having spent boezapas, have departed. Sea stirring amplified, and a list “ the Decembrist “ increased. Having consulted to assistants, Beljaev has made decision - crew to leave a vessel. Scherbak`s radio operator and the captain the last have left a steamship. Four boats with 80 crewmen have departed from “ the Decembrist “ in darkness of northern night.

at first kept nearby, were outvoiced. Beljaev has learnt that seamen of two boats have decided to go to Murmansk, two have gone on the north where there were islands. In a day the boat which Beljaev ordered, has approached to rocky island. Among waves seamen have seen a spark is there was a second boat. Have together moved along coast.


Some days the storm threw boats on the sea. People suffered affliction from hunger though they had crackers, canned food. But lips and languages have swelled from a cold, sea water and thirst. Tried to collect from a canvas snow, but it has appeared salty. Lay, having nestled to each other to be warmed, even more often lost consciousness. Suddenly painfull sleepiness was broken by shout of the sailor of Paul Lobanova: “ Coast, coast! “. So, on November, 15th, 1942, after 11 days of drift on Arctic ocean, the group of the emaciated seamen who have fainted from hunger of Vladivostok has come to be on desert island in silent open spaces of Arctic regions . Have transferred from boats axes, rifles, the foodstuffs. Of a sail and oars have made a canopy, have kindled fires.


Ship physician Nadezhda Natalich.

Polar night has hung over island. The hope of Natalich, the first and, probably, the unique woman wintering on desert island in Arctic regions, with tears in the face of remembered those severe days:

- Each of us was sick, but we helped each other. All day and night kept the watch, supported fire in an oven. The man on duty cooked soup from a flour and canned food. Drank this fresh balandu. To pass away time, told, who that dreamt. To good weather went on coast to search for the products thrown out by the sea, collected a fin. Us became ever less. Once have not risen Novikov and Two-Rechensky. Then the death two more times came to see a hut. In live remains four: sailors Paul Lobanov and Vasily Borodin, the captain and I. We so oslabli that flaws knocked us down. Once during snowstorm me has rejected for a snowdrift and began to bring snow. To rise there were no forces, I began to fall asleep. The cat has rescued. It paws broke off snow. Borodin has dug out me, having heard the cat`s miaow.


Waited for the - Germans

Beljaev to the last have come supported companions: “ It is not necessary to lose courage, believe in rescue, - he spoke. - the flour is, napechem crackers, we will repair the boat and we will go to Murmansk. We - on Hope island, and it are closer to the Native land “. When over horizon after three months of darkness the sun edge has seemed, in a shower of Beljaeva something has cracked. He has felt that cannot live in a hut any more. The captain has gone on coast and has found a small small house. Has explained to companions that will live there supposedly more close to go to the boat which he prepared for swimming. At Beljaeva from a scurvy fingers have swelled, the head was turned. But it was not left by thought to get out from island. It has made a wheel on the boat, has established a mast. Some minutes will work - and have a rest. As - that in the afternoon he has lain down on a cot and has dozed off. Has woken its cannon shot. The captain has looked in a window and has seen cabin of the submarine and the boat going to coast.

the hut door has swung open. In its aperture there were German sailors with automatic machines. Beljaeva have seized and have moved to coast. When it has come to be in a cabin of the submarine and has approached to a mirror has involuntarily receded back. The grey-haired old man looked At it with the long elf-lock, the swelled dark blue person.

so six-monthly wintering on desert island has ended for the captain. Beljaeva have passed in concentration camp in the Norwegian small town Tromse. There he has learnt that fascists have broken under Stalingradom, drive on the West. And to it it became clear, why the German seaman bringing a tank with food, silently spoke: “ Hitler kaput “.


Sailor Vasily Borodin.

When Beljaeva drove for works, he peered at persons of prisoners - suddenly will meet seamen with “ the Decembrist “. And really once has seen in a column of Borodino and Natalich. Vasily has told that all of them were taken away by the submarine. But in transition time their fourth companion - Paul Lobanov - has died. Meetings of seamen were short - them have translated in different camp.

in February 45 - go prisoners of war from Tromse have shipped on a steamship. After a withdrawal hearings have gone that in one of holds the weapon lies. And prisoners had a thought to grasp a vessel. Beljaev should become the captain. The begun storm contributed in a plan of captives until strong blow has not shaken the vessel case. The steamship has run into a reef. The command has gone down downwards to survey holds and has seen at the several captured weapon. All have searched, have beaten... And again camp.

on May, 8th the Soviet armies which have entered into Trondheim, have released prisoners. Beljaev has returned home. Has returned, as well as many other prisoners of war, through the Soviet camp. Works to it were not in Vladivostok, and it has left to Kamchatka. By a steamship “ Bukhara “ opened new Kamchatsko - the Chukchi line. After a while to it have arrived Nadezhda Natalich and Vasily Borodin who have become by spouses. And again seamen with “ the Decembrist “ began to work together. About endured especially did not tell. Not that was time. Only Stepan Beljaev trusted a paper the memoirs. And after Khruschev`s thaw when began to mark widely a Victory Day, Hope of Matveevna Natalich, already the pensioner, began to come often to Vladivostok and told to new generation of seamen about tragical and courageous destiny of crew “ the Decembrist “.

Stepan Polikarpovich, unfortunately, has not lived till such times. But memory of it is immortalised by the street name in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskij. There was a tow carrying his name. Wife Maria Andreevna unsuccessfully tried to publish memoirs of the husband. But they did not keep within in geroiko - the patriotic scheme of those years. I could read in due time this interesting manuscript, to make of it extracts. Where now there are these memoirs - it was not possible to establish. And in memory of crew exploit “ the Decembrist “ on the Norwegian island of Hope miners of association “ Arktikugol “ have established a monument. The most northern in the world a monument to Far East seamen.

George KLIMOV. A photo from archive of a museum of merchant marine fleet DVMP.