Congratulating everyone with May 9 Victory Day, celebrating Soviet defeat of the invading Nazi hordes. There will be much coverage of the big parade in Moscow and the Immortal Host marches.
I picked a smaller vignette, this piece from the Komsomolka, featuring a 73-year-old pensioner named Boris Tilichencko, from the small Russian town of Novopokrovka. And here is a little geography lesson: There are quite a few “Novopokrovkas” in Russia. The one in question, where Boris lives, in in the Sargatsky Region within the Omsk Oblast. Omsk Oblast, with a population of just under 2 million souls, is located in Southwestern Siberia bordering on Kazakhstan — it’s the boonies!
Within the Omsk Oblast there is the Sargatsky Region where Boris lives. This administrative region was established in 1925. Current population is around 19,000 people, including Boris. Boris is among the 17,757 ethnic Russians listed in the census. His neighbors include 340 Kazakhs, 772 Germans, 211 Tatars, 296 Ukrainians and 638 assorted “others”. Boris Tilichenko’s town of Pokrovka is so small that it is not even listed on the wiki page’s list of towns in Sargatsky. Although there is a town called Khokhlovo — maybe that’s where the Ukrainians live — [that’s a joke…]
Anyhow, Boris decided to honor the veterans of the Great Patriotic War in his own humble way. Using his own money (and remember that he is on a pension!), Tilichenko built an obelisk monument in memory of the 105 fellow Pokrovka villagers who perished in the war.
Boris Alekseevich himself was born in 1945, the last year of the war. His father Alexei had fought in the war, was wounded, and returned home in 1942. “He was in military reconnaissance,” Boris recounts. “He went on three recon missions. On the third, he stepped on a mine. He was sent home as an invalid. Two of his brothers also fought in the war.”
Tilichenko was upset by the fact that his village did not have a memorial to the fallen. Even the smallest Russian towns lost men in the war and have memorials. Tilichenko approached the town authorities with the idea of building a memorial, but they didn’t want to help. “I spoke with all the townspeople who have lived here a long time, I gathered petitions one by one. The town administration promised to help, but did nothing.
Only one town leader helped out, giving Boris 50,000 rubles to buy the stone. Tilichenko himself carved the names of the 105 fallen into the stone. He dug out the enclosure and purchased the fencing. He put it all together and tends the little enclosure himself.
“What if you hadn’t gotten any money for this?” Tilichenko was asked by the reporter.
“I would have found the means somehow. I would have sold a horse, or a cow.”
According to Boris, the local villagers bring flowers to the memorial and thank him for what he did. “It is in our blood to help people,” he explains.