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    Dead and Buried War Hero Claims Medal 60 Years on

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    Hi all,

    Just found this while surfing and thought it might be of interest. Here's the original link followed by the article in case it's ever taken off:


    It was only by chance that Georgy Ponomarev found out he was dead.

    There had been rumours. Talk of his name on a war memorial on a faraway hilltop. But it was not until the 81-year-old's friend was awarded a 60th anniversary medal this year - for liberating Ukraine from Nazi occupation during the Second World War - that the truth came out.

    Georgy, a former Red Army infantryman from the southern Russian city of Stavropol, fancied a medal too for his part in pushing the 'Hitlerovtsi' out. Yet when he called the Ukrainian military commissariat, the official said: 'You can't have it. You died in 1943.' Only now has Georgy been able to get a court decision proving he is very much alive. Next week he will get his medal.

    Behind the mix-up is a tale of survival that has turned Georgy into a minor celebrity.

    It was winter 1943 when the teenage sergeant led his platoon of nine in a desperate attack on a German bunker near the Ukrainian village of Sofievka. They crept up with their grenades but came under fire, and a shell exploded next to Georgy as he and his men retreated, the shock wave catapulting him into the air.

    When he regained consciousness hours later, all was dark and a great weight pressed down on his body. Fighting for breath, Georgy realised the full horror of the situation: he was underground. 'My right hand was hit by shrapnel and didn't work, but I could move my left and I began to claw the earth away,' he recalls.

    Luckily, the soil was dry and crumbly. 'I wanted to live; the instinct was strong. I was about a metre deep. Finally, I made a hole and got my head out, then my torso.' Deafened and lost, he stumbled into enemy territory and a German patrol found him.

    Only at the end of the war did he find out what had happened. Georgy had imagined he was covered by debris from the shell. By chance, he ran into an old comrade from his platoon, Aleksei Chuykov. 'Don't you recognise me?' Georgy remembers asking him. Chuykov went white: 'My God, I buried you myself.'

    It transpired that, under fire, Georgy's comrades had presumed him dead and buried him with several comrades, in the crater where he fell. As the senior soldier of the group, he was laid on top of the pile of corpses.

    Escape from an early grave was not the final horror of Georgy's war. After capture he was sent to Germany by train. En route he escaped, but was recaptured and sent to Auschwitz. There his weight dropped to 35kg and he only survived because a friend in the kitchens slipped him extra portions of turnip soup.

    Back home after the war, his amazed family showed him the letter that stated he was dead. Georgy later married, had children and worked as an engineer.

    Only this year did things come to a head. When Georgy applied for the veterans' medal promised by the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, the bureaucrats replied: 'If you're alive, prove it.'

    Now bed-ridden, Georgy requested a court hearing at his home to confirm his identity. 'All his documents and witness statements allowed us to confirm he was the same man who "died" there,' said Stanislav Saneev, the judge at the hearing.

    Georgy has invited court officials to attend a dinner where he will wash his medal in vodka, according to tradition. He reserves the greatest thanks for the man who buried him alive. 'Stalin had given an order to remove warm clothes from all corpses. But Chuykov left me in my padded jacket and my hat. Without them I would have frozen to death.'

    By Guardian Unlimited ? Copyright Guardian Newspapers 2006

    Published: 11/5/2005

    This is the second time today and the only times by the way that I've seen a reference to a tradition whereby the recipient of an Order or medal would drop it into a glass of vodka, drink down the liquid until left holding the award in his or her teeth. Has anyone else ever heard of this re: Russian or Soviet awardees? :unsure:

    Dan :cheers:

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    Government bureaucracy is a fearsome thing. L.C. Dunsterville (Kipling's "Stalky") has a marvellous story of being asked by a pensioner to certify that he was still alive, so he could claim his pension. Dunsterville wrote out a dated statement, that as of June 18** retired Lieutenant Blank was alive, and he could certify to this. A month or so later, the pensioner returned. "I'm afraid your letter is no good for my purposes. They need to know that I was alive last March."

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    Guest RedThreat

    Interesting story, if its true. I have heard about the tradition to put your medals in Vodka and drink it until you hold the medal in your tooth, but i don?t know, if it was a real tradition or just hearsay...


    It is real. It is shown in countless Russian movies. The same is done when an officer get promoted. He drinks vodka until the star is between his teeth. My dad and his friends immitated the tradition with their college graduation badges.

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    It is real. It is shown in countless Russian movies. The same is done when an officer get promoted. He drinks vodka until the star is between his teeth. My dad and his friends immitated the tradition with their college graduation badges.

    Thanks for the confimation, Simon. Good to know for sure. Its such a typical russian tradition in my opinion and i like it very much. I have seen an insufficient amount of russian films until now obviously. Hope, i can change that soon.

    Thanks again


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    Whenever I had a translator with me, I'd always try to stop the older looking gents on the metro in Moscow to ask them about their wartime experiences. I once met a fellow who had been a radio operator during the Finnish War. During an artillery barrage, he sustained a concussion and was knocked out. The next thing he knew, he had been buried alive, and he had to dig his way out past his deceased comrades. Apparently, this was damaging enough to where he told me he was immediately discharged and worked as a laborer in Moscow during the Patriotic War. Quite an interesting fellow! Not too often you get to meet people that had been buried alive and lived to tell about it.


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    The next thing he knew, he had been buried alive, and he had to dig his way out past his deceased comrades.

    I was always impressed by stories of ships blown up and survivors having to swim through water heavy with burning fuel and the burnt dismembered body parts of your comorades. But actually being buried and having to claw your way out of the soil past your dead brothers in arm is as terrible a story. Yikes!


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