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There used to be first-class equipment here, modern, lathes and other specialist machines, everything was brand

-new. Sure! It’s the sea swooshing. Can you hear that? But let’s start this way… Officially… With your question, and I’ll begin my story… Or if you prefer, I’ll begin. I was born in 1927. Orishchenko Ivan Gavrilovich. I was born in the Orenburg Oblast. It was a kolkhoz those days, now it’s just Chuloshnikovo village. And I was born in a large family. My parents had us twelve kids, six boys and six girls. And I was the third. The family was big, but luckily none of us has ended up in the gutter, no one’s been up in court, all the children were good and brought up properly. You’ll understand, that… In short, I learnt my first life lessons there, how to work with technology. And this is my mum – “The Hero Mother”. There was this tractor driver, I was assigned to him and he told me: “Do everything by the book. And when the time comes for an inspection, you’ll be calm, the machine will be working fine,

you won’t have to worry about anything”. That was the first real thing I learnt. I was a tractor driver for three years… I started when I was 14 – that is from ’42 to ’44, I did a one-month tractor-driving course. And because there were no adults, and no qualified specialists, all of us, literally all of us, were put on machines. The equipment was still there, but those, the older generation, were conscripted and left. I worked on that tractor for three years. In 1944, it was October - I was 17 at the time they took me to the navy because the war had come. They took me to the navy, they used to choose, but then there was no one left to choose from, they’d pick some for the navy, some for the air force, the best boys I think. And later I ended up here. And when I was being assessed, it was a technical assessment, I remember it, as if it were yesterday, that major Bielik, the head of the assessment board, looks at my file and says: “Well Ivan, you were a tractor driver, so in the navy you’ll fire torpedoes”. And that’s how he decided my fate.

By the 15th of August the war with Japan had already started. It started on the 3rd of August, no, wait, the 9th, not the 3rd.

Wrong, it started on the 9th, yes, on the 9th of August, And on the 18th I was already here in Balaklava. Well, a base, there was no base as such. Earlier on, here, on this side, there were fish-processing plants. Well, in short, I served my military service from ’45, on this naval base, to ’69. Till 1969. I did all the degrees, from a sailor to the head of the Torpedo and Mine Department. From a sailor of the Red Fleet, to petty officer, then to major. Ah, Stalin! I’ll tell you something. It was hard, but we knew, that when a new year started, there would be an obligatory price reduction. And now what happens with prices… Just don’t record this, oh you’ve already set up your mic and you’re recording everything. That is yes, during my service here, in Balaklava, listen carefully, I met members of the government, our Soviet government. Khrushchev came here twice, it’s written here too. I used to meet Zhukov, you know him too. I used to meet Vasilevsky. And in general, I was always at the centre. And my specialty, torpedoes, were made for submarines, and me, I was always in the middle of the action. And I met both Khrushchev and Zhukov there...

Would you like to hear one more story about Nikita Sergeyevich? In October ’55, in Sevastopol, they were awarding the Order of the Red Star, a war distinction, and many officials were there – Khrushchev, Bulgarin. Khrushchev was the First Secretary of the Central Committee back then, he wasn’t the chairman of the Council of Ministers yet. He visited us and had a look around, he was interested in the new boats at the wharf, he didn’t go onto a boat, just onto the pier. Later on he comes to me, the autumn was coming, uniform no. 3, there’s a sailor with a machine gun in full gear, and it’s them with Mikoyan. I come out to meet them, I introduced myself properly and I reported. Him – he puts his hand on mine, I can feel how big it is, and says: “Orishchenko – are you a khokhol?” “Yes, I am”. And, still holding my hand, he asks: “Orishchenko, are there any Armenians here?” I thought quickly, it was the time of autumn preparations, they’d take people from here sometimes, sailors, and then send them to different parts of the country, where torpedo elements were produced,

so I thought quickly: “No, there are none, comrade, none, comrade Sergeyevich”. And Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan is standing next to us,

and he prods him with his elbow: “Can you hear that? They got rid of all the Armenians. There’s only you left, one sneaky Armenian”. And the whole retinue was with them, forty people altogether, and the main commander, and the first secretary. Then he replies: “Well, yes, with your coming to power, An invasion of khokhols has started”. It was nice to hear them joking like that. It was wonderful, we’d love to go back there, it was so quiet and calm, no hooligans, no fights. A gated town, you understand. Nobody could get in without an official permit, without a pass. I mean, they could let you in through the vine, but that was punishable. When I was in the service, it was categorically forbidden to photograph the buildings. They only opened them now, and everything used to be shut. Here’s what I can tell you, there was an incident, a moment: This simple naive sailor had a girlfriend, he took a picture of himself in the submarine and sent it to her, warning: “But please, don’t show it to anyone!”. She got scared and informed the KGB, later he was sentenced, it was a closed zone after all… When I was young, when I was a sergeant, I was the commandant’s assistant,

and later on the commandant of Balaklava, and all that because my job was working with weapons, and in the evenings we would patrol. Eight, ten, up to thirteen, a closed zone, patrols… We would close everything, there were other episodes in ’55, ’56 till ’60. War builders used to work there, the boys would go wild. They’d break the glass, boilers, windows in workers’ houses. There were young women there, mobilised to kolkhozes, to pick grapes, they would break into there, have a bit to drink and go the whole way. And except for that, we lived quietly. English translation: Zofia Krasnowolska, Dafydd Williams