Analysis and Commentary
Valentina Golysheva

Daughter of a hero of the Arctic convoys: We were proud that our fathers died defending their homeland

The tragic end of the convoy White Sea-Dikson №5 (BD-5) was shrouded in a veil of secrecy for a long time. Valentina Golysheva, daughter of seaman Georgy Golyshev who was killed in August 1944 as a participant in the BD-5 convoy in the Kara Sea, wrote the books “Arctic Convoys” and “A Flashback to the Arctic Convoys” in memory of her father and other participants in the Arctic convoys. Arctic.ru asked her about the history of these books.

— How are you connected to the Arctic convoys?

— My father was a participant in these convoys and lost his life on August 12, 1944 in the Kara Sea. He was registered with the convoy White Sea-Dikson №5 on the T-118 minesweeping ship that was accompanying the Marina Raskova. A German U-365 submarine sunk this vessel and two of its three minesweepers in the Kara Sea.

How old were you when you father died?

— I was one. Many kids in my class did not have fathers, but we were all proud that our fathers died defending their homeland.

What do you know about the circumstances of your father's death?

— There was no official information at all. It was a big mystery, top secret. That said, I remember seeing my father's friends who survived. They said," "We saw Zhorka (a diminutive of my father's name Georgy Golyshev) on a rowboat, he was paddling it." I read about it in the book by Somkin "We Remember You." He recalls that this rowboat (there were about 90 people in it) was struggling at sea for 18 days. Only 11 people were still alive when they finally came ashore on Bely Island. Quite recently we learned that he was buried in a common grave on Bely Island although the death notification said he was buried at sea.

Northern Fleet Shipboy Yury Budiyev on the destruction of the convoy White Sea-Dikson №5

Incidentally, the media began to talk about the fate of the BD-5 convoy only after the Iron Curtain was lifted — since 1991. Meanwhile, this was the worst tragedy in Arkhangelsk and the surrounding region, taking 361 lives. There were shipping agents, their wives and children and seamen who accompanied them. Only one minesweeper, the 116th, survived. I don't know how many relatives are left. I would very much like the Arkhangelsk Region Governor to address this issue and start a search. It would be great to collect the people linked with this tragedy!

I'll tell you an interesting thing. In 2010, the Murmansk Shipping Company invited Yury Budiyev (shipboy Yury Budiyev, a participant in Arctic convoys — ed. note) and me to visit Murmansk to pay tribute to three American sailors who died in the Barents Sea on March 29, 1945 when their ship Thomas Donaldson was sunk by a German submarine. The US Consulate in St. Petersburg organized this ceremony and invited an American cruiser to take part. We — all commanders — went to Kildin Island together with veterans from St. Petersburg. We commemorated the three American sailors and threw wreathes into the sea. I thought to myself this was the first time I met with my father in this way, the first time I paid tribute to his memory.

I was stunned by this fact: the Americans sent a whole ship to commemorate their three sailors whereas we lost 361 people at once and still did not send any commemorative expedition to the Kara Sea.

I am grateful to the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area, who sponsored two expeditions to the Kara Sea to find the remnants of ships. They only found the vessel Marina Raskova and one minesweeper. The second minesweeper on which my father served was not found. Incidentally, he did not serve on it permanently — he was a member of a border unit in Arkhangelsk and was sent to the minesweeper as a motor mechanic. Who knew that this would happen?

When did you start looking into the history of convoys?

— First, I read books about them. Yury Barashkov wrote a book about convoys in Russian. Later on I read an interesting article "Convoys in the Jazz Style" by my daughter Natalya Golysheva who worked at the BBC. It contained interviews with Mikhail Suprun (he is a historian, professor at the chair of history), Barashkov and a number of other residents of Arkhangelsk. She also contacted Jock Dempster and David Cottrell, British veterans.

The deeper I went, the more I uncovered. In 2010, I was introduced to British veteran Gordon Long by the people who attended the festivities in 2001 to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the first allied convoy Dervish to Arkhangelsk. I visited them, and he told me over the phone that I was the person they needed. He said that they were looking for someone to host them in Arkhangelsk.  So we received them here in NArFU (Northern Arctic Federal University). Can you imagine there were 18 guests here? Naturally, I was very happy to see them because by that time I had already read and knew a lot. I was dying to see these people who were living history.

And you wrote the book afterwards?

— I described this in my first book "Arctic Convoys" in 2011. This was also the foundation of my second book "A Flashback to the Arctic Convoys," which was released last year.

We began to meet. They started coming regularly and always came to our university. Then I was invited to give lectures during a cruise from Dover along the route of Arctic convoys, which was organized to commemorate their 70th anniversary. There were a lot of war veterans aboard — they were invited to take part in the cruise together with their wives. There was a line of people — daughters and wives of war veterans — after my first lecture. They approached me with letters, diaries and some newspaper clips. Many of them wept… I showed them video with our war veterans how they came to us in Arkhangelsk, how we hosted them, how we commemorated the Dervish in Arkhangelsk. They all presented me with photos and diaries. John Armstrong's daughter gave me a diary of her father who served on the Polish vessel Garland. The diary was translated from Polish into English in 1943. She found it in her father's office about five years ago when he died.

Naturally, I used several chapters from this diary in my book. We translated them. This was a very emotional moment because they all confided their stories to me. I set appointments with them in their cabins. I recorded their stories on a dictaphone.

Valentina Golysheva on meetings with British veterans

The book is written in English and all interviews have been translated into Russian. I am happy to have done this as a present to them because later on their British relatives sent me letters of gratitude for immortalizing the names of their fathers and husbands. We are friends with veterans themselves. I speak on Skype with some of them. For instance, David Craig from Scotland talks to students and me through Skype and we continue this back and forth. Relatives say that they are ready to communicate with all of us, with students, because they feel it's their duty to express their gratitude to Russia for saving the whole world.