Together with the oldest veteran Anatoli, in his 97th year, a group of Russian veterans of the Arctic Convoys, from Moscow and St. Petersburg, will arrive in the UK on Monday 22 December to start their Christmas UK Tour of reunions with their British shipmates across the country.
The eight Russian veterans are: Commander Yuri Alexandrov (Chairman of the Polar Convoy Club, St. Petersburg), Anatoli Lifshits, Lidia Ananeva, Taras Goncharenko, Boris Davydov, Alexander Lochagin, Valeri Rodivilin and Valentin Soldatov.
This visit is reciprocal to the Russian hospitality when a group of British veterans of the Arctic Convoys visited Saint Petersburg in autumn this year for the 73rd Anniversary of the First Arctic Convoy ‘Dervish’ and the unveiling of the Memorial to the Heroism of the Arctic Convoy Sailors.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland, The Right Honourable David Mundell MP, has welcomed the Russian veterans of Arctic Convoys to the UK with the following message:
“On behalf of the UK Government and the people of Scotland it is a great pleasure to welcome UK and Russian Arctic Convoy veterans to Edinburgh and to host a reception in their honour.
“This has been a year of historic milestones – 70 years since the D-Day landings and 100 years since the start of World War One for example. As we pass these moments in time one constant remains, Scotland’s unwavering support for our Armed Forces.
“To the UK and Russian Arctic Convoy Veterans who will attend this reception we are proud to say thank you for all you did during World War II for our country, for our freedom and for our safety.”
Minister of Justice and Civil Liberties, The Right Honourable Simon Hughes MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said:
“I will be very pleased to welcome both Russian and British veterans of the Arctic Convoys to London later this month, especially in this year of important milestones.
“It is now 100 years since the start of World War One, and 70 years since the D-Day landings. It is right that we honour the achievements of these brave veterans.
“It is a great idea that they will be spending Boxing Day together, and a privilege for me to be with them.
“The spirit of unity is strong, and the fact that we will celebrate this in London SE1, an area with a proud military tradition, is a real privilege.”
In his welcome message ahead of the Russian veterans’ arrival, the former 1st Sea Lord, Admiral the Right Honourable Baron West of Spithead GCB DSC PC ADC said:
“I wish the brave Russian veterans a wonderful visit to the UK. I know their brothers in arms, the British veterans of the Arctic convoys, have always been royally looked after on their visits to Russia.
“More than 70 years ago their joint bravery and fortitude enabled the Soviet Union to survive and sealed the fate of the Third Reich.
“We owe them a great deal and have great pride in their achievements.”
EDINBURGH – Tuesday 23 December
Scotland’s capital City, Edinburgh will be the first point of call on Tuesday 23rd December. The party will be hosted throughout their stay in Edinburgh by The Royal British Legion Scotland (Legion Scotland). The visit will start with a reception at the Scotland Office, 1 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh, where the Russian and UK veterans of the Arctic Convoys, many of whom will have been awarded their Ushakov Medals, will be welcomed by the Scotland Office Minister David Mundell.
Following a wreath laying ceremony at the Leith Merchant Navy Memorial, the veterans will travel to Legion Scotland’s Grangemouth Branch and Club where they will join in comradeship with the Provost Pat Reid and Deputy Provost John Patrick of Falkirk, the National Vice Chairperson of Legion Scotland Janet Harvey and local veterans for a traditional Christmas lunch.
Kevin Gray MM, CEO of Legion Scotland said: “Legion Scotland is absolutely delighted to be able to play such an active part in the Scottish leg of the Russian Arctic Convoy veterans visit to the UK. The short stay in Edinburgh will allow Russian and UK Arctic convoy veterans to reunite in comradeship and have the opportunity to share stories with each other like only those who experienced the same extreme conditions could ever relate to. The opportunity to provide comradeship and friendship lies at the very heart of what Legion Scotland provides for Scotland’s ex-Service community and we are delighted to be able to offer a hand of friendship to our Russian comrades.”
INVERNESS – Wednesday 24 December
On the morning of the 24 December, the Russian veterans will travel to the Highlands where, after sightseeing of Inverness, they will be welcome by the Provost of Inverness, Councillor Alex Graham and the City Manager David Haas with a Christmas lunch reception at Inverness Town Hall and entertainment organised by The Highland-Russia Connection Charity.
Back in Edinburgh on Christmas Eve, the Russians will enjoy the comfort of The Old Waverley Hotel in the very heart of the city to get ready for their Christmas morning trip to Newcastle.
Provost of Inverness Councillor Alex Graham said: “The Arctic Convoys left from Loch Ewe in Wester Ross carrying vital war supplies to our Russian Allies, and the heroism of their crews created an enduring bond between our countries. It will be a privilege to welcome the Russian convoy veterans to Inverness and the Town House on Christmas Eve. We will give them a very warm Highland welcome to reflect the high esteem in which they are held by everyone in the Highlands.”
NEWCASTLE – Thursday 25 December
Newcastle – the former home of the North East shipbuilders where the icebreaker ‘Krasin’ was built by Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd in 1917 which later took part in many of the Arctic Convoys. Today the ‘Krasin’ icebreaker is in a museum in St. Petersburg.
In Newcastle, the Russian veterans will meet the local veterans at the reunion reception in at Avondale House orginised by the AV&F Launchpad, a UK Veterans’ run charity organisation consisting of Armed Forces & Veterans and the Anglo-Russian Centre in North East England.
Having celebrated a traditional British Christmas in Newcastle, they will on 26 December take an early flight to London, courtesy of HMS Belfast Association.
LONDON – Friday 26 December
Boxing Day will start with a visit to HMS Belfast for ‘Up Spirits!’ toast with Pusser’s Rum followed by the veterans’ visit to the Evelina Hospital where the Russian Matryoshka gifts brought by the veterans will meet their young recipients.
The Russians will reunite with their London shipmates, members of The Russian Convoy Club (London & Home Counties), at a lunch hosted by The Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust overlooking the Thames and Westminster Palace, where they will be joined by Simon Hughes MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
The British veterans will be brought to the reception from various destinations by The London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled.
Following a quick visit to Oxford Street to seek New Year’s presents and a privately held reception with the Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko, the veterans will prepare for their final destination; Portsmouth.
PORTSMOUTH – Saturday 27 December
27 December will crown this visit with first a reception on board the legendary HMS Victory, on which Admiral Nelson (1758-1805) served and died and where Russian veterans will raise tots of Pusser’s Rum to the two legendary Admirals: British Horatio Nelson and Russian Fiodor Ushakov (1745-1817) in the Admiral’s Cabin, followed by lunch in the ships company.
The same afternoon, a ceremony of Ushakov Medal awards to a number of Portsmouth veterans of the Arctic Convoys will take place in the National Museum of the Royal Navy in the presence of Russian veterans. The medals will be presented by the diplomats of the Russian Embassy. The reception following the Ushakov Medal ceremony is supported by The Royal British Legion (London HQ).
The Russian veterans will depart the UK on the morning of Sunday 28 December 2014 ready to reunite with their families for New Year celebrations in Russia.
The visit organiser Eugene Kasevin of The Russia House Ltd, Honorary member of The Russian Convoy Club (London & Home Counties) said:
“This historic UK-wide reunion of Russian and British veterans of Arctic Convoys during the festive Christmas period will highlight the legacy of loyal friendship brought to us by the veterans – true Heroes of our nations.”
BRITISH & RUSSIAN SUPPORT
WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO INDIVIDUALS:
Mr. Georgiy Voronin (St. Petersburg, Russia) - sponsor of international flights.
Captain Mike Matthews RN (Brockenhurst, UK) - sponsor of HMS Victory reception.
WITH GRATITUDE TO OUR PARTNER ORGANISATIONS:
Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (UK)
HMS Belfast Association (UK)
Volga-Dnepr Group (Russia)
Blackthorne International Transport Ltd (UK)
Clyde & Co LLP (UK)
In2Matrix Ltd. (UK)
The Highland Council (UK)
The Royal British Legion (Legion Scotland) (UK)
The Royal British Legion (UK)
AV&F Launchpad (UK)
The London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled (UK)
The Russian Embassy in London (Russia)
Consulate General Of The Russian Federation in Edinburgh (Russia)
The Highland-Russia Connection Charity (UK)
British Business Club Moscow (UK/Russia)
Book My Minibus Hire (UK)
PERSONAL DONATIONS WERE GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED FROM:
Neil Cooper, John Metcalfe, Simon Janion, Ralph Land, Steven Landes, Rob Dykes, Alexey Goreslavskiy, Maxim Izotov, Egor Avdeev, Tatiana Nye, Elena Reid, Tracy Duguid, Alexei Kapkin, Gavin Melluish, David Wansbrough-Jones, Julia Prisenko, Peter Nockolds, John Romano, Joshua Hughes, Eva Sulej, Jane Broadbent.
If you wish to donate towards the success of this historic visit and have your name listed above, please use our PayPal Link:
Organiser: The Russia House Ltd.