Col. Georgi “Zhorzh” Vassilievitch Ret. (1915-2001)
In addition, to their father’s mother, Pelegea Dmitrovna Onoshko (1865-1930), Georgi “Zhorzh” Vassilievitch / Георгий Васильевич (1915-2001) and his sister Olga Vassilievna /Ольга Васильевна (1911-1984) were the only surviving members of the family to remain and die in the USSR.
Zhorzh was the youngest son of Vassili Mikhailovitch (1889-1920) and his wife Ludmila “Milochka” Alexandrovna (née Podust). He was born in Voronki on his grandfather’s estate in Tchernigov Province, Russia. Amazingly, without any contact with his Kotchoubey family he would choose a path in life that was alomost in direct parrallel to that of his father’s brothers. Like his uncle, Sergei Mikhailovitch (1896-1960) he studied music and unlike his uncle was not able to fullfill his lifelong ambition of becoming an opera singer due to a war injury. Alas, he was a fine singer like his father and his brothers and like them he was also a fine soldier. While some of his uncles fought the Germans in WWI, he went off to the front to fight the Germans during WWII.
While his father was fighting in the Voluntary Army of General Denikin, Zhorzh, his sister Olga and mother lived in Voronki but then moved to Kiev when the estate fell into Bolshevik hands in 1918. As small children, they went to live with their mother Milochka with her mother, Ludmilla Feodorovna Podust (née Kosura)/ Людмила Фёдоровна Косюра (?-1950s) . Zhorzh and his sister Olga would grow up in Kiev in the company of their cousin Olga Dmitrovna Sidorowich (née Vickberg) whose mother Elena “Nelly” Mikhailovna (1891-1972) was their paternal aunt as well as some of their Podust family.
Paradise Lost: Growing up in Kiev. Living in the USSR
The years in Kiev after the revolution were not easy and the Podust family suffered through this tumultuous era with their fair share of tragedy and family conflict. In some cases, the self inflicted separations would divide the family for many years only to reunite them over forty years later in Soviet Russia in the most unusual circumstances. It is unclear when the Kotchoubey family learned of Vassili Mikhailovitch’s death but the onset of the Soviet period of repression meant that all links to the White movement and links with the nobility had to be suppressed. As a result, Zhorzh would grow up having no idea how his father had died until he met his much younger cousin, Andrei Sergeievitch (1938-) in 1991 in Moscow. Milochka had told Zhorzh and Olya that their father had died of typhus and she never even told them he was a volunteer in the White Army. Like father, Zhorzh was an officer who served his country albeit under slightly different political colors. He was a decorated soldier but was honorabley discharged from the army during the war with the rank of Captain due to the heavy injuries he sustained from a shrapnel wound to one of his lungs.
May 7, 1934, Kiev (From Left to Right) Ludmila Alexandrovna Kotchoubey (née Podust), Pavel Ivanovitch Pobezhimov, Ludmila Feodorovna Podust (née Kosura), Olga Vassilievna Pobezhimova (née Kotchoubey), Georgi “Zhorzh” Vassilievitch Kotchoubey, and Ludmila’s Aunt, Maria Feodorovna Kosura (?)
As his grand-nephew, Vaitaliy Podust explains, Zhorzh continued to enjoy honorary promotions during the Soviet era following the end of the war. More than 20 years after the end of the war, General Secretary of the Commuinist Party of the Soviet Union, Leonid Ilych Brezhnev / Л.И.Брежнев began the practice of awarding soldiers of various ranks (officers, certain enlisted soldiers and non-commsioned officers) a promtion. This was an inexpensive way to increase morale among the veterans of the Great War but in no way did these nominal promotions increase their pensions or change their status in anyway. So through the years, Captain Georgi Vassilievitch was first promoted to Major then Lieutenant-Colonel and then finally Colonel. As a result, he rose to the rank of colonel in the artillery in the Soviet army, thanks to the benevolence of the General Secretary, but whatever his rank he had certainly sacrificed much for the fatherland. Ironically, this exercise has been carried through into practice by both Ukraine and the Russian Federation with veterans who have been honorably discharged, receiving ceremonial promotions to this day.
When Evgenia Victorovna (née Mankovskaya) (1896-1979), Sergei Mikhailovitch’s (1896-1960) first wife and sister of Olga Victorovna (née Mankovskaya) wife of Nikolai Mikhailovitch (1894-1963) traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria with a letter from Elena “Nelly” Mikhailovna to Kiev, Ukraine SSR in the late 1960s and posted a letter to her sister-in-law Milochka, she received a stern reply that there were no relatives living abroad and a request not to attempt to contact her again. Milochka never even told her children about the inquery from her sister-in-law, Evgenia Victorovna. This is how the family lived. Fear meant that they never dared talk about the past. When Zhorzh finally met his cousin Andrey Sergeievitch in Moscow thanks to the Red Cross in 1991, he was very interested about everything about the family as he knew absolutely nothing. Zhorzh’s grandson, Alexei explained that unfortunately his Grandmother (Zhorzh’s first wife) never ever talked about the past. This ability to erase the past was a survival mechanism that suited the Bolsheviks perfectly well and Zhorzh and Andrei Sergeievitch first cousin, Olga Dmitrievna also did not know anything about the past until just before she escaped with her mother Elena “Nelly” Mikhailovna with the retreating German army from Kiev.
It was too dangerous to discuss anything in case the children would blurt some incriminating information to their friends or at school. Olga Dmitirevna Sidorowich told Andrei Sergeievitch that until the war and their subsequent escape to Germany, she was a devoted patriotic communist. Given Zhorzh’s rank when he retired as a Colonel in the Red Army, it is clear that both he and his sister Olga were model communists, too.
Miracles to Bring Families Together:
The coincedences and lost connections which would be refound many years later was not limited to the Kotchoubey family. The Podust family was divided and struck by its own fair share of tragedy. Milochka’s brother Alexander Alexandrovitch Podust / Александр Александрович Подуст (1887-1932) eventually became a prosecutor but before that he married in 1914 Tatiana Ivanovna Pilerzhinskaya /Татьяна Ивановна Пилержинская, a peasant girl and as a result was estranged from his parents Alexander Efimovitch Podust /Александр Ефимович Подуст(1857-1918) and Ludmila Feodorovna who both objected to the marriage and refused to bless them. Alexander and Tatiana would raise their family without much contact with his parents, brothers or sisters. After Alexander’s tragic death in 1932, Ludmila Feordorvna had almost no contact with her daughter-in-law, Tatiana and her grandchildren Elena (1916-), Ludmilla (1918-) and Mikhail (1921-2015). This was a decision that would create two eerie parrallel lives between first cousins which would only be uncovered in the 1950s.
Zhorzh married three times. His first wife was Galina Konstantinovna (née Miller) / Галина Константиновна Миллер (1916-2004) whom he married in 1938 and with whom he had a daughter, Lydia “Lyda” Georgievna (nee Kotchoubey) (1938-1997) but the marriage did not last. It was a loveless marriage of convenience arranged by Zhorzh’s older sister Olga to allow Zhorzh to leave Kiev. In the Soviet Union, every citizen had to be registered with a registration/ propiska which determined your place of residence and ultimately the universities where you could study and the places where you could work. By marrying Galina who lived in Saratov, Zhorzh and his family were able to relocate there. They were together for only three years as Zhorzh chose to volunteer with the army in 1941. He was sent to Artillery Officer’s school in Moscow but Galina chose not to join him there. After all, the conditions for a young officer’s family in Moscow, especially with a young child would hardly have been better than life in Saratov. In addition, the German army had already entered Sovier territory by June 1941 and was fast closing in on Msocw. When Zhorzh was ill having lost a lung in combat due to a shrapnel wound, she did not come to see him and when he returned home on convalescent leave in 1943, she was living with another man (another Red Army officer). The marriage of convenience that had helped to bring the Kotchoubeys east to Saratov was clearly over.Zhorzh would become estranged from his daughter and her two sons, Alexei Pavlovitch Schurkin and Dmitri Pavlovitch Schurkin. Years later the families would reunite and a correspondence between the familiews would allow this chapter in the Kotchoubey family history to be written. As one may expect in the age of internet geneology based research, the story of the Kotchoubey-Podust post would intrigue Vitaliy Alexandrovitch Podust (1983-) / Виталий Александрович Подустthe grandson of Mikhail Alexandrovitch Podust / Подуст Михаил Александрович (1921-2015) and an amzing number of pieces to the puzzle of the lost years of the Kotchoubey family history would be revealed.
Vitaliy Alexandrovitch sent his grandfather’s memoirs which are entitled, “Confessions of an Arillery Soldier” or in Russian «ИСПОВЕДЬ АРТИЛЛЕРИСТА»:
«После войны в мирные 60-е годы узнал, что в одно время со мной на этих же курсах учился мой двоюродный брат, тоже артиллерийский офицер, капитан Георгий Кочубей. Он был сыном младшей родной сестры (Людмилы) моего отца и до войны проживал в Саратове, но я его до этой учебы, ни разу не видел. После смерти отца моя мать связи с родственниками по отцовской линии почти не поддерживала.
В тяжёлые голодные годы нашей семье только иногда помогал (отрывал от своей семьи) родной старший брат отца – дядя Толя. Во время учёбы просто не мог представить, что рядом со мной может учиться двоюродный брат. Георгий был старше меня примерно на 3 – 4 года. Перед войной Георгий закончил консерваторию и был подающим надежды молодым оперным певцом. Мог, как большинство артистов остаться в тылу, но сделал свой выбор и добровольцем ушёл на фронт. После окончания ускоренных артиллерийских курсов получил звание младшего лейтенанта, успешно воевал и дослужился до капитана, командира батареи. В самом конце войны получил тяжёлое проникающее осколочное ранение в грудь и ему ампутировали одно из лёгких, на этом его карьера певца закончилась. Ещё одна жизненная трагедия.»
” After the war in the peaceful years of the 1960s, I learned that at the same time that I was enrolled in the courses of the artillery school, my cousin, an artillery officer, Captain Georgi Kotchoubey was studying in the same school. He was the son of the youngest sister (Ludmila) of my father and before the war lived in Saratov. Before we were enrolled in the same school, I had never seen him. After the death of my father, my mother had almost no contact with relatives on her father’s side of the family.
In the difficult years of the famine, our family (which had broken away from the family) exceptionally helped my father’s oldest brother -Uncle Tolya. During my studies at the artillery school I just could not imagine that next me could be studying my very own cousin. Georgi was older than me by approximately 3-4 years (translator’s note: infact it was 6 years). Before the war, Georgi had finished his studies at the conservatory and was full of hope of becoming an opera singer (translator’s note: His uncle, Sergei Mikhailovitch actually did become an opera singer). Like most artists, he could have stayed in the rear, but he made his choice and volunatarily left for the front. After completing an accelerated course in artillery, he was made the equivalent of a first lieutenant / младшего лейтенанта and fought while rising to the rank of captain and commander of an artillery battery. At the end of the war he was heavily wounded by shrapnel in the chest and he was forced to have one of his lungs collapsed lungs removed and sadly his singing career ended. Yet antother of life’s tragedies.” (Mikhail Alexandrovitch Podust)
The story of how the two cousins found themselves is just as amazing as the coincidence of how both cousins were studying at the same artillery school. Vitaliy Podust explains:
…Это было зимой с 1952 на 1953 год, тогда Михаил Александрович Подуст (мой дед) учился вВоенной артиллерийской академии им. Дзержинскогов Москве. Во время учебы в академии, семья снимала однокомнатную квартиру в Москве. Академию переводили из Москвы в Ленинград (Санкт-Петербург). Как раз в тот день, когда семья Подуст должна была вечером садиться в поезд и ехать в Ленинград, к возвращающимся с прогулки детям (мои дяди, старшие братья моего отца) Игорю (6 лет) и Олегу (5 лет) следом за ними в лифт дома вошла женщина. Эта женщина начала разговаривать с детьми, расспрашивать: «Какие хорошие дети, а как вас зовут?». Дети ответили, что они Игорь Подуст и Олег Подуст. Женщина (это была Ольга Кочубей, которая ехала в гости к своей подруге) очень заинтересовалась, ведь фамилия Подуст достаточно редкая. Она решила подняться вместе с детьми в квартиру, где в это время в квартире был их отец – Михаил Александрович Подуст и мать – Подуст (Касаточкина) Клавдия Николаевна (они собирали чемоданы). Так вот выяснилось, что Михаил Подуст с Ольгой Кочубей являются двоюродными братом и сестрой. Далее Ольга Кочубей дала Михаилу Александровичу адреса родственников в Саратове и в Украине. Так, в Днепропетровске на том момент проживал другой двоюродный брат Михаила – Маршнер Борис Евгеньевич (сын Маршнер (Подуст) Лидии Александровны). Так родственная связь была восстановлена спустя много лет.
После окончания академии дедушка получил назначение на должность командира артиллерийского полка в город Днепропетровск. Там познакомился и навсегда очень подружился с Маршнером Борисом Евгеньевичем и его семьёй. В то время приезжала в Днепропетровск и Ольга Побежимова (Кочубей)…
В конце 60-х годов уже Георгий Кочубей (Жорж, как он сам себя называл и как его называли родственники в личных беседах) приезжал в гости к Борису Маршнеру и Михаилу Подусту в Киев (семьи Подуст и Маршнеров жили на тот момент уже в Киеве). Тогда Михаил и Жорж в первый раз увиделись, а потом в ходе бесед выяснилось, что они учились вместе в офицерской артиллерийской штабной школе в одно и тоже время в годы войны.
“…It was winter 1952 through 1953 and Mikhail Alexandrovitch Podust (my grandfather) was studying at the War Academy of Artillery in the name of Dzherzinskiy in Moscow. During his course of study at the academy, the family rented a one-room apartment in Moscow. At the time, the academy was being moved from Moscow to Leningrad. That day, when the Podust family was due to leave by train that evening, the (Podust) children who were retruning from a walk, Igor 6 years old and Oleg 5 years old (my uncles, my father’s two oldest brother) and they were followed into the elevator by a lady. The lady started talking to the children and asked ;”What good children, what are your names?”. The children answered that they were Igor Podust and Oleg Podust. The woman (who was Olga Vassilivena Pobezhimova (née Kotchoubey) and going to visist a friend) became very interested, as the Podust name is quite rare. She decided to continue with the children in the elevator and accompany them to the apartment, where, at that time, she found Mikhail Alexandrovitch Podust and his mother, Claudia Nikolaevna Podust (née Kasatochkina) (they were packing the suitcases). So this is how they discovered that Mikhail Podust and Olga Kotchoubey were first cousins. Further, Olga Kotchoubey gave Mikhail Alexandrovitch the address of relatives in both Saratov and Ukraine. At that time, in Dneperpetrovsk lived another cousin of Mikhail – Boris Evgenievitch Marshnep / Маршнер Борис Евгеньевич. He was the son of Lidia Alexandrovna Marshnep (née Podust) / Лидия Александровна Маршнер (Подуст) (transaltor’s note: Lidia tragically disappeared in Kiev during the Russian civil war on her way to do some shopping at the Bazaar). This was how the contact between relatives was established after many years. After completing the War Academy, grandfather was posted as commander of an artillery regiment in the city of Dneprpetrovsk. There he met and remained forever friends with Boris Evgenievitch Marshnep and his family. At that time, to Dneprpetrovssk would come Olga Pobezhimova (née Kotchoubey)…
In the late 1960s, Georgi Kotchoubey (Zhorzh as he called himself and how he was called by relatives in private) traveled to visit Boris Marshnep and Mikhail Podust in Kiev (the Marshner and Podust family at that point had moved back to Kiev). It was at that time that Mikhail and Zhorzh met for the first time and during their conversations it became evident that they studied in the same Artillery Officer’s Staff school in exactly the same years during the war.”
After Galina’s betrayal, Zhorzh subsequently married Anfisa “Inessa” Ivanovna (née Soboleva), (June 10, 1920-Oct. 22, 1969) during the war and because of the terrible betrayal he was estranged from his first wife, his daughter, Lydia and his two grandsons, Alexei & Dmitri. Inessa, his second wife on the other hand was devoted to him and was always with him. Friends say that she was a very nice lady and liked by everyone. It was his third wife Nina Alekseievna Dmitrievskaya, (Aug. 5, 1923- ) whom he married in 1971 a few years after Inessa died. Nina had been married twice before: her first husband was Vladimir Kaliakin / Владимир Калякин and her second husband was Oleg Krotkov / Олег Кротков. Her husband, Vladimir Kaliakin and Zhorzh had worked together and their families had remained friends since they met. As they were both widowed, it seemed natural that the two lonely friends would become husband and wife. Nina was the person who finally persuaded him, just before his death to reestablish contact with his real family.
When Andrei Sergeievitch first met his cousin, Zhorzh in 1991, he never told his cousin about them. Zhorzh only talked about his adopted daughter Natasha and her family as well about his two stepchildren and step grandsons, ie Nina Alexeevna’s children and grandchildren.