Norilsk pilot buried in Germany
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Norilsk pilot buried in Germany

March 26, 2021

Stepan Verebryusov’s wife agreed to part with the testimonies of her husband’s short but such a bright life forty years after his death.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The original certificate issued for the pilot of the Norilsk NKVD combine, major Verebryusov, stating that he was sent to Berlin on business, was dated July 6, 1945. It has a mark on the departure from Moscow at the end of the month, on July 30.

That document appeared in the Norilsk Museum during the preparation of the 1985 exposition. It was accompanied by an obituary from the Za Metal newspaper, announcing Stepan Verebryusov’s death on October 9, 1945, and photographs of the legendary pilot.

The materials related to the most famous pilot of the Norilsk combine’s squadron were kept in his family until that time. In 1945, deputy people’s commissar of Internal Affairs Avraamy Zavenyagin helped Verebryusov’s widow move from Norilsk to Moscow, closer to her sister, took care of housing and work. Forty years later, Zoya Verebryusova agreed to part with the testimonies of a very short (only 32 years old!), but such a bright life of her husband. A polar pilot who was born in the Crimea.

Stepan Verebryusov’s father, a teacher at the male gymnasium in Feodosia, dreamed and wrote about space even earlier than Tsiolkovsky did. His grandfather, after whom the future pilot was named Stepan, was a very famous archaeologist in the Crimea and was awarded a memorial plaque.

Stepan Verebryusov’s flying career began in Poltava, where he was sent after the Simferopol pilot school.

The polar pilot was transferred to the Norilsk squadron in 1941. It is known that Verebryusov was transferred to Norilsk thanks to Zavenyagin, who headed the combine’s construction.

About the Norilsk period of the pilot’s life, that is only the last five years, is known mainly from the few published memoirs and orders for awarding. With the wording ‘for selfless work in polar aviation’, the 1st class pilot was awarded the Order of the Red Star and the Badge of Honor.

It was Verebryusov who received the first electrolytic nickel from the Norilsk combine in Dudinka on May 1, 1942 and delivered it to Krasnoyarsk a day later. In 1944, in a blizzard, 96 hours before the start of the second stage of the combined heat and power plant, he flew from Krasnoyarsk with a valve under the fuselage and wedges to secure the generator armature windings. The plane landed blindly right in the village, near the pumping station. And these are only two of the most famous episodes of the polar aviation pilot’s Norilsk biography.

In 1945, on a business trip to Germany, from which Stepan Verebryusov did not return, he was sent by the deputy people’s commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR Avraamy Zavenyagin. According to the recollections of the pilot’s son, the urgency of the flight – on May 10, on the second day after the Victory – did not surprise anyone. The family connected that trip with the export to the Soviet Union of the equipment of the German institute, where the famous geneticist Timofeev-Ressovsky worked. The death of Verebryusov, who crashed on a motorcycle in the city of Ribnitz-Damgarten, according to the pilot’s son, also happened because of the scientist: someone did not want to give Timofeev-Resovsky to Zavenyagin.

It is known that in 1945 a group of pilots and technicians was sent to Germany in the Soviet-occupation zone. They were supposed to select, repair and test captured aircraft in the air, as a result of which there were fatalities. But Stepan Verebryusov died not in the sky, but on earth, as it is written in the obituary: ‘under unclear circumstances’.

The grave of Verebryusov, who was buried at the soldiers’ cemetery in Ribnits, in June 1946, was moved to the Soviet cemetery in the city of Rostock.

After the pilot’s death, a personal steamer was added to the two orders of the honorary polar explorer. The Amur, renamed Stepan Verebryusov after repairs, sailed like a passenger steamer along the Yenisey.

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Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Norilsk Museum

March 26, 2021

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