THE NATION was given an account of an heroic escape from an arctic prison camp in Stalinist Russia by an 80 year old ICE fellow this week.
Andrei Tchernavin was featured in a BBC eyewitness account of how 20M people were killed in the Gulag camps. The three-hour doc- umentary - 'Gulag', screened last Saturday, features Tchernavin's journey from his home in London to revisit the St Petersburg flat where his parents were seized as enemies of the state; and the Gulag camp where his father was imprisoned.
Tchernavin was 12 when his father, Vladimir, was arrested in 1930, followed by his mother, Tatiana, six months later. Stalin had accused Russia's intellectuals for the country's failing economy and Tchernavin's father, an academic, was among those taken in the first wave. He was sentenced to five years in an
Arctic concentration camp. Vladimir's schemes to improve salmon production at the camp were rewarded with two visits from the family.
During the second visit in August 1932, the family set off in a small rowing boat at dawn and finally crossed the Finnish border after walking through a wasteland of swamps and ravines for 22 days.
After two years in Finland, the Tchernavins moved to England where Vladimir worked in the Natural History Museum until his death in 1949, and Tatiana worked as a translator for the Ministry of Information, where she wrote the Russian subtitles for the famous war propaganda film 'In which we Serve' starring Noel Coward. She died in 1971.
Tchernavin went to school in Streatham and on to Battersea Polytechnic where he qualified as a civil engineer. His career included work as the resident engineer on the Bow Flyover in east London from 1964.