The members of the RGS expedition presented Irina Tkachuk, a St. Petersburg resident, with a commemorative badge made from a fragment of the aircraft skin, with the aircraft number of her great-grandfather, the “Douglas” C-47 flight mechanic Leonid Deribin. The meeting was held at the Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in St. Petersburg.
The story of the search for the "Ponomarenko’s Plane", whose crew member was Leonid Aleksandrovich Deribin, we told in detail in one of the articles. The military transport C-47 "Douglas" with the tail number 22398, which the pilots were transporting from the USA to the USSR under the Lend-Lease program, crashed in Yakutia on November 25, 1943. According to the official version, the cause was a fire from a short circuit of the control wiring. Heavy smoke in the cockpit aggravated the already difficult flight conditions, which were low clouds and mountainous terrain.
The "ALSIB" (abbreviated name of the Alaska— Siberia air route) is an air corridor with a length of 6,500 km, that connected the USA and the USSR during the Great Patriotic War. Under the Lend-Lease agreement, the United States supplied us with fighters, bombers, transport and training aircraft. For their transportation, a year-round and round-the-clock air route was needed, along which Soviet pilots could deliver aircraft to the front. Despite the inaccessibility of the areas where airfields were built, they were erected in the shortest possible time: in just five to eight months. Since 1942, more than 8,000 aircraft had arrived at the front along the ALSIB Air Route, which contributed to the future victory.
In 2022, at the end of the field season of the RGS expedition, its participants contacted Pavel Deribin's relatives living in St. Petersburg. It turned out that the grateful descendants of the hero cherish the memory of him.
The other day, Leonid Deribin's great-granddaughter Irina Tkachuk and her son Sasha were invited to the Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in St. Petersburg to meet with the expedition participants. Its supervisor, Candidate of Historical Sciences Pavel Filin and one of the active participants, the head of the Kostroma Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Roman Ryabintsev handed Irina Tkachuk a fragment of the wreckage of the "Douglas" and a medallion made of metal skin of the aircraft.
“The general history of the country consists of the stories of families,” said Ilya Gurov, First Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society, who was present at the meeting.
On behalf of the Russian Geographical Society, he invited Irina and Sasha to Patriot Park as guests of honor for the opening of the exhibition dedicated to the expedition projects of the Russian Geographical Society.
The great-granddaughter of the hero did not hide that she was very touched by such attention.
“I had no idea that I would ever become a participant in such a significant event for our family, and I am grateful to the Russian Geographical Society, which organizes such search expeditions,” Irina Tkachuk said.
We would like to remind you that the expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to explore the objects of the Alaska — Siberia air corridor and search for crashed aircraft has been conducted since 2021. Its participants explore airfields built during the Great Patriotic War in the Far East and Siberia, search for crashed aircraft, study the fate of crew members.