Interview with Victor Potyazhenko


Interview by Olga May 28, 2014 (

VV - Victor Vasilyevich Potyazhenko       MI - Margarita Ivanovna Potyazhenko

We talked with Victor Vasilyevich for three hours. He patiently answered questions even though previous researchers had already asked them. I showed photographs and diagrams of the pass on the tablet, sorted out how and where the helicopter pilot Potyazhenko flew, who and what he remembers. I was visiting on May 28, 2014, and on June 3 I called Victor Vasilyevich, thanked him on behalf of the Internet community and wished him and his wife good health.

2. Victor Vasilyevich takes his military ID - "Here is my position: deputy squadron commander, July 30, 1958. The title can be awarded in six months or a year."
Margarita Ivanovna intervenes (she just came in from the dacha) - "you were already the captain" (during the search). VV - "Well, maybe." MI - "Because you got a lieutenant at the school (1954) - two years, then a senior lieutenant - two years. So you were already a captain."

3. Could you make two flights a day?
VV: "I could. But I don't remember any dates."

Did you make intermediate landings?
VV: "No. Only once did the Mansi land a hunter in Suevatpaul on the way back from the pass to Ivdel... For some reason I remember February 28 or 29... In my opinion, Kurikov was still there."

Did you take anyone from Otorten?
VV: "No. I flew to Otorten, and then in flight Ortyukov said - so, we’ll fly to Otorten later, fly here, he shows me to this mountain ... I already have an expedition under the mountain... What kind of expedition?... - there I have already people. Okay, it's all the same to me. If I could turn about 15 degrees there - I would go to Otorten... We fly up to this site, I see such a mountain there!!! I need to find a place to land... He (Ortyukov) said: - Here is my group, you should land there. Where? In the forest?! Yes, they made a platform for you there. I look, however, there is a platform, a leveled forest... it was on the first flight. I'm taking a group there to drop off, and there is a group there already. In any case, it's already lived in. Imagine, sawing 30 or 25 meters and pulling it apart - it takes time. "Ortyukov flew with me every time and did not stay there, he returned back every time."

4. VV: "The flights were different. The first time I took a full helicopter and two dogs. I didn't bring anyone back. Only Ortyukov flew back with me. And the second time I did not carry a group, but several people... This is the next day. I was carrying only the prosecutor and the investigator, and Ortyukov. Only these official people... I didn't fly without people. They were always one or two passengers. In my opinion, Ortyukov flew every time. I met him all February there, March - he was also there. But I don't remember what date. And then at the end of March I flew away... no, in the middle of March... I flew in on the first of April, I remember this day... an April Fool's joke ... In February, I flew four times, every day. And in March, at the beginning, I flew three or four times, and that’s all, I didn’t fly again in March... I never spent the night at the pass." "On the first of April, I definitely flew. And the second or third... flew, took a soldier. The soldiers were afraid to be there. They arrived all frozen and went to the dining room. And I said to Gordo (their boss) - you give the command, let them have a glass of pertsovka (pepper vodka), otherwise they will get sick. He said - everyone has a glass of pertsovka. Well, we had lunch here too." I clarified: until February 23, Victor Vasilyevich did not fly.

6.7.9. What did the tent look like? (showing a photo where Karelin and Koptelov)
VV: "That's not how it looked. It just stuck out like a tent. A little bit on the side where the mountain comes from, it was filled up... I saw - higher up, it was like that, is there a mountain here? It was poured on it, so the tent was pressed in... on the other side of the cut ... I went in from this corner (where the cut is), came up ... ... said - do not touch anything... I looked (through the cut, like a rag dangles), bent down - it smells of alcohol. I know the smell of alcohol well... and on this side a frozen combat leaflet was glued... (showed a size slightly larger than the album page - non-standard). "Evening Otorten" was written in pencil: - we did the work today ... - it was written so badly, they probably wrote on a leg, the pencil pierced ... - what they did and the tasks for tomorrow. Everything, nothing more. The paper was not like a newspaper or wallpaper... more like a poster... what are posters made of?"

- 2 -

5. How many times have you changed another aircraft?
VV: "We had a schedule by the clock, if it was time for the maintenance work the helicopter flew away. The schedule is 25-30 hours. Then certain work is done. From Ivdel we flew to Aramil, they look at the helicopter there, we are at home for a day or two. An agreement with Ortyukov - if I am urgently needed. ..if I am not, I won't fly." "In March, I flew four times to the pass, and in April, too, a few times." "I could fly from Aramil on another helicopter. From Aramil, flight time to Ivdel is about 3 hours, and back - 6 hours. If the time limit is 25 hours, then 25-6=19. To the pass 1.5 hours + back = 3 hours. So, I could fly 6 times, then the resource was running out."

11. 12. He flew to the pass both along Auspiya and Lozva, landed near a rock located on the saddle between Auspiya and Lozva. From Ivdel he flew north, then turned west, to the mountains.
"... of course, there were people, I was still surprised, I was taking people, and there were already people there... I flew like this (shows the valley of Auspiya)... here are mountains, here is a hill, here is a lowland... I fly along it, I’m thinking how I can get out here to land, because you can’t go higher. ... I look - there is a tent here (shows a forest on Auspiya on the map), - who is there? - some soldiers were there... I think, where can I land? I climbed higher, flew over the site, I told Ortyukov - I'll fly a little farther - I climbed 150 meters higher, looked at how it would be more convenient for me to land. It's a flat top, it's scary - I can't land there... Let me land here, where the rock was."
He doesn't remember whether he took a weapon with him or not.
We looked at the photo where a pilot is standing with a holster, watching how the corpses are pulled out of the stream. Confirms that this is a pilot. I ask, could it be him? Answer: "It could."

Doing some calculation: they flew in with Gorlachenko on February 24, 1959 (Gorlachenko on a plane, Potyazhenko on a helicopter). While Gorlachenko flew to the mountains, "we just sat, just waited" "But on the 25th we flew, just to see where to land .. ... (I ask the question is he sure he brought the dogs on his first flight)... maybe without dogs. Ortyukov definitely flew."
In my first conversation with VV on March 4-5, I realized that on February 25, 1959, there was a test flight with Ortyukov, without people. But they flew to Otorten, or more precisely, to height 1079, the direction was given by Ortyukov. When VV flew away from the rock, he saw a tent on the slope.
"I dropped off the group, then I found this place (the conversation is about a cut down area on Auspiya near a soldier's tent), where to land... I tell Ortyukov - if you want me to land there, cut me 15 meters in each direction - and to myself I'm thinking - soldiers will cut down this forest for at least a month. (my question: was it a natural site in the forest?) - "everything was sawn there" "A day or two passes, Ortyukov says - it's done, the site is ready, take the stove, a tent... and we flew there. I am thinking - we'll see. We flew - I passed over it, I look, really - they cut everything - some 2-3 days, they smashed everything and made a passage - I can’t land vertically from above, I have to go in... I landed down there, only I didn’t touch the wheels I brought a barrel stove. They barely managed to fit the barrel into the helicopter, and then, when we hovered, they couldn't get it out... we had a winch, we attached the barrel... let it hang... I will come in for a landing ... Hovered about 5 meters, and there they couldn’t unfasten the carbine, and even the soldiers were afraid - snow, wind... I say - nonsense, they won’t unfasten it, drag the barrel into the cockpit, unfasten the carbine and throw it away (of course, I risked it), well, I was confident in myself... I waved my hand to get them away from the helicopter... I told the technician to tell me when it's only 2-3 meters above ground to stop, and he has to throw it away."
About the outlier rock: "Actually, it is a dire stone in itself... when you fly, you think which way to go around it, on the right or on the left?"

8. 10. I am showing a modern photo of the view from Kholat Syakhl and the remnant stones. We figure out where is north, where is south, where the Main Ural Ridge is ... "here I was sitting (landed near the rock), there is a descent (points south to the Auspiya valley), in this place there was the soldier's camp ..." Where did he see the tent of the Dyatlov group, he points to the Kholat Syakhl slope, "700 meters from the rock".

- 3 -

I show photos how the bodies were found on the slope - Igor, Zina, Rustem, near the cedar ... "When we flew there, Ortyukov... we went to the tent, and from the tent we went to the corpses... here are the corpses - the soldiers told us...

"When we arrived, when they were found, I walked... not on purpose, but followed, the investigator counted the steps, and I just looked... they were lying straight down, all three. I followed him and saw how they lay like frozen statues... here is the first one lay, his arm was stretched forward, I still thought ... They lay on the slope - a clean mountain, just lay: one, second, third... In winter, frost, everything covered with snow but the stones..."

"The investigator is walking, counting the tracks - 9 tracks, 9 people - you can see how they were left, it's hard to imagine - the snow was crushed on the bare ground... Well, the investigators are examining, they have more practice. "Let's go - there is the first body, he approached, looked... completely frozen... So we reached the third. I didn’t go further, it’s a long way to climb back”
"Ortyukov consulted - the corpses should be taken away, yes, we will take them away. Ortyukov gives the command - raise the bodies up to the helicopter. And I slowly got up." "I only know what I saw, what I did."

The photos show the bodies of Zina, Igor and Rustem in excavated depressions. "I didn't see them like that, they were naked." I understood this in such a way that they were lying right on the slope, not in the recesses.
Victor Vasilyevich does not remember when exactly were the bodies taken away: "Maybe they arrived later. I could have forgotten." He does not remember if he took away three or four bodies.

1. "I helped them load them into the helicopter... I broke off someone's heel... the heel was in a stocking or a sock. They started to load them but when a body is lying and they started to lift it, you can't take it... you need four people... I thought let me help too... That's how I took it (in his drawing he shows how he took hold of the heel) and something crunched, something fragile, what the hell! (laughs) I look, there is a sock or a stocking... I look, it is lose. I thought if I press it back, maybe it will stick, freeze. But it didn’t stick, apparently ... This piece, the heel itself, crunched and moved away half a centimeter... I pushed it back into place, and put it into the cabin. That's it." "The corpses were frozen, they were not wrapped in anything, they were just loaded."

More details about the bodies found in May:
"... I refused to transport them from Ivdel airport to Sverdlovsk... And from the pass - what questions could there be - I had to help them... there was no conversation... Ortyukov said - we must take them - they were already in Ivdel. At the pass, I didn't say anything to him. ... I don’t remember anymore, they were wrapped in something there.
In Ivdel I called the district if they will allow me or not (I only dealt with Ortyukov), I called the dispatcher in the flight department - we have one, he says - now I will report to the boss, he will call yo ... And he calls me - I categorically forbid transporting corpses, if they want to transport them, let them make coffins, or put together boxes, or barrels, whatever, as long as the corpses are closed. They gave me such a command and I said that I will not transport... I told Ortyukov that they gave me a command - not to transport.

"I flew only to the pass - along the valley of Lozva and Auspiya."

P.S. I re-read the protocol of the interrogation of the Ivdel prosecutor V.I. Tempalov dated April 18 at the regional prosecutor's office, he writes about one found corpse, and then about three. He examined the tent... The description of it all I wrote already in the office ...
I'm more interested in why the Vizhay rescue team went along an unknown ski track without ski poles (where did they go? along Auspiya?) straight to Kholat Syakhl. Yes, and Ortyukov flew there too. And they were preparing to search for a long time... until spring.

From Potyazhenko's archive

You can see Potyazhenko's landing site and Syunikaev's unit 6602 camp on these maps. But take a closer look. Potyazhenko drew his landing site on a rock on the steep slope of Otorten. Semiletov and Bobrikov based their maps on the one Potyazhenko drew and gave Kuntsevich, but they moved Potyazhenko's landing site on the Lunthusaptur lake, the first place where a helicopter could have landed south of Otorten. The route on the last (simplified, no contour lines) map is drawn by Potyazhenko himself in 2014 during an interview by Irina. The route is clearly not ending on Otorten but the Dyatlov Pass. In that same interview Irina says that she had given up showing Potyazhenko other maps he can't see well. His sight has not gotten any better in four years when he circled in 2018 where he landed in 1959. Also he had taken picture of the rock where he landed and that is the rock with the monument plaque on the Dyatlov Pass. In another interview by Olga Potyazhenko clearly says that he "landed near a rock on the saddle between Auspiya and Lozva". When Potyazenko was shown a modern photo of Kholat Syakhl and the outlier rock: "here I was sitting (landed near the rock), there is a descent (points south to the Auspiya valley), in this place there was the soldier's camp..." Where did he see the tent of the Dyatlov group, he points to the Kholat Syakhl slope, "700 meters from the rock".


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