Memories of Commander V.V. Potyazhenko
Published by Maria Piskareva on 5 Mar 2014
Olga Zavadskaya visited on March 4 and 5, 2014 spouses Potyazhenko - Victor Vasilyevich and Margarita Ivanovna. March 6, Victor Vasilyevich has a birthday. He is born in 1933.
Olga asked Potyazhenko spouses some questions and informed me about the results of this meeting. Here is her story:
I was visiting today the spouses Potyazhenko. They gave me three hours. Wonderful, simple, cute people! Victor Vasilyevich himself told everything. Of course, much of the memory has been erased or altered. They saw on REN TV a film about Dyatlov group, they called the station but nobody wanted to listen to them. Margarita Ivanovna said that they spent significant amount of money calling. They wanted to correct the mistakes.
Victor Vasilyevich participated in the search for Dyatlov group from February 24-25 to May 5. He was the ONLY ONE flywing to the pass, he only changed helicopters, so they can refuel.
"In Ivdel, Colonel Ortyukov commanded my flights, the order was to fly to Otorten." He doesn’t remember exactly the day when he flew to the pass for the first time, but says it was February 24th or 25th.
Victor Vasilyevich recalls: a white, snow-covered, flat top. The helicopter landed at the rock remnant, which is in the photo in the newspaper. All these photos are from his album.
Potyazhenko flew a MI-4 helicopter by route, which he was told - to Mount Otorten. Along Lozva. The top of the mountain was a bare snow plateau. And he said that it was creepy to fly in that area. In an emergency, he said, we would not have found it.
Victor Potyazhenko claims that it was he who discovered the tent on the slope during flying over the pass, together with Ortyukov. A small group of comrades in black sheepskin coats were on the ground, with a small tent already pitched in the forest i.e. there were people present already. It can be assumed that Ortyukov was in the dark about the big game, started by someone... Victor Potyazhenko was then a flight commander.
Following orders they flew to Ivdel on the 1st helicopter and Yak-12 aircraft. On the plane Gorlachenko circled the area to survey the area for search to check whether helicopters could fly there. And flew back to Sverdlovsk.
The orders where to fly gave Ortyukov. He flew by helicopter to Otorten. And they sat on the pass at the boot rock.
The Yak-12 with General Gorlachenko flew back to Sverdlovsk.
He himself then flew to the search party, brought supplies: food..., people brought there and back. There were 4 people in the crew: technician, navigator...
Pilot Patrushev, he did not know.
But there BEFORE the students there were already a lot of people.
On the first arrival they brought a radio station (weighs 20 kg), the next day - a big stove.
The day after they discovered the tent from the air, they flew in with the investigator and prosecutor, with Ortyukov.
And the next day, the bodies were found.
Victor Vasilyevich says that he didn’t see any students at first, only the military. And on the first flight, besides the investigator, were flying people in black fur coats.
The helicopter could take on board up to 12 people (max - 16). He flew to the pass alone, only changed helicopters.
Victor Vasilyevich approached the tent, the tent was not heavily covered with snow. The tent itself was not tilted, with a slight imclination, the sidewall was cut... He looked through the entrance and saw the combat leaflet attached near the entrance ...
The tent was not collapsed, covered with snow only from the side of the slope. On the opposite side there were cuts. You could could see inside the tent. I asked today how was the combat leaflet attached? He said literally the following: "As if wetted and glued to the tent, and the water froze." It was written: Combat leaflet, below: "Evening Otorten", and lower on two halves - on one: what they did today, on the other: tasks for tomorrow.
About the flashlight he didn't say anything. I asked twice about the flashlight. He said: "a flashlight, a light bulb...", and kept thinking.
Victor Vasilyevich said that he did not correspond with journalist G.K. Grigoriev.
We flew to the pass without refueling. The airfield is 3 km from Ivdel. Apparently, he confuses the mileage. It seems to him that they flew quickly. If he had been given a normal aeronautical map it's 5 km, he would have shown everything. But the wife says to fly is more than an hour. She herself did not participate in the search. She was a radio operator in Ivdel.
One helicopter from Kaunas was called in to help! "The presumption was that there would be a lot of work and I could not do it alone". The pilot was one - Potyazhenko.
Victor Vasilyevich claims that he lifted 3 bodies in early March. He does not remember the rest .. He helped to load them into the helicopter, the corpses were clean, completely frozen (February)
The blades of a helicopter span 21 m, total length 32m.
In the newspaper article the heading is inaccurate - Victor Vasilyevich did not find the dead bodies. Only the tent on the slope, "a tent like a swallow's nest"...
Victor Vasilyevich flew to visit the Mansi Stepan Kurikov with him on the search with the permission of Colonel Ortyukov.
Margarita Ivanovna told how she was on duty (radio operator in the Ural district). On radar - a stranger aircraft .... "It was May 1, 1960. It is not pertinent to the search" - remarks V.V. Potyazhenko.
Margarita Ivanovna flew to the slope only once, out of curiosity.
A dog bit her in Ivdel. Apparently, the dog didn’t like something, and slightly bit Margaret Ivanovna’s foot.
Victor Vasilyevich wanted to say that there were very clever dogs on the slope.
And, by the way, the spouses don't find"extraterrestrial trace" in the death of the group.
V.V. said that in May he did not refuse to carry bodies to Sverdlovsk, since only there was a requirement to put them in metal containers. No one threatened him with a pistol (according to Askinadzi - ed. note). He didn't have a gun either. In the photo* with the holster it is not him. Again, there was no gun.
*Olga Zavadskaya had with her this photo. She asked him if he was the man to the right with the holster. V.V. said no. Later on we speculate that he might be the man on the left with the USSR Air Force pilot cap with wings insignia, but this is not confirmed.
Margarita Ivanovna was not his wife at that time, they married a year later. He took her from Ivdel. In 1959 she worked at the airfield in Ivdel as radio operator. They only requested weather reports from the pass. And there is a radiogram asking about a meteorocket.
Margarita Ivanovna claims that the Patrushev was not allowed to fly to the pass, he did not fly there.
It is interesting that V.V. does not remember any students. That he transported only a soldier. He did not dropped off anyone at Otorten... He was the flight commander of the rescue team. Victor Vasilyevich himself said that it was very difficult for a helicopter to fly there. "It is even harder than even in the Caucasus mountains..."
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Many of V.V. Potyazhenko's answers raised new questions, it was necessary to clarify them one by one, when and with whom Victor Vasilyevich flew to the pass for the first time. Olga gave me the phone number of the spouses Potyazhenko, and I called them.
Victor Vasilyevich answered all the questions, we talked for a long time, the telephone connection was breaking, but I dialed his number again and again until I found out all the incomprehensible moments for me. Many thanks to Victor Vasilyevich for this conversation, for the kindness with which he treated me.
Our conversations followed the questions.
In this photo from V. Potyazhenko's album, we can see search members, it is not clear if they are students. Although we can't figure out yet who the people on the photo are, we had to publish it.
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go back to page 4
Helicopter pilot V.V. Potyazhenko told his version of the events of the terrible night of 1959
Author: Aleksey Kandalov
Published in PROГОРОД on 12 Feb 2014
Recently, relatives of the hikers that died on "Dyatlov Pass" appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Sverdlovsk Region. Close family members made a request to open a new investigation. As they consider, it is impossible to draw an unequivocal conclusion about the causes of death for the whole group. Today our compatriot Victor Potyazhenko called the Pro Gorod editorial office. He said that he was living witness to the events on Mount Otorten. According to him, there are a lot of inaccuracies and inventions in documentaries about what happened. He wants to tell everything he knows about the events that occurred 55 years ago.
The participant in those events met us at home. As it turned out, his wife - Margarita Potyazhenko, is also directly related to the incident. She was a radio operator when it all happened. Half a century has passed, but the events of that time are still being discussed by experts, various theories are being circulated. Pensioners confessed: until the last moment they had not told anyone about what they knew about the terrible event.
The mysterious story happened in February 1959. On the slopes of the mountain, the name of which, translated from the language of the Mansi, sounds like “Don't go there”, under unexplained circumstances, a group of hikers died. Search teams who found them and forensic medical experts were surprised by what they saw there ...
How it all began
- At that time I served in a squadron in the Northern Urals - I was a flight commander, Victor Potyazhenko recalls. - On the eve of February 23, we received an order: tomorrow you will go on the AN-2, Yak-12 aircraft, the Mi-4 helicopter to the city of Ivdel. (At that time, however, as now, it was the center for serving sentences of prisoners). They also added: Commander Gorlak, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force in the Urals District, will fly with you. Unfortunately, I have forgotten his name already. We prepared the planes, and flew to a given point. Arrived, landed on a small airfield. I look around: there is militia everywhere. Everybody running around, fussing. Well, I think - maybe someone escaped from prisoners, so they are looking for them now.
Later it turned out that on the night of February 1 and 2 a group of Sverdlovsk students did not get back. The students went hiking, which was timed to the XXI Congress of the CPSU. For 16 days, the participants in the trek were to ski no less than 350 km along the north of the Sverdlovsk region and make the ascent to the North Ural mountains Otorten and Oyko-Chakur. At some pint, they did not reach the final destination of their route. From the latest reports, the coordinates of the place of possible overnight stay were known. As it became clear, the military was sent to search for them.
- They gave me an order to fly over and inspect the area from the air, the participant of events continues to recall. - Of course, there were big doubts that we would find anything from the height. It was necessary to fly 12 kilometers from Ivdel along the railway. After that, another 50 kilometers to the mountains, where, after 500-600 meters, an ominous plateau opened up.
The interviewee admitted flying was scary. Around changeable relief, alternating plateau. And above the bare, gray landscape - a thick "cap" of clouds. His first landing was in the forest, on a pre-cleared site.
- There was a dense, impassable forest. The height of some cedars reached 5 meters. I requested an area for landing - 50 to 50 meters to be cut down. The square is such that the blades don't touch the branches. That's where I had to "land". The second time I had on board the dog handlers with the dogs. This is where strange things start to happen.
About the strange events
When large service shepherd dogs were tried to be pulled out of the rotary-winged aircraft, they began to resist, to tear from the leashes.
- Search dogs rested paws on the floor. They literally pulled out of the compartment. And when the animals were outside, they lowered their ears and tails. The animals clearly expressed anxiety. They felt something. You know, when they were taken back after the searches, they fled aboard. It was probably possible to walk on them, someone might have come inadvertently - but they didn’t even snap. Although, on the first day one dog bit my spouse by the leg. Here, they were obedient, so long as they were not touched, - our interlocutor noted this interesting observation.
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How was the tent found
That day, Victor was lucky to find a tent. Everything happened completely by accident. Canine went into the mountains to search. The helicopter took off, made a circle and flew towards the base. After 500 meters, the pilot saw something similar to a tent.
- It was certainly difficult to discern the outlines, the interlocutor confessed. - When I flew "home" I passed by radio: the object is located directly from the place from which we took off. There hastily sent a search party on the same evening...
Remembering the scene
And in the morning, our hero was in the scene. With the dawn, he set off with a new team to the pass. After some time, a snow-covered tent was found, with a wall cut from the inside. Everything was left inside, as if that night something made everyone run out without turning back.
- Everything was completely untouched, - he confirmed vis-à-vis. - Things lay in their places - everyone ran out in what they were. In the tent were preserved all the products, alcohol, money left. Inside was a lamp, a sheet of paper was attached with plans for the next day. Remember? There was a version that the guys were attacked by runaway convicts. But the fact that everything was untouched, suggests otherwise. And it was unlikely that those who escaped could hold out for a long time in freezing cold... We looked at everything and discussed it. And then they all went down the steep slope. In some places, it was all powdered with snow on which we saw tracks of footprints. They all led down to the valley...
Results from the search
On that day, February 26, the first victims of a mysterious incident were found.
- The body of a man lying in the snow with arms outstretched, - the memory of the pensioner draws terrible images. - The corpse is all frozen, it was icy. When we had to carry it, I happen to grab the heel. And it broke off! I tried to put it back in place, but where there. So he left it there, because the body was inconvenient to carry.
Victor's wife, Margarita Potyazhenko added: at that time there were severe frosts. My husband had to warm the helicopter for two hours in order to prepare it for a flight. The air temperature sometimes dropped to minus 52 degrees.
The conversation returned to the topic of the terrible find. Some time after the discovery of the first body, another 3 were found. They lay in a kind of lowland, near the ascent to the mountain. An experienced “flyer” remembered broken branches of fir trees, scattered sticks. So far it remains a mystery what did the dead need them for.
- Nearby was a trace of a campfire, the snow was smoky. Means, they kindled a fire. Of course, maybe they wanted to make flooring, but why? There are a lot of questions. The prosecutor with the investigator constantly went aside to whisper, to discuss something. We decided that the bodies could have been buried by snow. They decided to search the holes with special probes, - the witness added.
They searched for the rest of the members of Dyatlov group for weeks. After several more days from the moment of the first "finds", the body of a woman was unearthed, with burnt clothes. And then, until May, they continued to search for people who were considered missing. In the middle of the month, they found 3 mutilated corpses with gouged eyes, burns, no tongue ...
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What are the versions of what happened?
There are a great many theories about what happened on that unfortunate night. Various versions have been published - from mystical, to natural phenomena. Among others: bacteriological weapons sprayed over the forest. But Potyazhenko finds this version amusing. They reacted with a smile to another version: an American spy entered the ranks of the group, and "cleaned" the witnesses.
- All this is untrue, - the spouses laugh. - Why test bacteriological weapons over a completely deserted territory! And speculation about a spy, so it is generally a fairy tale. We guess what could happen there, but we were silent all the time.
In those days, Margarita worked as a radio operator, received and transmitted urgent radiograms. She well remembers how one day during the search she heard: a rocket landed on Otorten.
- I remember those exact words, - assures our fellow countrywoman. - They said that a rocket landed in the mountains. And then came a refutation. Nothing like that happen, it just looked like it. All this, of course, was strange. Moreover, on the night of April 1 and 2 there was an inexplicable event.
What we were told about the strange event
Margaret’s husband, Victor, joined the conversation again. The man said: that night, when the search continued, a luminous object hung above the soldiers' tent.
- The lieutenant told me then, but I didn't believe it. I thought he is fooling me on the April 1st. And everyone said that a luminous "donut" hang above the tent. The attendant dozed off when the whole neighborhood lit up like during the day. He's a soldier and shouted: "Oh lads, I overslept, the sun is shining." He runs out into the street, but this thing hangs over his head, everything is glowing. Boy starts screaming, wakes everyone up... Then at three in the morning, we were looking for everyone in the surrounding forests. Everyone was very scared.
What do our interlocutors think?
The couple are sure that no one will ever tell about the true causes of the tragedy. They tend to believe in an extraterrestrial trace in the case of the death of the group. According to them: that night, something inexplicable happened to the mind of an ordinary person. They become believers on August 23, 1973. - I saw "them", although if I had said this before, I would have been taken to a psychiatric hospital. It all happened near the village of Peshino, near Izhevsk. These "guests" literally floated over the buckwheat field ... I remember their tall stature, under 3 meters. I was really scared of course.
As the hostess added later: my husband after this incident didn't come to himself for a long time. Partially he lost his memory. But most importantly, in spite of the version in the documentaries, that everyone who faced Otorten's secret died, this didn't. Our countrymen remember every day when they searched for the 9 young people.
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".