Remarks by Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the event honoring the 82nd anniversary of the First Transpolar Chkalov Flight
Dear Superintendent Tracy Fortmann,
Dr. Bob Cromwell,
Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
82 years ago during these days the Pearson Field became historic grounds in Soviet-U.S. and now in Russia-U.S. relations. The landing of the ANT-25 from Moscow with Valery Chkalov, Georgiy Baidukov, Alexander Belyakov on board was not planned. But the conditions were directly in favor both for the crew and local population. The first transpolar flight ended successfully, the Soviet pilots received a warm welcome – both from official representatives and general public. We are especially pleased that our predecessors – soviet diplomats headed by Ambassador Alexander Troyanovsky – soon also came in Vancouver and became forever commemorated in the photos taken during those days.
The atmosphere that could be felt there, “the Spirit of Vancouver” in many aspects became the predecessor of “the Spirit of the Elbe” – a phenomenon that occurred during the meeting of Soviet and U.S. soldiers in Germany at the end of World War II. Many participants of the events back in 1937 could not imagine that soon enough – in four years they will be allies in the fight against the greatest evil of humankind – Nazism. The flight of 1937 played an enormous role in establishing the legendary Alaska-Siberia air route ALSIB, which was used by Soviet and U.S. pilots to jointly ferry airplanes.
I cannot but mention that this day is commemorated in Russia as the Day of Remembrance and Grief. On June 22, 1941 the Great Patriotic War began for the Soviet people. All strength and efforts were used to fight the aggressor that intended to destroy our peoples. Eventually we came out victorious, although the price was high – 27 million lives.
Valery Chkalov did not live to see the war. He died testing a new military airplane. It is peculiar that soon after the war broke out Georiy Baidukov was sent to the U.S. in order to resolve the issue of supplying the Soviet Union with necessary airplanes. Certainly, his popularity and authority in the U.S. were important factors.
Georiy Baidukov and Alexander Belyakov soon directly participated in the war. Just as general George Marshall, who was meeting them in Vancouver – he later became Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. He joined President Roosevelt during the allied conference in Teheran and Yalta. In June of 1945 at the Soviet Embassy in Washington he was honorably awarded with military Order of Suvorov. Later he even headed the U.S. Department of State – he was our colleague. One can say that he developed his first diplomatic skills here, in conversations with the Soviet pilots and diplomats.
Erection of the monument to the crew of Valery Chkalov in Vancouver in 1975 became an incredible act of civil diplomacy, which enormously contributed to the de-escalation of tensions. The Chkalov Transpolar Flight Committee members are worthy for their names to be voiced here today as well.
- President Norman Small
- vice President Alan Cole, and members
- Dick Bowne
- Peter Belov
- Fred Neth
- Ken Puttkamer
- Mayor Lloyd Stromgren
- Steve Small
- Steve Smut
- Dick Osborne
- Danny Greco
- Thomas Taylor
- Jess Frost
We are thankful to them, the Pearson Air Museum and the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site staff, the people of Vancouver, WA for their efforts to preserve our common historic heritage, which is the foundation of Russia-U.S. relations.
Poor weather conditions did not stop Chkalov’s crew from reaching their destination back in 1937. Just as the current “bad weather” in our political relations will not alter the course for developing good relations between our peoples. A historic metaphor belonging to Valery Chkalov, who compared Russians with Americans as “Volga and Columbia rivers, which flow on different continents, do not get in each other’s way and end up in the global ocean” – is still relevant. Just as an ambitious goal that he set for our countries “to perfect the ocean of human life through joint work”.
We have to make our relations great again.