Ferapont Golovaty, beekeeper of Saratov, today for the second year in succession, donated 100,000 rubles to Premier Joseph Stalin for the purchase of a latest-model Soviet fighter plane for presentation to Guards Major Yeremin, who in Mr. Golovaty’s first plane fought the Germans at Stalingrad, Rostov, Taganrog, Melitopol and in the Crimea.
From the New York Times, 25 May 1944 (link not to whole article as you need sub)
I find it interesting when beekeepers emerge from the historical record. I am always surprised; I don’t know why. Take this beekeeper, for instance. Apparently, this story featured prominently in the Soviet news at that time. Prominently enough for the NY Times to pick up on it. And, quite rightly so, no the least because Mr. Golovaty was a beekeeper.
However, was the story true? It is questioned by a few sources, one of them being Vasily Grossman, a Soviet writer and Second World War correspondent. I learned about Golovaty from Grossman’s book Everything Flows, the story of a man released after thirty years of imprisonment in Soviet camps. Of course, the people, the places, the world he once knew were totally gone. The book is about his trying to make sense of this, how those who escaped his fate try to make sense of this. In the book, Grossman states
Like everything else that took place in the Soviet Union, this upsurge of spontaneous fury had been conceived and planned well in advance….This was how great writers beloved of the people were chosen; this was how editors chose the text of moving appeals, addressed to young sons fighting on the front line, to be read into microphones by wooden-voiced mothers; this was how Ferapont Golovaty’s sudden patriotic initiative was planned….
Grossman has some interesting, perhaps unexpected, views of what happened in the Soviet Union, even to the extent of presenting the perspective of the informer. Perhaps, a beekeeper buying a war plane was a stage-managed event. But, I admit, I still like the idea of it.
Another Heroic Gesture?
Bees were all over the news yet again here in the UK with the European Union set to ban neonicotinoids (sp?). The UK opposed the ban, saying that the studies upon which the ban was based were inconclusive in that they were conducted in laboratories. UK government officials maintain that field studies would be more persuasive. The media seems to have whipped up a bit of a storm here. But, it has gotten people taking and thinking about bees. And I do like the idea of that.