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Victor Olerskiy published a column in the journal Russian Pioneer No.74, in which the former Deputy Minister for Transport for the Russian Federation discussed being inspired both during his childhood and as an adult by the writings of the author Valentin Pikul. In the column, Victor Olerskiy talks of his memories and experiences of Pikul’s work, as well as about meeting the writer’s widow, Antonina Ilyinichna Pikul, at a gala event. The short video attachment gives a brief outline of the life of Valentin Pikul. 

Early Years of Reading 

In his column on Pikul, Victor Olerskiy begins by talking about his early experiences of literature, which were intertwined with his early experiences of the sea. Olerskiy, who has spent the majority of his adult life in maritime-related professional roles, looks at his parents’ influence on his childhood dreams, discussing how their influence and passion for the sea and rivers did not push him towards a career that he did not want, but instead formed the basis of what would become a lifelong passion. Olerskiy then goes on to talk about how the second influence in his life at this time was books, and in particular the books of Valentin Pikul. While Olerskiy loved many writers and was widely read – in thanks partly to his parents determination to have their own library – his passion for the works of Valentin Savvich Pikul stood out in his memory. Olerskiy reminisces fondly about his copy of Requiem Caravan PQ-17, which he describes as having a soft cardboard binding that he remembers as being in an unfortunate state due to his continued reading and re-reading of the prose. This book provided Olerskiy with the inspiration necessary to begin working towards returning to his then home city of St. Petersburg to the status of sea capital. 

Russian literature has a long history that can be traced back to the Middle Ages, and today there is a popular folk saying that claims the country as the “the world’s most reading nation”. Learn a little more about some of the most famous Russian authors throughout history in the PDF attachment to this post. 

Work in the Russian Shipping Industry 

Later in his column, Victor Olerskiy goes on to give an overview of some of his work within the Russian shipping industry, paying particular attention to the areas he has felt most passionately about and that were in some way inspired by his reading of Pikul. These include his appointment to the Maritime Council and the Polar Convoy organisation. This work involved participation in a number of what Olerskiy refers to as the noblest of tasks, such as restoring historical memory and organising meetings for veterans. Some of this work was what led to Olerskiy’s initial meeting with Antonina Pikul, which was organised by their mutual comrade, Captain First Rank Nenashev, the head of the Fleet Support Fund. This interaction led to Olerskiy’s attendance at Antonina’s anniversary in Riga in Latvia. 

Meeting Pikul’s Widow 

Victor Olerskiy talks poignantly about his second meeting with Antonina Pikul, where he was finally able to discuss with her his admiration for her late husband’s work. The visit included both a public gala dinner and a second, more intimate day, where the pair visited the apartment where Pikul had worked and lived as well as his grave. Initial plans were made for a revival of Pikul’s work and a redeployment of his archives from Latvia to Russia. 

Russia has recently opened what has been termed the world’s most expensive library. Learn more about this in the embedded infographic.