This project is dedicated to Nison Gavrielov זצ״ל, who was killed in combat during WWII, while fighting for the Russian army against the Germans. The search was conducted by both Gavriel and Nisan Gavrielov – who are great-grandchildren of the fallen hero. Their goal was to systematically search for the location of their great-grandfather burial ground, and they were determined to do so during their grandfather’s (Gavriel Gavrielov’s) lifetime.
The interest in finding the grave started with Gavriel Gavrielov. It began in mid-2011 when he inquired from his grandfather about his great-grandfather’s death. Gavriel was provided with a letter, which stated the date and location of his great-grandfather’s death. This letter would be the first stepping stone for the search.
Gavriel took this letter and began to search online for information about a town called Tatarinkovo, in the Oryal oblast of Russia. However, the internet did not provide him with too much information. No matter how much he searched, such a town didn’t seem to exist. Out of a lack of progress, he took a break from the project and planned to revisit it at another time.
About a year later, Gavriel revisited the project and began to put more effort into his search. The words in the letter continued to stand out to him “Tatarinkovo, in the Oryal oblast of Russia”. Gavriel discussed his interest with his cousin, Nisan Gavrielov, who was also interested in the search. Together, they were going to find their great-grandfather’s burial site.
Gavriel and Nisan had to split the responsibilities for the search. Once or twice a week, each would share with the other what they had found. Gavriel was going to search the Oryal oblast, to find the location of Tatarinkovo. Nisan’s duty was to contact Russian officials and read Russian materials online, which would help them in their search.
Nisan’s focus was honed into getting through to the authorities of the Russian Federation, and the Oryal oblast. But first, he used his resources at home. There was a local resident (who he met in his synagogue) that wanted to help him in his search. This man introduced himself as a former soldier who fought in the Oryal oblast, for the Russian army, during WWII. He expressed that he knew where letters could be mailed, regarding searches of fallen soldiers. The man was even generous enough to write two letters on behalf of Nisan - one to the Russian Federation and the other to the Oryal oblast. The letters were mailed in the fall of 2012.
Only one letter returned with a response, and it was from the Russian Federation. There were no letters received from the Oryal oblast. The authorities at the archive department of the Russian Federation informed Nisan that they didn’t have any information regarding his great-grandfather and that contact would need to be made with the Oryal oblast's archive department.
At that time, Gavriel was vehemently trying to locate the town of Tatarinkovo. He searched via satellite and scanned through the entire Oryal oblast, at a scope of 200 feet, but there was no mention of a town called Tatarinkovo. So he discussed it with Nisan, who began to apply Russian searches in attempting to find the location of this town. He was able to locate the Kolpnyansky region's official website, and found that there was mention of a town called Tatarinkovo. Gavriel began to search the present-day area of the Kolpnyansky region, via satellite, but was unable to find Tatarinkovo. After doing some further research on the Kolpnyansky region, it was learned that the town of Tatarinkovo was actually merged in with another town and no longer existed as its own unique area.
The Kolpnyansky region website also provided a link which was promoting the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Oryal and Kursk (which took place between the Russians and the Germans in WWII). This was important, in that it would help the search gain specific information of battle plans; maps; war memorials, etc... So Gavriel began to search through the link. With the help of a translating program, he managed to find battalions; regiments; and fronts which the Russians had documented. Additionally, he looked for the areas in which these different fronts were spread; and discovered locations of mass graves that were constructed for fallen soldiers. He then came across some groundbreaking information in their search. There was a list that made a reference to the town of Tatarinkovo in the Kolpnyansky region of the Oryal oblast. This list provided two military formations that were stationed in the town of Tatarinkovo, and they were the 48th army and the 13th army. Both of these armies suffered great losses of life, and mass graves were dug on February 4th of 1943 to bury the dead. These locations eventually became memorial sites.
With these new findings, questions began to arise. Firstly, the date of death stated on the provided letter was February 2nd 1943; while the memorials stated that soldiers were buried on February 4th 1943. Was Nison Gavrielov actually buried with those groups of soldiers? Secondly, which battalion could he have been in, the 13th army or the 48th army? And thirdly, the archive information referred to memorial sites being erected in the town of Tatarinkovo. If such a town no longer existed, where could those memorials have been now?
Gavriel chose to enter his great-grandfather’s name on Google, in Russian text. What he had found drastically changed the dynamics of their search. He found an article of an interview that took place on 11/26/2012, by a Russian newspaper company called Orlavsky Pravda, with a man named Andrey Sirotov. The article basically mentioned of an organization in the Oryal oblast called Samalyot (Airplane), whose mission was to locate graves and perform exhumation of deceased soldiers that were killed in WWII. Mr. Sirotov was the head of this project and was promoting his organization. In the article, Mr. Sirotov mentions of a letter he received from an American (Nisan Gavrielov), who requested the Oryal government to inquire about the burial site of his great-grandfather. This letter had been forwarded by the Oryal government to Mr. Sirotov’s organization for research. Mr. Sirotov reported that he had searched, along with the Oryal government, and found the location of the burial site. After finding the location, Mr. Sirotov expressed that he had mailed the information to the deceased's family in the United States, along with photographs of the site. After reading this article online, Gavriel made a call to Nisan and notified him about his findings. He then asked if Nisan had received any letters from the Russian Oryal oblast. Nisan said he didn’t receive any letters.
Nisan managed to find the interviewee’s (Mr. Sirotov’s) information online and sent him an email referring to the contents of his interview with Orlavsky Pravda. Nisan highlighted the fact that in the article Mr. Sirotov mentioned that he had mailed the fallen soldier's family in the United States, but that they hadn't received anything.
On September 25, 2013, Nisan received an email from Andrey Sirotov. Mr. Sirotov attached the original letter he had mailed the year prior, along with photos of the burial site (1, 2, and 3). In the letter, Mr. Sirotov explained that from his research, on Nison Gavrielov, it was evident that even though the original burial site was in Tatarinkovo, the graves were relocated on November 6th, 1948 to a nearby city called Ushakovo. New memorial plaques were erected in the center of that town, and it had become the final resting place for the fallen soldiers. Mr. Sirotov went further to explain that due to the heavy fighting with the Germans in the last days of Nison Gavrielov's life, most of the records were lost or destroyed.
Nisan met with his grandfather, Gavriel Gavrielov and showed him the pictures, of his father's burial site, on his phone. Later that day, Gavriel provided him with the prints. Nisan also emailed his great uncle's daughter with the photos and information of the findings; for he, Daniel Gavrielov, had attempted to locate the grave on his father many years ago but was unsuccessful.