Chronicle: Akito Hirotani—Miracle violin that survived the A-bombing, Part 5

by Akito Hirotani, former English teacher living in Hiroshima City

Immediately after the atomic bomb was dropped, Sergei Palchikoff's oldest daughter Kaleria lost consciousness. When she came to, she thought she had been blinded, what with dust stirred up by the collapsed walls obscuring everything from sight. The others in the family were trapped under the collapsed walls, but they ended up being fine, with only Kaleria suffering a slight head injury.

Soon, countless A-bomb survivors were rushing to the Ushita area from the central part of Hiroshima City, on their flight further away from the city seeking refuge. The Palchikoff family joined the silent crowd of people with a few of their belongings and the violin. They were unable to walk for long, however, as Alexandra, Mr. Palchikoff's wife, had been in poor health. Mr. Palchikoff sought food at one house along the way. To his surprise, the owner of the house provided them with sustenance and let them stay for several days. According to the book Surviving Hiroshima, written by Mr. Palchikoff's grandson Anthony Drago, ten families, complete strangers to each other, sheltered at the house of the “Matsumoto” family.

Kaleria traveled back and forth to a nearby army hospital over a period of several days to help treat and care for A-bomb survivors. She later collapsed due to the stressful circumstances and the trying work. After World War II ended, a U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey team carried out interviews of Hiroshima A-bomb survivors. Kaleria provided the sole English testimony, in which she described details about what she had experienced at the time of the atomic bombing.

The marvel is that everyone helped each other under the dire circumstances following the atomic bombing with no particular attention to the fact that the Palchikoff family was from another country. One wonders whether, under such extreme conditions, they were all desperate merely to “live and let live.”

After the end of the war, the Palchikoff family was sent to the Taishakukyo Gorge area in northeastern Hiroshima Prefecture with other White Russians. The family was ordered to stay at the Japanese-style inn Daikokuya for two months. One day, in September, Mr. Palchikoff returned to Hiroshima City in an attempt to locate his acquaintances.

(Originally published on August 20, 2021)