Chronicle: Akito Hirotani—Miracle violin that survived the A-bombing, Part 8

by Akito Hirotani, former English teacher living in Hiroshima City

The violin was donated by Kaleria, Sergei Palchikoff’s oldest daughter, to Hiroshima Jogakuin School (present-day Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior & Senior High School) in 1986. Not in any condition to be used for performing, the instrument was exhibited in the history museum at Hiroshima Jogakuin University for an extended period. In 2011, the school asked Takashi Ishii, a violin maker, to take on the job of restoring the violin. Mr. Ishii’s workshop in Italy spent three months on the repairs, and with that the violin’s quality sounds were brought back to life.

Certain things are clear regarding the origins of the violin. It was Mr. Palchikoff’s favorite, and on the inside is a plate inscribed with the words “Yuri Palchikoff 1920.” Anthony Drago, Mr. Palchikoff's grandson, came to the conclusion, in consultation with a genealogist acquaintance, that Yuri must have been one of Mr. Palchikoff’s uncles. One can imagine that Yuri might have presented the violin to Mr. Palchikoff as a wedding gift.

Completely by accident, I became involved in activities related to the two A-bombed musical instruments known as “Akiko’s piano” and “Mr. Palchikoff’s violin.” At first, I had no knowledge about any connection between the two instruments. In 2019, however, I found an entry in Akiko Kawamoto’s diary she wrote as a fourth-grade student at the elementary school attached to Hiroshima Jogakuin School. The entry described how she had played the tambourine in an orchestra taught by a certain violin teacher. When I sent a photograph of Akiko from around that time to Mr. Drago last year, he sent a different photo back to me. In it, Akiko can be seen holding a tambourine in her hand on the far right of the front row of girl students surrounding Mr. Palchikoff. I will never forget the surprise I felt the first time I looked at that photo.

The more I looked into the aforementioned piano and violin, I began to believe it disrespectful to simply label them “A-bombed musical instruments.” When the two instruments are played in unison, Mr. Palchikoff and Akiko seem to me as if they are using the music to communicate with each other about their lives.

This article concludes the series “Chronicle: Akito Hirotani—Miracle violin that survived the A-bombing.”

(Originally published on August 25, 2021)