Chronicle: Akito Hirotani—Miracle violin that survived the A-bombing, Part 7

by Akito Hirotani, former English teacher living in Hiroshima City

Sergei Palchikoff and his wife, Alexandra, moved to the United States in 1951. Sergei began work as an instructor at an Army language school in California, engaging in the establishment of a Russian language education program at the school. After retirement, he devoted himself to teaching the violin and to his photography hobby. Sergei died at the age of 76 in 1969. Alexandra died at the age of 87 in 1985.

Their daughter, Kaleria, left for the United States in 1948 and married Paul Drago, a member of the U.S. military. Soon after arriving, her story was reported by the media in sensational fashion as “the Caucasian woman who experienced the Hiroshima A-bombing.” Thereafter, she maintained silence about her experience.

In 1986, Kaleria received an invitation to a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Hiroshima Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School. Recalling the terror she experienced at the time of the atomic bombing, she felt hesitant at first, but finally made up her mind to visit Hiroshima. She met with her former classmates again and renewed old friendships in Japanese. She brought her father’s A-bombed violin and donated it to the school. Kaleria died at the age of 93 in 2014.

Nicolay, the oldest son who had visited Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bombing and witnessed the tragic aftermath with his own eyes, continued to serve in the U.S. military for a time after the end of the war, but he made a drastic change in life amid the Cold War era. His change of heart happened during military evacuation drills designed for the general public in preparation for a nuclear war scenario. His job was to classify evacuated residents into “the exposed” and “the unexposed.” He became furious about the military’s ignorance of the consequences of nuclear weapons’ use and resigned. He began attending college and participated in the anti-nuclear movement. His trip by bicycle from Tokyo to Hiroshima as a plea to encourage people to oppose nuclear weapons was picked up in the press. He would also share his A-bombing experiences at the World Conference of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) in Hiroshima. Nicolay died at the age of 79 in 2003.

David, the youngest son, was active in the U.S. military in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, after which he became a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church, serving the church in Kenya. David died at the age of 62 in 1995.

(Originally published on August 24, 2021)