Society » Real life stories

British engineer was ready to break the Soviet border to love his Russian wife

GroverIn USSR, Beria was in charge of the case of the British pilot in love, and in Great Britain - Chamberlain
Famous Soviet detective writer Lev Sheinin wrote a story Mr Grover's Love based upon a true love story of British Brian Grover and Russian woman Yelena Golius. In 1938, the British violated the Soviet border in a weak plane because he was rejected an official entry visa to come and see his wife staying in the Soviet Union.

The romantic pilot took a plane to reach Russia illegally. He landed in Russia's Kalinin Region November 13, 1938. The KGB believed he was a spy, detained him and took to the KGB office in Lubyanka Street in Moscow. The whole of the world protested against the arrest and demanded that the pilot in love must be released. It was Lavrentiy Beria himself who was in charge of the case.

Some facts in Sheinin's story were true and some were just fiction. The author wrote nothing about subsequent years of the couple and what happened to them next.

A journalist who once again came across the story by Sheinin wanted to find out more details about the life of the legendary couple. The journalist decided to find relatives of Yelena Golius and successfully found two nieces of the legendary woman whom the brave British loved so passionately that even risked to break the Soviet border. Galina Golius, 72, one of the two nieces of the legendary woman lives in St.Petersburg. She agreed to tell the story of her aunt.

The real story of Yelena Golius disagrees with the one described by Lev Sheinin. Yelena came to the Chechen city of Grozny together with her sister and mother right after the Civil War. On their way from Petrograd (now St.Petersburg) their father died of pneumonia. The city of Grozny in that time was the place where intellectuals from Petrograd unwilling to emigrate settled. The Golius family found that life was good there. Yelena nearly died of some terrible disease, but famous Doctor Rogozhin saved her life and eventually fell in love with her. Yelena and Rogozhin got married, and it was a wonderful match for the woman. The marriage gave her the status, an individual cottage with furniture, garden and servants and wonderful life. The woman had nice dresses and organized luxurious parties in the evenings. Once, doctor Rogozhin made some awkward statements which could be interpreted as chauvinism that is why it was better for him to move to some place otherwise the KGB would have prosecuted him for chauvinism.

Soon, the Soviet authority reduced space per person in Yelena Golius' cottage, and two male foreigners were sent to her house as lodgers. Both were engineers from private American petroleum companies who came to Grozny for construction of the world's second large oil plant.

One of the lodgers, Brian Grover, 32, fell in love with Yelena who was 37 at that time. The man had wonderful education, was married to a lady and had a son. Yelena also took notice of the British engineer. At her regular evening parties, Yelena looked wonderful in a blue dress; she danced with Brian and talked a lot. Later, they got married.

When Grover's contract expired, he wanted to prolong it to stay together with the woman he loved. To prolong the contract, Brian Grover went to Moscow and took Yelena to Moscow as well. Unfortunately, the contract was not prolonged, and Brian Grover had to get back to London alone. He left, and next time they met in five years. Neither Mr.Grover nor Yelena was given visas to go and see each other. Yelena wanted to go to London as a tourist but was not given a visa again.

Millions of men easily forget about women they ever loved and left in some remote country. But Brian Grover always remembered Yelena. He showered the Soviet Embassy in England with inquiries about the fate of his wife Yelena. Brian even wrote to Mikhail Kalinin in Moscow and asked to let him come to Moscow and take Yelena. Yelena realized perfectly well that it was probably the end of her marriage to the British man. Brian's passionate love letters were the only thing that still reminded her of him and helped believe that everything might be well all the same. Grover wrote two letters a week. Yelena's nieces kept the letters all the years since that time.

The desperate man decided to take pilot lessons and go to the Soviet Union in a small plane illegally alone. The KGB arrested him as a spy. In December 1938, Yelena Golius was summoned to KGB for interrogation in connection with the spy case.

The whole of the British Embassy came to the trial on Grover. It was expected that because of the spy charges Brian Grover would be sentenced to ten years of exile in Siberia. That was a purely political process; it was a good opportunity for the Soviet authority that organized sweeping repressions at that period to demonstrate its humanity. The Hitler press predicted that if spy Grover were executed, this would antagonize the West toward the USSR once and for all.

The court sentenced Brian Grover to one thousand rubles of fine and absolute freedom. That was a special condition that together with the wife he must leave the Soviet Union within 12 hours. Both Yelena and Brian swore they would never come back to the Soviet Union.

England received the Grovers as heroes, journalists crowded their house to have an interview. But Brian's prudish family did not welcome the Russian daughter-in-law as they believed she spoiled the well organized quiet life of Grover. The engineer could not find proper job, as British employers did not want to have an employee who could do reckless things such as an illegal flight to the Soviet Union. Brian and Yelena had to move to a place where nobody knew their story and asked no questions.

They settled in Africa where Grover built a house for the family, they became farmers; soon Yelena gave birth to two sons.

In 1956, the Soviet magazine Novy Mir published the story by Sheinin and journalists again revealed keen interest in the story of Grover. Hollywood producers even asked to sell the copyright of the love story to shoot a film in Moscow, London and Grozny. Brian treated such offers as another adventure, but Yelena would not like to have her love story showed in a film and would not reveal her real life to some filmmakers. Her nieces say Yelena refused because her real life seriously differed from the story told by the Soviet detective writer. She requested her relatives staying in Soviet Leningrad not to give interviews for free. 

Yelena did not speak English even after the fifty years of living in the English-speaking country. Brian helped her communicate with other people when it was necessary. At home they always spoke Russian.

Yelena died at the age of 94 in three months after she broke her femoral neck.  Brian Grover died in a year.

Moskovsky Komsomolets