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How the Russian Revolution brought the rarest of medals to Derbyshire - 08/11/2017

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These rare medals, complete with provenance, are coming up for auction in November.

With Remembrance Sunday upon us, it feels only right to dwell on our Militaria section and the extraordinary stories it unearths.

Sadly, world conflict is always with us which is why it’s important we learn lessons from the past and honour those who have fallen.

War-related items that come to our door help us do that. Their stories allow us to remember people who have fought and died in conflicts across the centuries.

For example, this year we sold a Derbyshire soldier’s Boer War collection for £4,000 and it brought his war history back to life.

Yet another extraordinary find has come into our Militaria section from Wirskworth - one that stunned our expert Adrian Stevenson.

Consigned to our November 29 auction is a rare First World War Imperial Russian medal group awarded to Mikhail Vasilievich Braikevitch. Its provenance includes a photo of him with his friends, composers Nickolai Medtner and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The medals are so unusual the lot has an estimate of £1,000 to £1,200. Adrian has never sold one before. So why have they turned up in Wirksworth?

They belong to 82-year-old Ian Smith, who befriended Mikhail’s daughter, Karina, and her husband the Rev Fielding-Clarke after they moved to Hazelwood and, later, Wirksworth. Both are buried in Hazelwood Church in graves marked by a Russian cross.

 Conflict was at the route of Karina’s arrival in the UK in 1917. Her family had to leave Russia due to the Russian Revolution – which led to the rise of the Soviet Union -  and this year marks its 100th anniversary.

Liberals made their escape and the Braikevitch family moved to London. Mikhail, a respected engineer in his homeland, was awarded two Order of Saint Vladimir imperial medals for his work on Odessa harbour in the Ukraine and the Siberian railway.

 Mr Smith got to know Karina and her husband through his fascination with Russia. Born in Littleover, he worked at International Combustion in Derby but, when his annual leave came along, he stepped out of the norm. Back in the 1970s he took his German wife Ursula and their then 15-year-old daughter Erika on a 21-day, 7,100-mile journey across Russia –  during the Cold War.

 The ‘holiday’ was such big news Mr Smith shared reports of his adventures with Radio Derby. It was something he wanted to do because of his late wife’s family connections to Russia.

 When he discovered Mr Fielding-Clarke was involved in peace activities in Russia and lived in Hazelwood, he had to get in touch.

 The families became lifelong friends and Mr Smith did all he could to care for Karina and her husband in their twilight years.

Away from the rhetoric of political leaders, friendships like this showcase humanity at its best.

The medals will be sold in our November 29 Militaria auction. Entries are closed but welcome for our 2018 Militaria auctions. Free antique valuations are available at our saleroom in Heage Lane, Etwall, on Wednesday from 5-7.30pm, Fridays, 9am-4pm and Saturdays, 9am-noon. To find out more, email or call 01283 733988.

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