Ivan Ivanovitch Gavrilov



A day after she landed at Schiphol airport, after travelling from far off Kurgan, Zoya Kozyreva stood at her father’s grave at nine ‘o clock on May 4th. “I have found peace, now I can die”, she said at the Soviet War cemetery in Leusden.

Zoya’s father, Ivan Gavrilov, departed for the front immediately after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. He was reported missing in action and never returned. Zoya’s mother died straight after war’s end, so that she grew up in an orphanage.

Zoya (74) never knew that her father had been made a prisoner. When the American army liberated his camp in Hemer, Gavrilov was already terminally ill. On 4 May 1945 he was admitted to a hospital in Lüdenscheid where he died of tuberculosis on 31 May. The Americans transferred his remains to Margraten. In 1947 he was reburied at the newly established Soviet War Cemetery in Leusden.

That he was interned in the Netherlands was unknown to his family. Researcher Remco Reiding traced his relatives to Siberia and this is how Zoya came to stand at her father’s grave on the date when the Dutch remember their war dead.

It turned out to be a long day that ended with the annual silent march from Kamp Amersfoort to the Soviet War Cemetery and the Dutch and other Allied war graves at Rusthof. Zoya took part and stood among the Dutch during the two minutes silence. At the Soviet War Cemetery she was introduced to the mayors of Leusden and Amersfoort.

The day after she was sitting on the terrace of a café in Spakenburg. The fried fish went down well. But she was totally overwhelmed by all the impressions. Amsterdam tomorrow? Not really. Enough was enough. “I saw the most important thing yesterday.”