Fridays at the Museum: A gift from Russia and a veteran honored

Capt. Albert’s bust as it was in Russia

by Gweneth Collins

One Sunday afternoon not too long ago, a collection of volunteers from the Washington County Historical Society’s Museum waited expectantly for the arrival of a special gift from the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The gift, a bronze bust of World War II French Ace Fighter Pilot Captain Marcel Albert who is buried here in Chipley, has been “in transit” since 2019.

Capt. Marcel Albert just prior to his passing

“We are so excited!  It’s finally here! ” remarked Museum Director Dorothy Odom. “Nikolai Lakhonin, Press Secretary of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., has been working with us on the delivery. Everything had fallen into place for a May 8th celebration recognizing Victory in Europe Day 2020 and unveiling the bust, however, COVID-19 forced cancellation of our event and the transportation of the bust.”

Yuri Pogorelsky and Yaroslava Zonova delivered the bust packed into the back of a Jeep Compass. It took four men to maneuver it out of the vehicle and wrestle it into storage. This was quite a feat considering the bust weighs almost 300 pounds and is almost as big as the jeep!

“Nikolai, Yuri and Slava went out of their ways to get this precious memento to us and we are so thankful. We will be planning an official unveiling of the bust and a proper memorial for Captain Albert in the future,” stated Odom. “For now, we will be patiently waiting for better days that are sure to come.”

Historical Society members graveside

August 23 will mark the 10th anniversary of Capt. Albert’s passing. In recognition and in honor of Capt. Albert, at the request of both the Russian and French Embassies, members of the Historical Society placed wreaths graveside. A tradition of placing a glass of vodka and slice of brown bread at the grave of fallen heroes was also observed.

Dorothy Odom, director of WCHS, places traditional vodka and brown bread.