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‘ESCAPING’ TO MACLEAY ISLAND

OLEG KORENEVSKI: GROWING UP IN ‘COLD WAR’ RUSSIA AND ‘ESCAPING’ TO AUSTRALIA AND NOW LIVING ON MACLEAY ISLAND Former computer master and chess fanatic, Oleg Korenevski, featured in our December edition with his recent success in the Queensland seniors chess championships. What we didn’t get to tell was the extraordinary tale that brought Oleg from the worst of Cold War Soviet Russia to the climes of Queensland and eventually to Macleay Island. It is worthy of a spy novel of the greatest intrigue and involves not only his Russian family, but a ‘lost’ Australian family of 63 years! We met Oleg via his Australian partner, Tricia Walton. They live in a comfortable island home that declares at the post box out front ‘Chess Republic’. She thought his efforts in the Queensland senior chess event were worth a story. It was, but his life story is just so much better. It stems from a family of White Russians; constant fear growing up in a Totalitarian Regime; another part of the family ‘escaping’ to Australia via China in the 1920’s, and Oleg’s eventual ‘escape’ in the 1990’s and discovering his ‘lost’ Australian family. Oleg is the son of WW2 Russian war veteran Boris Dimitrivich Korenevski and mother Olga Seminova and was born in 1947. Boris had a number of siblings but the important ones for our story were father Boris and his sisters Lydia (known as Aunt Lida) and her sister Kapitolena Dimitrievnas Baikaloff (nee Korenevski). The family's lives were changed forever because older sister Kapitolena was a teacher who was lucky to be selected by the communist Bolshevik authorities to become principal of Number 10 school inTomsk, a city located in the feared Siberia, after previously depriving her father of citizenship. Kapitolena was able to enrol her siblings 12-year-old Lydia and 10-year-old Boris (Oleg’s father). This manoeuvre ensured that the offspring of these Korenevski’s were able to be well educated. Unbeknown to the Bolsheviks, Kapitolena had fallen in love with a White Russian officer, Nickolai Baikaloff, who fought against them in the revolutionary war. Nickolai had escaped the Soviet Union and had eventually made his way to Australia, of all places. Kapitolena never forgot Nickolai and in 1928 she moved from Tomsk to Vladivostok. From here she was able to escape via China and eventually reunited with Nickolai in Queensland on 12th October 1929, 11 years after they promised themselves to each other. Kapitolena went on to have children in Australia, settling at 270 Rochedale Rd, Rochedale. She attempted to write to her Russian family with dour consequences in the 1930’s when an intercepted letter resulted in two family members being executed for receiving the letter. A further letter was received in 1963, but was hidden from the family for fear of further retribution. It wasn’t until 1991 that Oleg and his first wife Lyuba, finally felt free to send a letter from Aunt Lydia to her sister Kapitolena in Brisbane. Amazingly, both sisters were alive and able to communicate after 63 years! Older sister Kapitolena, an Australian citizen, died not long after, but happily in the knowledge that her son Nick was to visit Moscow in 1993, following it up again in 1994 to track down his Russian heritage. Oleg’s life was not without incident. He always had a hatred of the Communist regime and what it had done to his family and his country. He climbed fairy high in computing circles and in 1991 was ‘selected’ to meet with General Colin Powell, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and later Secretary of State under US President George W Bush. Oleg proudly declares Colin Powell ‘my friend’. His leaving Russia was not without incident. After being given permission to live in Australia during the change of Government that heralded Boris Yeltsin in 1996, Oleg’s departure from the Soviet Union resembled a scene from a Cold War spy movie. Oleg was stopped from leaving the country prior to his departure because of his knowledge of military software and hardware. So he made his way to Germany purchasing ‘return air tickets’ that deceived the Russian authorities. He never used the ‘return’ ticket. His intention was to get to Queensland and link up with his Australian family, the Baikaloffs. He made it here to settle close to his cousins Nick Baikaloff near Rochedale. Along the way Oleg has married three time and he has five children, living in Australia, Canada and Moscow. As we said, a very interesting story indeed!

• Oleg living in Russia in the 1970’s