In Part I of my article, I wrote about the engagement of an American guy and a Buryat gal who were brought together through my research to make a Soviet Gold Star Medal "talk." Part II now covers the journey of the American wedding party to Ulan Ude in Russia's Western Siberia in August 2003.
The process of returning a stolen Gold Star Medal to the Hero's daughter was a daunting task. After the Hero Vasily Khantaev died in 1991, workmen came to make repairs in the apartment. It was much later that Lyudmila (Kokurina) Khantaeva discovered that the medal and award booklet were missing. When city officials affixed a bronze memorial plaque outside their apartment to honor her father in 1999, she was scared to death that an official would ask to see her father's Gold Star Medal! She was too frightened and embarrassed for anyone to know about the loss.
When I informed her that I was coming to Ulan Ude for the wedding and to return the medal and booklet, Lyudmila telephoned a military official to ask if they would attend a small ceremony at her father's grave where the bride and groom, and I would hand the medal back to her. She was shocked when the advisor blew up and shouted something like: "What is your father's medal

Pravda Buryat Weekly.."The Star of Khantaev".."Hero's family receives decoration after a decade"
doing in the hands of a collector in America?!!"
Luckily, my friend Natalya Poupysheva intervened and together, the two women went over to the government building and met the irate officer and Lt/Col Vasily Yemelyanov, the military affairs advisor for the government of the Buryat Republic. The two men sat in stony silence as the women began to explain the situation. Finally, Natalya added
that although I was a collector, I had returned a Hero Star a year earlier to the family of Uzbek HSU Mookhudin Umurdinov, and showed them the Internet article. She also explained that I donate money to the children's orphanage in the city on a regular basis.That clenched it. The two men made a 180 degree turn in attitude and said, "We will welcome him to Buryatia! Leave everything to us."

Awaiting Departure at San Francisco International Airport. Left to right: Craig Fotheringham (the groom), Russ Jones, Arka Chatterjee, Tuyana Efimova, and Shad Schidel (best man). Relaxing on the floor is Angela Heckler
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