By Henry Sakaida
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For every decoration that you obtain, there is a story. Each story is unique and exciting because it involves people. How many of you have held a decoration in your hands and thought: "If this thing could talk, what a story it would tell!" I began collecting Soviet decorations about four years ago. I was lucky enough to purchase a set of all three classes of the Order of Glory. This set had been awarded to one individual, making him a "Cavalier." The Order of Glory 1st Class was only awarded approximately 2,620 times, compared to 12,745 times for the Gold Star Hero of the Soviet Union. The Order of Glory was awarded in three classes, beginning with the 3rd class. They were awarded to enlisted men and Air Force junior lieutenants for direct heroism in combat. The requirements to win this award are quite extensive and specific (i.e., personally kill 10-50 enemy personnel with small arms; disable two tanks with anti-tank rifle; personally capture an enemy officer). The recipient who received all three classes was given the title "Cavalier of the Order of Glory." The soldier was given the same privileges and status as Heroes of the Soviet Union. My Order of Glory set was purchased in August 1997 from a New Jersey dealer. It came with copies of the recipient's award citations and translations. The recipient was Guards Sergeant Vasily Fedorovich Telkov, a peasant farmer born in the village of Putyatino in 1911, in the Ryazan region, southeast of Moscow. According to his own personal biography which he wrote in May 1974, he was inducted into the Army on 22 June 1941 and became a rifleman in the 16th Military Topographic Squad which operated near Smolensk. He was seriously wounded in April 1942, but recovered quickly, and was assigned to the 1st Ukrainian Front. Telkov received the Order of Glory 3rd Class for having crossed the Bug and Sinyukha Rivers and for having held a bridgehead until the arrival of infantry. His Order of Glory 2nd Class was awarded for delivering infantry across the Oder River, taking a bridgehead, and blowing up a railway bridge across a dam in February 1945. Sgt Telkov finally received the Order of Glory 1st Class for crossing the Neise and Spree Rivers with his sapper platoon and capturing the enemy defenseline. In May1945, his unit was the first in the division to raise their flag on the territory of Berlin. As I held the orders in my hand, my curiosity took over; it always does. Who was this man, what did he look like, where are his family now, and how and why did this decoration leave him and land in the United States? I have this knack for making such objects "talk." I've done it mostly with captured Japanese battlefield souvenirs. My collecting policy is, if there is no possibility in making it talk, I will not purchase it. I am after the story and not the decoration itself. I could read a little Russian, thanks to two years of high school Russian (1969-1970). It sure came in handy after all these years! I found an old WWII address for Vasily Telkov on the award record card and simply wrote to him at that address. I never seriously expected a reply. Two months later, I received a large envelope in the mail from Russia! It was from a woman named Mariya Kuprina, Telkov's only daughter and surviving child. The letter was in good English and she had someone write the letter for her. She enclosed two snapshots of her father. The letter said: "Your letter was a great surprise for us. Telkov died in 1976. After his death, his awards were taken from his family to keep them in a museum. We knew nothing about the further fate of these awards till your letter. If we had the awards, we wouldn't have sold them even though we don't live very well. These awards are dear to us as a memory. We are very sorry that these awards are abroad now. But the fact that you want to keep them with honor comforts us. We think dishonorable people sold the awards. We had received nothing from selling those orders. We don't know how the medals had disappeared from the museum. And now we are glad to tell you some words about V.F. Telkov. V.F. Telkov was a strapping, (continued...)

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