A family in Belarus has what many tank buffs would consider the best job in the world: saving abandoned tanks and restoring them for a living. The Yakushev family has gradually turned its hobby—recovering these World War II-era vehicles from the bottoms of rivers and swamps—into full time jobs for everyone. The tanks go on to museums and are even used to research video games.
The nation of Belarus was a battlefield for much of the Second World War, a time when it was a part of the Soviet Union. The USSR was quickly overrun by the initial German invasion in 1941, with tanks from both sides participating in titanic battles. After the war the battlefields were cleaned up. Destroyed or abandoned tanks got scrapped.
Tanks hidden underwater, on the other hand, often went unrecovered. Recently groups of tank aficionados began to recover many of these old tanks from streams and swamps, with one group, the Yakushev family, .
The article covers the story Vladimir Yakushev, who, along with his sons Aleksei and Maxim, is in the business of professionally raising and restoring both Soviet and German tanks. The article follows the Yakushevs as they drag a KV-1 heavy tank, one of the largest and most powerful Soviet tanks at the time of the invasion, from the depths of a swamp where it had gotten stuck. The crew scuttled the tank with explosives, blowing the turret off. The KV-1 took five months to salvage and repair. Here’s a short video from the recovery effort produced by Russian state-sponsored TV RT:
The work is not easy. The Yakushevs often work in stifling heat, swarmed by swamp mosquitoes. Either that or they're freezing cold. Spare parts are a real problem, with all of the factories ceasing production nearly eighty years ago, and the rapid pace of wartime tank development means two tanks of the same model built a year apart may have incompatible parts. And there’s a real danger of unexploded shells going off during the recovery process. So far, the family hasn’t had an accident.
The tanks are either kept at the repair grounds or taken to the Stalin Line Museum. Some of the tanks are used in historical reenactments, and the developers of the online game “World of Tanks” have used them to record the actual mechanical sounds of tanks. The Yakushevs, who enjoy the engineer challenges of recovering and repairing the tanks, as well as their historical significance, think of work almost as a holiday.