Sergej Stepanowitsch Tschachotin

was born in Constantinople in 1883. At 19 he enrolled in medical school in Moscow, became caught up in the 1902 student revolt against the Tsar, and was forced to leave Russia to continue his studies in Germany. His invention of the ultraviolet scalpel led to contact with the greatest scientists of his time. Nobel Prize holder Ivan Pavlov summoned Sergej to St. Petersburg to join his institute. After the bloody events of the October Revolution, Tschachotin became an ardent pacifist and fled Russia. Sensing the onrush of fascism, he joined the radical wing of the SPD and became one of the party’s chief ideologues, organizing the Iron Front, one of the few movements to resist fascism during the early 1930s. After Hitler’s rise to power, Sergej fled and pursued a path of active resistance. In 1941 the Nazis arrested Tschachotin and sent him to the Compiègne concentration camp. After the war Tschachotin dedicated himself to anti-nuclear and pacifist causes. Upon Stalin’s death, he returned to Moscow, but remained a prisoner in a golden cage. Sergej Tschachotin died in Moscow in 1973 at the age of 90.


When Wenja was 21, as the son of a Soviet citizen in fascist Germany, he found himself declared stateless and, together with his small family, was at the mercy of the authorities. His father was interned in a concentration camp in France in 1941, and he was pressured by the Gestapo in Marburg and was forced to break off his Ph.D. studies in Chemistry. His promising scientific career came to an abrupt end. Of all of the sons, he remains the angriest with his father to this day and can barely stand to discuss the man with his grandson.


When he was twelve, he and his father, together with his father’s new wife, suffered considerable harshness and deprivation when they fled to Paris: shattered family relationships, hunger, cold, internment, and a constant Odyssey through the French city in search of meager accommodations. Eugen’s love of music, helped him to survive these hard times. Today his beloved violin stands on top of a cupboard in his living room – next to a white porcelain urn, which holds the ashes of Sergej Stepanowitsch Tschachotin, the father of these four unequal sons.


Always on the go, he travels between Paris and Central Asia as a business consultant. Andrej represents various Western-European companies in Kazakhstan. Much like his own father, he has children from various marriages scattered all over Europe. His childhood and youth were overshadowed by frequent quarrels with Sergej. To escape his situation, he volunteered for an elite unit in the French paratroopers. He was barely of age. He went to war in Algeria and only just survived. His pacifist father’s disgust knew no bounds.


A small, bearded, sixty-year-old man watches a film: the MIR shuttle blasts off. On board is an icon painted by his wife and blessed by the Pope. Petja fought for years for this ‘icon mission’. Reared in France and Italy, and after his father’s rehabilitation in 1958, when he was fifteen years old, Petja followed Sergej back to the Soviet Union. Until his death, Petja lived in cramped conditions in the apartment they shared. Today he lives in Italy and Russia and works as a painter.

Boris Hars-Tschachotin

Born the year Sergej died, filmmaker Boris Hars-Tschachotin never met his great-grandfather, but he grew up in a world filled with Sergej lore – including the story of the 1908 Messina earthquake, in which the young man, trapped beneath the rubble, dug himself out to save his pregnant wife and son. Fascinated by the way in which questions and themes of his family’s saga mirrored the contradictions and possibilities of the twentieth century, Boris sought out the generation of half-brothers, interviewing each of them about their father and the diverse topics he personified, learning much that was great about the man, and much that was not.

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