It happened between 1939 and 1941. Evgeny Petrov (a popular Soviet writer in the 1920s and 1930s) had a very rare hobby: all of his life he collected envelops from his own letters. This true story is reflected in recent movie by Aleksey Nuzhny “Envelope” with Kevin Spacey in the leading role.
He wrote a letter to some countries on false address, a fictional destination and after a while he had a letter back with a bunch of different foreign stamps and indication of “Destination not found” or something like that. But it turned out to be an interesting hobby once a mystical …
In April 1939, Evgeny Petrov decided to disturb the post office in New Zealand. In their scheme, he came up with a town called “Haydberdville” and the street “Raytbich” house # 7″ and the destination “Merrill Eugene Waisly”.
In a letter he wrote in English:
Dear Merrill! Please accept my sincere condolences on the death of his uncle Pete. Be strong, man. I’m sorry I have not written for a long time. I hope that Ingrid’s all right. Kiss my daughter from me. It is probably quite large. Your Eugene
Then he sealed the letter, on the backside of it wrote his own real address and send this letter.
About two months passed since Petrov sent the letter, but it didn’t come back so he decided that it was lost and forgot about it… But August came and something came back from New Zealand. But it wasn’t the letter Petrov sent! It was an answer! At first he thought that someone played with him in his own way, but when Petrov read the address of the sender he almost got a heart attack – it was “Hideberdville, Rathbeach st. 7 from Merrill Eugene Wellesley” And there was a real blue stamp of New Zealand’s post on the envelope. It was a clear and direct reply to Petrov’s own message to Wellesley. The text in that letter was as follows:
“Dear Evgeny! Thank you for your condolences. It took as half a year to overcome the ironic death of uncle Pete. I hope you can forgive me for delaying this answer. Ingrid and me often recall those two days that you were with us. Glorya is grown very much and this autumn will go to the second grade. She still keeps that teddy bear you brought her from Russia. Sincerely your friend.”
Petrov never went to New Zealand, so it was all the more amazed to see the photograph powerfully built man who hugged him, Petrov! On the back of the picture it was written: “October 9, 1938”.
Petrov recalled that at the same date he was in hospital unconscious with severe pneumonia. At that time doctors fought for his life for a few days and already told his relatives that his chances to survive are very small.
In order to understand and sort this out, Petrov wrote a second letter to the same address in New Zealand, but he didn’t live enough to receive an answer. On first of September a second world war began and from the first days of the war he became a military correspondent for two main Russian newspapers “Pravda” (the truth) and “Informburo” (bureau of information). His colleagues said that he changed since that letter. He became enclosed, thoughtful and even stopped joking at all.
In 1942, the plane on which he flew to the front of the war got lost. Most likely it was shot down. At the same day Petrov’s wife received the news about the airplane, a letter from Merrill Wellesley came to his address in Moscow. It was translated to Petrov’s wife, in it Merrill was fond of the courage of Russian people and expressed concern for Evgeny’s life. He wrote:
“When you were with us, I got scared when you went to swim in the lake. The water was very cold. But you said that your destiny is to die in a plane crash and not by drowning. Please be careful and fly as little as you can… “
Evgeny Petrov died in an airplane crash returning from besieged Sevastopol on July 2, 1942.