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Wednesday 29 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Google Streetview Henrietta Street, where the man says he was born
# Courts
Nazis, Stalin and the Blitz all counted against this man, but he just wanted to call Dublin home
And the High Court has allowed him to.

THE HIGH COURT has found that a 74-year-old Russian man was born in Dublin and is therefore entitled to have his Irish birth officially registered here.

The action was brought by Mr Sergey Chesnokov who argued he was born in a house at Dublin’s Henrietta Street at 8am on 28 September 1940. Mr Chesnokov, from Moscow, wants his birth registered so he can spend more time in Ireland where his son and grandchildren reside.

In his decision on Friday Mr Justice John Hedigan, who described the matter as an unusual case which he compared to something out of a Russian novel, said after assessing the application in the context of time and place the probability is Mr Chesnokov was born in Dublin during the Second World War.

The Judge made an order the Moscow resident’s birth be registered to that effect.

Enough evidence?

Mr Chesnokov applied to have his birth officially registered in Ireland and submitted several documents backing up his claim, including testimony from family members.

However the An tArd Chlaraitheoir, (the Registrar General) who has charge of registering all births within the state, refused the application on grounds there was insufficient independent evidence to back up Mr Chesnokov’s claim he was born here.

That decision was appealed to the High Court, and was opposed by the tArd Chlaraitheoir.

In his judgment the Judge said he did not criticise the tArd Chlaratheoir or his staff of their conduct of the application.  In order to resolve the matter it was necessary to consider the context of time and place.

It was a time when the world seemed upside down. Vast armies swept across international boundaries bringing war, destruction and death on a scale almost unimaginable to the mind of Western Europeans today.

Nazi Germany

The Judge said that less than nine months after Mr Chesnokov’s birth the army of Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and brought to that country a tidal wave of savagery, destruction and death. This was a time of “horror and destruction”.

Mr Chesnokov, represented by Conor Dignam SC, said he was born in Ireland in late September 1940 in a room at 5 Henreitta Street. His aunt Nadezhda Iljinichna Zhirnova  was the only person present with his mother Liubov at the time of the birth.

They came to Ireland from England during the Blitz. Shortly after Mr Chesnokov’s birth his mother and aunt returned to the then USSR.

His birth was registered with the Soviet authorities in October 1940, but was not registered with the Irish authorities because of his parent’s fears such a move might have been seen as being anti Soviet.

It was not known why his mother had been in the UK, how she came to Ireland or how she returned to the Soviet Union. The lack of an oral history about these events might seem surprising at first, the Judge said.

However the Judge said the fear of being “indited as being anti-Soviet” was “a very real one.” Those considered “contaminated by foreign influence” could lead to exile and imprisonment by the Stalinist authorities.

Anti-Soviet fears

“This history of the Gulag Archipelago identifies many humble folk who fell victim to Stalinist paranoia and spent decades in exile in these infamous work camps. Keeping ones head down  was undoubtedly the safest course. Silence was always the safest option.”

The Judge said human experience teaches us that in a time of war and all its horrors “a normal reaction is to forget in order to survive and move on.”

The Judge said in these circumstances he did not find it surprising that in light of these extraordinary circumstances there was little concrete evidence to support the application.

Important documents

However the Judge said throughout Mr Chesnokov’s life all official documentation including his trade union card, passport, marriage and drivers licence recorded his place of birth as being Dublin Ireland. There was also declarations from family and friends of Mr Chesnokov’s family to support his claim. The integrity of those documents has not been questioned, the Judge said.

After assessing the evidence the Judge said he was satisfied Mr Chesnokov was born in Ireland, and is entitled to have his birth registered here.

Previously the court heard in 2010 after his son’s family moved to Ireland Mr Chesnokov applied to have his birth registered here, which would give him certain rights. In his application he also gave an undertaking not to apply for any social welfare payments from the Irish state.

More: A 74-year-old Russian man born in a house in Dublin in 1940 wants his Irish birth registered

Aodhan O Faolain
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