Russian man (74) wins right to register Irish birth

Judge rules that Sergey Chesnokov was born in Dublin in legal case ‘out of Russian novel’

Sergey Chesnokov (74). Photograph: Courts Collins

Sergey Chesnokov (74). Photograph: Courts Collins

 

The High Court has found that a 74-year-old Russian man was born in Dublin and is entitled to have his Irish birth officially registered here.

Sergey Chesnokov argued that he was born in a house on Henrietta Street at 8am on September 28th, 1940.

Mr Chesnokov, from Moscow, sought to have his birth registered here so he can spend more time in Ireland, where his son and grandchildren live.

Mr Justice John Hedigan, who described the case as unusual and akin to something out of a Russian novel, said that having assessed the application in the context of time and place, the probability was that Mr Chesnokov was born in Dublin during the second World War.

Mr Chesnokov, in applying for an Irish birth registration, had submitted several documents backing up his claim, including testimony from family members.

The Registrar General refused the application on grounds there was insufficient independent evidence to back up Mr Chesnokov’s claim. That decision was appealed to the High Court.

No criticism

In his judgment, Mr Justice Hedigan said he did not criticise the registrar or his staff over their handling of the application.

In order to resolve the matter, it was necessary to consider the context of time and place, the judge said.

“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.”

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”, the judge said.

Mr Chesnokov, represented by Conor Dignam SC, said that his aunt was the only person present with his mother, Liubov, at the time of the birth.

They came to Ireland from England during the Blitz, he said. Shortly after his birth, his mother and aunt returned to the then USSR.

His birth was registered with the Soviet authorities in October 1940 but not with the Irish authorities because of his parents’ fears that 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 managed to return to the Soviet Union during wartime.

The lack of an oral history about these events might seem surprising at first, but the fear of being indicted for being anti-Soviet was “a very real one”, the judge said.

“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,” he said.

“Keeping one’s head down was undoubtedly the safest course. Silence was always the safest option.”

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

Official documents

Throughout Mr Chesnokov’s life, all official documents, including his trade union card, passport, marriage and driver’s licence recorded his place of birth as being Dublin, Ireland, the judge noted.

There were also declarations from family, and friends of Mr Chesnokov’s family, to support his claim. The integrity of those documents had not been questioned.

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

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 undertook not to apply for any social welfare payments from the State.