Mytrofan Yukhymovych Chernykh was born on September 7, 1921 in the village of Chulok of Voronezh oblast. In the family of peasants Yukhym Yakovych and Ahrafena Dmytrivna there were five more children.
Despite the poor, almost hungry childhood, Mytrofan Yukhymovych finished 10 forms of a secondary school and went to a college. After graduating from the college with excellent marks, in June 1939 he arrived at a reception center.
An event at the reception center changed the life of the young man. A border guard officer addressed Mytrofan Chernykh with a proposal to join a military school. For him – a guy from a large and impoverished family – it was a lucky chance to get such a start.
So, in July 1939, Mytrofan Chernykh became a cadet of Orel Artillery Border Guard School, which he finished on June 10, 1941.
Within five days after the graduation, Lieutenant Chernykh took command of the second dot (permanent fire position) in Brest fortified area.
On 22 June 1941 the subordinates of Mytrofan Chernykh managed to contain the offensive of the enemy in their sector. But by the end of the first day of the war, Lieutenant Chernykh received an order to blow up stationary weapons and move away. On the same day he was injured for the first time.
Heavy defensive battles and retreat to Smolensk followed. It is here where Mytrofan Chernykh’s service in the system of the Soviet military intelligence began – he was appointed as a commander of the reconnaissance platoon of the separate reconnaissance battalion of the 56th rifle division. But he didn’t have time to take command because he was urgently summoned to the intelligence section of the staff of the Western Front and then sent to Moscow to the Chief of Intelligence Department of the General Staff of the Red Army.
This unit was in charge of manning and training of the subversive-intelligence groups for actions in the rear of the enemy. One of these groups was headed by Mytrofan Chernykh. Due to lack of time for training major emphasis was put on theory. After receiving a combat mission the subversive-intelligence group under command of Lieutenant Chernykh was airlifted to Orsha in the area of Svitski marshes.
The task of the group was to conduct reconnaissance of the German forces, which were put forward to Moscow, and carry out subversive actions. In particular, Lieutenant Chernykh’s group blew up two bridges and a railway crossing, captured and transported a German Colonel with important documents to the Soviet side.
Mytrofan Chernykh spent three years behind enemy lines – until the fall of 1944. During this time, his group completed missions in the territory of Belarus, the Baltic States and Ukraine.
By the end of 1944, after another heavy injury M. Chernykh (already captain) was appointed as commander of a ski reconnaissance battalion.
In March 1945, Major Chernykh assumed command of a training reconnaissance battalion of the 1st Ukrainian Front. This was his position in Koenigsberg when he greeted victory.
After a brief vacation in July 1945 Mytrofan Yukhymovych was sent for training to the Intelligence Faculty of the Military Academy named after M.V. Frunze, where, in addition to other subjects, he studied Turkish and Persian languages. Moreover, he took optional classes in English, and he was the only one to defend the thesis in English.
After graduating in 1947 from the Academy with honors, Lieutenant Colonel Chernykh was appointed as the head of the intelligence of staff of the division in the city Lenkoran of the Azerbaijani SSR of the Transcaucasian military district. But he did not serve there for a long time. Excellent language skills and extensive intelligence experience were noticed. Already in the beginning of 1948 Mytrofan Yukhymovych was summoned for an interview for admission to the Military Academy of the Soviet Army, which prepared the specialists of human intelligence and military diplomats.
Training at the Academy was interesting and extremely tough. Everything that can be beneficial to a HUMINT specialist for task completion was taught. In the fourth year of the Academy, Mytrofan Chernykh was deliberately trained to perform specific tasks. He had to study the life and customs of the peoples of the East, memorizing every detail. He even mastered the skills of a ... shoeblack, even traveled to Azerbaijan for training.
By the moment of graduation from the Academy LTC Chernykh had not even turned thirty but he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. A long-term tour of duty to Iran was in his future.
To “cover the traces”, he reached the destination using bypasses and frequently changing his appearance and documents. Arriving in Tehran, he started to carry out the task. After three years of illegal work, he began to notice increasing interest to himself and same faces around. When he reported this to Moscow, the answer was short: “Return immediately”.
However, it was impossible to do it right away: unnotified liaisons and agents could become easy victims of the Iranian counterintelligence. To leave them to their fate he had neither professional nor moral right. Curbing and conservation of the human network took a week. And this was enough to have him arrested a few hours before departure.
In a prison for dangerous special offenders in eastern Iran he spent nearly three years. M. Chernykh was charged with espionage and sentenced to death. While he was expecting execution of the sentence, pneumonia started. During medical examination the prison doctor noticed many scars from wounds on his body. It meant that he arrived in Iran from a country where combat actions were happening. So his real origin was established.
Long negotiations between the Governments of Iran and the USSR started. It should be noted that at that time relations between the two countries were relatively friendly. The Iranian leaders did not want to spoil them because of one spy but still the sides failed to reach an agreement on exchange.
While haggling continued, the Soviets bribed prison guards. And somehow one night he was thrown over the fence of the prison and showed the direction to the Soviet border.
From memories of Mytrofan Yukhymovych Chernykh:
"I remember the heat ... I did not know when and where I'll cross the border. Whether I reach it at all. I had to go at night and during the day I was hiding. The prison boots fell apart very soon and instead of them I used pieces of clothing. I ate lizards, snakes, birds and constantly felt thirsty. It was a dry August – there was no dew even in the morning.
I covered over a hundred kilometers during a week and finally came to the state border. At night, after digging under the outer fence, I crawled under it. But I hit a sensor for the security system, and by the second fence, a border patrol with a dog was already expecting me. I could only whisper quietly: "Take me…"
A helicopter for transportation to Ashgabat arrived in the morning, Mytrofan Yukhymovych spent there a few days until representatives of the Main Intelligence Directorate arrived to accompany him to Moscow, where the Order of the Red Banner of Military Valor was bestowed on Colonel Chernykh for completing special tasks. Mytrofan Yukhymovych was not allowed to talk until the last minute of his life about the results of his trip and about those important tasks executed in Iran...
From 1957 to 1966 he held various positions in Zakavkazkyi military district. In 1966 he was transferred to the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany as Deputy Head of Intelligence of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany responsible for HUMINT. This was extremely responsible as half of Europe had to be “covered”.
In 1971, Colonel Chernykh was appointed to the position of the Chief of Intelligence of Kiev military district. A lot of infrastructure elements, which are now owned by the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, were created in those years by Mytrofan Yukhymovych.
In December 1972 the Council of Ministers of the USSR promoted Mytrofan Yukhymovych Chernykh to the military rank of Major General, and in 1975 he was appointed as military attaché of the Soviet Union to Turkey. An experienced General who spoke Turkish perfectly was quickly recognized by the military, political and cultural figures of Turkey, as well as military representatives of other countries. He was elected as a senior (doyen of the diplomatic corps) among the military attachés. By the way, this is the only case when a representative of the USSR was elected as a senior (doyen of the diplomatic corps) in a NATO country.
In 1981, Mytrofan Yukhymovych returned home and resigned, and in 1982 Major General Chernykh retired from the Armed Forces, where two Orders of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, 2 orders of the Red Banner, three Orders of the Patriotic War, two Orders of the Red Star, the Order “For Service to the Homeland in the Armed Forces of the USSR” 3rd class, the Order “For Merits” 3rd class and over thirty medals of the USSR, Ukraine, decorations of German Democratic Republic and Turkey were bestowed on him.
But Chernykh officer dynasty continues: two sons of Mytrofan Yukhymovych are generals of the Armed Forces, his grandson also serves in the system of military intelligence of Ukraine.
After retirement Mytrofan Yukhymovych accepted the offer of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR and headed the International Department of the Council of Trade Unions of Ukraine.
One week after the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant he was working along with German specialists at the destroyed reactor.
But Mytrofan Yukhymovych did not work in spheres other than intelligence for long. When Ukraine gained independence the Academy of the Armed Forces began to develop and his professional expertise was required there. For many years he successfully worked as Assistant Professor of the Chair of Intelligence. Until the last day of his life, Mytrofan Yukhymovych shared his experience with the younger generation of Ukrainian intelligence specialists. More than several hundreds of young intelligence specialists gratefully remember every minute spent with him and are proud to benefit from the opportunity to talk to the legend of intelligence – Mytrofan Chernykh.
Defence Intelligence of Ukraine of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine pays a lot of attention to commemoration of the outstanding specialist. The name of Mytrofan Yukhymovych is recorded in the “Book of Memory of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine” forever. In 2009, the Memorial Room of Mytrofan Yukhymovych was inaugurated, where a unique exposition devoted to the life and professional activities of the legendary intelligence officer was presented.