The ticket collector from Belarus Book

Late one winter afternoon in 1942, Zan had walked home through the forest. Fifty-seven years later, he paused and raised his hand to indicate the point where he had first heard screams. He left the path, demonstrating how he had crept through a thicket of bushes and hidden behind a tree trunk to witness what was happening in the clearing beyond it. When the interpreter asked if he was on the exact spot where he had been standing that day, he said, ‘Da. Da. Da.’ A translation was scarcely needed. 

The Ticket Collector from Belarus tells the remarkable story of two interwoven journeys. Ben-Zion Blustein and Andrei Sawoniuk were childhood friends in 1930s Domachevo, a holiday and health resort in what is now Belarus. During the events that followed the Nazi invasion in 1941, they became the bitterest of enemies. After the war, Ben-Zion made his way to Israel, and ‘Andrusha the bastard’ to England, where he found work as a British Rail ticket collector in London.

They next confronted each other in the Old Bailey, over half a century later, where one was the principal prosecution witness and the other charged with a fraction of the number of murders he was alleged to have committed. There was no physical evidence, just one man’s word against another, leaving the jury with a series of agonising dilemmas: Could any witness statement be trusted so long after the event? Was Andrusha a brutal killer, a hapless pawn or a scapegoat? And were his furious protests a sign of guilt or the justified anger of an innocent old man?

"A compelling new book from Mike Anderson and Neil Hanson"

Tony Rennell, The Daily Mail


Mike Anderson Author

MIKE ANDERSON is a senior employee of one of the world’s oldest private banks. He considers himself fortunate to have stumbled across this extraordinary true story and has been relentless in his pursuit of the tale of Britain’s only war crimes prosecution and the parallel lives of Ben-Zion Blustein and Andrei Sawoniuk.

Neil Hanson Author

NEIL HANSON is the author of a dozen acclaimed works of narrative non-fiction, including The Unknown Soldier, The Confident Hope of a Miracle, The Custom of the Sea and The Dreadful Judgement. They have been hailed by critics around the world as ‘astonishing’, ‘brilliant’, ‘haunting’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘a triumph’ and ‘a masterpiece’, and compared by one to ‘Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and a dozen other immortals’.