In science fiction, time travel is a common occurrence. In reality, not so much: there are a slew of logical, observational and practical reasons why we strongly believe time travel to be an impossibility.
This is not 100% true, however. What is amazing is that outside the typical perceptions of time, traveling forward into the future by several milliseconds has been proven possible within the frameworks of special relativity (the relationship between space and time) and general relativity (Einstein’s theory of gravity).
But, unless you can retrofit a DMC DeLorean with a flux capacitor like Doc Brown did in the film Back to the Future, we won’t be going anywhere.
But then there was Sergei Ponomarenko, a Ukrainian time traveler who was whisked away from 1958 Kyiv and dropped off in 2006 Kyiv in 2006 in a single moment. This story may seem crazy, but when we look at the photographic proof and time-stamped videos of Sergei Ponomarekno from 2006 questions arise.
Did Sergei Ponomarneko travel into the future? And how?
On April 23, 2006, a man in his late 20s to early 30s was arrested by the police for suspicious behavior. The young man was incredibly confused and kept asking what year it was.
The man said his name was Sergei Ponomarenko and, until two minutes ago, was living in the year 1958. The police asked for the man’s identification, and when Sergei Ponomarenko handed over his credentials, the officers were caught off guard.
The ID Sergei produced was the national ID cards citizens were given during the Soviet Union. Ukraine gained independence when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, and the ID was at least 15 years old.
The officers looked up from the ID and noticed that the man in front of them, Sergei Ponomarenko matched the photo on the ID card. Upon further observation, the police noticed Sergei dressed differently than everyone else.
Instead of modern clothing, Sergei Ponomarenko was wearing what would be described as “vintage” clothing from the 1950s and had an antiquated film camera around his neck. The police were convinced Sergei Ponomarenko was insane and needed medical intervention.
The police dropped Sergei Ponomarenko off at a psychiatric clinic in Kyiv, where Dr. Pablo Kutrikov saw him for examination. Dr. Kutrtikov recorded the session, which took place on April 23, 2006.
In the video, Sergei Ponomarenko said that his name was Sergei Valentinovich Ponomarenko and that he was born in Kyiv on June 16, 1932. The man in front of Dr. Kurtikov was not a 74-year-old man. He looked around 30 years old.
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When asked his age, Sergei only confirmed this, saying that he was 25 years old. Sergei Ponomarenko told the doctor that the last thing he remembered was that he was taking a walk in Kyiv with his fiance, Valentina Curish, and the two took a picture with Sergei’s camera. Just after this, Sergei spotted something strange in the sky.
Sergei described the strange object as bell-shaped and was “flying in a strange way.” He told the doctor that he thought he would be able to get a better look at the object if he took a picture of it, and suddenly Sergei found himself in 2006.
This would be easily dismissed as a rambling fantasy, but of course Sergei claimed he had proof. To determine if Sergei Ponomarenko was suffering from delusions or to convince the man that he did not time travel after taking a picture of a UFO, Dr. Kutrikov had the photos developed.
Sergei had a vintage camera, and the film could not be developed using 21st-century techniques. An expert in photography was called in to develop the film.
When the photography expert received the film, he was shocked when he realized that the film was old. That specific type of film went out of production in the 1970s but was in perfect condition. The photos taken by Sergei Ponomarenko were able to be developed.
There were photographs of Kyiv from the 1950s, an image of a woman about the same age as Sergei Ponomarenko, and a photo of Sergei wearing the same outfit he wore in the interview with Dr. Kutrikov. But the most impressive picture was a bell-shaped UFO in the sky, just as Sergei had described.
This was enough to warrant further investigation, and on April 25, 2006, Sergei Ponomarenko sat again in a recorded interview with Dr. Kutrikov. The doctor presented Sergei with the images. Sergei basically said, “yeah, I told you so,” and was recorded saying, “I so far do not understand what this object [UFO] is and how something like that happened to me at the same moment when I took the picture, and I went down to look at the camera and somehow ended up in this year.”
When the two men finished speaking, Sergei was seen on the security camera entering his room at the clinic and was never seen again. Sergei Ponomarenko is never captured exiting the room, and bars on the windows made escape impossible.
Now the police had a missing person to find. The police investigated old ID records from the Soviet Union and verified that there was a man named Sergei Valentinovich Ponomarekno from Kyiv. However, the reports indicated that this Sergei Ponomarenko was officially declared missing in 1960.
The police had a picture of Sergei’s fiancée, Valentina Chrish, and went to see if she knew what was happening or where the man went. They found Valentina, an elderly woman in her 70s, and she told them that her fiancé Sergei Ponomarenko had indeed disappeared for a few days back in 1958.
But Sergei had returned.
Time Traveler or Hoax?
Valentina said that when he came back, he could see into the future and was interviewed on national TV, where he told viewers people would have cell phones in the future. Valentina showed the officers a photo allegedly sent by Ponomarenko that, dated 2050, displayed an older-looking Sergei and, in the background, Kyiv with skyscrapers that did not exist in 1958 or 2006.
The last Valentina saw her fiancé was in 1970 when he disappeared again but has yet to return to her. It seemed that Sergei’s last journey through time was a one-way ticket.
What makes the story of Sergei Ponomarenko so compelling is that there is both time-stamped video of the man and photographs of Sergei, the UFO, and his ID card. But if you look closer at his ID card, you might notice something.
The ID card presented to the police has a fuzzy stamp print on the document as if the ink was drying up on the stamp pad. The Kosomol ID cards in the Soviet Union always had clear and visible stamps, significantly darker than on Ponomarenko’s.
Not only is the official stamp a bit suspect, but the month Sergei was born is incorrect on the ID. Sergei Ponomarenko is heard on a video telling Dr. Kutrikov that he was born in Kyiv on June 16, 1932.
If you look at the left side of Sergei’s ID card and count down three rows, you should see “Год рождения,” which means “year born.” The card has what looks like “mapm” written down. However, it is actually the Cyrillic letters M, A, R, T, which is how the word March is spelled in Russian.
The ID says that Sergei Ponomarenko was born in March 1932 and not in June, as he told the doctor. If your Russian script skills are not so hot, there is another way to see that this story is a hoax. Look at the pictures for proof: they are easy to find.
Further evidence that the story is a hoax comes from the film in Sergei’s camera, which would not have been able to have been developed had he traveled through time. The story states that the photography expert was amazed because the film in Sergei’s camera was in perfect condition, and it was a type of film that was discontinued in the 1970s.
During the Soviet era, the leading film company was Svema, and the company did discontinue the kind of film Sergei back in 1958 would have used. However, you could still purchase this type of Svema film in stores until 1990.
The photography expert in the story would not have been surprised to see that specific type of film in 2006. This is an example of searching for a factual detail and only using the parts you want to fit a narrative, and such selectiveness with the truth should ring alarm bells as to the truth of the story.
The condition of this film, if it came with Sergei from 1958, would have been poor as well. Before the 1960s, photograph film was made out of cellulose acetate, which was much safer than the earlier film materials that could spontaneously combust. Cellulose acetate film must be stored at a temperature of 21°C (70°F) and a 40% relative humidity (RH) for it to last 50 years without degrading.
The film traveled through time and, in theory, should have been significantly degraded, and it would likely be experiencing what is known as “vinegar syndrome.” A condition where the film rots and releases a pungent vinegar smell along with the film shrinking and cracking caused by warm and humid temperatures/improperly controlled storage environments.
If those details didn’t stand out to you, take a closer look at the alleged photo of Sergei from 2050. That is the same spot on the Dnieper river as the first one, but many of the skyscrapers in the background repeat themselves if you study it close enough. It is nothing more than some basic photoshopping.
Top Image: Sergei Ponomarenko was found by police in a disoriented state in 2006. Source: Rostyslav / Adobe Stock.