Joyce Bull worked as an airline stewardess on BOAC’s international flights. She helped Evdokia Petrov board the Lockheed Constellation that was to fly her to Darwin on the first leg of her trip back to Russia.
Miss Bull witnessed the extraordinary scenes of protest as the crowd at Mascot Airport pulled the stairs away from the plane while the Russians boarded.
Onboard, Miss Bull tried to make the distraught Mrs Petrov comfortable and lent her a pair of shoes, as one of Mrs Petrov’s shoes had been lost at the airport.
Later, Miss Bull had a number of conversations with Mrs Petrov in the privacy of the ladies’ lounge of the plane. Mrs Petrov confided that the men accompanying her had guns.
Miss Bull relayed this to the Captain Davys, the plane’s pilot. He passed this information to Colonel Spry of ASIO by radio.
On arrival at Darwin, Mrs Petrov and her escorts reluctantly disembarked while the plane was refuelled. They were met by Darwin’s Acting Administrator and a group of police. Her escorts were disarmed and Evdokia Petrov was offered asylum in Australia.
On 4 April 2004 Miss Bull spoke at the media event held at Old Parliament House to commemorate the anniversary of the Petrov Affair, where she retold the fascinating story of her experience fifty years ago.
— Joyce Bull remembers. Old Parliament House collection.
The journalist Fergan O’Sullivan was Dr Evatt’s Press Secretary for two months leading up to the events of April 1954.
O’Sullivan was the author of Document H, a series of brief and colourful biographies of members of the Press Gallery.
The purpose of this document was to provide the Soviets with an indication as to which members of the Press Gallery, if any, might be sympathetic to the communist cause.
Given O’Sullivan’s position in the office of the Opposition Leader, the security implications of this were enormous.