|The Past: I was always nearby...|
|This part is far from being finished; thus, you may want to skip it for now... BTW, all verses I am giving you here are in my translation unless indicated otherwise... I believe this particular page could be of interest to those who are studying the history of Soviets of the post-WWII, Cold War era.|
|As soon as I scrambled out of my cradle, I started playing and writing something to the accompaniment of patriotic songs mixed up with the last war news constantly broadcasted by the SovInformBureau through our raspy wall-radio with a Cyclopean eye - the volume adjusting screw - in the middle of its black paper-board dish. Before my eyes, there are some flitting motley shreds of my bygone childhood events...|
|Darkness, snow; my elder brother pulls me by my hand; my crocheted mitten on an elastic sewed in my sleeve, dangles down; freezing snowflakes fall on my small hand. Cold. Desolated street; windows glued crosswise with paper bands - a kind of protection from still awaited bombings... We pass by a huge trench-crater generated a few days ago on a spot where there was a building. A big, big building. To me, a 4-years old one, eight floors building seemed to be real huge. On the very brink - a tree; on its branches - a mattress with an unattached, mateless arm on it... The Great Patriotic War still keeps my father fighting somewhere, far from home. My first piano lessons. And my dear brother without a murmur, pulls me to my teacher three times a week...|
I am home, alone; my brother is in his school; my mother...I see her only in
the very late evenings: she works in three different places in order to
subsist and feed us - me, my brother, my old grandfather...She has to toil
hard to maintain the family. I love her so much. I must do something to make
her life easier... Oh, yes, there is no firewood to burn in our old brazier-firebelly,
so, I am going to sliver something...The question is what to sliver: almost
all furniture has already been burned...A search in our yard is crowned with
a small log. I lean it against a chair leg, lift up a heavy ax with my both
hands...The log starts falling, I instinctively try to grab it by my right
hand, the left arm is not strong enough to hold the ax, and the blade hacks
slantwise my right hand...
The neighbors (here we are - an advantage of Soviet "commune apartments": you always have a bunch of neighbors in an apartment that, maybe, was yours own before Bolsheviks came) immediately bring a basin with water, which becomes full of my blood and tears right away....Then - doctors, bandages, ominously glistening instruments, blood on the floor, and finally... weeks of break in piano lessons.
|It appears I am a tumbler:
whatever happens, I am on my feet after
any distress or perturbation...
A little later, the next spring, - the war just ended, - I am with my mom in a cinema that had, as I realized much later, a very strange name "Shock worker", and in the lobby, right in front of my eyes, I see patent-leather shoes; I glide with my eyes up from a stage footlights along the trouser-leg with a stripe, and finally see a man in a black tail-coat playing Violin. My judgment is an immediate one, slicing the silence of the auditorium: "Mom, I want to play this!", I point with my minuscule finger at the magic instrument.
|(October 02, 2005 Notes)|
|"Go outside... take a walk!", my grandma unsuccessfully tries to tear me away from my book I read while sitting next to the window in my small green arm-chair that emanates inexplicable aroma of pre-historic era. It seems I was born without ears: I definitely prefer reading. I am 9 years old.|
|Time is running. I am now 12.
An old homemade wooden music stand manually painted in a color called "drunken cherry", with a big round screw head coarsely fashioned on a lathe, is turned so that my mom - if she enters the room - can't see my book I am hiding on the stand while practicing boring scales on my Violin in a zone of "permarosin" (you heard what "zone of permafrost" is, didn't you? A Violin owned by a careless student has also a similar white zone where the colophony is never being cleaned. But seriously, it means I went already pretty far in my playing technique.)
|1954, Summer. Stalin died slightly more
than 1 year ago. The same day as
Prokofiev died. In the air, there is a blend of plaints and hopes.
And still, an enormous spiritual unloading is going all over the country.
My mom had just returned from England where she went as a translator for a Nadezhda Nadezhdina's Women Dance Ensemble "Beryozka" - one of the first cultural trips abroad. Over there, she met Somerset Maugham who gave her as a keepsake his photo with his autograph: "To the best English woman I ever met". Mom told me a story as one tobacco-stand owner asked her : "How can you an English woman hob-nob with Russians!", and we - me, my brother, and, of course, our father and mom herself - were proud of her English language skills. That's why I always felt shy to take English lessons from her: even a thought about speaking English worse than she spoke was killing me.
Many years later, I learned that Maugham - besides being a writer - was also a M16 spy sent to Russia with a noble - but unfortunately failed - mission to prevent Bolsheviks coup d'état 1917.
Trying to ensconce somewhere, I wander into a solarium on the roof of a Pyatigorsk sanatorium and feverishly start putting my imagination onto a paper. I am completely up in the clouds, fancying austere hero of my first novel; "in a long black leather coat, he is knocking at the door...The knocking made tenants flinch..." ....
My creative excitement is being interrupted by a pebbly hoarse voice from under an ivy awning on the other side of the roof : "Young man, it's a female solarium, get out of here!".
I turn back to look. A darkly tanned, big flabby body on a wooden trestle-bed, much more pale breasts with mammillae well matching with the sunburn, dangling over the mountain-like belly, clearly indicate that my creative fantasies can make me face danger.
Of course, I retreat. Thus, my first novel remains unwritten.
June 30, 1956. Unforgettable day. Warm, green,
fresh air, birds, palpitating haze over hot asphalt, whispering leafage on
trees.... Like a
raven, I perch on the wooden bench-like seat of a unisex "convenience"
outside our summer rented "dacha" (cottage) out of town, in Polushkino, some
50 miles from Moscow. With a newspaper in my hands, I look forward to enjoy
the biggest pleasure a person can get for free. I make myself as comfortable
as possible in such a shabby cabin, and read one-by-one small prints:
Gamal Abdel Nasser, endless quarreling between
USSR and the USA... OK, anyway, I don't understand much all these things, I
just know I don't like that Nasser has nationalized the Suez Canal and that
my country always quarrels with America...
Oh! How could I possibly overlook the editorial page! "On Overcoming the Personality Cult and Its Consequences", - a Special Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU!
Overjoyed, I sharply leap up from my seat forgetting the specifics of "outside conveniences". And then, we, I and my mom, are discussing the gladdening news all the long time that we wash off my pants and clean my sandals.
Summer 1957. The Fourth International
Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow.
Ernst Neizvestny wins two medals for his sculptures and becomes well known
in defiance of his name ("Neizvestny" in Russian means literally "Unknown".)
I am already a 3rd-year student of Gnessins Music College, and enjoy being
one of the most - if not the most - beloved students of Viola professor
Conservatory and my Gnessins' centre (as we call it) go nuts and move heaven and earth to find a good Viola player capable to master and learn by heart a difficult music piece representing new composition techniques. The reason of such a bustle is that its composer came to Moscow and will accompany on the piano by himself! I was introduced to Ctirad Kohoutek; he is astonished that I talk to him in Czech (my little secret: I was in "love-by-correspondence" with a Czech girl, Helena Kadlecova, from Polička since my 6-th School Grade, and in response to her letters in Russian I started self-training in Czech to show her no "Great-power Big Brother chauvinism"). We rehearse a few times, and his Viola Suite* gets enthusiastic reception among musicians who do not expect 19th Century out of its slightly deceptive name "Romantica".
The friendship with Ctirad, which lasts even until now, for almost 50 years, brought me then to a new world and led to events I am going to share with you on this site.
1958. A cool June night towards dawn; I am
urgently preparing to my
finals. My eye-lids stick together, I rub my eyes in futile attempts to keep
the sleepiness off.
I go out of doors, stroll pensively along to the nearest street corner, where my Ossipenko Street* abuts with Balchug Street***, the same place where 13 years ago I surreptitiously extended my hand with my 3.5 ounce daily rye-bread ration to a German soldier who was draggling in a throng of prisoners of War... Now on this place there is a row of a tobacco kiosk, a news-stall, an ice-cream-stall, and a patty-stand. Everything is still closed except cigarettes. My mom already knows I smoke since 2 years ago. One of the most stupid things I ever made - started smoking; now I regret so much. I buy my favorite Rumanian cigarettes "Diamond" with a sweetish honeyed flavor, and slowly go back home. In my mouth, there grows a nauseating smack of a wet tobacco soaking in my empty stomach. Repugnant! After a few hours, my mom catches me buried my nose in a pile of papers sleeping. Mom reads the papers, and I then cannot find them: scary, too much of "Kafkianism", she explains why she threw out of window my new novel. From our second floor, I see pages scattered all over the yard, tossed up by the early morning summer breeze. My literary career obviously proves abortive.
|To be continued...|
This site was last updated 10/03/05