Writers and pioneers
Today only crows roam the boulevard under the open bronze gaze of Alexander Sergeevich. The townspeople are afraid to come here: too often they come from those for whom Pushkin is not our everything at all. Also, theaters, houses of culture, museums and many cafes adjacent to the boulevard are closed to visitors. Pushkin’s most frequent guests are now communal workers. They quickly close the consequences of the shelling, and at other times, if possible, bring some kind of beauty here.
The clean, but deserted boulevard is an eerie sight. As well as sandbags near the windows of a famous chocolate factory. As well as the covered windows of the first floors. Like packs of crazed mutts who aren’t afraid of ordinary car horns.
And yet Pushkin is alive. If only because a few steps from the monument, against all odds, there is a bookstore. I looked here: a kind and open woman, the seller Elena Lysakova, tells me: “Of course, it’s scary, everything is empty. But all this time, a chain of stores has not closed, and so have we. And people come to we, they say, can at least rest our souls.”
Soul in Donetsk bookstore is where to relax. Directly opposite the cash register is a shelf with modern Russian literature. Pelevin, Vodolazkin, Basinsky. Next to the Nicholas the Wonderworker icon. It is not for sale, protect. Neither modern prose, nor sellers with buyers. And if you delve into the store, you can find rich second-hand books and whole collections of works – from Nekrasov to Leonov.
– And what do you drink most often?
– What we recommend. Because we are all readers. I, for example, have now fallen in love with Hiro Arikawa’s Chronicles of a Stray Cat. Here is such a book! Elena gives a thumbs up. – I also love horror movies. You read, you read, and then you go out into the street, and somehow it’s not so scary anymore.
After half an hour of meeting, modest Elena admits that she writes children’s books. Her daughter, Falena, also writes, however, more and more fiction. Writing for them is also a refuge, and stronger than concrete walls.
In the evening I went to visit the Lysakovs, in approximately the same way as Elena. From the center, she takes a bus, which in fifteen minutes takes her to where the war has long been host. Houses burnt eye sockets see get out of the bus, auto centers and markets are destroyed by shells, offices are tightly boarded up. At one of the intersections, the bus stops – a short intelligent woman walks under the din of arrivals, departures and air defense towards the house. But there it is not calmer: the house of two writers was attacked three times. Not long ago, a shell flew straight at the neighbors, one floor above. There is no water for a long time, the light constantly interrupts. So they read: prayers and horror movies.
I’m probably asking some stupid question, but from time to time another one doesn’t occur to me: “Do you still believe in the life-giving power of literature?”
And she quickly answers, without blinking: “We wouldn’t work any other way.”
One day I went to the Kalinin hospital. It had just been bombed, several buildings were seriously damaged, the polyclinic building received a direct hit, equipment destroyed, batteries and bricks scattered on the street. In front of the broken facade, at the monument to Saint Luke of Crimea (also with a book in his hands), I meet two girls, very young. Volunteers, honey students, Ksenia and Anastasia. They came to work as nurses after the start of SVO. “Are we afraid? Yes. But we won’t leave, that’s our job.” We got to talking. Ksenia and Anastasia almost in unison: “When we were at school, we read a lot. We liked books about pioneers.”
dancer on duty
Slowly, people do not walk or drive around Donetsk for a long time. So, if you leave the bookstore and quickly walk along the boulevard, then in about three minutes the rear facade of the Donbass Opera theater will open. Both wings of the building look like a colander, especially the right one. Windows: If they are not blocked with plywood, sand or cover with masking tape.
The place where one of the shells landed was quickly covered with asphalt. Black tongues of shards still protrude from the walls. Behind these walls are the classrooms of the children’s ballet school, the rehearsal rooms and the office of the fire inspector. And if the school is now closed, the rehearsals have been transferred to other classes, then the inspector Lyudmila Efremova is here all the time. It can be said that he himself takes all the blows.
“When there was a shelling two weeks ago, the most serious in recent times, they took me headlong into the corridor,” says Lyudmila Alekseevna. It was only when I woke up that I realized what had happened. I immediately ran to see what was wrong with the theater.
Inspector Efremova is actually a former dancer. Her young talent was discovered in her when she was four years old and brought to Moscow. Then a choreographic school, a career, a house – a theater. And she didn’t think of leaving here just like that. Now in the former ballerina often: the life of artists, spectators and passers-by.
“Theater always saves everyone’s life,” explains Efremova. – We also have the most reliable bomb shelter in the area, for which I am also responsible. When the shelling starts and the waves take out the gates, everyone knows they have to run towards us.
We go down below the circle of the stage -there is the shelter- and we see: next to the drums with water… skulls. “Very optimistic,” I remarked. “That’s life,” Efremova joked. But in reality, the skulls are props, the artists dry them here, because war is war, and no one canceled rehearsals and new productions.
In one of the classes where the soloists rehearse, I meet Roman Belgorodsky. It was he who played Peer Gynt in last year’s tour at the Bolshoi Theater. Roman is a student of the artistic director of the Donbass Opera Vadim Pisarev, he shone on the stages of the whole world, he constantly participated in the international festival “World Ballet Stars”, which Pisarev himself held in his native Donetsk. During the war, Roman also wasted no time: he got married: his chosen one is the ballerina Oksana Zizina. Oksana spent the last days before giving birth under shelling: shells from her fell directly on the maternity hospital. But everything ended well: the young ballerina now manages to drag multi-liter barrels of water into the house in the intervals between rehearsals. In the area where she lives, there is no water at all.
– Say what they say, the war, of course, leaves an imprint on our life and work, – Roman thinks aloud. – Do I believe today that art can help someone? I’d like to believe that the art softens and morally supports the audience, at least for a while, while the show is going on. Although they leave the theater and fall back into the same environment. Everything is complicated, Peer Gynt smiles.
In the lobby of the Donbass Opera I meet a newlywed couple. Photographed inside the theater. Anton and Anastasia from different cities of Donbass met on the Internet and decided not to delay the wedding. We must hurry to live. Who knows when the war will end…
Why was Mann shot?
Where else it was impossible not to go while walking along Pushkin Boulevard – the Writers’ Union of the DPR. He is riddled with shrapnel. On a wall, the president of the Union, Fyodor Berezin, signs “injuries”: the day they arrived. War schedule. But he has an exhibit for the war museum. Heinrich Mann’s four-volume book, cut through all the volumes with a fragment. This was in March of last year, only the fragment itself was dragged by a visiting reporter. I slightly open the wounded book – a fragment of a sentence from some Mann novel caught my eye: “… too much hate deprives him of his strength. He always had the feeling that living is more important than revenge, and the one who acts look forward, not back … “As if by the way, as if about them, Donetsk.
After one shelling, the pipes were damaged, the writers’ rooms were flooded with hot water, then I was still in Donetsk. I had to throw tens of kilograms of books. “The whole world suffers from the war. That’s probably why so many people write, for many it’s a way to relieve stress,” Rusanov argues.
In fact, many new literary associations have appeared in Donetsk. Festivals are held, collections are published. Writers are invited to creative meetings in other cities, prose writers and poets from other parts of Russia are also frequent guests in Donetsk. Last year the Union of Writers of the DPR practically became a branch of the Union of Writers of Russia. “Now the officials will have to at least listen to us, otherwise they usually look so skeptical: well, who, they say, is Leo Tolstoy here?”
What is Donetsk culture based on here? Rusanov explains it this way:
– In fact, in 2014 people of culture were very divided. Some left, but most stayed. They endured with their teeth when there were no salaries, no heating, no light. Drama theater actors had to move and live in the theater because their settlements were destroyed. And at the opera house, the set store caught fire. Because, why? What prevents them from giving up and running away? Residents of Donbass are characterized by healthy stubbornness. Yes, and love for the native land, too, cannot be ruled out.
Late in the evening he was walking along Pushkin Boulevard with his characters and meanings. Cars passed by from time to time on the street. The lanterns shone brightly. Luckily he was calm that night. The people and the monuments caught their breath. A couple of days later shells fell again near the boulevard. Once again, the Donbass Opera, the Art Museum and the Writers Union did it. In social networks, Rusanov wrote: the blast wave could not cope with the plywood that covered the windows.
The writer nailed it: “Our plywood is the strongest in the world.”
Yes, what there is, in fact, plywood. The people are stronger here.
By the way
At the end of last year, the Cultural Foundation “Film and Television Company” Pravoslavnaya Encyclopedia “with the support of the President’s Fund for Cultural Initiatives completed the filming of a documentary about people who preserve culture in the Donbass. Documentarians visited Donetsk and Mariupol, other cities of Donbass, as well as bands touring Russian cities.Among the heroes of the film are musicians of the Donetsk Philharmonic, artists of the Donetsk Puppet Theater and the Mariupol Drama Theater, soloists of the Donetsk Opera Donbass and many others.It is expected that the first episodes of the film will be published on the Internet in the spring, and the complete film is promised to be finished this summer.