• ESSAYS

    Russia and Italy: A Musical Collaboration

    The world’s first opera, “Dafne,” premiered in 1600 at the Florentine court of the illustrious Medici. The Roman Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) was the composer. His second opera, “Euridice,” survived to our day and may be heard on YouTube. “Dafne” had been lost to time. While opera developed and thrived in Italy, music in Russia was mostly liturgical. The first opera performed in Russia was the comical “Calandro” by the Bolognese Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692-1753) in 1731 when the exuberant August II of Poland had sent his Italian opera troupe to Anna Ivanovna of Russia for her coronation. Autocratic and imposing Empress Anna (1698-1740) detested boredom and welcomed the musicians to…

  • ESSAYS

    The Architects of the “Third Rome” and the “Venice of the North”.

    For centuries, Italy and Russia have led a cultural dialogue which few countries could match in mutual sympathy. Thus, a series of articles shall explore the historical and modern ties which Italy and Russia share, tributing Italians whose names are gratefully preserved in Russian memory, and honouring  the Russians whose works were inspired by Italy.    In 2016, Russian TV had shown one of the most successful historical dramas of the decade, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of Russia. The heroine is Sofia Paleologa –the last Byzantine princess– who had become the wife of Ivan III. Raised in Rome, Sofia brought an extensive Italian entourage to Moscow. The TV…

  • DIARY

    Footsteps in Time

    From a letter to a friend this summer. Some memories of the Caucasian Mountains, South of Russia. Going to my friend’s, I had to climb a hill. The scent of lilacs followed me like a veil, with fragrances of late May permeating the air. I remembered myself being nine, visiting my paternal grandparents, and exploring the hills and mountain passes in the Caucasian Mountains, near Krasnodar and the Black Sea…How hot were the summers there, how lustrous the days! My ancestors on my father side – Russian nobility of Cossack descent – used to ride horses in the Caucasian mountains on military missions for the Kuban Cossack Host in the 1800s (one…

  • DIARY

    School 69

    Neither of my parents were in Russia on August 31st, 1997. They were then visiting Canada, which would become my second home. I was watching Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and told my grandmother that I would like to fall asleep and not wake up tomorrow – my very first day in school. I ate a red apple, hoping it was poisoned…I woke up to find it snowing on the first of September (!). A friend of the family, Larissa, came to escort me to school with my brother, Boris, and our grandmother. My parents left me glossy boots to make my way to school for the first…

  • DIARY

    Dare Devils

    The riskiest daredevils I’ve known in my life were 3rd graders in Russia, running beneath the icicles. Naturally, I was among them. The icicles were huge and sharp, trembling from the children’s laughter… I used to call them “ice-bouquets from winter’s garden.” They seemed to drip with glassy dew when the lazy sun appeared for a few minutes per day. But they also reminded of fangs, sprouting from the eaves of an 80 year old building, which was ironically named the Teplopunct (the Heating Centre)…As we grew a little older, my classmates and I decided to save the next generation from the errors of our own. Making snowballs we shot…

  • DIARY

    The Russian French Braid

    Russia, 1998: Our home-class in Ekaterinburg had a paragon of beauty, impossible to duplicate. Her name was Allochka, doe-eyed, with a waist-long braid. This braid done in a French manner was the envy of the third grade, and its platinum blonde color – glossing in the winter sun – wasn’t the cause. It was because Allochka’s braid was so tight and it had no holes between the crisscrossed locks. The fact that Allochka’s eyes seemed to crawl up to her forehead from the tightness of the braid only added to the envy, and universal awe. “It’s the hairstyle of a Princess,” said some. “It is the hairstyle of an alien,”…

  • DIARY

    My first marriage proposal

    I received my first marriage-proposal much sooner than one for my first date (accepting neither). It was during my summer break near Sochi, Russia when I was eight. I was playing in my grandparents’ garden – always perfumed with fresh-growing fruit, lush with Isabella grapes, and garish with flowers. Picking strawberries, I heard someone ask, “Can I have some?” It was a boy peeking through the fence. I recognized him as my Georgian neighbour. I gave him some strawberries. Seeing ten or so bushes of the vibrant berry in my grandparents’ garden, he must have deemed them as a fitting dowry. “Marry me,” he said out of the blue. I tried to…

  • DIARY

    ПРИБЫТИЕ

        Я уехала из России в день рожденья бабушки. “Лучший подарок для нее, если ты не будешь плакать,” просила мама. Меня предупредили заранее, что в Канаде столько высоток, что блеск только одной звезды не меркнет от искусственного света – Путеводной. Небоскрёбы меня не пугали, потому как все 11 лет детства довелось провести в старейшей высотке Екатеринбурга. Целых 8 этажей, включая подвал, кишащий призракaми сталинских репрессий и сумрачным духом тревоги. “Видела решётку, Настя, что закрывает вход в подвал? Это решётка в подземелье. Там кости и дверь прямо в преисподнюю,” шептали подруги. Но ни полуночные бредни, ни убийства в соседних дворах во время лихих 90-тых, ни стаи бездомных собак, круживших под…

  • STORIES

    RENDEZ-VOUS CAFÉ

    This story centers on three hopeful young people. Each of them is expecting a life-changing email that day. None of them know how small the world is, and it is within their power to manifest each other’s dreams…or break them.   “Rendez-Vous” café is a cozy place where people come to avoid one another, and the world leisurely revolves in a bubble of green tea– a drinkable meditation. Only the Now exists at “Rendez-Vous”; the past discarded at the threshold like a pair of muddy shoes; the future – looming as a bill for a comfortable time. One bleak winter day, an errant group of 20-somethings overturned the porcelain calm…

  • ESSAYS

    A REFLECTION ON REFLECTIONS

    It was my first year in Canada. Recess in Grade 6. A few girls from Grade 8 beaconed to me – I was to become their next fashion project. “I like your gray eyes,” one of them examined my face like a canvass before procuring her mascara. I smiled in reply, “I think all shades are beautiful.” The girls seemed to agree in celebration of diversity. A pretty brown-skinned girl was making her way across the grounds. Our eyes met. Hers were striking jet-black. She seemed eager to join us, but the girls whispered to each other, “Don’t look at her.” Sensing their distrust, the girl continued on her way.…