My grandfather Georgiy Goder wrote these notes at the request of my uncle Alexey. They describe some of the history of the people pictured and their relationship to my grandfather’s life. I wanted to make the contents more accessible, so I have translated his notes into English and added some explanatory footnotes. You can see the original text in Russian here.
When I first looked at the people pictured in the photograph, all of whom have long since passed from this world, and started to think about what to write about each of them, I was struck with an immense worry as the melancholy remembrances came back to my mind. I really don’t know who would be interested in them; perhaps only those in whom flows the blood of our shared ancestors. Nevertheless, let me begin my tale.
The photograph was taken in the 19th century, in particular in the 1890s and in one of the most colorful cities in the world—TbilisiTbilisi, formerly known as Tiflis, is the ancient capital of Georgia. During most of the era described here it was part of either Russia or the Soviet Union.. Here is how I was able to date it. The leftmost girl is my mother Elena Vasilevna Pozoeva (22 February 1893–11 November 1977). My uncle Sergey Vasilevich Pozoev (18 February 1899–February 1985) is not in the photo, so clearly he had not yet been born. Therefore the photo was taken between 1893 and 1899. Moreover, my mother is no older than 5 or 6, and so I conclude that it was taken in 1897 or 1898.
The rightmost man is my grandfather Vasily Avetikovich (though in Russia it was pronounced Avetovich) Pozoev (1857–April 1940). He came from a noble family, and my mom was proud all her life to have come from aristocracy.
My grandfather studied at the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages in MoscowEstablished in 1815, the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages (named after the founding Lazarev family) was a school specializing in oriental studies, particularly those of Armenia. In 1921 it was merged along with other oriental schools into what became the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies., but according to rumor spent his time cavorting around town, so as a result he never graduated. He spent some time managing a division of a firm owned by the wealthy Armenian oil tycoon and philanthropist Alexander MantashevAlthough Mantashev was one of the world’s wealthiest individuals at the time of his death in 1911, he is best remembered for his charity, and in 2012 Yerevan erected a monument to him.. According to a family story, my grandfather once found a large sum of money that had not yet been entered into the company books. He could have easily kept the money for himself, but instead he returned it to Mantashev’s account. Most interestingly, Mantashev was not pleased, for he thought that such a decision showed a lack of good business sense. My mom told me this story, but I don’t know how much it corresponds to reality.
My grandfather owned a notary business for many years in Tbilisi. In the 1920s he moved to Moscow and lived the rest of his life there in his daughter Margarita’s three room apartment. I remember him being not very tall, of stocky build, his head full of gray hairs. When leaving home he would never part with his beautiful ancient cane. With the kids he interacted rarely—he was very private and unlike my grandmother did not talk much to us. I don’t remember that he ever played or talked with his grandchildren. Maybe because of this I never felt a strong attachment to him. When the children met with my grandfather, we kissed him, as was the custom at the time. But sometimes we would instead pull on his beard. Once he told on us to our parents, and we were summarily scolded and forced to apologize.
I remember that in the summer of 1938 we rented a dacha in Vereya. It was a picturesque town surrounded by forest on the Protva River. My grandfather went by himself; my grandmother for some reason stayed in Moscow. He lived just ten minutes walking distance from us, and so each day he would arrive at the same time to have dinner, bringing with him a bottle of some mysterious colorless liquid. Each time he would insist that the bottle contained his medicine. At the time I was eight years old and my sister Anna was twelve. Apparently she figured out my grandfather’s fairly obvious secret—the bottle simply contained vodka—and we started unceremoniously joking at his expense. Our family did not look very positively on drinking vodka. Yet now I myself drink a fair amount before dinner. I remember that my grandfather made cheese according to some Caucasian recipe. He would go to the market to buy calf rennet and other strange but necessary ingredients. At the time I found the cheese unusual and not particularly delicious.
In Vereya we lived in the house of a priest, who, like thousands of others of the clergy, had been either shot or exiled to some remote location. The stone church next door provided an unforgettable experience for me. The windows were broken and the inside was filled with rocks, trash, and assorted debris, turning it into something resembling a latrine profaned by those who called themselves (and a long line of their ancestors) Christians. It produced a depressing impression.
In the priest’s house we lived without our parents. Our nanny, the sincere and faithful Polish Maria Yusefovna Basova, stayed with us. She had acquired the nickname of “toothache” due to her constant complaints about being sick and need for some kind of medical care. Six months earlier our father had been arrested. He was charged with “wrecking”In the Soviet Union “вредительство”, loosely translated as “wrecking” or “sabotage”, was a general crime that could apply to a broad range of activities that might “harm the Soviet economy”. In practice it was often used as a generic charge against anyone the state wanted to arrest, particularly during the Great Purge. A notable depiction of a victim of “wrecking” is found in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book The Gulag Archipelago. and was sent to a camp in Kolyma for eight yearsKolyma is a region in the far east of Russia with very cold winters lasting six months of the year. Substantial deposits of gold, silver, and other minerals led the Soviet Union to build notorious forced labor camps (“gulags”) in the region, which Alexander Solzhenitsyn called a “pole of cold and cruelty”. Estimates of the number of people that died there range from 130,000 to 500,000.. My mom couldn’t leave Moscow for long; she worked as an actress, a master of artistic expression. She worked on Neglinnaya Street Neglinnaya Street (Неглинная улица), runs from the Bolshoi Theatre to Trubnaya Square. It was named for the Neglinnaya River, which runs directly under the street through a sewer. for the Russian State Concert Association (RSCA)In Russian, the Всероссийское государственное концертное объединение or ВГКО.. Along with more mediocre actors, the group also had its share of stars. Many years later, when I went with my mother to the RSCA office, I saw a newspaper on the wall which contained a cartoon of Alexander VertinskyAlexander Vertinsky was a tremendously famous Russian “romance” singer, who left the Soviet Union in 1920 and toured the world before finally being allowed to return in 1943., and these lines allegedly written by him:
I see my reflection in the window, And everything that was, is distant. I am a little ballerina, R-S-C-A, R-S-C-A.Я отражаюсь на витрине,
И все, что было, далеко.
Я маленькая балерина,
Let me remind those who have forgotten or simply never knew: the famous Russian chanson Alexander Nikolayevich Vertinsky (1889-1957) returned in 1943 from living abroad, and one of his songs is called “Little Ballerina”In Russian, Маленькая балерина. You can find the lyrics here..
But let me continue about my grandfather. Out of everyone in our family he was the only one who was religious, though to be fair I must say that we always celebrated Christmas and Easter. I hesitate to say how ardent a Christian he was, but he always carried a rosary with him, and each night before going to sleep he would pray in Armenian (“Our Father, who art in Heaven”, and so on, according to The Lord’s Prayer). In his declining years he was very fond of getting medical treatment. My cousins Sasha and Vasya, daughters of my aunt Margusha, claimed that he would go to the pharmacy, say hello, and immediately ask whether any new drugs had come in. That is, he wasn’t even interested in drugs for any specific condition (that he may, for instance, have actually had), but rather any sort of drugs that might have recently become available. In the pharmacy everyone knew my grandfather well and would always suggest to him some of the most modern drugs to take home.
Those cousins lived together with my grandfather, and they told me that he would always listen to my grandmother–she was an intelligent and domineering women (there will be more to tell of her later). There were times in the winter when he would put on his warm clothing to prepare for a walk, and then my grandmother would show up and say, “Vasya, take off those clothes, you’re staying home.” He would immediately resign himself (without even trying to argue) to taking off his clothes and canceling his walk. After he passed away in April 1940 it her a long time to recover–she spent much of her time crying. She would often imagine that she saw that familiar figure on the street or on a bus. They had lived together for sixty years.
My aforementioned cousins Sasha and Vasya were difficult adolescents. They really got to my grandfather. He complained to his youngest daughter, my mom, “These are a horrible boys.” My mom tried to calm him down, convincing him that this behavior was normal for boys of that age. But she didn’t succeed. “No, no,” he said, “you don’t understand just how terrible they are.” Apparently he was right.
I can’t help but mention my grandfather’s brothers, missing from the photo. Leon Avetikovich Pozoev, Lieutenant General in the Imperial Russian Army, was named by Tsar Nicholas II commander of the Turkestan Military DistrictI found several photos of Leon Pozoev. Apart from the one inline, there is another from a newspaper article. According to the article, Leon was born in 1855 into the Tbilisi aristocracy and spent his career in the artillery, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General in 1913. He fought in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877.78 and the Russo-Japanese War..
According to my grandmother and mother, the general’s wife had an indomitable temper. One time she got her hands on a document with troop deployment instructions meant for the general, and this woman, for her own mysterious reasons, destroyed the document without telling her husband a word. The general was harshly punished for not following the order, but later the Tsar forgave him and restored him to his rank and position. In the days of the Bolshevik Revolution and the killings of White Army officers, he was saved by his soldiers, who carried away their commander in a sack. I only ever knew about this based on my family’s stories, but after having checked online, I indeed learned of three generals with the last name of Pozoev: Georgiy Avetikovich, Major General (1915), Leon Avetikovich, Lieutenant General (1913), and Ruben Avetikovich, Major General (1915). It turns out that I am somehow the great nephew of three Pozoev Tsarist generals. But of course in Soviet times none of us would ever even mention these relatives. If we had then we would have met unpleasant repercussions and maybe even would have been pursued by the government.
To the left on the photograph is a woman sitting down, who looks like she is about thirty years old. This is the wife of Vasily Avetovich Pozoev–my grandmother on my mother’s side–Olga Aleksandrovna Pozoeva (1866-1959). Her maiden name was Dzhabar (the Russian form is Dzhabarova). She came from a family of Caucasian millionaires–the Karganovs (in Tbilisi there is even a street named Karganov Descent). My grandmother received a four story house not far from the upper stops of the Tbilisi funicular on Chonkadze Street as a dowry (I think that to this day it has the name of the Georgian 19th century writer Daniel ChonkadzeDaniel Chonkadze (1830-1860) was a Georgian writer most famous for his novella “Surami Fortress”, his only published work.).
My grandmother was widely involved in charity. One of her fosterlings was Grisha Arutinov, who in 1937 became the first secretary of the Bolshevik party in ArmeniaGrigory Arutyunov (1900-1957) had the longest tenure of any first secretary of Armenia..
At the same time, during the years of the Great Purge, my aunt Lisa.s husband Nikolay Ivanovich Pavlovsky was shot, and my aunt was exiled to Kazakhstan (but more about them later). My grandmother wrote a letter to Grisha Arutyunov pleading for help. She received no reply. Of course, it’s unlikely that this major Party member, being both executioner and victim at the same time.on the one hand, he signed execution orders for innocent people, and on the other hand his own family was being repressed for no cause–could do anything for my grandmother, but apparently he didn’t even try. The house of my grandmother Olga Aleksandrovna was taken by the Bolsheviks during the Revolution. After that she and my grandfather moved to Moscow. In a small apartment of their former house in Tbilisi there continued to live (with her mother) my grandmother’s favorite tutor, Varsik Kazryan, who had become a famous educator and had received the prestigious title of Honored Doctor of Georgia. She was very social and was known all around the city. When I visited Tbilisi for the first time in my life in 1949, I stopped to visit Varsik. I was received uncommonly well. I remember that early in the morning on the street sellers of “buttermilk”–matzoons–would yell “Ma-a-tzoon!… Ma-a-tzoon!…“Matzoon is an Armenian/Georgian fermented milk product similar to yogurt.. I remember that dear Varsik offered me with breakfast a drink that to this day remains a favorite: chacha (a homemade brandy). When I left she gave me a can of ajapsandali, a delicious dish made from eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and other vegetables.
Let me return to the story of my grandmother. Apart from Armenian and, apparently, Georgian, she also spoke Russian fluently, possessed a keen natural intelligence, and loved to endlessly tell stories. Everyone around her liked her, not excluding myself. Her own favorite was the eldest son of Margarita–Sasha–and she forgave him everything. It was always an adventure with my grandmother, and in her presence I never felt frightened. Really it seemed that this willful and energetic woman was not afraid of anything–not even the severe ruler of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin. She hated Stalin, calling him “Sathi” (in Armenian this means something like “May he die”). Her daughter–my mom and Margarita’s aunt (her friends and family called her Margusha or Margo)–fearfully asked her not to say such words in front of the children because it was too dangerous. My grandmother claimed (though most likely this is a legend) that she hid Stalin in her house in BatumiBatumi is a city in Georgia on the coast of the Black Sea. in the early 1900s, when he was pursued by guards. According to my grandmother, while Stalin was hiding in their basement, they were playing cards in the guest room. The participants were my grandfather, my grandmother herself, and one Colonel of the guard, whose name I knew in my student years but have since forgotten. I remember though that in Soviet times this Colonel was called a “bloody executioner” and a “Tsarist satrap”. Grandma claimed that he was a very sweet person, and she strongly regretted not turning in Stalin to him.
Near the end of her long life, grandma declared me the executor of her will (apparently not completely seriously). Not long before her death she told me that she removed this obligation from me because she had nothing left, apart from an old torn dress. Sadly, that was the truth.
To the left in the photo there is a woman standing. This is the sister of my grandmother Elizaveta Aleksandrovna Vasilyeva (nee Dzhabarova). Next to her sits her husband–Vasilyev, who, as I recall from my mom’s stories, was in Tsarist times a Vice Governor of the Erivan GovernorateThe Erivan Governorate was one of the “guberniyas” of the Russian Empire, and roughly corresponds to modern day Armenia.. For some reason in our family we treated him ironically. Thus in his older years Vasilyev, according to my uncle Sergey Vasilyevich Pozoev, perceived the slightest problem as his approaching end. He would often gather his relatives around him and say, “De-part-ing…”
I never met Vasilyev and haven’t remembered his first name. Perhaps he died before I was born. But his wife, “Baba Lisa”, I saw several times. In the 30s she would occasionally visit our house on Starokonyushniiy LaneStarokonyushniiy Lane is a street in the center of Moscow, named for the stables that once stood there.. This occurred during the days that Lisa’s sister–my grandmother Olga Aleksandrovna–was also staying with us. I remember that at the request of Baba Lisa I bought her some sort of special matches on the ArbatArbat Street, usually just called “The Arbat”, is a pedestrian street in the center of Moscow, home to many artists. It’s a popular tourist attraction., which were, as was everything in those years, in short supply.
The Vasilyevs had a daughter. When my mom and Margusha told me stories they mentioned their cousin Lena Vasilyeva, but because of somewhat strained relations with Lena I was never able to meet her.
The woman sitting in the Caucausian headdress (on the left in the photograph) is my great grandmother. Her name was Sofia Dzhabarova, and she was the wife of my great grandfather Alexander Dzhabarov and the mother of both of my grandmothers present in the photo–Olga and Elizaveta. She was also the mother of their brother Michael Aleksandrovich Dzhabarov, who is in the photo sitting under his mother on a low bench. In the family Michael was everyone’s favorite. In the stories of my mom and her brother, Sergey Vasilyevich Pozoev (who, apparently, had not yet been born at the time the photo was taken and thus is only mentioned briefly here), “Uncle Misha” was a kind and charming man. He played a notable role in the life of Tbilisi as a member of the city council. He died tragically at a young age–after an unsuccessful attempt to cut an ingrown toenail he got an infection which led to sepsis. At the time antibiotics didn’t exist. The early death of Michael shocked his family… and when much later we trimmed the toenails of my little sons, and later grandsonsIncluding your humble translator., to prove the importance of this procedure I would always remind them of the sad story of Uncle Misha.
Michael Aleksandrovich Dzhabarov passed away during the First World War, or perhaps just before it. My grandmother Sofia Dzhabarova passed away in the 1920s. I never knew either of them and never had the opportunity.
Now I’ll talk a little about my mom (I’ll remind you that she’s the youngest person in the photograph). She is the leftmost girl on the photo, and was called Elena Vasilyevna Pozoeva (in Armenian Hehine Barsehovna Pozoyan). She wanted to be an actress and moved to Moscow, where she studied at the School of Theatrical Arts of Sofia Vasilyevna Halyutina (1875-1960). I saw Halyutina myself in a performance of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard playing the part of Charlotta when she was around 70 years old. She acted with great severity and character.
My mom went to work at the newly-opened Chamber Theatre (1914), where she played a few parts (including Herodias in Oscar Wilde’s Salome and Oenone in Jean Racine’s Phèdre)She also played Anusuya in a performance of The Recognition of Śākuntalā in 1914. She considered her best work there her performance in Paul Claudel’s The Tidings Brought to Mary, in 1920. In 1924, because of a conflict with her director Alexander TairovAlexander Tairov (1885-1950) was one of the leading directors of the Soviet Union. He was married to the actress Alisa Koonen, who appeared in many of his performances. , my mom was forced to leave the Chamber Theatre. After that she continued her work as an actress (for example in the Azerbaijan State Russian Drama Theatre). Until the end of her life my mother kept close relations with Tairov’s daughter from his first marriage, Tamara Aleksandrovna Tairova (approx. 1902-1979). This woman, nicknamed Musya, didn’t have her own family and was always kind to my mother, acting with an extraordinary sense of decency. When Alexander Tairov died in 1950, my mother told Musya, “Go to your father’s widow, the famous actress Alisa Koonen, and say that you deserve, as his daughter, part of your father’s inheritance.” Tamara Tairova replied with great dignity, “If my father wanted to leave me anything, then he would have mentioned me in his will. Since he didn’t do that, I won’t act against his wishes.”
My mother’s first husband was the artist V. Roberg. I don’t know anything about Roberg or about why my mother divorced him. Another better-known painter, Pavel Kuznetzov, painted “A Portret of the Actress E. V. Pozoeva”. In Soviet times Kuznetzov had fallen out of favor, being criticized for “aestheticism” and “formalism”. My mother’s portrait was hidden in the vaults of an art museum in YerevanThe museum referred to here is now the National Gallery of Armenia, a name it got after Armenia became independent in 1991.. In the summer of 1949 I first visited Yerevan, and I stopped at the house of my mother’s friend Ruben Grigoryevich Drampyan, who had founded that museum. When we went to the museum he introduced me to the painter Martiros SaryanMartiros Saryan (1880-1972) was the founder of the Armenian national school of painting.. He said to me, “Would you like me to ask them to bring the portrait of your mother?” “Will they listen to you?” I replied. My question, addressed to a world famous painter, was naive and silly. Indeed the painting was brought forth immediately, and they placed it on the floor against a wall so that I could examine the portrait of my mother.I found a photo of the painting, from when it was shown at an exhibition in the fall of 2010 at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (the premier museum of European art in Moscow).
In 1965 I visited Yerevan yet again. Pavel Kuznetzov’s works were by now located in the museum proper. I was traveling with a group of my former students, and I took them to see the museum. “Well, does it look like Elena Vasilyevna?” I asked those of them that knew my elderly mother. They just shook their heads, bemused.
For some time my mom rented a room in the Moscow house of Marina TsvetaevaMarina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is considered one of the greatest Russian poets of all time, although she lived a tragic life that ended in her suicide after her husband was executed on espionage charges. on Borisoglebsky LaneBorisoglebsky Lane is a street in the center of Moscow, near the Arbat.. My mother was friends with the sisters of Tsvetaeva’s husband, Sergei Efron. I don’t know exactly how long this arrangement lasted or exactly when it was, but it must have been before May 1922, when Tsvetaeva left Russia. Of Tsvetaeva herself I have my mother’s words, “Marina was very intelligent. Probably, very talented. But as a person she was cold and ruthless. She didn’t love anyone… often she arrived in black… like a queen… and whispered, .This is Tzvetaeva… Tzvetaeva is here.’”
My mother married my father, the civil engineer Israel Abramovich Goder, in 1923. They lived together for fifteen years, until his arrest. In the night of Februrary 22, 1938–my mother’s birthday–they came for my father. They didn’t wake my sister and me to “spare” the chidlren. In the morning, unsuspecting, we gave my mother a birthday present: a bottle of the perfume Oreanda.
Until his arrest my father held a fairly high position as Head of Capital Construction at the TsAGIThe Центра́льный аэрогидродинами́ческий институ́т (ЦАГИ) or “Tsentralny Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut”, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute.. My father was accused of “sabotage” and sent to Kolyma. After eight years in exile he returned, not to Moscow, where they wouldn’t let him live, but rather to Sobinka. In the summer of 1948 I traveled there for a few days to visit my father, who continued to work as a civil engineer. Later he was arrested yet again, this time for no explicit reason, and was sent without trial to the village of Bolshoy Uluy near the city of AchinskAchinsk is a medium-sized town near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia..
My mother traveled to visit my father in Siberia a few times. She said that her trips were anticipated not only by my father, but also the other exiles, most of whom were members of the intelligentsia, because she baked them pies and cooked a nice meal. These innocent, suffering people came in the evenings, socialized with each other, and had intimate conversations. For them, these meetings were undoubtedly an escape. In 1956 all of the survivors, including my father, were exonerated for lack of evidence. Some of them started to show up at our house in Moscow. Among them I remember the widow of Georgy Ippolitovich Oppokov (who was ordered shot by Stalin). Born into nobility, he became a Bolshevik and friends with Lenin, and was elected to the first Soviet Government as People.s Commissar of Justice. Also visiting us was one Mihin with his wife (I’ve forgotten their names), who was friends with Andrei BelyAndrei Bely (1880-1934) was a major Russian novelist. He wrote the novel Petersburg, considered one of the greatest twentieth century Russian novels. and a follower of Anthroposophy.
Now I’ll talk about the woman sitting on the carpet, holding on to Uncle Misha. This is my mother’s sister, Margarita Vasilyevna Pozoev (1891-January 1970). She was married to the cousin of my father, David Zaharovich Malyavsky, but kept her maiden name. I could say many wonderful words about Margusha. She was a bright personality–beautiful and intelligent, she knew and loved literature, music, and art. But in addition she had, to put it mildly, a difficult personality. She was sharp of the tongue, absolute of opinion, and outside of the family there were few she would see. Strictly speaking, I remember in her house out of all of Uncle David’s relatives only his sister Dasha with her husband, the famous financier Vladimir Solomonovich Steinberg, and her Georgian colleague Vera Varnamovna Bush. Margusha thought very critically of Soviet order. A child, the first thing I heard from her mouth was a radically unconventional assessment of Lenin, “All evil came from him!”In Russian this is “Все зло пошло от него!”, which has a much nicer meter.
When she was older, Margusha continued to love risky jokes. Once when she came home she called up to her own apartment. We rushed to open the door and saw my aunt, imperturbably standing on the landing with a bouquet of flowers and some purchases. What was notable about her was that she was in her lingerie, but… without a dress. As we later learned, Margusha took off her fashionable dress right outside the door (it was put on from the side rather than over the head; some wit called this style “a man in a hurry”). I also remember that the Vice Dean of that faculty where my cousin Sasha and I were studying was called Nikolai Vasilyevich Epaneshnikov. Of him I have the best memories. Well, Margusha claimed that this last name does not exist. When pronouncing it, she changed just one sound and the last name immediately became inappropriate.
Margusha acted towards me in varied ways. But now after so many years have passed I want to remember only the good. Often we would arrive to their welcoming home, where the table was always set. Out of the entire family Margusha was the best cook. Her baked veal with vegetables, pirozhki with cabbage and meat, and gataThis is an Armenian pastry similar to coffee cake. were all worth the highest praise. At the end of a meal, they served strong black coffee made in a cezve, from beans ground in an ancient grinder, and served in small cups of fine china. Real coffee was considered a delicacy–at home in the mornings we were given the tasteless acorn coffee “Zdorov’e”This name ironically means “health” in Russian..
In my poor student days, Margusha gave me 10 rubles from time to time (at the time the monthly stipend for a first year student was 22 rubles). I also remember in the summer of 1953 we were resting with my wife Irina Sergeevna on the seashore, not far from the Batumi Botanical Garden. We were young and foolishly spent almost all our money, and my mother at that time was with my father in Siberia and wasn’t able to help. We turned to Margusha with a request, and she immediately wired us a large amount. After returning to Moscow we repaid the debt, along with a large potted wallflower from Georgia.
In June of 1955 Margusha’s husband David died of a heart attack while at work. He was 69 years old. They said that his passing was accelerated by his partiality to cigarettes. Indeed he did smoke heavily. When Margusha called us with the news, she loudly yelled, “How could he!” This outburst expressed her entire nature–domineering and not allowing contradictions. Margusha outlived her husband by 15 years. In the first years after his death she went to the cemetery almost every day. Her death was easy–she died in her sleep in 1970. Looking at her dead body lying on the table, I pronounced words that I can still recall after over forty years, “Margusha was one of the people closest to me.”
After Margusha’s death I never again visited her house and practically never interacted with her children–Sasha and Vasya. There were reasons for that, but that’s a whole different story.
I still have to tell about the eldest of the Pozoev sisters, my aunt Elizaveta Vasilevna Pavloskaya (1889-June 1951). She is in the photo on the right, at the feet of her mother Olga Aleksandrovna Pozoeva. We playfully called her “Lizochka”, which reminded us of the sentimental words of Tchaikovsky’s “My Lizochek”. After finishing school, Lisa briefly worked in the notary office of her father, my uncle Vasily Avetovich Pozoev.
A few years before the fall of the Russian monarchy, Lisa got married to Nikolai Ivanovich Pavlovsky, whose name she kept for the rest of her life. Kolya, as everyone called him, was an officer in his youth in the Convoy of the Viceroy of the Caucuses and a commander of military forces of the Caucasian Military District. Whether the Vicery was the Count Vorontzov-Dashkov (1905-1915) or the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich who replaced him, I’m not sure. As I remember, Kolya was promoted to the rank of Cossack colonel. In Soviet times at the same rank he served as chief of service dog breeding. He distanced himself from politics, and loved most women (alas his infidelity was a great source of pain for Lisa), dogs, horses, and… children.
Kolya and Liza didn’t have any of their own children. Out of their four nephews Lisa loved the youngest the most; she affectionately called me “my gray eyes”. Kolya, on the other hand, liked my sister Anna the most. As my mother said, he would tell her, “Lenochka“Lenochka” is a diminutive for Anna., you should be rewarded, you are a fantastic breeder.” My mother would laugh, “How can you say that? You can only talk like that about dogs or horses.” But Kolya was not dissuaded and moreover didn’t want to offend anybody, for dogs and horses were his passion. I think that down in his soul he ranked them higher than people.
In the winter of 1936-1937 I was brought for a week or two to Kolya and Lisa’s house. My parents were afraid that in their house I could get sick from my sister, who was had scarlet fever (or perhaps something else). Lisa and Kolya lived on Lavrushinsky LaneLavrushinsky Lane is a pedestrian street in the Moscow city center. and had two rooms in a huge communal apartment, where I was fortunate enough to spend several unforgettable days.
I remember Kolya as a tall, attractive, infinitely kind and cheerful man. I remember how he put me on a sled and pulled me along Lavrushinsky Lane. When the large sledge arrived, pulled by horses (in those years there were many of them in the winter streets of Moscow), he would, without asking the driver, tie my sled to the sledge and I, dying from excitement and fear, would quickly speed across the frozen pavement.
I also remember how he invited over the neighboring kids around my age. Apparently for them this wasn’t their first visit to Kolya’s house. They lined up and started to sing the song of Robert from the recently released film Captain Grant’s ChildrenCaptain Grant’s Children was a Soviet film released in 1936 and based on the Jules Verne novel In Search of the Castaways. It was even released in the US in 1939. In 1962 Walt Disney Productions released another film adaptation of the novel, starring Hayley Mills, who is most famous for playing the twins in the 1961 Disney film The Parent Trap.:
Come sing us a song, cheerful wind,
Cheerful wind, cheerful wind!
The sea and mountains, you’ve seen all the world,
And heard every song in the world.
Who got used to fighting for victory,
Should join in song with us.
Whoever is cheerful, laughs.
Whoever wants, will achieve.
Whoever is searching, will always find!А ну-ка песню нам пропой, веселый ветер,
Веселый ветер, веселый ветер!
Моря и горы ты обшарил все на свете,
И все на свете песенки слыхал.
Кто привык за победу бороться,
С нами вместе пускай запоет.
Кто весел - тот смеётся,
Кто хочет - тот добьётся,
Кто ищет - тот всегда найдёт!
Kolya would listen to the children singing with obvious pleasure.
One of the many crimes of the Stalinist regime was the pointless shooting of Nikolai Ivanovich Pavlovsky, who could only be reproached for his romances with women. In the words of my sister Anna, what doomed Kolya was that he was friends with the famous Party functionary Avel Enukidze–both were passionate hunters. As is well known, Enukidze was considered a close friend of Stalin, which did not stop Stalin from declaring him an enemy of the people and having him eliminated.
My uncle Sergey Vasilyevich Pozoev was good friends with Kolya and adored him. He often repeated that he could clearly imagine this kind and handsome person falling to the ground as the executioner’s bullets strike him.
Soon after Lisa, as a wife of an “enemy of the people”, was arrested and sent for many years to a camp in Akmolinsk, Kazakhstan. Fortunately, she maintained the opportunity to write, and I started writing to her even before the war. For me this correspondence had the nature of a game, on account of my age. Each of my short letters I wrote over the course of several days in the form of a diary, and to these daily notes I applied a stamp with movable rubber strips that I used to mark the year, month, and day. Lisa carefully replied to my letters. In one of them she wrote, “For seven years I haven’t seen any trees or grass–only dry yellow clay. I dream of one day living somewhere that has beautiful forests, meadows, and rivers.”
Apart from letters, Lisa, when she had free time, sewed tablecloths and skullcaps. The latter she would send me as a present, and I was happy to wear them in the summer. A few days before the start of the war, in June 1941, Lisa’s mother (my grandmother Olga Aleksandrovna Pozoeva) was allowed to meet with her. She was then 75 years old. She traveled by herself from Moscow to distant Akmolinsk.
After serving her sentence, Lisa settled in Kolchugino in the Vladimir Oblast because it was forbidden for her to live in Moscow. With great enthusiasm, she began to teach English at the local college. She had learned it in her youth (her education was as a lawyer). At the end of the 1940s I traveled for a few days to Kolchugino to see Lisa. We had many conversations and walks in the woods. She was amused that the landlord of the house where she rented a room read tome after tome of the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, one entry after the next. Lisa herself, like her sisters, tenderly loved Russian literature. She didn’t talk much about the camp but said that she met some decent people there. One of them was a civilian doctor who knew how to find the right words to alleviate the suffering of the women exiles. The whole camp affectionately called him Brom Valeryanovich.
In Kolchugino Lisa received a frightening diagnosis: cancer. Disregarding the government’s order, she went to Moscow for an examination, where she stayed with Margusha and David. When she arrived they said, “Let her live as long as she wants and whatever will be, will be.” Together with my mother we took Lisa in a taxi to the clinic of the then-famous oncologist Kopelman. The diagnosis of the Kolchugino doctors was not confirmed. However, it was too early to celebrate. It soon became clear that the radiologists from the small town were correct, and not the illustrious Moscow oncologist. I remember that specifically this had a great effect on my mother. In the summer of 1951 Lisa passed away. She died in a hospital, suffering heavily. The last book that Lisa read (or rather, re-read) was The Three Musketeers. Even now I can’t shake a feeling of guilt. Busy with my own troubles–as the son of a half-Jew who was repressed by the government, after graduating college I was not given work and was not allowed to remain in Moscow–I was not very attentive to Lisa in her final terrible days. May God forgive me!
Nowadays, walking along Lavrushinsky Lane past the red brick house (located diagonally from the Tretyakov Gallery ((The Tretyakov Gallery is the foremost gallery of Russian art in the world.)) closer to the canal) I always remember sadly the times past and tragic fate of my dear Lisa and Kolya.
With this I conclude my short remarks. Always cherish your memories of the departed.
– Georgiy I. Goder, Summer 2009