One afternoon I come back from the elementary level first grade classes in school and discover that my art albums are gone. My mother has just recycled them. I freeze in our long corridor-library, and all I can think about for a while is the distribution of light from the glass doors of the living room and my own room after it that hits bookshelves and my mother, respectively.


I know how paper recycling works, I participate in it regularly as a schoolgirl: kids go door to door and ask for old newspapers, at least we did.

So when I can speak again, I ask my mother, how long ago they came, ready to run after them. In the morning. I say or shout: and the one with the duck lake (my most recent color drawing)? She says: there were so many of those albums, there was no space for them any more.

The floors of the six-floor apartment seem to move, I feel like I was floating in the air and could concentrate only on the light.


I don't know what I did or how I stayed vertical.

Since then, I could not really draw in my last remaining album again, which was neither the current nor the favorite one. Those drawing pads had awesome heavyweight paper and was bounded with ribbons. My whole world was in them. I had a few drawings left from the age five or six, so I cut them out and kept separately. Decades later, I still have difficulty drawing on bind pages - they seem to be easier to keep safe separately.

Three things happened after this.

First, I started to cut out little figures from postcards and drawings and keep them in a secret place.

Second, I started having repetitive dreams that various parts of our tall building were missing, most memorably the stairway and sometimes the elevator - the ways to escape to the ground. When I tried to run down, there were multiple levels of the steps missing, and on the top, the structure was shaking and the windows were sealed to jump (from the 9th floor). Sometimes neighbors got in the way.

Third, I watch a film on the neighbor's TV, Kamila (Камила, 1980) by Muhtar Aga-Mirzaev (Мухтар Кардашханович Ага-Мирзаев or Агамирзаев), a director from Uzbekistan, about a girl who wanted to play piano and goes to a music school despite the indifference of her parents, who also take from her a few things her grandmother left behind, including a piano. In this film awesome people outside her family helped her.

I realized that it is possible that someone can believe in me, that I can avoid coming home to the explosive spleen of my parent's reality, and that music can stay with you at all times, and you do not need to transfer it onto external objects.

Soon after, a young piano teacher "discovers" me in my school, maybe just because I show enthusiasm. I start studying in her music studio nearby, to which I can walk in the evenings. Months later, she recommends me to the admissions of the best music school in town, and tries to convince my parents after I get qualified through the entry exam.

With horror, I realize two things: my parents would need to pay for it, and a piano at home is required, and both are extremely expensive.

My mother happens to be pleased that her daughter can attend a serious music school, and after my next to be mentor talks to my parents, they decide to let me do it. My grandmother from Donetsk purchases the instrument.

I spend an amazing first year in the music school, parallel to the third grade in elementary. I drive to the old center of the city on trolleybuses and trams for four afternoons a week, and make a long walk to the old school building. Less than an hour each way, usually right from the school, and hungry.

I have concerts with a choir, study music theory (with a nastiest instructor), pass all the quarterly technique and Italian terminology tests, and make fast progress with my main piano teacher, who kicks me in my back and slaps my hands, but understands my taste and gives me interesting and most beautiful pieces to play - Tchaikovsky, Handel, Kabalevsky, Reinhold Glière, and Bach.

A few months into the next year we leave the country.

The transfer to the full time art-music school is impossible.

I returned to my music school two years later, with a new understanding what I have gotten myself into. Especially after my father's free hours started to correspond with my practice times at my home piano. He listened and drove me crazy with his remarks.

Towards my last years in music school, the economy and the financial dynamic between my parents worsened, and the constant reminders of how much my music cost them made me want to quit before my final concerts.

Somehow I made it through, played well, received a redeeming handshake from the school director for my interpretation of the polyphonic piece, and that was it - I did not touch any piano for years.

I even stopped playing my own sons that I composed in the rare periods alone with my piano, for the lyrics I wrote for years.

Before divorce, my father shouted that he would saw my beloved piano in half before I get to keep it, because my toothbrush is the only thing I can claim.

I thought I would be damned if I ever let myself emotionally invest in any externality. I thought I could keep my visual and melodic compositions for myself.


Latest in this Category: