“Keeping the soul to myself...” To the 100th Anniversary of Tamara Petkevich

30 Oct 2020–16 Feb 2021All exhibitions

A new exhibition at the State Museum of Political History of Russia is dedicated to our contemporary, Tamara Vladislavovna Petkevich, GULAG prisoner in the 1940s – 1950s, actress, theatre historian, and memoir author.

The heroine of the exhibition shared the difficult fate of many thousands of women who passed through Stalin`s camps. The violent time mercilessly destroyed everything that they had: their youth, personal happiness, families and friend connections, careers and plans for the future. Their stories are similar and different at once, as each woman had her own path, her individual post-camp life. Such authors as Eugenia Ginzburg, Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, Hava Volovich, Nina Gagen-Torn, and Eufrosinia Kersnovskaya left deeply touching prison memoirs of the tragic legacy of that epoch. An unbroken survivor and a true Human, Tamara Petkevich also followed the painful and unpredictable route of our recent past and found courage to tell about her life, to share the stories of many people ruined by the repression years in her book “Life is an Unpaired Boot” published in 1993. “I have no right to forget...We, the survivors, must connect times...”, – Tamara said in one of her interviews. The book of memoirs “Life is an Unpaired Boot” by Tamara Petkevich has become a social and cultural event, was published multiple times in Russia and abroad, bringing fame and literature awards. Tamara Petkevich used to divide her life into “before” and “after” the book: “... my life has changed drastically because the reaction to that story, the simple empathy and engagement... has opened up people in such a way that I have never imagined... the life and its depth have been revealed to me... I have discovered the volume of human soul, the volume of possibilities, and finally the volume of good and evil...”

Tamara Petkevich has a complicated personal story full of hardships and happy moments at the same time. Her and millions of Soviet people shared a common experience of the dramatic time period between the 1930s and the 1950s. Her father was arrested and was executed by shooting in 1938. Her mother and younger sister died during the Siege of Leningrad. She was betrayed by her closest people. She was separated from her son that was born in the camp. Her dearest, beloved person passed away in the camp. Prison, camps in Kyrgyzia, Sevzheldorlag in the Komi Republic, hard work to collect mallow hemp and kenaf, logging camp, camp hospital, camp theatre. On this stage she became an actress. Art and her dear friends helped Tamara overcome the hardships without losing dignity and individuality, those aspects severely damaged by the totalitarian system. In a stunningly heartfelt manner, Tamara Petkevich tells stories about all the amazing people she met: her true Teacher, a talented film director Alexander Gavronsky; Georgian actress Tamara Tsulukidze who became the head of the prison’s puppet theatre; pianist Dmitry Karayanidi; artist Boris Starchikov; translator Helle Frisher; German artist Margarita Vendt; Chinese communist and self-taught artist of the camp Tsu Dzin Shan, and many others, memories of whom had never left Tamara’s heart. As well as the memories of her big love, actor Nikolay Teslik, a veteran of war who passed away in the prison hospital.

Exhibited, transformed into memories of the past, their personal stories become a precious legacy of our collective memory, a tool for understanding the past.

Through the prism of this individual woman’s story, the exhibition reveals multiple aspects of human existence in that huge system of the “GULAG country”: physical and moral survival experiences, working and living in the camp, life stories of children of the camp and “traitor

family members”, personal relations, and the art of prisoners—the only available space of freedom.

The museum project can be called a memorial exhibition, a journey across time and space, a weeping path of the great human life. Photographs, documents, manuscripts, autographs of famous people, artworks, personal belongings of Tamara Petkevich that were gifted to the museum by her friends and family become links in the chain of Tamara’s memories of the past. Photos taken in 2019 by Tatiana Alexandrovna Kutsenina, a journalist are a camertone that tunes one’s heart to understand the uneasy story of life. With a copy of Tamara’s diary, she had taken the northern railway route to visit all the places where Tamara Petkevich served her jail time. Dated 1972, her diary was written by Tamara Petkevich during her trip to the land where she “died, resurrected, and lived”. The impersonal names of places where actors of the camp’s troop used to perform at numerous camp stations and columns of Sevzheldorlag get filled with very special meaning at the exhibition: Abez, Mikun, Kozhva, Ust-Vym, Urdoma, Mezheg, Svetik, Knyazhpogost, Ukhta, Inta.

Modern photos of those stations and settlements along with abstracts from the diary serve as a semantic axis for the memories of Tamara’s family and love, her son and the theatre barrack with a stage, of the finally gained freedom which required a lot of effort to learn again. Tamara Petkevich managed to get back to Leningrad only in 1961 after she had been completely rehabilitated. She graduated from the Theatre Studies Department at the Leningrad State Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinema and dedicated her life to amateur theatres. Performing at community centers and clubs, centers for the visually impaired, Tamara gave people love and happiness and stayed away from any formal paths. She managed to keep her kindness, to be grateful for every given day and new exciting encounters. It is her voice that tells a personal story at the exhibition, evoking feelings of empathy and understanding, touching the hearts of many generations. It is a cure for oblivion that helps reinterpret and live the country’s history through the story of one individual.

In March 2020, a memorial collection of articles written by Tamara’s friends, colleagues, and admirers from all over the world — “A Legend of the Phoenix” — was released to commemorate her 100th anniversary.


Публикация от: 22.10.2020 15:24:46