Jun 14, 2012
Esquire Russia recently interviewed several women who have survived the last century of Russian history. Here are their portraits and some translated excerpts of their comments…
Raisa Korneevna Komisarova, 100
I had a family but they all died. From 11 family members only me is alive. Don’t know when I die. I am even afraid… who knows how long I am going to live! I am tired to live. In my three rooms I am all alone.. Even have nobody to speak with….
Authorities send me letters asking to live long, they seem to respect me…. They say “Live long, we need you”, but why do they need me? Don’t know.”
Khanna Moiseevna Shklovskaya, 101
I am one year and 8 months… In this new century of mine…. I am afraid of nothing. I was born in the time of the tsar, underwent the Jewish mess, the war of 1914, hunger in Ukraine in 1922, WWII… What should I be afraid of after that?”
Goarik Artemyevna Balasanyan, 103
“There is nothing funny about being that old. The most terrible thing is that my eyesight is worse and worse and can’t read Pushkin. I love him, his portrait hangs over my head. I also like Byron, Goethe, Dostoevsky. Even glasses and a loupe are not helpful anymore….
My life has been very long and very interesting. It consists of beautiful episodes. The best years are of the tsar epoch. I may be blamed for praising tsarism, but what intelligentsia was in Russia then! Poets and artists lived in the free country. And this is what they call “terrible tsarist time!” Hah!…
The most awful moment of the revolution was when I knew that tsar Nikolay’s family was killed. During the French revolution children were not killed, why did they do it in Russia?
Sarra Isaakovna Prinyakina, 100
I have not done anything heroic. Never stopped the gap. Only worked hard day and night….
I worked as a horse. Lived in a dugout, took care of cattle, fleeced, carried potatoes for 25 km away.. We had no bread and we ate only potatoes, it made children sick. But that was nothing. One man with his son, evacuated from Leningrad, lived nearby, they ate leather and glue….
I’ve never been lonely – always had friends, children, neighbours, but I never got married again. One colonel courted me, he had been wounded in his head. But daughters told me “choose between us and a man with a hole in his head”. I chose them. I have never smoked or drunk and never had vacations….
We must be kind. Time takes beauty away, but it cannot take away kindness. Though I was not beautiful….
I try to look well, never come out without dental prosthesis. We, old people, are ugly by ourselves, so we should dress well…”
Sarah Medeleevna Sverdlova, 103
Mother was often told that she had a pretty daughter. People called me “very interesting”. I was proud and never agreed to live with some guy, no way!
When I graduated from the gymnasium, love affairs came into my life. There were many of them, but I didn’t love anyone. One was more persistent than others. His name was Misha. He was sent to Kirgizia and wrote me beautiful letters from there. He wrote: “Why should I refuse you? Don’t I love you with all my heart?”. I thought that I would never find a better love. So I decided to go to him, he sent me money for a trip. I came there as a lady. He even didn’t dare to kiss me. Only in my forehead. I was all dressed up, had beautiful fur-coat and shoes on. I lived two weeks in Kirgizia next to the man who had so much respect to me that didn’t even dare to touch me. We slept in different beds. And in two weeks we decided to get married.
But the war began and the Germans started to bomb Belarus. They killed my parents. In fact I don’t know for sure who killed them – Germans or Russians, people didn’t tell me because I was too nervous.
Life is not always easy, some turns are really tough.
Alexandra Vasilyevna Samburova, 102
I studied in a private gymnasium in Plyuschikha. My mother worked in a bakery. Once she brought a nice round loaf to a school dame and I was admitted. They needed nothing but white bread.
The gymnasium’s rules were strict. Once I didn’t make a curtsy in a right way and the teacher made me to make it again and then to stand for one hour at the wall. Does anyone know today how to make curtsy right?…
We had different manners. Guys could not grab or embrace girls. And look what happens today. That’s the reason why it’s difficult to marry a right guy today, girls are too accessible.
I have always been strict to myself, always tried to look fine….
A woman must always be decent. I had been dating my future husband for four years before we got married. For all these 4 years we even had no thought to take liberties. And he was awesome. Ceremonious, honest, like from some other planet….
What can I wish? I am already 102 years old, I have everything and had everything too…”
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