Sunday, January 21, 2018

Larissa Bavrina: A Flower of the Heart

My night-blooming cereus in full bloom in 2014


Flowers of the Heart Seventeen January 21, 2018

For Larissa Bavrina

We met on my first journey to Russia. 
Who would think I’d make a friend 
in the huge city of Moscow? I’d been 
given the name and phone number of
Mr. Isachenko of the Soviet Copyright
Agency by an American publisher. 
Larissa worked for him, and she gave
my son and me a tour of Red Square
our last day in Russia. At the end, when
she left us at the Leningradsky train
station, I promised to send her paperback
books. She said when I asked for her
address, “You’ll write to me?” I said, “Yes.”
Over the next two years we wrote steadily;
she, about her life in rapidly changing 
Russia, and I, about my life in an American
village. We sent each other books. I was
learning Russian and she gave me tips.
She was one of the few Russians trained
in English. A few letters were lost,
those with feminist content. I’d resend 
those letters, and leave out the women’s
issues, and she’d get them. In 1992 I
went back, this time to two Houses of 
Creativity for writers: Komarovo and
Peredelkino. Then I stayed with her 
until I went to meet Mikhail and his family
in Sharya. Larissa told my seatmates to
take care of me. By then I knew a little 
Russian. I could speak to them. They
made my bed, showed me how to get
hot water for tea or coffee, asked many
questions. I was with Larissa again in
1995. I was returning to Kostroma to
teach at their university. This time Mikhail 
and his son Aleksei drove to get me and
my friends Sharon and John Ewing and
took us back to Kostroma. We met at
Larissa’s apartment. She and her friend
Valeri had collected the Ewings and their
luggage at their Moscow Hotel. All these
twenty-seven years we have kept letters 
flowing. Sometimes we used mail pouches
for joint-venture companies Larissa worked
for or email, and now we’re back to the
regular post. She went to Spain for several
years, worked as a companion, helper to an 
elderly woman. Always she nurtured me,
took me on outings. When I caught a bad
cold in 1995, she applied all her home
remedies: sage tea, nose drops, hot milk
with honey and butter. She visited me
twice, in the late nineties. I’d drive to
D.C. to collect her from Aeroflot. We 
stayed with John and Sharon. She was an
easy houseguest. We talked of children,
grandchildren, books (she loved to read).
She is one of the most open-hearted people
I have known. Her life has not been easy,
but she has taken it in stride.

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