Smoke of the Fatherland
Having received from the famous Pushkinist Schweitzer the invitation to come to Mikhailovskoye, the Leningrad artist-restorer Nikolai Henrykovich Vermel put aside his urgent work on the frescoes of the Trinity Church in Novgorod, and together with his partner and pupil Pakhomov went to Schweitzer, who rummaged in the Mikhailovsky Museum in the hope of finding unknown Pushkin verses or documents.
The daughter of the landlady, the actress of the Odessa theater, a beauty, who came to visit her daughter and an aging mother, was invited to the trip.
Snow-covered avenues, an old house, an interesting society in Mikhailovskoye – everything pleased Tatyana Andreyevna. It was pleasant to find admirers of their talent – Odessa students. There was also a completely unexpected surprise. Once entering one of the rooms, Tatiana Andreevna quietly gasped and sank into a chair opposite the portrait of a young beauty. Everyone
saw that their companion was quite similar to her. “Carolina Sabanskaya is my great-grandmother,” she explained. The great-granddaughter of the actress, a certain Chirkov, in the year of his stay in Odessa, Pushkin served there in the dragoon regiment. Carolina shone in society, and our poet was in love with her, but she married a dragoon, and they parted. By the way, the sister of this desperate adventuress, the Countess of Ghana, in the second marriage was the wife of Balzac. Tatyana Andreevna remembered that her portrait of Pushkin had remained with her uncle.
Schweitzer was amazed. He knew that when he parted with Sabanskaya, the poet gave her his portrait, on which was depicted holding a sheet with some poem dedicated to the charming Polish girl. Pushkin decided to go to Kiev.
In the Ukrainian capital, he managed to find Uncle Tatyana Andreevna, but, alas, he at one of the crisis moments sold a portrait of the Odessa antiquary Zilber. In Odessa, Schweitzer found out that the antiquarian presented a portrait to a nephew working in a Yalta sanatorium for consumptive patients: the portrait had
no artistic value.
Before leaving Odessa, Schweitzer visited Tatyana Andreevna. She asked me to take him with me to Yalta. There, in the tuberculosis sanatorium, the twenty-two-year-old Spaniard Ramon Pereiro was dying. He arrived in Russia along with other Republicans, but he did not tolerate climate and fell seriously ill. They made friends and met often. Once, on a country outing, Ramon suddenly knelt in front of her and said that he loved her. She seemed pompous and generally inappropriate (she was ten years older than him, and Masha was already eight years old), she laughed, and he suddenly jumped up and ran away. Tatyana Andreevna always blamed herself for this laughter, because for his compatriots theatricality is second nature.
In the sanatorium she was told that there was no hope, and allowed to stay. In the ward she sank to her knees before the bed. Ramon recognized her, and tears rolled down his thin, blackened face.
Schweitzer meanwhile found a portrait in the sanatorium and called Vermel. It was possible to restore only on the spot. However, Pakhomov came, who urged the teacher to send him. It was obvious to the old man that his Misha in the south has a special interest besides professional interests. He noticed something else in Novgorod.
With the help of Pakhomov, he managed to read the poems that Pushkin held in his hands. It was the stanza of the poem: “The clouds are breaking away the flying ridge…” The sensation did not contain this finding, but it was important for Schweitzer to touch the poet’s life. Pakhomov was glad to see Tatyana Andreevna again. He never told her about love, and she too was silent, but in the spring of 1941 she moved to Kronstadt, closer to Novgorod and Leningrad.
The war caught her on the island of Ezel, as part of the visiting brigade of the theater of the Baltic Fleet. With the onset of fighting, the actress became a nurse and was evacuated before the very fall of the heroic island. Then the way lay on Tikhvin. But the plane was forced to make a landing near Mikhailovsky, in the location of the partisan detachment.
While they were repairing the broken gas pipeline, Tatyana Andreevna and her escort went to Mikhailovskoye. She did not yet know that Schweitzer had stayed here to guard the museum treasures buried by him and a portrait of Sabanska, hidden separately from them. Tatyana Andreevna found him by chance, not quite healthy mentally. At dawn the plane took them to the Great Land.
In Leningrad, they found Vermelya and Masha: Nikolai Genrikhovich rushed to Novgorod with the beginning of the war. He managed to pack and transfer museum valuables to Kostroma, but he himself had to stay with Masha and Varvara Gavrilovna, the mother of Tatyana Andreevna, in Novgorod. The three of them on foot tried to get out of the occupied city, but the elderly woman was lost.
From Pakhomov there has been no news since his retirement. He went to the south, worked in a front-line newspaper, was wounded while repelling the German landing. All the time I missed Tatiana Andreyevna. His hospital was constantly moving – the front line rolled to the Volga.
It became increasingly difficult in Leningrad. Tatiana Andreevna insisted that Vermel, Schweitzer and Masha go to Siberia. She herself had to stay in the theater. She was alone, often spent the night in the dresser, where it was warmer than at home, alone with the portrait of Sabansky, giving birth to the thought that after her death she would not have eyes, eyebrows, or smiles. How good that in the old days they painted portraits.
But once, pressing her forehead against the window, she saw a man in a greatcoat in a deserted street, with a hand in a sling. It was Misha Pakhomov. After the breakthrough of the blockade, those who had left for evacuation returned to Leningrad. Life was getting better. Vermel and Pakhomov were eager to restore the ruined monuments of Peterhof, Novgorod, Pushkin, Pavlovsk, so that in a few years people could not even imagine that fascist hordes had passed through this land.