Film actress, singer-songwriter, modern classical piano composer and author Anna Bondareva offers on the pages of the autobiographical novel “Freestyle 4 Love” her memories of incredible travels, events of the Parisian art scene, metaphysical experiences and surreal dreams.
The best way to love God is to love many things.
Vincent van Gogh
If it were possible to foresee the future, then many of us would act differently in the present. But that’s what life is about; in the fullness of surprises, from a series of decisions that we constantly have to make. And if along the way you receive rewards for honest work and efforts, then you have every right to this – you deserve it! Not everyone thinks about the fact that just one careless word thrown at another person can result in a flurry of negativity and pain, which will manifest itself, sometimes much later, and will certainly be reflected in the overall picture of our existence. Is it possible to erase forever, remove from memory all events that cause an unpleasant aftertaste? Heart storms leave a special imprint. But by working on yourself and tracking your thoughts, you can achieve good results. This is many years of work. From day to day. A lot of people simply don’t have time for this. Life, with its incessant rhythm, forces you to move towards the inevitable abyss, where ahead there is only death and the pain of loss. Mortification, the deliberate suppression of the internal struggle against one’s own egoism, occurs in the early stages.
Usually, already in elementary school, teachers instill in a person the so-called desire for victory, for leadership, for superiority in society, where the triumph of matter over spirit reigns. But true victory can only be achieved in the internal arena. No one has managed to avoid meeting the inevitable, the end where Eternity begins.
Man’s task is to approach this Great Mystery not in astral rags woven from false compromises, but with a pure and open heart, like a child’s. Isn’t this the main goal of all our wanderings?! To be born again during life.
“A world without Christ is a world of darkness. Peace with the Risen Christ is a world of eternal light that illuminates every part of our soul, our existence. Therefore, we are children of light. From him, the Light of life, may we also receive light to shine on the world,” says Patriarch Pavel of Serbia. We are all unhappy if we are deprived of Love. To support yourself in difficult times, you need to turn to Holy Sources, to words emanating from the true centers of Love, oases of Faith. Such an oasis is for us the HOLY MOUNTAIN, the abode of the Mother of God:
“You can only love the beautiful. The ugly can be tolerated, but it cannot be loved. Where only instincts and dark passions nest in the body… there people lose beauty – they lose love. Passions are ugly; people can give themselves to them, but they cannot love them. Love and beauty – these concepts are related to each other. People lose the beauty of their souls, so they cannot love and cannot be loved. The upbringing of people and the traditions of nations, no matter how imperfect they may be, is based on preserving the beauty and nobility of the human soul. Traditions, customs, public opinion, high appreciation of chastity, readiness for sacrifice – were forms of preserving love. Now these traditions are ridiculed and destroyed.
Moral concepts are considered as if they were the shackles in which man was imprisoned in past centuries. At all times, sins and vices existed, but they were assessed as evil and a disease that corroded human society. In purity there is spiritual light and joy, and in sin and vice there is heaviness and spiritual darkness.
Lies, deception, the demonic world of drugs and alcohol, fornication and debauchery in the most shameless forms make people ugly. Therefore, the distance between people increases, so emotional coldness makes the earth look like a cemetery where living corpses live. They want to take away purity from people, ridicule it, trample it. Therefore, the world has become alien and empty for people. People do not feel the pain of another, they do not want and cannot warm each other with the warmth of their soul. People are afraid of the world and internally protect themselves from people. This loneliness, conscious and unconscious, the loneliness of the desert, is the most terrible curse of our century. Joint prayer on the HOLY MOUNTAIN will show you the path of salvation!
There is only one thing left for us – to break out of the sweet shackles of poisonous passions and, finally, to be born of God, because whoever is born of God overcomes the world!”
1. Summer Season in Milan
Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence.
Now I was free; free again from everyone, free in a new way, as it was once, one Parisian summer, exactly five years ago. I had to get used to this freedom. Without hesitation, I accepted an invitation from the agent to go to Milan at the very beginning of May for an indefinite period.
“You don’t have anything to worry about,” said my agent, “in Milan you will be received properly, you just need a change of scenery!”
This was true, and the manager felt everything correctly. She called me in Minsk when the local authorities refused to return my passport, and she understood everything perfectly. If I had met such an agent at the very beginning of my career, a lot could have been different, but everything is an experience, unique, absolutely necessary and, most importantly, unpredictable.
It was in Milan that I felt it was time to release the accumulated stock, and began work on the first book ‘Moon Arc’. The work went incredibly easily. During the first night of a writing process, twenty pages were accomplished.
It was sultry in Milan. The fortunate circumstance was that very close to the comfortable apartment provided by the Milanese agency there was an excellent supermarket with an excellent meat department and fresh vegetables. Almost every day I ordered the freshest veal carpaccio from the butcher, which was accompanied with a nice cold rose wine – my daily ration. On such hot days, it was just perfect.
A friend artist Sergei Chepik strongly advised to study the collection of the Brera Pinacoteca, he insisted:
“Don’t think about anything, today it’s like this, tomorrow it’s like that; all this is nonsense, better go there, be sure to go and see everything for yourself!”
The museum owns one of the most famous paintings by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna. The picture magnetized with its non-standard composition and angle. The body of Christ is placed by the painter on the canvas perpendicular to the horizontal axis, and not parallel, which allows one to see not only the face of the dead Christ, but also the wounds on His feet. Christ rests on the so-called stone of anointing, on a marble slab, and on the left are the faces of the Virgin Mary and John the Theologian. Behind the Mother of Jesus is the sobbing Mary Magdalene; This is indicated by the vessel with myrrh, depicted by the Italian master on the right, at the head of the lifeless body of Christ. The realism of this masterpiece is mesmerizing. If you look at the picture for a long time, you invariably get an almost physical feeling of the deadly void in which all of our humanity revolves. Akin to Malevich’s black square, this outstanding work of Mantegna is a direct antipode to the Byzantine icon. The inaccessible, great secret of mystical death lies in this work. The death of all material things is a necessary initiatory tunnel, which the dead body of the Savior represents for us. The tunnel that must be passed on the way to the Resurrection into another life – into eternal life.
Dreams on the Full Moon. From diaries
Today I want to write down two dreams – one yesterday’s dream, which occurred during the full moon, and a dream that appeared during the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord according to the Catholic calendar.
Since this dream can hardly be called a dream, the sensations of reality in it are deeper than the reality that I live at this time.
So, I was in a room where there were many women. Some of these women were familiar to me, like Olga, the daughter of the late Galina, and another Galina from Minsk, and it seemed that they had something deep in common…
But I was not alone, but came there with a MAN whose face I did not see, but I felt HIS incredible closeness to me and above all, HIS LOVE, an immense love.
HE listened carefully to each woman and tried to console every one of them, but I wanted to be even more in HIS love. I probably experienced this so intensively that HE heard my thoughts, as nothing can escape HIS eyes:
“I am for everyone, not only for you,” HE answered me with even more love.
The next morning a completely different understanding of the images and the face of Christ came to me.
And then, in the continuation of this dream, I heard the melody from the song “Always” by the group Erasure; I watched the music video afterwards to refresh my memory of some details.
All these women in that room were united by the desire to become a mother – to experience it! This is how I understood and felt, although I did not hear HIS conversation with them, but simply stood next to him, behind his right shoulder, as I stood on Trinity Sunday in Optina Hermitage behind the shoulder of schemamonk Father Seraphim, who told me to go back to France.
2. Days on Rue Saint-George
Each one of us shares in the destiny of the world and humanity, and must accept his own portion of the general responsibility.
After a winter spent in Moscow and a short week in St. Petersburg at Christmas, in the spring, pricelessly in March, I returned to Paris. Every day presented a new sequence. The saturation of events distracted from annoying thoughts of “how to live further”; that is why I sought to surround myself with people, random groupies in order to distract myself from my own problems, for which, at that time, I did not have simple solutions.
After filming a new music video to one of my songs called Hold On To The Stars, Angelica from Liverpool returned to Paris with me. Doctors prescribed her pills for deep depression, which the girl had been suffering from for more than six months.
I promised to get a British girl into a modeling agency; she stayed to live with me, since the girl had no other options. Liverpudlian director Lenny was still hunting for Angelica. Deep down, he didn’t want her to have a modeling career in Paris, I was willing to help her with. He was going to come to France for a week in the near future, and it was for this week that I had planned rendezvous for Angelica with the best modeling agencies. She needed to change her situation, as apparently director Lenny was no longer good for her. Angelica did not want to return to Liverpool at all, and she felt deep down and depressed.
In early April, I managed to rent a nice apartment from an Italian friend, Monica, in the ninth arrondissement, on Place Saint-Georges, south of Montmartre, where tourists rarely go. The apartment had two levels: due to the high ceilings, there was a feeling that the space was much larger – a small studio on the ground floor with an attic bedroom, the living room windows overlooked the courtyard. The central part of the ninth district became a fashionable area at the beginning of the nineteenth century; The Parisian quarter was nicknamed “New Athens” thanks to the influx of writers and artists of the romantic movement, who made it the center of their creative activity. In the middle of the rond-point Saint-Georges, there is a fountain, which to this day has a trough for drinking horses. At the top of the fountain there is a bust of a French illustrator Paul Gavarni.
“You will have to work on yourself and acquire a Parisian chic so that in a few weeks you can start going to your appointments with clients, photographers and catwalk castings.”
Now is the best time, just before the fashion week in June, your professional portfolio will be replenished with new pictures.
I really wanted everything to go quickly and smoothly for Angelica. The girl did not look the freshest from months of Liverpool depression; dark circles under her eyes and pallor, and she was only twenty-two years old! Although this was considered the age limit for the career of an aspiring model. I called the wizard doctor, who agreed to see the girl, and after the procedures were successfully completed, I scheduled couple of test shoots with photographers in Paris to do several portraits, in order to give a self-confidence to Angelica, to make her feel better.
“We’ll have to forget about bright color nail vanish! Natural chic and impeccable elegance! Even if you don’t really want to smile now, do it! You must overcome yourself and take a full control of your emotions. You have to be on top, even if you’re not in the mood! This is the secret of beauty! Your weapon is your charming smile!”
Angelica listened to me attentively, but I saw that she was not yet fully aware of the fact that her life had already changed; everything was happening too fast. Lenny was a big problem, but I suspected that he would quickly run out of savings if he flew from England to Paris every weekend. His jealous ardor was aimed at preventing us from carrying out our plans. Anticipating this, I warned Angelica:
“The most important thing is not to show it and not to make sudden movements! After all, if it weren’t for Lenny, you and I would never have met. You need to send him an impulse of love and gratitude, otherwise it will not be easy to cope with the wave of his negativity and resentment, which I have already pulled away from you. I still have to cover you under my magic cloak, but this cannot last long. Darling, it’s time to wake up!! Otherwise, it will be too late!”
For Angelica, it was not easy to adjust to the new rhythm and pressure of Paris. However, I believed that she must try.
Iveta was only a year younger than Angelica. Originally from Vilnius, the girl was terribly jealous of the fact that I was helping Angelica to become a model.
Earlier, Iveta was brought to meet me by the Dutch lawyer Jan, who was one of a daughter of a disciple of Master G, Vladimir Stepanov. Jan asked to look after her in Paris. So, that she would make herself a place in the Parisian mystical underground. I thought this idea was rather surrealist. Iveta was a first-year student at the Sorbonne Faculty of Economics and was in love with French President Francois Hollande:
“When I was fifteen years old, I saw a photograph in the newspapers of the head of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. I immediately fell in love with this powerful man and even started learning Arabic! But now, I love Francois…”
Iveta was a virgin, which she was very proud of:
“I will give myself only to the man whom I love with all my heart, and I also want to become a top model! Then he will definitely love me! Why am I worse than Angelica? Anna! You should take me to the agency… I no longer suffer from somnambulism!”
The three of us were sitting in a small Greek restaurant. Iveta often switched to Russian in her conversation with me, which caused anxiety in Angelica. I proposed:
“Let’s all speak the same language – choose French or English! Any one suits me!”
Angelica studied French in college and was quite good at speaking English. Iveta had been living in France for several years. In her native Vilnius, she graduated from an English specialized school. Capricious and suspicious, Iveta drank wine too quickly. I was about to go outside to make a phone call and asked Angelica to watch out and not to let Iveta to have any more drinks.
When I returned to them, Angelica whispered to me that Iveta had stolen the knife from the restaurant table and put it into her bag. I had to act:
“Listen to me carefully. Give the knife to me. You must immediately return the stolen object or go back home to your mama; the party is over!”
The situation has gone too far. Iveta, with the eyes of a frightened wolf cub, meekly took out a table knife from her bag and placed it on the table in front of us.
“I won’t do this again, don’t send me away, please! I don’t want to go home to my mother at all, can I stay with you? And I won’t drink wine anymore, I just want to be with you, please…”
Angelica and I silently looked at each other and I asked the waiter for the bill.
When we returned to the apartment on Saint-Georges, a surprise awaited us. Iveta offered to simply help do the cleaning, and instead she screamed and made a wild scandal. Crazy Iveta splashed the rest of the red wine from the open bottle left on table from the other day directly onto the snow-white painted wall of the living room. The huge wine blot very soon turned into a bluish stain, and the Hollande-Gaddafi mismatch ran away in tears.
3. Music For An Unmade Movie
Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
A friend journalist and film critic Stas, came from Moscow to Paris to a film forum. After a few days spent at events, a spontaneous idea came to us to go to Belgum, to visit Bruges.
“We’ll definitely hunt pheasants,” Stas said proudly, “and also, I want to try fruity pink beer!”
Stas preferred men, but, as befits a cultured person, he mentioned this only occasionally, between the lines. We decided to go to rent a car. Stas didn’t know how to drive, so all responsibility for the safety of our trip was on me:
“I will be extremely vigilant while driving! And beer is not my friend, it makes me sleepy…”
The road and driving helped to distract me somewhat from thoughts about a guy I met recently. I was in total shock from the vision during a dream I had in London and talking to his astral body and did not know what it really was: angels or demons; good or bad?! A question kept in rotation in my mind and did not allow me to relax and fully enjoy communication with the muscovite friend. Noticing my confusion, Stas clarified:
“My beautiful goddess, have you ever fallen in love? Who is this “someone” in London?
“No. At that moment I was not in love. It was something like a recognition. In such situations, only time will tell! Let’s just enjoy this moment!”
“It happens like this: you meet a person, and you are attracted to them. You start to feel this incredible energy. All this is because you were tightly connected in your previous reincarnation… do you believe in such a hypothesis? This is exactly what one acquaintance, the author of documentary books written during his studies and travels with Master G, Vladimir Stepanov, reasoned. The writer claimed that I was his lovely gorgeous mother, with whom he lived in a beautiful castle in the sixteenth century somewhere in the Czech Republic. There was just one problem: his mother abandoned him; the boy was only twelve years old. Selfish mother ran away with an influential lover to France! Now he, the son, is looking for closeness with his mother found in this life…”
We laughed merrily for a long time. Stas tasted excellent cold beer of various varieties, which was served in strange vessels reminiscent of alchemical flasks, in a tavern on the central square overlooking the main clock in Bruges.
“What if this is true! What if he is your son from a past life? And what about me?! Dear Mom!”
Stas had a lot of imagination and a great sense of humor. That is why the popular magazine trusted only him when it came to take the most important interviews with interactionally acclaimed movie stars.
But, as they say, the fairy tale is a lie, yet there is a hint in it, and I involuntarily thought about all those incredible meetings at once.
Stas suddenly stated:
“This won’t work, we need a real pheasant, because we came here for this, and not just to ride along the canals of Belgian Venice!”
We went to a dozen restaurants, but we still couldn’t find any fresh pheasant. We were offered to go to a castle not far from the city, but I didn’t want to get behind the wheel of a car again. We had a snack with an ordinary steak, and then went in search of a hotel, which turned out to be a difficult task – we had to spend the night in a small hostel, there were no free rooms in decent hotels. The next day we returned to Paris.
“I’m too serious to be an amateur, but not serious enough to be a professional ; it was not me who said this, but Marcello Mastroianni in the film “La Dolce Vita” by Federico Fellini.”
At once, Stas became very serious. I had never seen such a look on his face before. After a minute of deep silence, he continued meaningfully, raising a glass of vodka:
“So, let’s drink to our movie!”
My apartment on Rue Lepiс had a working fireplace, and once every two years a chimney sweeps came to clean it and provide the appropriate certificate, without which the use of the fireplace is prohibited in Paris. The fireplace rather served a decorative function, creating coziness on winter evenings, so I purchased peat firewood specially designed for such purposes; such a log burned for two and a half hours; as a rule, this time was enough to create the atmosphere necessary for frank communication.
Stas said that I remind him of all the famous actresses at once.
“For me, you’re like Brigid Bardot… But no, wait a second, you’re much better! You look like Catherine Deneuve, but you’re not as cold and bourgeois as she is! No, let us see… this is not all about you! That’s it. I understand now. I know everything. Most of all you look like Julie Christie in her best years, be sure to watch all those films she is in.”
Stas was sure that his friend-director, whose film had already been selected once for participation in the Cannes Film Festival, would want to make a romantic film – a love triangle involving a young provincial rock band that came to the capital to conquer the world. The film was set in the perestroika era and supposed to have a lot of eighties-style rock music, and I wrote and recorded several songs for this project, as well as a film scenario. If it weren’t for the enthusiastic Stas, whose taste I trusted, it is unlikely that I would have embarked on this adventure. The film was never made.
A few years later, Stas wrote me a letter saying he really wants to make a film, as a director:
“I will definitely make my own film, and you will play the lead role in it. Will you promise?”
4. Soirée In Montmartre
O friend, for the morrow let us not worry
This moment we have now, let us not hurry
When our time comes, we shall not tarry
With seven thousand-year-olds, our burden carry
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The doorbell rang. On the threshold stood Oleg, the artist, and Zhanna with the “Little Buddha”; That’s what the singer nicknamed a short Asian-looking guy whom she met recently in Paris.
“Anna, do you have a remedy? I have a beam in my eye – save me!”
Not immediately recognizing what the “queen of rock and roll” meant, this is exactly how Zhanna Aguzarova introduced herself when she called on the phone to arrange a meeting, I invited her to go into the kitchen.
“Let’s cut the onion…”
Zhanna hoped to shed tears and finally get rid of the grains of sand that got into her eye somewhere outside on the streets of the capital, whilst she was climbing up to rue Lepic, where my place was on Montmartre.
The meeting was unexpected for everyone. It turned out that we met the artist Oleg back in 1996 in a store that sold vinyl records for DJs not far from Place de la Bastille. Then he invited me to the exhibition-vernissage, but since then we have not seen each other.
This was also not the first meeting with the singer; Zhanna loved to come to Paris, and we remembered that we had previously met on other occasions, in Paris, with my old friend, the distributor of electronic music Ruben, to whom the glorious Zhanna left a teddy bear, a cat or a bunny as a gift for me, now not remember…
We sat for a long time: drank wine until the morning, listened to a lot of music and burned candles. To watch the sunrise we went to the balcony, which offered an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower.
The graceful silhouette of the main “steel lady” of Paris confidently emerged from the morning foggy haze. After the soulful party, pleasant feelings remained for several days. The mood was magical. From the subtle states that filled the communication, the generated energy of the evening was sublimated into a song that was born to me the next day. I jotted down the words for the ballad “Sacred Star” on paper, tried out the harmonic mode on the piano, and called my guitarist from Novosibirsk, Alexander Tombasov, so that he would come and try to perform a new composition together:
Today our happiness is forever,
Tomorrow we will be gone …
To where there is no end, and no beginning,
To where the Sacred Star is shining bright
So live your life and let it be!
Soon we recorded “The Sacred Star” song in a studio in Paris. The premiere of the song was held in Montmartre, in the studio of a friend of the artist Sergei Chepik:
“Oh, you know, I like it! I will draw your portrait for this album cover…”
Sergei was an excellent painter, and “Russian Thought” (La Pensée russe) was just preparing its 125th anniversary edition in French with my participation: an article and a magazine cover, in the magazine supplement it was planned to include a CD, a compilation named “The Best Russian Rock in Paris.” (“Meilleur Rock Russe A Paris”) The collection included compositions by many famous Russian rock musicians who once performed in Paris. The disc includes my original songs – “The Sacred Star”, “Asphalt City” and “Kaleidoscope” (L’Étoile Sacrée, Ville d’asphalte, Kaleidoscope in French).
The piercing paintings of Sergei Chepik became an excellent design for the disc. The presentation of the anniversary edition took place during the Russian film festival organized by Pierre Cardin in his large Parisian theater Espace Cardin, which is located opposite the American consulate, behind the Place de la Concorde, on Avenue Gabriel.
At the ceremony as part of the film festival, the legendary Gipsy Kings performed in the first part. After the flamenco group, I performed my Russian songs. The evening was memorable for everyone. Since then, we have remained very friendly with the artist Oleg. He helped me realize the black and white video clip for “The Sacred Star”.
5. Concert at the Conservatory
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
The Sergei Rachmaninov Conservatory is located in the very center of the city, where from the window of the assembly hall there is a stunning view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. The place, without a doubt, was ideal for holding an event-presentation of rock band discs and an exhibition of a St. Petersburg artist with whom we were friends. Count Sheremetyev often saw me in the Russian church on Rue Daru and therefore gladly received me in his office:
“Anna, don’t get me wrong, in this situation I can only trust you, since I don’t know all these people at all…”
The Count agreed to take the risk on my personal responsibility, with the condition that professional security would be provided during the event. All that remains is to distribute flyers and plan the buffet.
Several songs from the repertoire of the Tver group seemed cute to me, and I decided to help them; release two discs in Paris. The odd-eyed leader of the group finally pityed me with the fact that he was born in Minsk, like me. He moved from the USSR to France at the dawn of the nineties and, like many in exile, hung out in Paris on social benefits, sometimes performing to the accompaniment of twin Ukrainian musicians.
“I am a dog!! Wow-wow-wow,” howled the odd-eyed singer Romka in a drawn-out manner. Almost to the beat, but between notes
The band’s performance was a revelation for me too, since I hadn’t heard a single one of the songs I had released on disc. The odd-eyed soloist did not own any instruments and, in order to compensate for the obvious gap, staged on stage something between a session of astral karate in the style of magical passes according to Carlos Castaneda and aerobics: he jumped and squatted completely out of time with the accompaniment. The Ukrainian songwriter was an excellent melodist, his songs were strikingly different from the “dancer’s” repertoire, and he sang well: piercingly, sang with drive, and gave his best to the end. His husky voice and fluffy blonde mane definitely appealed to women. In anticipation of better times, the brothers were forced to share one woman between two. With dark brown eyes, Lana, the long-haired girlfriend of one of the brothers, definitely looked like a gypsy. She volunteered to be in charge of tickets at the entrance; CDs were issued along with the entrance ticket.
I also appeared on stage, wearing my favorite floor-length black silk skirt from a Japanese couturier, and a crimson-red blouse from a traditional Chinese “Hanfu” costume.
Photographer Ellina came to Paris from Hamburg to support me and thereby provided a valuable service by helping Ella manage the Olivier salads in the buffet. One of Vladimir’s disciples Ella from Kaliningrad recently found herself in Paris and was ready to participate in any actions free of charge, seeing God’s providence in everything. It was she who prepared a giant tub of salad, which was eaten throughout Russian Paris for a week after the concert.
There was dancing. Vodka in the bar was cheap, and the people quickly cheered up. What would a rock concert be without a massacre?! After drinking a dangerous punch made by Lana, the graphic designer of CD covers and flyers, the Frenchman Olivier, started a fight and broke two antique chairs, which I had to take to a restoration studio. The Russian basketball player managed to settle the situation with the designer Olivier, thereby saving several more antique chairs.
6. An underground concert. Meeting at a Dutch castle
Don’t be the fish who see a worm and greedily swallow it… Be the fish who see a delicious worm, carefully examine it, notice the fishing line and the fisherman sitting on the shore, and understand that it’s better not to touch the worm.
Master G’s Instructions
In an improvisational mode, an “apartment concert” was organized in Montmartre. The idea came to invite Alexey Khvostenko. My apartment on Lepiс Street had the truly unique ability of expanding; everyone who came that evening, which definitely went down in the history of Russian Paris and its underground, fit in. I had to call friends and acquaintances of musicians, also I did call those French acquaintances who were passionately interested in everything Russian. A simple and affordable tribute was a bottle of wine, preferably red, for entry. The French aesthete Gaston, my good friend and neighbor from Montmartre, as always, brought the best wine. Georgian artists created a special comfortable aura and somewhat oriental flavor. A motley crowd gathered and it became difficult to keep track of all the guests. People were everywhere: in the corridor, in the bedroom, on the balcony and at the entrance to the apartment, on the stairs in the entrance. The poet Khvostenko read fables accompanied by guitar riffs, people sang something, musicians played; suddenly I came up with the idea of accompanying acoustic guitarists on a small retro synthesizer from the mid-sixties, which I bought in a Dutch village, near a castle with a castle with a name that inspires hope: De Refter, which means “shelter”.
It was in this place that I met Vladimir Stepanov, whom his faithful disciples called Master G. G came to meet me in my room. We sat in absolute silence for several minutes, and then Vladimir said: “Well, here we are! We’ve met again!!”
So simple, as if we had known each other for thousands of years! G’s words were addressed not to that young girl who came to celebrate the New Year in a strange company of eccentrics – seekers of truth, but to a soul that had gone through many different incarnations and was now striving to remember to find her true self.
On the first of January, in the castle, which once served as a refuge for nuns, I had a dream in which Boris Grebenshchikov was. Why did I dream about him? In my dream, the musician talked about a special way of playing keyboard instruments, and a few days later I found a musical instrument store in a neighboring village, where, together with a group of Vladimir’s adepts, a real “happening” was organized with drinking tea and pleasant conversations with its Dutch owner.
In this music store I bought that very rare synthesizer, which I later used in recording my songs and at concerts; It was a pity when it was stolen and taken out of my apartment by someone who doesn’t even know how to play it!
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince)
For many years, a theater figure from St. Petersburg organized a festival of Russian theater in Paris every fall in the small hall “Théâtre de l’Atalante” in Montmartre. The director of the theater happily hosted guests from Russia. A Frenchman with Russian roots, he really wanted to make his cultural contribution and continue the tradition of Russian cultural festivals.
However, after many years of activity, theatergoers from St. Petersburg were tired of bringing troupes to Paris, since finding a budget was always difficult, and starting in 2004, the place was free again. Having learned about this from actress Galina, I came up with the idea of launching a new festival in April with a new name “Russian Space” and timed it to coincide with the anniversary of the launch of the Vostok-1 spacecraft, the first human flight into space.
In my Rue Lepic, for a long time, an art poster framed in an aluminum frame with the image of the Soviet cosmonaut “Space will serve people… Gagarin” hung on the wall under glass, framed in an aluminum frame, and it was used in the printing house to make posters and flyers for the festival. So Yuri Gagarin became the icon of the event.
In 2005, the festival fell on the May holidays, since it was at that moment that the theater was free from repertoire performances. It was somewhat boring to do exclusively theater, so I managed to put a lot of music of completely different styles into the four-day program: classical genre, modern folklore and art song.
Then, at the end of 2007, I went to live in London, and the festival remained in other hands from those who appropriated everything for themselves, as always happens in such stories, along with the Gagarin emblem. However, friends who attended events after my departure sadly noted that the magical, unique atmosphere that we managed to create together with the artists in 2005 and 2006 was not found at the festivals in the small theater.
But life goes on, and to each his own. The Lord is extremely merciful and can watch for a long time as a person commits meanness, deceiving himself and others. Once you have entered the path of lies, it is very difficult to return.
A lie sucks an unfortunate person in like a Maelstrom sucks him into the abyss. The Evil One often at the very beginning endows such an unfortunate person with some kind of inner strength, and he, who has fallen into the halo of Lucifer himself, sometimes thinks that he has managed to achieve incredible spiritual heights and enlightenment. Such a human product is the ideal raw material for the angel of evil. Now, for petty laurels, he is ready to lie and betray more and more, just to get new positions and more names on his business card. But it’s not for me to pass judgment, there are great archangels for that, I can only wish for a speedy recovery. Everything flows and everything changes.
Joy is not in things; it is in us
Having recently finished writing a script for a feature film, I was looking for a suitable director and new opportunities to make this movie. That’s why I decided to speak about my idea to the man I went to meet, and he replied:
“I recently organized a retrospective festival of Alexander Sokurov at my university and once made films myself! I have reels of film in my refrigerator and am in talks with a Romanian cultural center in hopes of finding funding.”
We were sitting in a sparsely populated Julie’s restaurant on Portland Road. Suddenly the waiter turned on the music. Well-known songs of my favorite rock bands began to play from the speakers, one after another, it seemed that space was sending me a signal through the music, and imperceptibly our dialogue took on a completely different perspective. I suddenly said:
“When rational thinking ceases to prevail in a person, his Essence becomes fluid, as if being liberated from rubble, breaks out and begins to breathe…”
Why did I say this at all? On the one hand, speaking English again, the language I became fond of back in high school, brought incredible pleasure, but on the other hand, there was something else going on. During this conversation, common language boundaries seemed to disappear, I did not pay attention to what language we were speaking. This conversation was happening at another level and this was rather unusual.
“Your words remind me of the works of Plato, you should definitely read his works! I already bought a book for you!”
The restaurant was closing. We were so absorbed in our talking and completely forgot to order dinner. We then decided to take a walk in the hope of finding at least some other place to eat. The evening was calm and peaceful. We walked along deserted streets and came across a square with the Church of St. John Evengelist. We stopped for a moment to look at the façade of the building.
“Tomorrow, I have a train back to Paris, early in the morning, I should return to the hotel now.”
“When can I give you the book? Shall I come to see you tomorrow just before your departure?”
“I don’t know if this is a good idea, maybe some another time…”
Fatigue after a long day of work on the film set became obvious, and I needed to get some rest. Returning to my hotel, I could not get any sleep. Excerpts from our conversation in the restaurant were spinning in my mind. Words got strangely mixed up with musical fragments.
I couldn’t get the Depeche Mode song out of my head:
And I’m only here
To bring you free love
Let’s make it clear
That this is free love!
Only after an hour-long bath did I manage to close my eyes and relax. Something out of the ordinary happened that night. Somewhere between sleep and reality, the astral body of the man materialized: it sat in the chair of my hotel room right opposite the bed and continued a dialogue left unfinished at the restaurant.
London’s Abbey Court Hotel in Pembridge Gardens is an imposing 19th-century townhouse with two frontages. The historic building is located in the heart of Notting Hill, which has become popular these days thanks to the romantic Hollywood comedy of the same name. The rooms are decorated in traditional English style. The marble bathroom with spa bath provides relaxation from the road and after a busy day at work. I often stayed at this hotel in London. The British agency regularly invited me for a job from Paris to London, and sometimes I had to travel through the Eurotunnel several times a month.
These short trips to England were great pleasure. After a few hours of overland travel, it was possible to radically update the situation – change the “republic” to the “kingdom”. This difference impresses anyone from the first minutes of leaving the train. Respect for Her Royal Highness is expressed even in the smallest details.
The hotel offered a full English breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs delivered straight to your room, which is what I did that morning. I order a room service in preparation for a long day of filming.
The British invited me to play the role of the bride in the new collection of a high-end fashion designer. The photography took place in a luxurious four-story cottage, located a ten-minute ride from the hotel. From the spacious window on the top floor of the living room, where the white grand piano stood, a mesmerizing view of the pointed top of the Church of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, crowned with a small cast-iron cross, opened up.
While meditating on the temple on the last day of autumn, I clearly heard an inner voice: “Check your phone!”
Right away, I went down to the room reserved for the make-up artists to take my mobile device out of my bag. There was a new text message on the phone. The text was saying that the poet Alexey Khvostenko is dead. I thought about all those great musicians who died too early, Jimi Hendrix said once:
“I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.”
This is the way. There must be joy in all you do; this is the answer. Returning to the top floor, to the piano, I felt an irresistible desire to try out the instrument; I had half an hour before the start of filming. At that moment, music unfamiliar to me flowed through the phalanges of fingers that found the right keys.
9. Monkeys Invasion
You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life.
“Anna, comment ça va ? How are you doing in Paris?” We just recently moved to a new office, when will you arrive? There are new clients for you, but it’s still very cold, would you like to fly to the Maldives for a few days? Summer fashion collections for a popular Swedish magazine are shot there. You’ve already worked with this photographer, they wanted to invite you on a trip!”
Early in the morning a manager from a London agency called. In England the office opens an hour earlier than they do in Paris, and I was half asleep.
“To the Maldives in February?! Of course! Thank you, I am waiting for all the details for the trip by email and will respond with a confirmation letter, and if you have any questions, I will call you back!”
When getting ready for the trip, I decided to do an experiment and finally try something new. I was looking forward to start the practice of recapitulation in order to regain all the energy wasted in the bustle of the world. Flying over the Indian Ocean, I immersed myself in reading the book “Magic transition. The Way of the Woman Warrior” by Taisha Abelyar. Taisha Abelyar was one of the four students of don Juan Matus; she did join Carlos Castaneda’s group.
“We’ve all been brought up to live in a kind of prison where nothing matters except petty, petty pleasures, and women have it particularly hard in this prison.”
Taisha, in her adventure opus, offered a simple description of magical practices and valuable women’s experience.
On the first day in a hotel on an island consisting of hut-bungalows, I could not sleep for long, not only because of jet lag, but also because of unusual exotic sounds that were especially heard at night: the peacock did not sing, the bird screamed, like an opera singer who had lost his voice and tried in vain to hit the highest note.
In the morning, a tiny cute monkey knocked on the bedroom balcony door opening onto a small terrace in the garden. I hastened to let the animal into the room, and the mammal immediately jumped onto the coffee table, where there was a ceramic bowl of fruit.
They called me to my room and invited me to do makeup in a nearby hut. The shooting day passed easily and quickly, and by the evening we all discovered that we were sunburned, not noticing the insidious sun in the pleasant wind. The next day was declared a holiday. In the morning, there was not just one monkey at my balcony, but as many as twenty primates of various sizes.
The conspiring animals looked at each other and watched my every gesture until the huge red-faced leader of the pack appeared. The gardener, seeing what was happening, signaled to me not to move. The leader, emitting terrifying screams, was rapidly approaching my bungalow. A dark man in a cap ordered to run and hide in the garage opposite, which he had opened by that moment. The Maldivian was holding a huge bamboo pole in his hands and shouting something towards the monkeys, in a language that only they understood; skillfully gesturing with a stick, he dispersed the flock in half an hour.
10. Times in Venice
Oh, where have you gone, you blissful dreams of future happiness.
From Milan I arrived at the Santa Lucia train station, from where I went straight to the vaporetto water bus ticket office. For a modest fee of three and a half euros, the ship delivered almost to the hotel itself. Entering the hotel with the pleasant name Lоcanda Canal, I met its beautiful gray fluffy yellow-eyed owner. The handsome cat, having examined me from top to bottom, was convinced of his safety, purred in greeting and thereby attracted the attention of the Italian owner.
“Signorina, good afternoon, you can choose your room…”
The man laid out several room keys on the concierge desk and offered to inspect the rooms. Settling myself in room number seven, I pondered what to do with the day; The caravan, consisting of European adherents of Master G, was not supposed to arrive until midnight.
After taking a shower, I opened the book “Bushido. The Samurai Code of Honor” at random and read:
“If your strength is based only on the vital energy given to you by nature, your words and behavior will outwardly correspond to the Path, and others will set you as an example. But when you ask yourself about it, there will be nothing to say.” The last line of the verse, which is, “When thy own heart asks,” is the secret principle of all the arts. They say that when you start doing something, you should remember this.
The phrase awakened the desire to go for a walk around Venice, in order to, inspired by the magical atmosphere of the carnival city, throw off everything boring and old, and make pleasant purchases.
The caravan arrived and all night we walked through winter Venice. Suddenly it began to snow, and some people from our large group began to dance to the beat of the falling snowflakes. Instantly, the deserted St. Mark’s Square began to resemble a huge ballroom from a fairy tale. Only Konstantin stood silently aside and seemed to be offended by something. I approached him and said:
“Don’t worry, we will still have a trip to Verona… And your girlfriend is waiting for you in Moscow, she will be able to help you adjust the length of your new trousers, and you will become the most fashionable guy in town!”
The frank friendly word sounded like mockery. The writer Konstantin was offended by me because I was not with him; he was offended by the entire female cosmos because he could not get to the bottom of its essence. It is quite possible that it was precisely this goal that motivated the persistent student over many years of spiritual quests and practices, which without G’s encouraging words were not worth a damn.
“Anna, please tell me, what do you think: is this girl worthy of attention?”
Vladimir took out a photograph of the young lady from the inner pocket of his raincoat. I began to carefully examine the portrait and quickly realized why Master G might have liked the fair-haired girl. The master was preparing his maneuver and thinking about what to do with Violetta, relations with whom had become tense, and it had become difficult to hide.
Vladimir knew perfectly well which emotional levers to press in order for a person to awaken and react. Apparently, in order to shake up Violetta’s ambition, he asked me this question. At a Russian university, Violetta learned German and English; accordingly, she lacked another foreign language in her arsenal to feel a total advantage over the average person. They were going to send Violetta to Paris and arrange to study at the Sorbonne. The girl did not want to lose the royal attributes of the Master’s beloved woman and was reluctant to discuss this topic.
To raise the temperature of the situation, Vladimir started a conversation with me so that Violetta could hear it:
“How many languages can you speak? You dealt with the waiter at the pizzeria so quickly! Your Italian is at a good conversational level. You must speak at least three foreign languages!”
Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
After finishing a job for a London magazine on tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, I was returning to Paris via Vienna, where I stayed at a hotel for a few days, since I had long been planning to visit Mozart’s Viennese apartment museum and the Belvedere to view the most valuable art collections in Austria – works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.
My hotel was located near the central St. Stephen’s Square and its Catholic Cathedral, which combines Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. It is only possible to fully understand the depth of Mozart’s works in adulthood. Pianist Alfred Brendel spoke about this; being at the end of his creative activity, the musician devoted a lot of time to studying the works of the genius composer. The musician said:
“I am responsible to the composer, and especially to the work.”
Experts often interpret this attitude of the pianist as the position of an analytical musician.
I remember very well how as a child, when I was eleven or twelve years old, I saw on TV a German film about the life of Mozart. The climactic scene, when a lifeless body, wrapped in burlap, is thrown into a deep mass grave in a cemetery, sprinkled with lime on numerous bodies, made the deepest impression – as if I was being buried!
Afterwards, I couldn’t get rid of these thoughts for a long time and told my piano teacher about it, to which the teacher replied:
“Playing Mozart is like making a piece of jewelry, where every detail is important.”
Everyone should hear Mozart’s Requiem in D minor performed live at least once in their life, preferably in a church. I also consider Mozart piano concertos as one of the greatest achievements in piano composer’s art. It was Mozart who said:
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”
His words became an unbeatable must for those who look for a perfection in performing or composing.
Like the crucified Christ, Mozart carried his cross through life with joy and gratitude, overcoming life’s adversities with incredible childlike ease, causing jealousy and envy among his contemporaries. Although even today there are those who, due to the same envy of the unique gift the composer received from God, look for flaws in his music, claiming that it is no better than anything else written in that era. But honest and selfless musicians will never agree with such judgments. And the fact that today Mozart remains the most popular composer in the world only confirms his unsurpassed talent, which has no musical analogues. With his most divine music, the eternally young Mozart lights up our hearts in the vast expanses of Eternity!
12. Île Saint-Louis
Awakening is possible only for those who seek it and want it, for those who are ready to struggle with themselves and work on themselves for a very long time and very persistently in order to attain it.
“I can’t promise anything, but I will try to arrive on the island in time for the start of the concert…”
Someone I met recently called, a man came to Paris for a few days. After our long telephone conversation, I received by post the promised disc with a recording of Alfred Schnittke’s third piano sonata and a nicely wrapped video tape with Wim Wenders’ film “Wings of Desire”. All this was brought by the postman on March 8, International Women’s Day, and I was quite surprised.
With regular mail, it’s difficult to guess exactly when the package will arrive. Also, this time, a courier was not too lazy to go up to the third and a half floor with no lift; usually the postman simply left a notice in the letterbox, and then I had to go to the post office to pick up a registered letter or parcel. Coincidence, or non-coincidence – it was very pleasant to receive a gift package. Six months have passed since our first meeting in a cafe in Montmartre, and all this time we have not seen each other.
For reasons beyond my control, I was unable to make it on time to the concert of little-known works by Nietzsche performed by the French pianist Alain Kremski.
Then, the next morning, in my mailbox I found a sheet of music with an excerpt from a work by Franz Liszt, left by the professor as a special sign: this sheet of music was given to him by the pianist himself after the concert. A man told to musician about the woman who did not come to the concert. As it turned out, the man subsequently went to Montmartre with hopes of a chance meeting me.
A week later, my friend Natalya and I agreed to go together to a concert by an unusual pianist Kremski to hear Gurdjieff’s music performed. After the concert, we decided to talk to musician, and he suggested that we all meet together in a few days in a cafe on the island of Saint-Louis to chat in a relaxed atmosphere.
When I left for the meeting from Montmartre by car, several accidents happened along the way and all traffic was blocked. The situation for Paris is atypical; Intuition prompted me to leave the car in the underground parking lot on Haussmann Boulevard and to take the tube.
After I finished my explanatory story about unforeseen difficulties, I ended up arriving at the meeting in the cafe exactly two hours late, pianist Kremski raised his knitted, pitch-black eyebrows and insinuatingly explained:
“What happened to you today is the norm. Every adept on the path to knowledge must overcome obstacles that are sometimes extremely dangerous for a normal way of life. People united by a high goal must constantly fight! Everything is going right, according to plan! I can completely assure you of this!”
Indeed, Alain was shrouded in something mysterious. Incredibly, in appearance, he was very similar to the nephew of the sorcerer Merlin, performed by the artist Vladimir Etush from the Soviet musical, based on the story of the same title by the English writer J. B. Priestley “The 31st of June”.
13. Labyrinth. Night conversation with Master G
Try not to philosophize how to introduce certain principles into your everyday life.
And just love those with whom life has now pushed you.
E. Antarova, “Two Lives”
A break up with Romka was inevitable. When it became clear that the movie, in the promotion of which an incredible amount of effort had been invested, would never happen, there were no more common themes left. More than once I told Romka that we needed to break up, but he didn’t want to hear about it.
Then I thought that it would be nice to end this epic in a human way, on a high note, and suggested that Romka record a full-length studio album. I had to turn for help to the spiritual Master G and Romka’s godfather, Vladimir Stepanov.
Master G was the only person with whom one could discuss this painful topic. He patiently and skillfully sorted out all sorts of problems of his environment, so Romka called him on any occasion from Paris, either to St. Petersburg, or to Moscow, to complain and whine:
“Uncle Volodya! Anya is offending me again and wants to kick me out!!”
Like that. The situation was difficult in every sense. Romka didn’t know how to work, and didn’t want to, and living in Paris with a parasite, who lived on emigrant benefits and at the expense of others all his adult life, was not at all fun for me. This couldn’t go on any longer; my patience has run out. I needed to focus on my career and my life, and not console Romka and wipe away tears, listen to stories “about my beloved self” and cover his creative and personal fiasco with my cloak.
Ritually, after the New Year’s feasts in the Dutch castle, Master G came to France for several weeks in the company of his faithful followers. By that time, Violetta had settled in Paris. At G’s insistence, she entered the Sorbonne. To be in the thick of things, she rented an apartment within walking distance of Rue Lepic, on the approaches to Montmartre. This time the writer Konstantin came from Holland with a caravan. I was glad that he succeeded. During the trip to Venice and Holland, we became friends. Vladimir did not take him with him to Paris for several years in a row, since unforeseen situations always happened because of Kostya. But this time, Konstantin managed to jump into one of the cars with the Dutch students and arrived in Paris to help me break up with Romka.
“You should talk to Vladimir; he will definitely help you!”
Konstantin promptly told me what I had already guessed, because not once did I intend to break these ties. Kostya claimed that it was G who kept the rift with Romka at bay. I paid close attention to his judgments, since Konstantin knew G all his life as they had traveled together for years, Konstantin was faithful to his Master in everything.
“For some time, Romka guarded you like a watchdog, regularly reporting everything to Gee… Otherwise, we would have lost sight of you! It is possible that the entire Cosmos would have lost you… Without us, you could have been torn apart by worldly kites and all kinds of bloodsuckers.”
It was not possible to talk to Vladimir in Holland. But it was difficult to hide anything from his sharp gaze. During the seminar at the castle, G waited for the moment when Violetta went up to her bedroom, to the mezzanine. We were alone at the large table in the main room. From the speakers of a small tape recorder came piano music written by Yann Tiersen for the film “Amelie from Montmartre.” Unexpectedly, G took out a photograph from the breast pocket of his quilted vest and handed the color photograph to me:
“Look, please, Anna… what do you think about this girl?”
The portrait of a woman was taken in a professional photo studio. The face of a young woman with long blond curly hair was endowed with elegant features. I was extremely surprised by the master’s openness. He was not afraid that I might tell Violetta about this. Why did he decide to share it with me?! Perhaps this was his strategic plan. Vladimir sent Violetta to Paris to study, thereby clearing the way for a new story. But there was another meaning in this, as in everything that G was planning.
The situation was coming to its logical end. When a relationship cannot be continued, then a plan is needed. A plan in which all its characters, having left the game, will be left with minimal mental trauma, and will be able to continue their free sailing on the sea for a lifetime.
I came to Violetta’s apartment late in the evening. We spent the whole day with Konstantin, walked around Montmartre, sat for a long time in the Sacré-Coeur temple. Inside, the temple is decorated with multi-colored stained-glass windows and an impressive mosaic on the theme “France’s Reverence for the Heart of God”, made by the French artist Luc-Olivier Merson. From the top of Montmartre, where a wide multi-tiered staircase leads, a stunning panorama of the city opens up, and two magnificent equestrian statues rise above the portico – Joan of Arc and Saint Louis.
After the walk, we had subtle conversations in the cafe, trying not to think about anything, but the situation was not easy. Confrontation could not be avoided. The clouds were gathering. The atmosphere was not easy and the sense of inevitable discord was undeniable. Night was approaching, and a conversation with G was ahead. He was already waiting for me at Violetta’s, and we went out to walk through Montmartre at night. I started to say:
“Over the next few years, I need to do a lot! Then it will be too late! I can no longer carry Romka on my back…Enough is enough!”
Vladimir stopped and looked at me carefully:
“Well, I see clearly now. Since you have already decided everything, then it will be so. I advise you to read “Two Lives” by K. E. Antarova, this book will be a great help and inspiration to you.”
The aura of seriousness of everything that was happening forced me to concentrate and turn on a special mode of increased caution – alertness. G’s words pulsed inside and gave confidence.
When the passions of these events calmed down somewhat and everyone left, I began to study the books that Vladimir recommended:
“A good heart is a crater of love, and joy serves as oil. It is free from envy, and therefore a good day is easy. Severely irritated. Because the simmering passions in his heart do not give him rest. He is always irritated, the path to all evil is always open to his heart. Such a person does not know lightness. Doesn’t know its independence from external circumstances. They crush him everywhere and in everything and gradually become his master. A great wise life knows no punishment. It gives everyone the opportunity to mature and grow stronger in precisely those circumstances that are necessary only for him. Life without labor is the most miserable life. And when there is work, every life is more than half happy.”
Everywhere across whatever sorrows of which our life is woven, some radiant joy will gaily flash past.
“When you turn twenty-eight years old, you will enter a new cycle,” said Vladimir.
Vladimir Stepanov, Master G, spiritual thinker, Sufi, he was also called a magician and wizard, said that every person walks through seven-year development cycles, and with each new seven, a new leap and transformation is planned. And one should try best to prepare. As for me, there was exactly a year left before I would turn twenty-eight, and for the first time in my life I decided to celebrate my birthday away from the bustle of the city and friends. I felt a need to be closer to nature, to the ocean. I definitely needed to recover.
I did choose to go to Bretagne. In the sixth century, monks lived in Saint-Malo. The place got its name in honor of one of them – Saint Malo. The city itself arose much later, only by the Middle Ages. In the middle of the twelfth century, it grew into a fortress. Saint-Malo was significantly damaged during the Second World War during the Allied landings in 1944, and was then carefully restored.
It turned out that I fell asleep in a white terry robe on the uncrowded beach of the five-star palace hotel where I was staying. Water healing and restorative procedures had a relaxing effect, and warm and soft rays of sun transported me into the space of the subconscious between sleep and reality. And I didn’t immediately understand where this male voice was coming from:
“What are you doing here, dear madam, I’m ready to help you relax for real…”
The handsome man looked like beach lifeguards from American movies, with an even tan and voluminous hair that reached shoulder level. Without any hesitation, he began to massage my feet:
“We can continue all this in your hotel room, if you tell me the time, I’ll call you!”
At this moment, a sense of reality returned to me, and I hastened to pull back the stranger’s hand, which was already making its way higher and higher, towards the bikini area:
“No, thanks, you really are very handsome, but I have completely different plans for the evening, goodbye now!”
A beach boy of wealthy ladies was not part of my diet.
A few months ago, with the help of a short but passionate romance with a mystical writer endowed with an undeniable sly magnetism, I managed to get out of a painful, exhausting relationship. Vladimir supported me then, and during a short night audience, which he organized specifically to discuss this issue in Paris after Christmas, he insightfully remarked:
“Dear Anna! our character has begun to deteriorate, and this is absolutely no good, something needs to change… The Essence is innocent and naïve. It is trustful and gullible; it can grow but there is also a Personality.”
Now I enjoyed every minute of my new life, while having a clear feeling that this would not last long. The treasured prince on a white horse was already on his way. And I really wanted to delay another moment, to linger in this resulting vacuum, woven from the beautiful unknown. Work on the book completely absorbed me, and after dinner I returned to my room to my laptop.
15. All Roads Lead to Rome
You are what you believe in. You become that which you believe you can become.
The Hotel “Mont Dore” was located at the foot of Montmartre. There were still a few hours left before dinner, and I went out for a walk around the Batignolles quarter. At the intersection of the boulevard with Roman street, rue du Rome, I saw a familiar face:
“Uncle John! What an incredible coincidence! I just arrived from London to Paris! And here you are…”
Uncle John lived and worked in Amsterdam; the fact that he was now in Paris meant that Vladimir Stepanov was somewhere nearby. It was an incredible luck and fortunate coincidence! After filming in the fall of 2009, at the invitation of the creators of the film “Fortress of Brest” I took part in the “Listopad” international film festival in Minsk.
During my stay in Belarus, the strangest things began to happen, and after returning, a very important meeting for me took place in London: my life was no longer the same, and my perception of things was now vivid. As if I could see things I was not able to notice before. I knew that the only person I could talk to about this and who could understand me was G. I arrived in Paris in mid-December from London. From a trip to Minsk I brought a film script with me; I was offered a new role. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to Vladimir about.
“How great it is, everything seems to be working for you now”
John was happy to be in Paris. We decided to celebrate our non-random meeting in a nearby cafe, where he told me about the Master’s G program in Paris for the coming days. He was Vladimir’s squire and had his own duties and functions, which he performed with distinction, and was also known as a connoisseur of women’s embellishments. We recalled how we had met once in London, and John said that he would not go there again:
“London is a bit dry, prim and expensive! You can meet Vladimir tomorrow evening, but there will be a lot of people, everyone is going to the theater…”
“I will join you after the performance and will come to where you will ritually sit. I hope that Vladimir will not be too tired…”
I had no desire to go to the theater. I remembered how once in St. Petersburg we went with Vladimir and his surrounding to the Mariinsky Theater for ballet. G soon fell asleep and did not wake up until the end of the first act, and after that he even suggested that everyone go for a walk to the embankment, to see the sphinxes statutes. The two magnificent sphinxes on Unversitetskaya Naberezhnaya. Those statues were installed as decoration of the pier opposite the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts.
The next day, I went to the bar where a group of Master G friends was sitting. That evening I definitely knew that I needed to get to the meeting with Vladimir, no matter what! My intuition was correct; the meeting with Vladimir, at least in this reincarnation, turned out to be the last. We never had time to talk face to face. I was only able to describe to him the event I wanted to talk about to briefly:
A year later, Vladimir Stepanov passed away. But there is also another life: the life of dreams, life in a new body. The astral plane. We will meet again, no doubt!
Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
The sacred pursuit of Enlightenment can become a kind of productive passion. Every new day is birth and death, therefore, every day you need to climb the same favorite ladder again and again and overcome all the same obstacles in order to rise at least a millimeter, to break through to a new level, even more complex than the one on which you stopped yesterday.
Last night I tried to concentrate and penetrate into a new reality in my dream. I did find myself on the film set, where the soviet actor Mikhail Boyarsky was walking around in a cowboy hat. He looked in the same way when he played the role of a bandit from a highway and the hired killer Black Jack in the film “The Man from the Boulevard des Capuchins”. And that’s all I remember… I decided to continue to develop an intention in my dream. I wanted to gain the ability to remember my dreams. You must make sure you are dreaming consciously, and when inside of your dream, you must know for sure that this is just a dream. To take control of it.
I went for a walk in Joan Miró Park.
The whole next night I didn’t sleep a wink: my thoughts were overwhelming, and my breathing kept getting interrupted and became intermittent, and I decided to go to the kitchen to make strong tea. Having waited until morning hours, I went to visit the Temple of the Angels in the hope of finding harmony with the universe.
Having not experienced liberation from mental shackles and inner dialogue during a church service, I went in search of inspiration through earthly landscapes to the city beach. I sat comfortably with a book and tried to take a nap. As soon as I managed to switch off for a moment, something vibrated above my ear. It was a mobile phone in my hand bag, which I put under my head to make it more convenient. The promising siesta was interrupted by a call. How often does the family tree come in at the wrong time; I have noted to myself more than once that this is exactly what happens and at a very important, and sometimes downright dangerous moment, a call comes from the family. There is an interesting theory that fierce enemies in subsequent reincarnations are embodied in their closest relatives; the heavenly office gives human souls a unique chance to make amends – to correct, to atone, perhaps, for grave sins.
On the way to the Egyptian Museum, I changed my perspective and headed towards the port. It was a great spontaneous idea and the timing seemed to be right. Even though my nap on the beach was interrupted, no one could stop me from taking a boat ride along the coast of Barcelona.
At half past three in the afternoon, a small ship left the pier. Slowly picking up speed, the barge smoothly cut through the dark emerald surface of the December Mediterranean Sea. I went down to the bar-cabin and ordered some bergamot tea, deciding that I would stretch out the warming drink throughout the voyage.
Returning upstairs to the deck, where the sweet couples have already managed to intertwine with each other like ikebana – a combination of two hieroglyphs, where before the hieroglyph “flower” there is the hieroglyph “to revive”. Everything around was transformed in the presence of sunlight! We passed by giant cargo ships, and I moved to the other side of the deck. Massive vessels, all my life they evoked uncertainty and fear, as if in one of my past lives something irreversible had happened on such a ship. Instantly, the high spirits gave way to a feeling of uncertainty and concern, and my eyes were filled with warm tears. After a short, internally uttered prayer, the fear receded, and a new freshness filled the entire being. My thoughts turned to a new book that had yet to be written.
17. Alpine “Super Task”
Rehearse your death every morning and night.
Only when you constantly live as though already a corpse (jōjū shinimi) will you be able to find freedom
in the martial Way, and fulfill your duties without fault throughout your life.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
Among the monotonous episodes and chronically predictable events of the day, I want to look for inspiration in the whisper of the wind and the singing of birds. The human mind is burdened with thoughts of numerous things that cannot be postponed. The reinforced concrete aura of a metropolis is a difficult test, especially for people with a fine mental organization. Many times, I have noticed that reality in dreams is much sharper than life in the exhausting pursuit of earthly pleasures. Yesterday I finally managed to purchase a new mattress.
The Japanese futon foreshadowed new sensations while traveling through the labyrinths of dreams. Sometimes during sleep, you have the opportunity to meet people who have physically passed on to another world, or with those whom you have not seen for a very, very long time. Parallel worlds exist!
In the dream, I knew that I was high in the mountains, in the French Alps. This feeling was extremely clear and so realistic that you involuntarily begin to think about what reality is. I stood on a snow-covered alpine peak. At the foot of the mountains, through a light fog, I could see the tourist agglomeration where people were arriving. Buses were moving along the winding road – Hungarian Ikarus from the times of the USSR, there were exactly three of them. I knew that my school friend Maxim, who had been living in New York for a long time, should come to me, and I was going to meet him downstairs, at the entrance to one of the hotels.
“Max, I’m so glad to see you! But look, there’s something wrong with my nose… I took my school friend’s hand and ran it along the bridge of my nose, across which a white patch was stuck.”
“Nothing,” answered Maxim, “it suits you and I like it!”
We laughed heartily, the way we used to in our school days, when as teenagers we would run away from class to hang out in a deserted football stadium or park. We also loved to ride the tram or the subway, just to sit next to each other and listen to music from the same player – one wire earphone for me, one for him. Afterwards we found ourselves inside the tourist complex, where I saw John.
“Uncle John! Firework!”
“Uncle John” – that’s what his comrades from the Hermetic school “Athanor” called him, which aimed to educate knights of the spirit and real alchemists! There were other adepts in the room at the same time. People were talking about something, and some of them were taking notes in their notebooks. The whole tense atmosphere in the room was reminiscent of the sailors preparing for the arrival of the venerable admiral on the ship. John was completely naked, and I looked at him in surprise. The skin on John’s chest was badly damaged. I approached him to apply healing ointment.
“What happened to you, dear John?! You have a severe burn!”
I began to rub numbing cream onto the burned part of his body. In response to my question, Uncle John just silently nodded his head. During this procedure, Master G, Vladimir Stepanov, appeared at the door of the room. Vladimir approached us and chose a chair for himself. G started a conversation about smoking and surprised everyone present by saying that he had smoked three hundred and sixty-five packs of cigarettes in his life; exactly the same number of days a year! Why this particular number?! My internal dialogue was interrupted by the appearance of Arina in a dream.
Arina entered the room with a small black patent leather suitcase on wheels, from which she began to take out long evening dresses and try them on. While the Arina was organizing a fashion show for everyone, naked John began an animated conversation with one young man also present in the room.
“It is necessary to purify yourself as much as possible from the accumulated heavy vibrations that violently penetrate into everyone who arrives in the wilds of worldly vanity…”
“Do you really think that I am not pure enough?” John’s young opponent was indignant.
Arina heard a man’s argument and volunteered to defuse the growing degree of the situation. Uncle John could hardly remain still, his irritation became obvious.
With a help of her charming smile, Arina was able to lure the timid John into an impromptu dance in the middle of the hall. In an instant, the space was filled with the warm sounds of an acoustic ukulele from a song by Cesaria Evora, a singer nicknamed the “barefoot diva.”
The Alpine dream was multi-layered. New characters intertwined with old acquaintances and the recently deceased. In such cases, the main thing is not to lose the thread of events and follow your ultimate goal, for the implementation of which it is necessary to apply end-to-end action.
Once in Holland, in the vicinity of De Refter Castle, during the New Year holidays, we were walking with Vladimir Stepanov and his friends through a neighboring picturesque village. On the central square I noticed a musical instrument store.
“Let’s all go there,” I suggested, “it’s looks great, I do want to have a look at this!”
G liked my idea, and our group moved across the street to a cozy greenhouse filled with various instruments for making music. The owner of the store turned out to be the most amiable interlocutor. The Dutchman was happy to receive new visitors and treated us well; he offered some green tea. I decided to buy a small keyboard instrument. It was a retro synthesizer from the sixties, which had two octaves and only a few fun multi-colored buttons to change the timbre of the sound.
On the way back to the castle, G talked about the concept of “super task” according to Stanislavsky. When visiting Paris, Vladimir brought me a gift, a book from Russia. It was a guide for an actor. This special edition combines two methods of stagecraft: the technique of the actor by Mikhail Chekhov and the method of Constantin Stanislavsky.
The goal of the system is to achieve complete psychological authenticity of acting. The terms “through action” and “super task” are one of the most important aspects of the teachings of Stanislavsky. Stanislavsky said that just as a plant grows from a grain, so exactly from the individual thoughts and feelings of a writer his work grows. Everything that fills the author’s life, everything that excites his heart; the writer’s dreams, his thoughts and feelings, all internal experiences continuously become the basis of a work of art. The entire experience of the author, the joys and troubles he has lived and suffered through, set the direction for his creative vector.
18. Initiation in the Black Temple
The darker the sky, the brighter the stars will shine.
On New Year’s morning in a Dutch castle, I had a dream where Master G served as a guide to a magical space. Some call him ‘G’ or Vladimir.
In my dream, I was chased by two masked men. The figure of Vladimir has grown out of nowhere; with his look and the phrase, which he did not seem to utter, as if his thought were transmitted to me on a subtle plane, “Get ready for constant internal discomfort, and now I invite you to walk with me.”
Master G did not ask, he inspired the right action. His intent and power were so all-encompassing that it was impossible to refuse.
At dusk, we hurriedly walked along the deserted streets of the deserted city of N and finally turned out upon the square, where there was a low hanging Gothic temple.
On the right side of its main entrance, behind a cast-iron fence and on a small piece of land set aside for a cemetery, stood a centuries-old dais covered with brown earthen moss coffin.
“A strange place,” I said to G, “It looks like a crypt … Still, I advise you to have a look in there with me, since we are already here.”
G opened the lowly door, behind which a staircase began. We climbed a few steps and found a second door which was locked and marked with a sign reading “Retreat of the Holy Spirit”.
Without consulting, we decided to knock. After a short pause, a black woman with long curly hair opened the door. She began to speak with us using a language unfamiliar to me. Vladimir, feeling bewildered, slapped me on the left shoulder, and I instantly began to understand the black woman:
“This is the Great Black Temple. On it lies the curse of dead souls. A long time ago, several murders took place inside the temple, and now the souls of the dead do not leave this place.”
“Just don’t be afraid, let’s go with her”, Vladimir whispered to me.
And then the black priestess threw up her hands in disbelief:
“Oh, didn’t you know? We must pay tribute!”
Vladimir looked from the woman to me, and I hastily reached into my backpack, which, to my surprise, was not empty at all, and pulled out two bananas and a piece of pitch-black bread.
“Great, you can’t imagine better”, G said smiling. After evaluating the “gifts,” the stranger made an inviting gesture with her left hand, and we followed her. Inside the space there was darkness; for a minute it seemed to me that I had become blind, and then, somewhere in the distance, the orange-pink lights of a dozen torches appeared.
“Is it always so dark in here?” I said as I turned to G.
“It is better to ask the inhabitants of this temple,” G replied.
We continued to move forward until we came upon a new staircase, which now led downward. There was a sharp lack of air, and I really wanted to get out from this sinister place. “Are you still alive, sis?”, asked Vladimir.
Vladimir seemed to have poured the missing energy into me, and my state changed. He said:
“There were musicians of the American black jazz ensemble. Impromptu jazz music began to sound from somewhere, with a trumpet as the soloist. The cheerful jazz atmosphere does not coincide with the traditions of the inhabitants of this place, and they do not particularly respect men, they have a completely different mission – maintaining the otherworldly fire.”
Again, G posed a lot of new questions with an answer, and as soon as I was about to start asking them, Vladimir said:
“Okay, that’s enough for today, let’s go to the exit.”
19. Order of the Gray Tunic
Truth is what you think is true even if others disagree.
Richard Matheson, “Where Dreams May Come”
To meet Master G in dreams meant to experience new trials or adventures, which as a rule were of an initiatory nature, contributed to inner awakening, and correct comprehension. They could provide the key for solving problems that the adept is inevitably forced to go through his own way and overcome his emotional constraints and selfishness.
By interfering with the pure energy of kindness, that is, to purify, to inspire, and to continuously renew a person’s potential while ensuring that he remains in the correct energy flow, in the ray of light.
“Finally, I found you,” whispered Vladimir tenderly while patting me lightly on the left shoulder, “We have things to do, let’s hurry!”
We found ourselves on the stairs of some entrance.
“Where are we?” I asked, with great curiosity.
“In St. Petersburg”, Vladimir replied with a smile.
A moment later we were standing in a typical St. Petersburg courtyard. G suddenly became very serious:
“Again, we will have to take a taxi, otherwise we may be late for the procession.”
In a dream, Vladimir looked significantly younger.
I hurried after him; it moved quickly and smoothly, like a ship driven by the wind of the starry worlds. From around the corner of an empty street turned out an old “Moskvich“, once popular soviet vehicle of light green color. Vladimir stopped the car with a gesture.
“Get in, quickly!” Commanded G.
We got into the car. The driver took off without asking where to take us. Yet, he drove with knowledge of the matter.
After reading my thoughts again, Vladimir said:
“Be patient. Just a little while and you will see everything for yourself!”
Then there was a journey in a changed space and time. Following G in dreams, you can get into amazing spheres, subtle, borderless realities, where the usual notions of time are absent – ether reigns there. And everything becomes possible. Unbelievable opportunities open up to the galactic wanderer, and if the master is supportive, then you can count on revelations and discoveries too.
We found ourselves at the foot of the building.
The ideal cylindrical structure made out of white stone seemed to have no doors.
G said: “Now we will enter through there, and you will meet everyone!” In a moment we were transported to the inside of the sanctuary, where men, dressed in gray tunics of coarse fabric, offered prayers, took deep breaths and exhalated. They are all very similar to each other, like brothers. The unusual sounds and aromas made my head spin.
“Be patient, dear,” G kept repeating, “Just try to be patient! Your main task is to form the character in such a way that you can combine all four primary elements, controlling fire, air, earth and water.”
Another man has appeared in front of us by this time, his tunic was somewhat different in color; it was blue-gray, embroidered with silver thread, with amazing patterns and secret signs. His unusual belt buckle caught my eye.
I heard an inner voice: “If you look at the buckle for a long time, you will forget everything!”
After that, a new dream began, with a new plot and new unique experiences.
20. Medieval Feast
And from here a beautiful connection was created:
the same as any seed contains the tree and the fruit,
the whole universe is enclosed in small man, who’s religion, deeds, health,
body parts, nature, language, words
and deeds – everything sounds in one
tone and one melody according to
God, heaven and earth.
Johann Valentin Andreae
Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1459)
In the apartment where I grew up, a party was already in full swing. The house was filled with people; women and men, they all had amazing beautiful faces. Suddenly, in the corner of the room I noticed a guitar. ‘How could a guitar from my Parisian apartment in Montmartre move here, to my childhood home?’ Asking myself this question as if dreaming, I kept focused on a thought that this is a dream, where everything is possible. I took the instrument in hand, hugged it tightly, and decided not to let the guitar out of sight. In the grand salon, by the window, there is an old musical instrument brought from Germany by my grandmother. It was a piano from the famous House of Amati; Nicola Amati an Italian Master Luthier from Cremona, the son of the founder of the violin school, who brought the type of violin developed by his predecessors to perfection and became a teacher for many future masters.
“And when will we start playing?”, I was impatiently worried but still opened the lid of my instrument.
“Let each of us write on the beat,” I boldly suggested, without any hesitation or second thought.
“This is a great idea, Anna,” Master G was delighted.
I felt sorry for the writer Gilbert. Again, he was unable to hide his grievances, seeing that Vladimir and I were united. My cat, Musia, seemed to be counting the tension of Gilbert and meowed pitifully, jumping on his lap. Gilbert dismissed the pet’s caress and sat down closer to Vladimir on the sofa.
“Wait, just be quiet! Do you hear this?” said Gilbert as trumpets filled the apartment.
The sound was so clear that all the fun as instantly silenced. I decided to go to the bedroom, where there was a balcony, to look and check – perhaps this is where the wonderful trumpeters hid. Opening the room’s door, I saw three young maidens dressed in medieval clothes. Their hair was hidden under high cone-shaped headdresses, and their faces shone with kindness and purity; they seem to have come off the old tapestries that I loved so much to see in the Musée Cluny in Paris.
“And let us change you into something decent,” said one young woman.
The girls began to help me. It turned out that there were several outfits in the closet and all that remained was to choose the most suitable one. I chose a long silk blue dress, put it on and returned to the salon, which was now filled with men who were dressed like the knights in armor.
“Where is everyone?” I asked while looking for Vladimir.
One of them, the tallest, came up to me. The man wore a special knightly costume: over the forged chain mail – a white shirt with the image of a red cross; these were worn by the Knights of the Templar Order.
He leaned toward me and said: “So, we meet again!”
The knight then dropped to one knee. For a minute I looked at him and could not understand who he was. His sharp gaze was very reminiscent of G’s, but this was another person, someone I saw for the first time, yet it felt like we had known each other for all eternity.
And I saw seven Angels, who stood before God;
and seven trumpets were given to them.
The revelation of John the Evangelist