I would like to share with you the first page of a biography of Angelica Balabaanoff I have been writing for the last 4 years. I would be happy if you let me know if you like it.
A Pot of Red Azaleas
Had she ever been married? Or had kids? Was she really a mistress of Lenin, Mussolini, Trotsky and Stalin? Was Edda Mussolini, the eldest daughter of the infamous dictator, her daughter? Angelica’s life was full of mysteries and unexplainable events. I discovered the strangest of these when I least expected it. It was on a chilly December day when I visited her tomb in the Non-Catholic cemetery in Rome, a beautiful place with cypress trees, wildflowers and three-colored cats that followed me around. Reserved for foreigners or non-Catholics, the cemetery is a part of the tourist to-do list. It boasts the tombs of the English 19th –century poets Shelley and Keats, as well as many known personalities who died in the Eternal City at the time when bodies were not transported back to their native land.
Making my way through Rome, I imagined how Angelica’s tomb might look. I was sure that due to the foreign and historical status of the cemetery inhabitants, the place is rarely visited by the families of the deceased. As it happens, it is impeccably maintained by the “Friends of the Non-Catholic Cemetery” Foundation who takes care of the site as well as its cats, and provides information to the visitors. To my astonishment, the modest white burial stone with Angelica’s name and date of birth on it in dark grey letters was visible from afar. It was the only tomb which had fresh flowers: a pot of red azaleas. The most visited tombs, those of Shelley and Keats, did not have flowers. Standing in front of her tomb I could only wonder who would have brought flowers 45 years after her death if she had no family or children, her name has been largely forgotten by history, and her friends have long since passed away?