Dear reader hope you are doing fine, wherever you are, with pandemic still ravaging through many countries while others are starting progressive deconfinement with life getting back to normal. If you have missed last week’s post about the research for my new book The Choice of a Countess, about an awesome R.B., born intersex and her fascinating life, you can catch up here. I have been working from home for the past two months. One of my ‘new’ activities to vary my daily routine included reading printed newspapers which I bought from a nearby newspaper kiosk. It was something I did not do very regularly in my pre-pandemic life when I had to rush off to work every morning. A couple of weeks ago, as I rediscovered the pleasure of reading a printed newspaper compared to an on-line edition, I came across an article about an extraordinary woman, June Almeida (née Hart), an internationally renounced virologist. Although she left school at 16 and never went to the university, June Almeida became a known scientist and pioneered new methods for viral diagnosis, considered a discoverer of human coronaviruses. Upon leaving school for financial reasons she became a laboratory technician (a histopathologist) in Glasgow, then moved to London, married a Venezuelan artist and moved to Toronto where she worked at the Ontario Cancer Institute. In Canada it was easier to pursue career without formal degrees. While working int Toronto, June made a number of discoveries, co-authored many scientific publications and became to […]
I would like to make a ‘red food parenthesis’ in my posts and share one of my favorite Russian-cuisine-inspired recipes of Beetroot Cured Salmon. It can be served as appetizer or as a main course. Beetroot gives salmon a slightly sweetened taste and adds a unusual red color, making it look appetizing and elegant. Ingredients: 800 gr Salmon filet, skin on 50 gr of Extra Large Sea salt 50 gr of Sugar Sliced beetroot Dill (optional) Steps to make it: Mix Extra Large Salt and Sugar together Lay Salmon Skin down and cut Filet in two halfs Sprinkle Salmon with salt and sugar Cver one of the filets with beetroot and fill Sandwich two filets together Wrap in aluminium foil or in plastic wrap Put in a dish and cover with something heavy which weighs around a pound or more Refrigerate for 12 hours or mre (It can be 24h depending on your taste) Discard accumulated juice, beetroot and dill Slice thinly without the skin, serve with bread, sprinkled with lemon juice Bon appetit!
The Thirst to Become – food for thought during confinement. Few people know the ‘Russian Socrates’, the Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili (1930-1990). Merab was born in Gori, Georgia. He called his teaching ‘Socratic’ in the sense that it was composed of dialogues. In his life only a few books were published, his lectures (for his style of lecturing he and others called them “conversations” or “dialogues”) were taped and published after his death. One of his teachings focused on the thought that life was in the self-realization and “in fulfillment of oneself as a human being”, that is the fulfillment of the possibilities of one’s character or personality. Some of the most known phrases coined by Mamardashvili are: “consciousness is an experience of inexperiensible experiences”, “phenomenology is the accompanying feature of all the philosophy”, “loneliness is my profession” and so on. I recently came across a short video in which Mamardashvili tells about the Thirst to Become, and about the self-realization “What have I undertaken in order to be born in thought, to become a human being?” which I found particularly interesting during this long period of confinement To watch the video the Thirst to become with English sub-titles
Gourji – is a new Russian brand on the luxury goods market. It is unique and has no analogues. The philosophy and style of the Gourji brand are inextricably linked with the history of Russia. The brand takes a fresh look at the Eurasian cultural and historical context in which Russia is a melting pot of hundreds of cultures. The basic idea of the Gourji brand – is to identify the brightest features of the artistic heritage of the past and present it in a contemporary way. The initiator of the project Dmitri Gourji – “a man of the world”, toured dozens of countries. An intellectual and romantic, a successful businessman, a collector, a man of varied interests. His passion about the country’s history and theories of the Eurasian states, Eurasian culture has prompted the idea of creating his own brand. “No matter what was the ideology of the country,” Dmitri explained to me during our meeting, “each epoch left behind its art and literature which are a part of our history and which we should not forget. It is what I call ‘a business card of the epoch.’ What’s important,” he continued sipping his coffee, “is not to forget this history and learn from it.” The Pen ‘Above the Saviour Tower’ evokes the main tower on the eastern wall of the Kremlin which overlooks Red Square. Build in 1491 it was once the main enrance into the Kremlin. The earrings ‘Red Stars‘ (18K white gold & 12 rubies) bring […]
To see the previous post My Mother Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 3 On the day of your funeral a few men came to see my husband. They told him that they were the last love of your life. There were 3 or 4 of them. All were persuaded that it was true. When I went back to Moscow for the last time to empty your apartment, the first thing I saw upon entering was a stack of letters addressed to you. There were holiday greetings and announcements of events in the cinema and literary clubs to which you belonged. I left them on your dining table as if you might read them anytime soon. A few days later the phone rang. A woman called from the RTR, the 1st TV Channel. She wanted to ask you to participate in a talk show about Ludmila Gurchenko, a famous Soviet TV star. I told them you had died. They kept apologizing, saying that they did not know, how they had missed the news that you were gone. I thought it was your way of communicating with me while I was in the apartment. One of the gzhel boxes you had at home, the one which has a lid in the shape of an officer lying on a sofa, had keys in it. There were about a dozen of them. There were of all sorts of shapes and colors. Some were marked with a pink or blue ribbon. My […]
I’m almost done writing my last novel The Choice of a Countess based on a true story of R.B. about an awesome woman born intersex. There is still a lot of revising and polishing left to do. And I still have to find a publisher for the book. To know more about the plot of the book go to the page The Choice of a Countess I would like to tell today how R.B. and I have met and why did I start writing about her? I met R. B. during Christmas vacation on Martinique, on Salinas beach, reputedly the most beautiful beach on the island. We started to talk. Suddenly R. B. asked: “You do not notice anything unusual about me?” “No,” I said, giving her an attentive look, to see if I had missed anything in her appearance. She looked like any other woman. Tall, strongly built, she must have been beautiful when she was young with her wide-set turquoise eyes. For some reason, she decided to share with me the secret of her birth. We met a couple of days later for breakfast, in a coffee shop in Le Diamant, a small community in Martinique, where many French expats have their homes. Over a coffee and croissant, Romy told me the incredible story of her life, how all she had ever wanted was to be like everyone else, and what she had done to accomplish that. The idea of the book was born.
To see the previous post My Mother Paola Volkova -Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 2 The first few months after your death I spent in a fog. I did not notice the people around me. I stopped wearing a watch. Time had no meaning. All I knew was when the alarm went off in the morning, I had to get up to go to work. The clock on the PC in my office informed me that it was time to go back home. At work I forced myself to note down urgent tasks to do for the day and made myself do them. Otherwise I could easily spend the entire day surrounded by a fog, a thick white smoke. I saw nothing beyond it. Back home in the evening, I bought cold chicken and readymade salads for dinner until my husband politely pointed out to me that we had been eating the same food every day for the last few weeks. I’m jealous when I see mothers with their daughters on the streets. It makes me think that I will never be able to go with you for a coffee or a movie. Help you to sit down or put your coat on. I also think how happy they must be together. When I have first realized that I could not remember your face, I was so embarrassed that I could not admit it even to myself. I could remember your voice and gestures, how you placed your bag onto […]
I’m almost done writing my last novel The Choice of a Countess based on a true story of R.B. about an awesome woman born intersex. There is still a lot of revising and polishing left to do. And I still have to find a publisher for the book. But here is the pitch and synopsis. Countess. Duchess. Butcher. Businesswoman. Singer. Intersex. The pathways of human experience are multifaceted but there is one rule to follow to profit from them. You have to be a woman or a man. Hailing from a noble Italian family, R. B. was born in rural France in the 1950s. Identified at birth as a boy, her parents registered her as Guy. When Guy turned five, the family doctor noticed that the child lacked testicles. At the time the doctor thought that there was no danger to Guy’s health and suggested they wait until the adolescence, hoping that the testicles would descend with time. Things got particularly bad for Guy at school. His private parts were unusually small, the classmates laughed at him. He isolated himself and was stigmatized even by the teachers. His parents, fearing that their son was a homosexual, insisted on Guy becoming a butcher—to ensure his masculine identity. At the age of 17, he left the countryside and moved to Lyon, where he went to see an endocrinologist, who put a word to what was happening to him: Hermaphroditism – a term used at the time for Intersex. Lost in his duality, […]
To see the previous post My Mother : Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 1 On Monday evening, the day you were taken to the Izmailovo Hospital, my brother called me on Skype. He said I should come to Moscow. My husband and I were on vacation in Ostend, a Northern Coast Sea resort in Belgium. “Are you sure?” I asked. You had just returned from Rome. In a few days you planned to come to see me in Paris. “Yes,” he answered laconically and nodded his head as if to make sure that I would understand him. The next morning I headed to the Ostend train station. It was mid-March. Europe had registered a record snowfall. Trains had practically ceased to work in Belgium. The departure information board announced cancelations through the end of the day. I could not leave on Tuesday The usual 2 3/4 hour trip to Paris became an impossible journey. Hoping to get to Paris by Wednesday evening, I tried to book a Thursday flight to go to Moscow. But the travel-booking web-site Opodo demanded the number and date of issue of my Russian passport. That was at home in Paris. So the ticket reservation had to be postponed until my arrival in Paris. First thing on Wednesday morning I went back to the Ostend train station and bought tickets to Paris. The clerk at the station advised that we leave as quickly as possible. “There is too much snow. Trains are delayed. God […]