Stepan Solzhenitsyn: there Was a time when I had no idea that the Pope is an outstanding writer

Today – 100 years since the birth of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “First impressions – cracked pavement at Sheremetyevo-2. It was easy to adore a Motherland of “fed far”. And this cracked asphalt was all the same, but the reality is, without the romance”. Memories of his childhood and about his father, his first impressions of the country and a comprehension of the heritage shares the youngest son of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Stepan Solzhenitsyn.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn with his sons. 1976.

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We had a rule not to make noise before the hour of the day

– What was your childhood in Vermont (in Cavendish)?

– A happy childhood, and spacious. We lived in the woods, so it was impossible to see the neighbor’s house, and the neighbors were not close, and for half a kilometer, a kilometer away. So my life during the preschool years raged in our house and on forest trails around it. Home classes were held on the street we played with adults (sometimes with guests but often it was with grandma) went to collect mushrooms.

Summer was his vegetable garden, weeded the beds, watered, gathered dill, cucumbers, parsley, carrots. And, of course, tomatoes. Remember eternity, daily watering of twenty-six bushes of tomatoes in three rows, the soil around which the whole was covered with plastic to retain moisture. During one watering can was a lot of what to dream, what I was doing. In short, a small Paradise.

Stepan Solzhenitsyn. Photo:

– In one of interview Natalia said that you were forbidden to make noise before the hour of the day. Is that so? What orders were installed in your home? Strictly you were raised?

– My brothers (of which I’m the youngest) just were trespassers of the forest at rest. On weekdays in the first half of the day was at school. And then, during summer holidays or weekends, because of addiction to basketball decided once the second exit to leave the ball before noon, breaking it is not only the General working atmosphere, but also a lot of noise because the ball beat the wall or the metal ring.

There have already had to introduce a rule: not before the hour of the day. And it was connected with the fact that dad just wrote the Chapter before this time, it was his most precious time of the morning, and after he’s done work that does not require the same concentration. Ashamed to remember what we knew. Just act selfish.

In General, does not remember upbringing as strict. On the contrary, we are very actively engaged, the parents, and grandma taught us math, Russian language, we wrote dictations, taught poetry, and they were attracted to our education family friends.

Solzhenitsyn with children.

It didn’t go from “here’s what not” and “that’s what you need”. But it was not as a warning, as an example, the ability to just watch and listen. We have learned a lot from the guests, because to Solzhenitsyn came interesting people, something could be gleaned from the conversation.

– What I remember his father? Maybe there is some picture in mind: bent over his Desk, talking over tea…

I have so many pictures in memory, not one. Standing behind the wooden “chair” (he sometimes wrote standing up, there were two, one in Cabinet and another in the summer house at the pond, go down there, walk three minutes) mowing the grass (and the spit also had two heavier wood and lighter metal). With us playing tennis, teaching me to swim. Of course, writing for different tables at different times of year and day, depending on the purpose. Remember his red armchair, where you can find him reading at night.

Remember that special, little happiness is when I, as a messenger, wearing the editing between the house (the office mom, “editorial workshop”) and the “pond house” (where the Pope wrote, “the author’s meadow”), and there I was waiting for him to prepare some kind of a response or page for mom. In the meantime, I or picking strawberries, or something dad said.

Solzhenitsyn in Vermont

I remember, once he said that, after eighty years will bask in the sun, and the work I’m already. I remember the smell of coffee at ten in the morning – it was a morning routine, dad would carve out 15 minutes a day, caught the news on the radio, on the radio, and drinking coffee. Remember dad reaching the bearing, but with a little beige notebook notebook – thoughts, observations always he lay down on the paper.

I had no idea that the Pope is an outstanding writer

– At what age did you realize that father is a writer of world size? Remember the circumstances?

Fact of the matter is, I can remember when and who told me that, but that doesn’t mean I believe it. It was a Saturday morning, I was sitting alone at the kitchen table – “alone” because older siblings and adults faster than I did everything, including faster had Breakfast. So, after Breakfast, stayed with me grandma, and from the conversation it became clear that I have no idea what dad is an outstanding writer.

“What, you don’t know what your dad…?” – she asked. Of course, I took note, but decided that it would be typical for adults forgiving bike.

That only adults lash the baby to give it either the courage, or pride, or something to hit. And had to go through the years gradually I first believed, and then he realized the depth of his works.

– When you first read the works of the father?

– I read (actually, life) is slowly including it came to dad’s later works. Well, to “crocodoc”, probably, years ten. And the camp world, the world of the prisoners, was so distant from me that “Ivan Denisovich” I read the first eleven, in General, do not understand, then went back to him and appreciated.

But “the Archipelago” – a lively fiction – I read it avidly, and, it seems, read it before his novels (“the first circle” and “Cancer ward”) and the epic “the Red wheel”. Remember how “Archipelago” I read it on the school bus going over bumps and unpaved Vermont roads, and transported into this world for our unfortunate homeland, immersed in the terror, and the ascent from darkness into light, which is, in fact, the main theme of this book.

Solzhenitsyn examines the work of the son. Vermont, mid-80s

– Discussed whether in a family, how important for many people is the work of the father? Parents explained this to you in childhood?

– Yes, I explained, but still probably not in the sense of “that’s how important the work of the father”, and another explained: here’s what happened and is happening at home, explained the value of this. I really etched in the memory of the liberation of Alik Ginzburg, and especially the little detail that when he said to us (that’s tomorrow) comes, he probably will not be able to take a lot of food, so hungry, the prisoner’s body is experiencing from eating shock.

But in General: that life is a struggle, and personal freedom and even life is possible and not to cherish and to give. What a home, for faith, for the principle is possible and to suffer, and die. We were only a part of all this here. And I’m so stark was the contrast that I am in such a safe condition of live, but is preparing for some tests to come.

– In 1983 in Vermont came the French journalist Bernard pivot (Bernard Pivot). He was the first who managed, after nearly eight years of seclusion Solzhenitsyn to interview him. Beer removed the moment you fill on typewriter the text of the dictionary for the expansion of Russian language, compiled by Solzhenitsyn. You had a lot to help my father? At what age and how did you help?

– I well remember the afternoon of August 9, 1983, the memory of the Holy great Martyr. Panteleimon, when dad announced to me that now I can help him. It was an honor, and I all wanted to live up to his expectations. He explained to me the purpose, and she was, of course, fascinating: I was appointed as a lifeguard, was able to attach the arm to the rescue – but not the children, not kittens, and words.

This dictionary – extracts from the dictionary of Dahl, and it is a dictionary of a living language, with examples of applications phrases, local features, and the father so loved the Russian language, that it this dictionary was a maintainer, a lifelong friend. But in my father’s dictionary had other authors, my father’s discharge from their juicy prose. All the words are comprehensible, but falls out of circulation, with a total standardization and the emaciation of the national vocabulary.

Photo: Bernard Beer

Of course, I was only transcribing his notebooks, and quickly realized that it is good for the Pope from my work was not so much. But I use this opportunity – is enormous. And when I could I feasibly helped him continue.

No doubt, the Motherland is Russia

– You went to Harvard, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of technology. How to choose your path? Whose it was the decision and why?

– I chose, but the influence of parents was, in one case, decisive. We had to choose a University, and one of the Chicago – famous for demanding programs, and this insistence, I was attracted to. But the year was 1991, the height changes at home, and the parents seemed to be away from home, and even inside the America, and even in such a moment is simply to not go flush with the era. Not to mention the fact that Harvard is also a very strong institution, not only famous. And I would argue that to.

But the specialty subjects (urban studies, urban design, road and infrastructure construction and management, ecology) as a time I chose, on their own. Remember an important conversation when it came to the Pope to declare, to consult. Believed that receive U.S. training, then return with these skills in Russia. And he was checking for internal motivation, awareness of the choice. Never, neither he nor mom have not used the possibility (which is all parents) to “push” in my life, any decision. Very tactfully always behaved.

– Have you consulted with her parents when she decided to return to Russia? What were your first impressions when you returned?

– I was, you might say, two return – partial (from 1992) and full (2004). First impressions from the summer of 1992 when I was 18 years – cracked pavement at Sheremetyevo-2 (now terminal F), I would have felt in those cracks whole bunch of feelings at Home.

Could not believe that she exists, and, of course, in the cracks, like hanging at the house painting Levitan, showed the way fuzzy, Russia modest, poverty-stricken and absolutely adorable.

It was easy to adore a Motherland of “fed far”. And this cracked asphalt was all the same, but the reality is, without the romance.

Then followed a period of life when came mainly short visits, days four or five, because I had worked in the United States. But he came every few months, and practical acquaintance with the life and reality of life here, with Russia of the 1990s, I was, albeit fitfully, but regularly.

Stepan, and Ignat with his parents. 1991

Return full, that is, for permanent residence, I decided immediately, in only 30 years of age. Played in me a sense of time: a life in full swing, and I’m in Russia so also did not sink. It was not only the debt, but simply the opportunity. After all, I was available not one but two countries: in addition to the country where I grew up – the United States, was my homeland – Russia, which really I did not open, but only superficially. To consult about all this with my parents and never come, nothing but joy on my return, they have not experienced.

I’ve lived here a long time. Here helped dad in his life, helping mom, what time. And I married in Russia. My wife, Marina, helps me a practical and balanced way to see your surroundings, without unnecessary romanticizing. It fully and support throughout.

– What is left for you homeland? As now, the United States and Russia?

– No doubt, the Motherland is Russia. She was my home, even when there was no such country as Russia. Remember, in Switzerland (meaning I was two) my mom explained that different people have different homeland, and us – Russia.

While for many years I felt a kinship with his homeland, small homeland and I was there in New England, in Vermont and in other places where I happened to go to Church, learn, work and live. These homes also remain dear to me.

The main thing I took from my father – passion for life

– You are invited to meetings with students – to share memories. Solzhenitsyn generally learn in school, but do read it, is it interesting to modern youth? What are your impressions?

– Rarely is time for that, but the few times that I played – the questions were very lively, insightful. Keenly felt a search of the youth meaning of life and not just imaginary success or happiness in prosperity. Let not all, but many, not units!

Solzhenitsyn always thought that if there is a connection, an Association of concerned people who value and love their country, through Russia can be saved. This hope is alive. So, I think, read Solzhenitsyn or not, consciously or subconsciously, any teenager who cares about people’s fate is in the circle, or the circle of potential readers of Solzhenitsyn.

– What is the main family legacy is left to you from the father?

– Legacy? Big word. Perhaps most importantly, that I could from his father to take this passion, a lot of passion for the life we’ve been given one and was given it in order to serve, to be helpful to others.

– What value to your life, families had the faith and the Church?

– In short answer – the highest value, the most Central location. Thirty minute drive from our house were two of the industrial town. It was towns with a significant population of fifteen to twenty thousand people. In the early XX century from the Western edge of the pre-revolutionary Russia, from Belarus, from the Austro-Hungarian Carpathian Rus went there labor migrants (as well as from Poland, Ireland and many European countries). Opened their parishes, where their descendants, forgetting the Russian language, however, kept the traditions. Even the service was sung in Church Slavonic.

The hegumen Paramon (Golubka), FR. Nikolai Balashov, Stepan Solzhenitsyn, N.D. Solzhenitsyn, FR. Nicholas (Chernyshev). Photo: House of Russian foreign to them. A. Solzhenitsyn / Facebook

The presence of such a parish has opened me the opportunity to go to the Orthodox Church from the earliest years, it was childish to feel and love the service. One of our children’s teachers, seminarian Andrew Tregubov, then the closest family friend, spiritual father, was, in 1979, was ordained and became the rector of one of these parishes – Holy resurrection Church in Claremont (new Hampshire). He serves there still. For me it is an example of someone with a true life’s calling. When the temple was transformed, and at the same time returned to the roots of Christianity (especially the icons) and to the true meaning – to serve, to be relevant in his time and space. So the Liturgy gradually when father Andrei began to be conducted in the English language, for local people. The doors of the temple thrown open to all, the arrival of younger, create a real prayer community.

The Orthodox faith is more than national identity, because the sacrifice of the Lord, His resurrection is the Central event in the history of all mankind. Organic I always felt that Russian culture – Yes, all through mixed Orthodoxy, and even unthinkable without him, but the Church is thus universal.


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