Andrey and Tatyana
For the marriage in 1906 of the oldest son of the Rayevsky family, Andrey,(68) a gorgeous wedding was arranged in the family house. He married Tatyana,(69) the daughter of the court chamberlain and censorship committee member Aleksandr Katenin.
In 1903 Andrew graduated from the Imperial Lyceum, and while working there was drafted into the army and stationed with his unit in Luga.(70) After the Revolution he and his pregnant wife and 12-year-old son Sasha ended up in Novorossiysk. The family wanted to leave, but Andrey contracted typhus, dying at the age of 38 on January 14, 1920.
The fate of Tatyana was no less tragic, albeit different, than that of her sister-in-law Katya.
Her younger son Mitya was born after Andrey’s death. She and her two boys emigrated to Germany, where she found life unbearable.
She worked as a masseuse in a sanatorium, but in 1930 was laid off, leaving her in a desperate state. Yekaterina Grigoryevna asked Prokofiev in 1927 to send Tatyana those things that had once belonged to someone or another’s maid. Of course Prokofiev came to her aid.
In 1929 Sasha entered the service. Aunt Katya reported to Prokofiev that he was involved in sound film, running a complex system, and that he hoped to combine his service with university studies.
Here too Prokofiev became involved. As he wrote to Tatyana in Potsdam, “it seems that Sasha will succeed in getting a scholarship.” (71) The composer sought to procure the scholarship through the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, but it did not work out.
Tatyana grieved being in Germany and ached for her family, dreaming “to visit my homeland, if only in my old age, and to be at Andryusha’s grave.”(72)
She was perhaps the only person to whom Prokofiev could write openly about the “Soviet” Rayevsky family. His letters to Tatyana occasionally reveal that which he hid in his other letters to the family. “I cannot get over Katechka’s arrest in Penza.”(73) For a time the news concerning his relatives seemed to improve.
Shurik and Nadya
On one occasion in New York—February 4, 1926—Prokofiev received an unexpected letter from a cousin who had for almost a year been sitting in prison! The letter was dated April 1924, however, at which time Shurik was still a free man. The contents of the letter thus served to provide context for his situation.
“Don’t write...” In the Soviet Union before perestroika there was no need to explain the meaning of this phrase.
The cousin that Prokofiev called Shurik (81) entered the Imperial Lyceum, formerly Tsarskoye Selo, in 1900, completing his course of studies in 1906. Before the Revolution he worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the First World War he was an artillery officer, later finding employment as a legal advisor in the State Bank. He also played bass in the Vakhtangov Theater, a position that he might have gotten through his wife’s nephew, Nikolay Petrovich Sheremetyev.(82)
Shurik happily married baroness Nadezhda Feofilovna (Bogdanovna) Meyendorf (1889-1950), a descendant of a noble German-Russian family. In the Rayevsky family it was said that Nadezhda never studied in an education institution, having been taught at home in the family of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (83) as the friend and companion of his daughter Tatyana.(84) Everyone noted her great successes. She wrote poetry and was talented at drawing.(85) Young Nadya is occasionally mentioned in the diary of K. R. [Konstantin Romanov—Ed.]. For example: “We were summoned to the children of our guests: the Pavlovichs, Leykh-tenbergskys (Stana’s children), the two Meyendorf boys and the girl Nadya, the Frederiks children, Peshkov’s, and Poretsky’s. 17 in all, they ran, played, and romped around in the white hall, a pleasure to watch.” (86)
The entry is dated March 2, 1897, when Nadya was 8.
The young couple had three daughters: Yelena (1913-82), Yekaterina (1915-2001), and Sofya (1923-2011).
The loss to the Rayevsky family is noted in Prokofiev’s diary on April 20, 1925. He received a letter from his cousin Katya in Penza, in which she wrote that Shurik was chronically ill. In letters from Soviet Russia those who were arrested were described as being sick.
Svyatoslav Sergeyevich said that Shurik Rayevsky was repressed for being a graduate of a privileged educational institution: the Lyceum. Certain events suggest that to be a Lyceum alumnus had particular significance, connected, I think, with the so-called “Lyceum affair.” For a time, former students of the Lyceum met in secret to mark Lyceum Day, October 19. They arranged memorials for deceased students—those who had died in the Revolution and First World War. On the night of February 15, 1925, OGPU agents arrested more than 150 people. Almost all of those who were convicted in the Lyceum affair were shot or later perished in prison camps.
Prokofiev’s second cousin Sergey Sebryakov explained to him that Shurik “fell in with this crowd, and didn’t do himself any good by refusing to name the names of those people he recalled” being involved in illegal political meetings.(87) Aleksandr Aleksandrovich’s Rayevsky’s name does not appear in the arrest lists for the Lyceum affair. But Sebryakov’s words indicate the nature of the charges against him. Having been arrested just after the mass detention of Lyceum alumni, Shurik was perhaps questioned about the unfolding case. The 1926 Criminal Code includes an article about “failing to report.” Such was Shurik’s crime. In a note sent to the OGPU in 1929, Prokofiev mentions that Shurik was in the prison division affiliated with Counter-Revolutionary Organizations. In the eyes of the new authorities secret meetings of Lyseum alumni were regarded as activities of a counter-revolutionary monarchist organization.
Another unwitting culprit was the younger sister of Nadezhda Feofilovna, Aleksandra, known in the Rayevsky family as Sandra.(88) She was the secretary of S. Elliott, a representative of the American businessman W. Averill Harriman, who had signed a 20-year agreement with the Soviet government for manganese production in the Caucasus.
In the evenings the Rayevsky family often went to the theater and concerts. Sandra brought her American friends to Shurik’s apartment for some dancing. Contacts with foreigners in the USSR remained unsafe up to perestroika. Shurik was sentenced to 10 years.
Anna Petrovna Uvarova wrote the following to Prokofiev:
Thanks to the efforts of E. P. Peshkova,(90) Shurik managed to serve his sentence, which had been reduced by a third, in Moscow in Butïrskaya prison.
From the account of Mariya Tarasevich (Suchova):
He also mended shoes, for which he earned 15 rubles a month.
After the birth of their three daughters Nadezhda Feofilovna became both a wife and a mother, but she was also obliged, after the arrest of her husband, to earn a living. She earned a modest amount as a typist, one of her employers being Mikhaíl Bulgakov. She also made a bit of money designing and selling lamp fixtures.
Of course, Prokofiev made an effort to free his second cousin as soon as he arrived in the USSR. He spoke with Peshkova, talked about the arrest to the influential director Vsevolod Meyerhold and to hasten the matter made contact with Nadezhda Bogdanovna.(93) Meyerhold promised to “put a word in the ear” of his acquaintance in the OGPU. The situation did not change for the better, however. Upon returning to the USSR on October 30, 1929, the composer heard the news from Myaskovsky that he summarized in two words in his diary: “Worse: Nadya.”(94)
As Anna Petrovna Uvarova explained in a letter to the composer:
Anna Petrovna took in the three Rayevsky girls.
In the Rayevsky family it was assumed that the conviction was for a standard reason: contact with foreigners. Nadezhda Feofilovna’s mother and many of her sisters and brothers lived outside of the country; it was difficult to imagine that she had no contact with them whatsoever. Additional factors in the conviction might have been the family history of the baroness and her husband, who was imprisoned under the treason statute of the USSR.
They sent her to Povenets, a small village in Karelia. The Soviets needed cheap labor for grand state construction projects. Work begins at a frenzied “shock worker” pace in Povenets on the White Sea – Baltic Canal, conceived as the next victorious war on one of the chief enemies of the Soviets: Mother Nature.
Tatyana Aleksandrovna Rayevskaya wrote to Prokofiev from Germany: “Poor Shurik, the joy of his last goodbye to Nadya and his children taken away from him. They are in truth holy martyrs!”(96)
In November 1929, Meyerhold brought the composer to the head of a secret division of the OGPU, Yakov Agranov, one of the top functionaries of state security and the organizer of political repressions in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s. The date of their meeting, November 15, is given on a note that the composer scribbled as a reminder to himself on a random piece of paper, evidently “on his knee” and in a hurry. The first part concerns Nadezhda Feofilovna, insofar as the date indicated corresponds to that of her arrest. “From October 26 to 27, behind (97) a secret department in Butïrskaya prison. During the search her letters to her husband and relatives were confiscated, even though they were perfectly legal.” Below, about Shurik:
On the side the following attribution: “Filed with Yenukidze.”(99) And beneath: “Testimonials and information given to comrade Agranov.”(100)
Occasionally in the life of the orphaned girls there was some joy: The day after Prokofiev’s conversation with Agranov the second premiere of Love for Three Oranges took place in the Bolshoi Theater. Anna Petrovna Uvarova was in one of the loges “with two little Rayevskys.”(101) B. Asafyev,(102) B. Gusman, P. Kerzhentsev,(103) I. Rabinovich,(104) and the composer of the opera were seated in the parterre on added chairs.
Shurik’s sentence was reduced by a third from ten years to six years and eight months. His return home is preserved in the Rayevsky family memory: “Yekaterina Aleksandrovna (105) said that during this time she and her sister Sonya, her paternal cousin Anna Petrovna Uvarova, and the latter’s daughter Katyusha were living together in a basement apartment on Bolshoi Afanasyevsky side-street.” She recalled that “in the morning, when we were still sleeping, someone knocked on the basement window. It was papa. I greeted him in my nightgown. Right then and there I gave him my ticket. I was supposed to go to see mama in Povenets, but he went instead of me. So I didn’t get to be with her.”(106)
In the spring of 1933 the Rayevsky family moved to Miass, near Chelyabinsk, but some time thereafter returned to Moscow.
After the start of the Great Patriotic War, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich was arrested again. He was sent to the Kansk prison camp in the center of the Gulag system in the Krasnoyarsk region. The huge camp specialized in forest exploitation. There were those, of course, who died of hunger and disease. But the most common form of death in the camps was under a log. Sawn timber was carried by two prisoners at a time to the mill. The deadliest moment came when they tried to tear a log out of the ground and lift it onto their shoulders. The weakest prisoners fell, the heavy burden driving the emaciated victims into the ground.
How did Shurik die? Perhaps under a log, having collapsed in the young grass, or stepping out of line in a moment of weakness, or in a wretched barracks on a pile of indescribable rags, trying to keep in his fading consciousness the faces of his family. To find out what actually happened is prohibited.
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich died in the Kansk prison camp on June 6, 1942. Nadezhda Feofilovna died in 1950.
My heartfelt thanks to those who helped me with this project: Sergey Svyatoslavovich Prokofieff, the staff of the London Prokofiev Archive, and the descendants of the Rayevsky family, Mariya Vladimirovna Daragan-Sushchova, Mariya Petrovna Tarasevich (Suchova), Yekaterina Aleksandrovna Rayevskaya, and Dmitriy Dmitriyevich Maksutov. Additional thanks to my valued colleagues Varvara Petrovna Pavlinova and Grigoriy Anatolyevich Moíseyev.
This article is published also in Russian in "Naouchny Vestnik" 2/2013 of The Mosow Conservatory.
68 Andrey Aleksandrovich Rayevsky (1882-1920).
69 Tatyana Aleksandrovna Rayevskaya (née Katenina, 1883-1957).
70 My thanks to the staff of the research division of the Tsarskoye Selo Lyseum for this information.
71 From a letter of January 14, 1930, from Prokofiev to T. A. Rayevskaya, SPA XXIII 28.
72 From a letter of July 1, 1933, from T. A. Rayevskaya to Prokofiev, SPA XXXIV 160-161.
73 From a letter of April 5, 1928, from Prokofiev to T. A. Rayevskaya, SPA XVII 280.
74 The chief novelty in Prokofiev’s Italian concerts that autumn was his just-completed Third Symphony.
75 Tanya’s brother.
76 Prokofiev’s nickname for Zhenya’s wife, a scientist who studied marshes and swamps.
77 Early in 1934 Prokofiev performed in Rome, Turin, Fiume (Rijeka, from 1945-91 a part of Yugoslavia, now part of Croatia), and other cities. At the end of March he left for the Czech Republic and Poland (concerts on April 5 and 6 in Warsaw).
78 Letter of December 20, 1933, from Prokofiev to T. A. Rayevskaya, SPA XXXV 324.
79 There is no information about S. L. Pogrebnichko in the catalog of the Bolshoi Theater Museum.
80 Letter of April 21, 1924, from A. A. Rayevsky to Prokofiev, SPA V 159-160.
81 Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Rayevsky (1885–June 6, 1942).
82 N. P. Sheremetyev (1903-1944)—theatrical musician and composer, a descendant of Duke N. P. Sheremetyev and Praskova Zhemchugova. He did not leave Russia in the years following the Revolution because his wife Tsetsiliya Mansurova was a lead actress in the Vakhtangov Theater.
83 Konstantin Konstantinovich Romanov (1858-1915)—member of the Russian Imperial House, adjutant general, translator, and poet who wrote under the pseudonym “K. R.”
84 In 1946 Tatyana Konstantinovna Romanova (1890-1979), a Princess of Tsarist lineage, became a Superior of the Eleonsky Monastery in Jerusalem.
85 Other members of the Meyendorf family had artistic interests. Her brother Feofil, who ended up in France, was a painter who specialized in miniatures. In the 1930s he painted Prokofiev’s wife Lina. Friends and family called him Bada, and Prokofiev refers to him as such in his diary.
86 Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich Romanov, “Dnevnik,” Gosudarstvennïy arkhiv Rossiyskoy Federatsii, f. 660, op. 1, d. 44, l. 21. My thanks to G. A. Moíseyev for his assistance in locating this source. Nadya had twelve siblings, including the boys Pavel (1882-1944), Feofil (Bada, 1886-1971), Andrey (1891-1909), and Georgiy (1894-?).
87 Prokof’yev, Dnevnik 1907-1933, 2: 480.
88 Aleksandra Feofilovna Rayevskaya (1894-?).
89 Letter of December 19, 1925, from A. P. Uvarova to Prokofiev, SPA X 53. Anna Petrovna had a brother named Dmitriy, who died in 1942 in the blockade of Leningrad. From a letter of 1926 it emerges that he had been imprisoned at Solovki, an infamous prison camp system located on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea. In the Rayevsky family it was feared that Shurik would be sent to Solovki.
90 Yekaterina Pavlovna Peshkova, founder and director of the Moscow Committee of the Political Red Cross. A petition organized by the committee led to a reduction of A. A. Rayevsky’s sentence by a third.
91 From a letter of M. P. Tarasevich (Suchova) to the present author.
92 Letter of August 12, 1926, from N. F. Rayevskaya to Prokofiev, SPA XII 38-41.
93 He erroneously reports doing so twice in his diary: on March 6 and 20, 1927. It is possible that this error is not Prokofiev’s but his assistant Geyorgiy Gorchakov’s. The latter deciphered Prokofiev’s Soviet diary of 1927 from the composer’s shorthand.
94 Prokof’yev, Dnevnik 1907-1933, 2: 726.
95 From a letter of October 28, 1929, from A. P. Uvarova to Prokofiev, SPA XXII 224-226.
96 From a letter of May 4, 1930, from T. A. Rayevskaya to Prokofiev, SPA XXIV 104-107.
97 A rare grammatical mistake by Prokofiev.
98 C. R. O. —Counter-Revolutionary Organizations.
99 Avel Safonivich Enukidze (1877-1937)—revolutionary, state and political official, member of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks).
100 SPA XXI 224.
101 Prokof’yev, Dnevnik 1907-1933, 2: 734.
102 Boris Vladimirovich Asafyev (1884-1949)—musicologist, composer, professor at the Leningrad Conservatoire.
103 Platon Mikhaílovich Kerzhentsev (1881-1940)—economist by training, Chairman of the All-Union Committee on Artistic Affairs of the USSR.
104 Isaak Moíseyevich Rabinovich (1894-1961)—artist and dramaturge of the Bolshoi Theater.
105 The middle daughter of the Rayevsky family, sixteen years old in 1931.
106 From a letter by M. P. Tarasevich (Suchova).