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19 September 2011

A time for everything: Svetlana Munzuk about her father Maxim Munzuk. Part II

Center of Asia, centerasia.ru. Translated by Heda Jindrak

The great secret of the tractor-driving suitor

A time for everything: Svetlana Munzuk about her father Maxim Munzuk. Part IIEnd of summer 1935. Maxim Munzuk brought Chairman of the Soviet of Ministers, Sat Churmit-Dazhy to Chadan. And while the minister was deciding important state matters, he decided to work on his own no less important personal matter: to offer his hand and heart to Kara-kys.

He knew that his beloved was very close by - in Bora-Khol. A mass campaign in liquidation of illiteracy was in progress in the republic, and then student from Kyzyl co-educational school was teaching the local people to read and write.

He decided to make an impressive entrance - not on foot, not on a horse, but behind the wheel. However, he did not risk taking his boss's car; he talked a local tractor driver to lend him the iron horse for one evening. The tank driver training he received in Moscow came in useful: he could easily handle any technology that was then available.

Only it  could not be done very fast. The engine was stalling all the time in the roadless area.  It was already dark when he got there. The effect was seen and heard all over the place: roaring of the engine, rattling of the wheels without tires.

But it did not help. Sixteen-year-old Kara-kys refused the tank-driver on a tractor, even though he showed up armed to the teeth: with their  marriage certificate in his pocket.  A completely real document with the date of 15 August 1935.

We never found out how Papa managed to get a document certifying that they were married, without the other half of the couple. He responded to my astonished questions on this subject, grinning cleverly: "That is my secret. At those times, many things were possible."

The official document about the registered marriage made no impression on Kara-kys's relatives: her father Nomzat and other family were categorically against the union of their young beauty with this person of unimpressive rank and appearance, who, on top of that, was eight years older than her.

So after the fictional marriage registration, it still took a long time for Maxim to fight for the hand and heart of Kara-kys. They became a real husband and wife only three years later, when they were already working together at the theatre.

A Corner of Paradise

Kara-kys's biography before she met her future husband was short and unremarkable for a girl of those times.

She was born on 15 September 1918 - also in the future Tandy district like Munzuk, but in Chal-Kezhik. Just like Munzuk, she was orphaned early. Her mother Natpit left this life when her daughter was only two years old, and her younger son Biche-ool was six months. The family also included older son Tungulak - future Tuvan volunteer, who died in 1944 in fighting in Ukraine.

Her father Nomzat was from the Oyun lineage; when he was left without female support, he gave the baby girl to be brought up by relatives. In this way he also wanted to protect his daughter, so that evil spirits that took her mother could not find her.

In this way, peregrinations of Kara-kys began around yurts and aals, until she came to a paradise on Earth: that is what the beginners' school in Bai-Khaak seemed to her. Mama used to tell us: "We not just studied there, but we also played and ate. To me, after all the moving around, the school seemed like a corner of paradise.

The girl was very industrious: she had all A's.  Her singing talent was also noticed at the school; together with her classmates Mongalbii and Laptan, they performed folk songs very well.

In 1934 Kara-kys went to Kyzyl - to continue school. She was accepted at Kyzyl co-educational school for a pedagogics program , and continued to sing in amateur art club.

Later she began to learn the basics of theatre art. There is a certificate  issued in 1937 to comrade Kara-kys, student of first year class of Kyzyl educational combinate, for good grades and active participation in community life. An analogous certificate was given in 1938, when she was already in second year.

Mama really always was a conscientious student. We have her exercise book in music education: 1941 - 1942 school year, theater study at Tuvan theater. Neat signature, elegant musical symbols and detailed notations.

Transformation into a Nightingale

Munzuk heard Kara-kys for the first time in 1935, at a rehearsal of a joint concert of the military orchestra and citizens' talented youth.

Precisely like that: first he heard her, and only then he saw her; because of her voice the rest of the world was covered in darkness for him.

This is how Papa told me about it in August of 1992:

"Modest and shy, like a little sparrow, on the stage she turned into a nightingale. The whole hall fell silent with awe, listening to folk songs in her rendition.

I was the musical accompaniment to her bewitching voice, and followed step by step. That voice kept me captive. I was an older brother for the singer, I simply listened to her, accompanied her and thought about her.

But my wife was jealous. You know that at that time I was married to a good Russian woman Nina; we had a daughter who died in 1939 of dysentery. That year many children in Tuva died of this disease, also out first daughter with Kara-kys - Urana, who was born that year.

Nina's jealousy burned worse and worse. The matter even got to the Central Committee of Revsomol, and other community organizations became involved, as was usual at that time. They kept calling me up, re-educating me. It was impossible to live like that.

I was young and ardent. I broke up the marriage. And right away I registered the second one, even though Kara-kys did not know about it.

We, children, knew Papa's first wife Nina. Judging by everything, the divorce was calm, and she married again as well.

Transparent Hint

A time for everything: Svetlana Munzuk about her father Maxim Munzuk. Part IINow, when nobody of this love history is alive anymore, as I analyze Papa's notes and our talks with him and Mama, I begin to understand that the work-up by revsomol and along community lines for his interest in a young singer was not characteristic only for those times. Times, when personal life was the subject of  thorough scrutiny at the highest levels.

There was also the fact that the beginning singer was very successful and was considered one of the first brides of the republic. Her voice and charm did not bewitch only out father, but many dargalar as well - the chiefs. Including - Salchak Toka. When Kara-kys chose Munzuk after all, Toka told her: "You made a big mistake." An extremely transparent hint.

And this "mistake" echoed around Munzuk for a long time. When he became the first person of the republic, Salchak Toka continued to treat him coldly. In 1955, when Kara-kys and  Maxim Munzuk were to be awarded the title of Merited artists of  RSFSR - together - it was a joint act - Toka, by then the First Secretary of Tuvinian section of  KPSS, crossed Maxim out of the list. He left only Kara-kys.

That way, Kara-kys Munzuk received the title "Merited Artist RSFSR" in 1955, and Maxim Munzuk only in 1961.

But they became National Artists of RSFSR together, in 1975.

Jealousy in Old Age

However, Papa was not especially interested in titles. It was good, of course, to get them, but he considered his love for Kara-kys to be the main success of his life.

"I often think: why did she fall in love with me, such a bow-legged monster? Why was I so lucky?" - this is from his thinking aloud in August 1992.

That day I ran to visit my parents, at that time they were not living  in the No.59/2 house on Kochetov's Street, which was called "the crooked house" by people of Kyzyl, because of a curve in the long, five-story building. I dropped by, as usual, after work at the TV, even with a tape-recorder in my hands.

I walked up to the door - it was open. I walked in without ringing the bell. Parents were in the kitchen. Mama was washing dishes, and Papa was embracing her, trying to kiss her. She pushed him away with her shoulder. It seemed obvious that Mama was angry, and Papa desperately wished to smooth over his guilt.

I got confused: what to do, it was awkward to be a witness to such an intimate moment. In the end I decided: "Ku-ku! What are you doing here?"

Papa laughed: "You should warn us!" and he left the kitchen, while Mama angrily called after him? "So old and jealous!"

Then she turned to me: "Good that you showed up, daughter. Scold your father - in his old age he got jealous. I will go to live with Galya and never come back."

And she left - forever, that means, till the next day. And Papa sits in his room on the sofa and is silent for a long time, looking at a photo of Mama when she was young, that is standing on an armoire.

Then he sighs: "Our Mama is beautiful, isn't it true? Just tell me how one could be not jealous of a woman like her!"

You understand, daughter,  everybody has a good side and a bad one, so you have to take them as they are. Yes, I am jealous, and I also understand quite well that this failing has brought some unpleasant minutes into your mother's life. And I understand than many love her as an excellent actress, love her for her talent, for her voice. I understand everything, yet… I reminded her of an incident  long ago, and she became offended. Don't worry, she will forgive me and come back tomorrow."

A Real Family: Breakfast in Bed

Today, now that I have been a grandmother for a long time, I can say with confidence: we had a real family; Papa, Mama and five children - three brothers and two sisters.

Our parents had totally different personalities. Mama was calm, balanced, patient, but papa was brusque, explosive and stubborn. But both of them were kind and wise.

We had a friendly and cozy home with a large oak table in the middle of a large room. This table was the center of our lives. It would turn from a work-table into a hockey field, into an ammunition depot, or a rocket-making workshop.

Papa had golden hands, he could make everything and he never expected gratitude either from us or mama. He used to get up very early, and before going to work, which  would start at 11 AM and continue until late, he would manage to do many things around the house and even to go fishing, to please us by bringing fresh fish.

I especially liked his behavior towards mama and us girls.

He spoiled us, he often brought us breakfast in bed. He tried not to wake mama in the morning, let her relax and rest in comfort. Papa used to feed us and get us ready for school himself.

He always brought presents from tours and would put them under our pillows. He watched over our health, and always said to me and Galya: "Do not carry heavy things, watch over yourselves, you are future mothers."

And how he spoiled his sons - Mergen, Orlan and Eres! When he was not working, he was always making something with them. When our brothers got involved in airplane model making and technical clubs, he would disappear there with them. And if they happened to stay late, he would bring them food.

How happy the whole family was when the brothers brought a model of "Chaika" car made with their own hands for the New Year! A real "Chaika" in miniature: headlights which lit up, blinking direction lights. When guests came, Papa and Mama turned the lights off and showed off the model.

Enthusiasm for photography and film also started with papa, who was always trying to document theatre life for history. With time, a whole laboratory grew in the house. Papa made all the necessary equipment for developing films, and even made a cutter to turn a 16 mm film into 8 mm. 

Enthusiasm about hunting and fishing - that is also something we inherited from our father. During tours in the districts, we did not stay behind and would go fishing with him early. Papa was not especially interested in fish as such, he taught us to get pleasure not just from a successful bite,  but from the beauty of the morning, splashing of water, rays of the sun, birdsong. I still love fishing, especially at lake Chagatai. And the holidays that we had at home! I especially remember those where our improvised family orchestra was he center of attention. Older brother Mergen sat at the piano, we would sing along with him, and play on spoons, and the youngest, our little Galchonok, rattled with her iron baby bed.

Rockets with Cockroaches and a  Non-criminal "Moskvich

Papa's astonishing ability to infect everybody with joy and absorbing activity was able to spread not only through the family, but throughout the entire yard of our building No.24 in Lenin Street.

We moved into this new three-story building with an arch - a three-room apartment on second floor - in 1957. Today, the house carries a memorial tablet: portraits of Mama and Papa, with inscription that here lived National artists of RSFSR and Tuvinian ASSR Kara-kys Munzuk and Maxim Munzuk, founders of Tuvan theatre art, and collectors of Tuvan folk songs.

The memorial tablet was established on 15 September 2008, on the 90th anniversary of Mama's - Kara-kys Munzuk - birth. There was also a storage shed assigned to each apartment, and we had one as well. The other sheds were ordinary: people kept various domestic stuff in them, and potatoes in cellars. But the neighbors christened our storage Drama-shed.  Children used to gather there.

They were always making something there, using Papa's large collection of various tools. It was the era of conquering the universe, and the children, of course, never had enough of it. Cockroaches were used as astronauts. Ceremonial rocket flights with cockroaches on board became bright events for the whole yard.

There was even a tape-recorder in the Drama-shed  and at that time, that was rare, and the music attracted many of our friends.

We produced amateur theatricals in the next yard. Earlier, it used to be possible to walk through there - it was possible to walk from Lenin Street into the yard, and there was a lot of room. Then the passage was closed up, but the stairs remained. This is where the spectators sat, and the yard actors played below.

Papa's green "Moskvich-401" parked in the yard; he used to give rides to all the neighborhood children in it; and the kids, lovingly, called him Grandpa Munzuk. Papa bought it in 1957 because of us, children, so that there would not be problems to bring us along on summer theatre tours throughout the republic, without burdening the official theatre transport. after all, that would mean right away five extra passengers.

At that time it was the only car in our yard, and even for Kyzyl as such, a private car was a rarity, and right away, people wondered: how did simple actors get money for such a thing? They right away informed the appropriate office. OBKhSS - department for fighting misappropriation of socialist property, a totally terrible organization of those times, which scrupulously investigated and verified the whole matter: when and from whom it was bought, for how much, and sources of the income.

They did not find any misappropriation of socialist property, everything was legal: the husband and wife's pay for three months, plus vacation pay. And at that time they were living on day to day pay on the tours.

Wandering Life

Mama and Papa on tour - that was an ordinary concept for us, actors' children.  During winter tours, we stayed alone, under the supervision of the oldest - Mergen. We took care of everything by ourselves, prepared ourselves for school, did homework. Our parents would prepare, with our help, a whole bag of pelmeni, it was fun for everybody to make them. And before they left, they would tell us: "If you can't stand pelmeni anymore, or if you run out of them, you can cook something else." And right away they showed us, what and how we could cook.

Naturally, pelmeni for breakfast, lunch and dinner was too much, and we began to cook ourselves.  At times we got burned, and then Mama had to take care of healing the wounds of unsuccessful chefs. But we learned!

And in this way, they would always arrange situations  where we would learn to figure things out for ourselves, but they always subtly directed us in the right direction.

But in the summer, we went touring together with our parents! Oh, those tours - they are the most vivid memories of childhood and youth! A traveling life: journeys, adventures, the stage, applause. It was not just a holiday, but also school of life; when the transportation broke down, we were cold, hungry, thirsty.

I don't remember that in those difficult situations any one of the children ever whined.

Life on wheels began with packing, and Papa was the master of compact packing of everything necessary. And there was a lot of necessary stuff. Then, Mama, laughing, would say: and now everybody should also carry something in their teeth.

Papa had a lot of foresight, and it seemed that he was always packing unnecessary stuff for the tours, but in the end - there was nothing extra, everything came in useful. The summer tours were quite long they began in the second half of May and ended at the end of August.

In the Fifties and Sixties of last century, when I traveled throughout the districts with my parents,, the audiences had a very respectful attitude towards artists. The arrival of Tuvan music and drama theater was an important event for everybody in the village. People prepared for the artists' arrival, and welcomed them like the most honored guests: milk tea, fresh mutton, etc.

Actors' children were also in the center of attention - by the children of the area. We had our own people in every village - little friends, and we used to make sure that they would be allowed in for free, or we allowed them to open up the curtains - that was the greatest privilege, and those who received it were very proud.

The local club would turn into a center of socialization and information exchange. At times there were two shows in a row, then a concert of songs on request by local spectators. They especially often requested Mama and Papa to sing, and other favorite artists: Nikolai Olzei-ool, Dmitri Damba-Darzha, Yekaterina Kendenbil, Khurgulek Kongar, Alexander Laptan, Vladimir Mongalbii, Alexander Tavakai.  The activities would go on long past midnight.

The actors' children did not sleep either, together with the audiences, they watched , bewitched, the performances again and again. And every time was like the first time.

One of the most favorite shows was "Khaiyraan bot" - a classic of Tuvan play writing.  The tragic history of the love of Kara and Sedip always touched the hearts of the spectators.

During the times of these tour trips with my parents, I learned "Khaiyraan bot" by heart, but despite that, every time at the end, when Kara threw herself from the cliffs and died, I had red eyes. I felt very sorry for Kara, very sorry for Mama. How good it was, that every time she came alive again and went up to bow in front of the curtain to the stormy applause!!

Everything was so real on the stage, that the boundaries between play and life became blurred for me. As a little girl, I used to be angry with actors who played the bad guys and hurt Mama, and I treated her stage heroes-lovers with jealousy.



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