Childhood. Part 2

Translation was prepared by Polina Basilyan and Elena Kazantseva

 

«Kazantsev, what kind of child he was? Perhaps he started modelling in clay in childhood, otherwise why would he decide to be a sculptor? After all, there were lot’s of more prestigious professions - physicists, let's say. Why didn’t he follow “after the fog and the smell of taiga” or did not become a driver of a heavy truck? The essence of Kazantsev is that thanks to his schools, he can do everything he wants from marble, whatever he sees fit! He literary brought his skills to automatism, constantly aspiring to the heights of perfection, improving craft techniques. We all can agree that initially sculpture is a craft, and then - an expression…You also need to teach physics, so that your sculpture just does not crash; Kazantsev’s sculptures don’t crash. And Michelangelos didn’t too "

 Art historian Tatyana Belyaeva

Photo: Art historian Tatyana Belyaeva

 

 

Childhood of the sculptor. Part 2.
Alexandrov, 1946-1962
Memories of Sergey Sergeyevich Kazantsev of his childhood

I was the seventh child in the family, unfortunately one died, so I’m the sixth. I am from Aleksandrov. I was brought up on the orthodox plastics of Aleksandrovskaya sloboda. From the age of four, since 1949, I had been taken by my mother to a church to attend the early liturgy, usually in wintertime it was. My father was a communist (although according to the memoirs of Capa, the sculptor’s sister, he was very devout, and for this reason he didn’t join the socialist party for a long time), so he didn’t know that my mother took me to church and she secretly continued.

The early winter dawn, big walls, the beauty of the entire architectural ensemble - this image is inscribed in my memory! And this plastic, plasticity of white-stone plastic - sunk deep into my soul. Later this impression of mine found continuation in the Abramtsevo Art School: working up bone and stone, I was reproducing Russian sculpture. And it organically flowed into training at the Surikov Institute, where I had already performed work from marble.

 

 

 

Photo. View of Alexandrov, S. Kazantsev native city, postcard, beginning of XXth century

There were no artists in my family, but there were priests. My uncle served the church in Pereslavl - Zalessky. It looks like my father knew how many beans make five, as he had the Order of Lenin in 1950! Imagine all the financiers were executed up against a wall and in that moment Stalin confirmed the awarding of my father an Order of Lenin for his financial work. Father served as a financial auditor in the railway department. How'd he swing that? Very dodgy Pole! So the whole family lived in a quite befitted way that time: all of his six children studied and worked very well. He was responsible for the material part of our life and mother was engaged in moral education, she instilled morals in us in the evenings.


That time on cold winter days we started to burn wood in a stove, watch the fire and stir firewood from five in the evening. It is already dark at five and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., or from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. the whole family is by the stove. We always admired embroideries and flowers - yes, we had not only potatoes, but also flowers in our garden. In common people houses there were no paintings and even more televisions, but there were embroideries, patterns. We spent time listening mother telling us how to embroider, how women do needlework, who draws well, who learns well. She conducted such moral conversations with us, giving the right guidelines. Somewhere she got watercolors and discussed with us how to paint in watercolors. For example, there was an embroidered rose and a rose painted in watercolor. And entire evenings we were admiring together, how beautiful watercolor can show a rose and lively is an embroidered rose. Mother always pointed to our neighbors as an example. Our neighbors - the Bagdanovs - drew very well, and neighbors from the other house drew well too. So they enjoyed great prestige from our mother. In those days, neighbors communicated with each other - they carried their works out to the street to show them, or they came to visit each other, to see who did what. Back in those days the atmosphere was much better than now. Today everyone takes painfully that someone is richer - immediately the mood is spoiled. Mom also cited us an engineer as an example, so, she say, the mother of this engineer bought meat and other products on the market. In the fifties there was a famine, to find a meal - that was vital. The engineers family showed us an example of that you need to learn, not to steal. As many now teach the opposite, that you need to steal, than you will eat, but for us - no. Study! So we understood clearly that, he graduated from the institute, and could work as an engineer and do the breadwinning for his mother.

 

About my mother

Photo. Ekaterina Alekseevna, mother of the sculptor, D. Lobanovo, c. 1977, in the background is the sculptor's graduation work “Ballerina”

I bow to the feminine, because I had an example of my mother. For me her image is pure, divine, she is soul of honour, as she behaves so tactful and presents herself beyond reproach! Even more, I would say, she never tried to accentuate good points, she was so naturally perfect in her motherhood! She was born in the year of the "Tiger" according to the eastern calendar, and I bow to Tigers too. My mother’s education was only 4 classes of school, but she held things together perfectly. She also was very beautiful. And very quiet. A woman, who never raised her voice. I never heard her rearing or yelling.


Neighbors came to her for advice! When she died, neighbors from Alexandrov came to Moscow to accompany her. I just paid attention to this photo (talk in April 2018) today, here is she, laying in the coffin, here I am, and these are all neighbors. You see she was very respected. If something happens, men go to her, and she determinates who is right. So much credibility! She had a handle on everything, speaking always so calmly. Sometimes women began to lament or to shout, but she never did. This is the reason I’m filled with admiration for women. She was very beautiful, although she carried 6 children. Very strong woman. Therefore, I worship female images.

 

 

Portrait of Archbishop Kazantsev

Photo. Portrait of the Archbishop of Yaroslavl and Rostovsky Yevgeny (Kazantsev), June 30, 1778 - July 27, 1871. Painting, Unknown artist, 1840s

There is a portrait of the Archbishop Kazantsev in my studio. I suggest he could be my ancestor. When I was looking for information about my uncle, the priest and his grandfather, who could also be a priest, I found out that archives contain only the criminal case of Sergey Ivanovich Kazanskiy, born in 1977 in the village of Ugodichi, Rostov district, where he served in one of two churches.


The Archbishop Kazanskiy, in principle, bears resemblance to my father. Perhaps the grandfather or my father changed the surname from Kazanskiy to Kazantsev to avoid persecution of the family. We were not told that we are related to this. It was hidden up. If my mother has told me about it - they didn’t let me into the pioneers, they intimidated me in school, so she took me to church very secretly, as I remember. From the age of four I went to the church in the Alexandrovskaya Sloboda, in which Ivan the Terrible prayed himself. This temple is full of a great emotional content! Ivan the Terrible filled that place with his psyche. The feeling there is enormous. There is a colossal laurel, a fortress. As far as I can remember, in winter (in the summer, we dug potatoes), we went to church. Winter - the time of constant night. To the service through the darkness, these cathedrals gleamed white in it, you came in, there were candles. This is such a strong impression. And this stays with you for all life. And then you go to Moscow through the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra. The relics of St. Sergius are there. Such a colossal upbringing I had.

 


The first experience in art

When I was 4 years old, I liked to draw women on such pieces of paper (the sculptor outlines with his index fingers a small scrap, approximately 10 by 10 cm). Naked. And I did it in graphic detail. I didn’t know, what women have between their legs, so I drew in this place a button. I was so interested in body configuration! Then I did “little secrets” - hid the drawing under the bushes in the hole, covered with the glass and soil. And then brought adult women I liked and showed them my drawings. I wanted to please them. And what was the blank amazement of our neighbor women, when they watched these paper pieces (laughs).

***
 
I remember how often I liked to draw on the stove. We lived in a cooperative house, two-storey, wooden, with 4 apartments. Two apartments at the top and two below. Each apartment usually contained 2-3 families, and we lived only with our family. There were two chimneys, each apartment had one furnace. We had three rooms, a stove was in the kitchen. We lived on the second floor, chimneys passed through us from below, we always had warmth. In the winter you lie on the stove, you draw with a coal. Landscapes. All that interested me. And my mother didn’t scold me. Later I learned that Lomonosov draw like that on stove too. Once I wanted to add a red color to a drawing. I knew, that you can get red from cranberries, but there were no cranberries - while searching, therefore I was so much worried. I was so young, under 10 years. Father was still alive.

***

At school in the eighth grade, I made a sculptural relief on wall in the toilet - a naked woman, made by metal nail on plaster. They could not wipe it during next ten years, because it was done so deep with great tension. In one moment! Five minutes, across the whole wall. It seems to me so excited! The female toilet, you know, and by the nail! Later, at the teachers' meeting, one math teacher wondered: “Well, where did you see such a busty?”. She thought that maybe I was already familiar with this, participating in orgies. In very deed thus image was just my fantasy. I knew thoroughly what and where. Though not seen. Most likely, peeping at pictures in the toilets could gave me something. Only now I realize, where exactly I was learning to draw, where it all came from, - from toilets, this is where the school was! In Russia all the talents themselves splashed out on walls in toilets at all times. Interestingly, if someone could take a picture, there must have been colossal things.
 

***
In the vaults of Art Museum situated not far from the Alexandrovs Kremlin there is a school drawing of mine, that was made when I was about 13 years old, in the seventh grade of an Alexandrovs’ School No. 8, where I studied. During the trip to my homeland in 2015 on January the 6th, the chief custodian Tatyana Tokareva found my drawing and showed us. Small canvas pasted on cardboard, oil painting “Winter landscape with sleds”. The horse drags the sleigh, in the sleigh - a peasant. Most likely this is my uncle Egor, on his way to Alexandrov from the village of Baksheevo. The teacher once took this painting from me and gave it to an exhibition, so the work was preserved in the museum. Before that, I painted mostly on the stove, like Lomonosov.
    

 

Photo. A painting made by the sculptor at the age of 13 (c. 1959). Stored in the vaults of the Art Museum in Alexandrov. Again in hands of the sculptor after 56 years

 

I learned a lot from my older sister Kate, as she painted well. She was 14, I was 12. She painted in watercolors. And I always wanted to do a painting, as it should be, in oil paints.
Mom gave me money for my first oil paints. I went to Moscow to “Detsky Mir” store, began to ask sellers. They said I need to ask the artists. "And where are these artists?" "In the basement there, doing advertisements". I went to the basement and found artists there, they were painting propaganda posters. Fonts. They looked at me with an interest. They said they have wrong paints. And than they recommended me where and what to buy. How to use. I bought the most simple set of oil paints, for which I had enough money. Mother then explained to me how to knead paints, with some kind of sun-and-flower oil.

***

The image of the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci is my most vivid impression from my childhood! For the best design of the wall newspaper in the 7-8th grade at school I was presented with a book about Leonardo Da Vinci. This fact based the rest of my entire life on. The book was tiny, the size of A5, with five black and white illustrations, published in Russia. At that time, this book was of a great value, rarity and uniqueness! Against the background of the post-war city on the 101 km, when most of the men have died and the atmosphere in that city was set by the convicts, wobbling around, Leonardo's works became a stunning discovery for me then! I learned that people can do these things - create works of art.
In 2003, being already a mature master, the sculptor created a sculptural composition “Leonardo Da Vinci”, and in 2006 he presented one of the copies to the city of Istra.

 

 

Photo. Sculpture of S. Kazantsev "Leonardo Da Vinci", 2003

At the age of 14 in the cinema I watched a movie about an Indian sculptor. You know that in India sculpture is a cult. It’s Love. The sculptor fell in love with a girl and made an image of her dancing. I was so impressed! The sculpture then came to life. At that age I was already attracted by ladies. Before that, there was a period while I was still more indifferent to women and spent more time play pranks with hooligans. And that movie impressed me so much that I found a rubble stone on the road. A shatter. About granite, I understood that it was useless. A rubble stone is white, and so it could be chipping away. I found a railroad spike, which is for hammering into rails and cross ties such square nails. And I tried to work on this stone with this spike.
 

***

From my early years I was very curious about everything that surrounded me, constantly trying to learn something new, I loved to invent. I remember the radio broadcasting about the opening of the Hydroelectric Station, I was so impressed that I decided to build my own in the gutter. I had no shovel. I found the firebrand. Oh what a wish, a real desire that was!
One more story, hens were digging pits under the fence, I decided to patch them up. Found cement in the barn, a bag. I adapted it for the case quite successfull. I was 4 years old. I just concreted those pits.

 

 

My school time

Photo. The school "Teremok" or the "Wooden Palace" in Alexandrov, where sculptor S. Kazantsev studied. Photo from a postcard of the early 20th century

I went to school, of course, but I didn't learn my homework – because I didn't know that I was supposed to study at home. I pray before school, and then I set off for my lessons. It was a wooden school, very beautiful, decorated with carvings. Everyone called it a Wooden Palace (“Teremok”, - in Russian). It was situated near the gate of the Radio Factory. “Teremok” was a two-storey building with a 'birdhouse', where the teacher's room was located. I studied there from 1 to 4 classes. Unfortunately, during city redevelopment, it was torn down. Old photo of my 4th class at school has been preserved, showing the log-built wall the school used to have. My father through his contacts put me to the best teacher – Zinaida Alexeevna Ravnova, who was a thoroughly good and fair lady, nice and outgoing, and who continued to teach despite being retired – a holder of the Order of Lenin. I used to stammer, so teachers didn't find lessons with me very easy. But my dad set things up for the best. 
    

   

 Photos. School photographs, the school "Teremok" or the 'Wooden Palace' in Alexandrov; the sculptor S. Kazantsev in the 4th Grade, and his schoolteacher Zinaida Ravnova 


For my 5th to 8th classes our school lessons were held in the House of Pioneers, which is still there, a two-storey brick building. In the 6th class I only understand that I was supposed to do my homework, when we started to learn German. I noticed that everyone was doing better than me at this subject, because they were preparing for it at home. I didn't have any textbooks either. My mother couldn't buy them, so we learned using old textbooks, or even sometimes without them entirely.


When I got into the 6th and 7th classes, music school was opened in Alexandrov. I really wanted to go to Music School. But my mother dissuaded me: 'They only take rich kids there. You have to buy your own instrument.”  She couldn't even afford a coat for me, so she bought a second-hand one at the market for 70 kopeckas, and altered it to fit me. I was absorbing this situation so deep that since my childhood I had a belief, that anything involving any kind of spiritual-art aspect was inaccessible for me

 

The Town Cemetery

We used to live in cooperative houses, behind the market. To get to the town center, we had to go to school along the cemetery, it was a very old cemetery, it had been there as long as anyone could remember. There was a church at the cemetery too. There were magnificent tombstones made by Italian craftsmen, without any angels or figures – probably they'd already been broken off by that time, but the gravestones themselves were skilfully carved, from red and black granite. Marble was so magnificent. Alexandrov wasn't a backward town – it grew up under the patronage of Tsar Ivan the Terrible.  For the long time there was a three-metre-tall cross made of white Italian marble, standing on a pedestal by the crypt. One night one of the local boors began stealing bricks from the crypt to build a private house, crypt got crushed and guy was pressed by the tombstone. My mother was very devout, she disapproved of that kind of thing. I remember how I looked at the stone fragments with interest – someone had been chipping bits of the stone off. I was interested to study the structure of the stone. My earliest understanding of stone-working was gained there, in the cemetery – my delight in the beauty of stone, how it breaks away, how it behaves.
   

  
Photos.
(left) Map of Alexandrov showing the location of the cemetery, where sculptor S. Kazantsev used to go for childhood walks,
(middle) Early 20th-century postcard with the Church of Our Lady (Bogorodskaya) at the cemetery in the city of Alexandrov, where Kazanstev went for childhood walks.
(right) Modern photo – An astoundingly well-preserved tombstone from the Alexandrov cemetery, the young sculptor might have studied such objects.


The church was in ruins, and all the tombstones had been taken away to build the foundations of the factory's House of Culture. I remember how the tractors had dragged them all away. We lads had all been hollering. It was so unusual to see that tractors pulling down tombstones made of expensive stone, as an expendable material for simple house foundation. Later they began excavating sand from the Alexandrov Cemetery – it was built on a sandy hill. The hill began to crumble, revealing the coffins. The entirely graveyard slid away, revealing the coffins. The entire graveyard slid open. The skulls were lying across the street. I went to the cemetery, and there were open graves. I poked around through the old graves. The brocade was interesting, golden cloth, I was interested in the old materials of ancient funeral clothing, the cloth was tearing. It was very intriguing!  But then the next day I got a fever. I got sick.

 

«Oh, Seron’ka is so smart!
If he does something, it means it's supposed to be like this»
-    Ekaterina Alexeyevna, the sculptor's mother

With no doubt the best thing was when I was five and ran into the kitchen. I jumped up on a tank of water and filched sugar from the top shelf, hop! I was a child with a very sweet tooth! The crumbly white sugar was stored in a metal tin can, probably after the tea keeping. And I poured sugar right into my mouth. But my Mum couldn't understand who was eating it?  She'd put it up high! Ones, I got it a little wrong. Someone hadn't closed the water-tank properly, |I jumped and the lid turned over, there were two buckets of water. I was scared, standing up to my waist in water in dirty rubber boots. I got spotted. But for mum it was very funny! Finally, she found out who was steeling sugar! (laughing).

 ***
In the larder chiller we kept the milk in a milk-can or a jar. If everybody became needless, I raced into the larder, hop, one, two, could pour myself a few sips. The best bit was – I loved cream! When you could take a spoon, get inside the milk-can, then scoop under the foam, and eat some cream. My mother was amazed – the foam was there, but the cream had gone!?  (laughing)
 

***
The jam was kept in the bureau – but it was shut with a lock, and I couldn't open it. I was only five years old, what I could understand in that age. But my elder brother Zhenya knew how to open it. He adroitly opened the key-plate with a knife. So, I used to spy on him and then! He couldn't do anything and he had to share the plunder, one spoon of jam at least (laughing). That's how I used to live. Otherwise I would never have access to the cream, jam, and sugar, that was so high (laughing).
 

***
In summer we were always busy with our potato patch – which, from our house, was on the other side of the railway lines. My father explained to me that if I find myself alone and would have to cross the railway lines, I just need to wait for an adult to help me. Once all my family went for potato harvesting. There were thousands of people on the farming fields. Because all the local residents had been gotten a two-three “sotkas” (hundredth parts of a hectare in size) for potato cultivation. So, everyone was working there, and one day I got lost, I was just four years old. I decided to go home, reached the railway lines. Well, there were 12 train tracks!  It was the depot. Maneuvering trains push-pooling all the time. I acted precisely, I found a young auntie and she helped me to cross. After two kilometers I got home. My family had all been worrying about me. But later, some of our neighbors went to get potatoes. They told my parents 'Your kid is safe at home, he's sitting there on the porch!”  That calmed them down.
 

 ***
Frequently I went for berry-picking with my brothers and sisters. We brought them home, and sold some of them. Sometimes I even went along to the forest – I remember how once I collected three glasses of strawberries, I wandered all day through the woods for them! It was a long way, because it was a three-kilometer walk to get to the forest only, and I was only five or six years old. I wasn't at school yet. Because in school age I was smarter and more skillful to creating tricky things to earn the money. But this time I collected three glasses of strawberries, it was very hard job and as an outcome – strawberries were looking very tormented, got stuck together. So, it was difficult to sell them. But I sold them and bought myself an ice-cream! The money from three glasses of strawberries was just right to buy one ice-cream!  (laughing)
  

***
I was always catching fish. I remember how I went with my dad for fishing. But usually I went on my own with rods or jars. We kids used to fry the fish ourselves and eat them, there were usually some gudgeons.

  ***
By the time I was 13 I already had my own dragnet, which I'd cut out with a blade at a warehouse. Sea-fishing nets are huge – so we used to get into the bale with ruffians and cut with a blade five meters of net out of hundred meters long sea-fishing net. Then we ducked out through the fence again. As anyone seating as a guard, some old man, we gave him a bottle of beer, and so he paid no attention to us. You see, what a business it was – buy beer and make your crime. I asked the fellows – aren't we spoiling the dragnets? My friends convinced me that they'd been old ones, waste, brought there to be recycled. What a load of nonsense! Those had been new nets. Yes, we were like that, damaged so much (with regret in his voice).  

 

***
Later I sewed the pieces together to make a dragnet, enough for three to five fish buckets. The adults took me with them, because I had a net to keep the catch in. We couldn't go during the day and we went to the lake right in the center of Alexandrov. I was just 13 then and I was working hard all night. Then at seven in the morning, we'd go to the barracks where the workers were living, and we sold the fish to them. A bowl of fish went for three roubles. If you sold ten bowls of fish, you'd end up with thirty roubles. We split the earnings as a result 6-10 roubles for each partner and I brought that money to mum. And some fish too. And all while I was still 13!
It was good when I was able to get money for my job. Once we got a leader, he was around forty years old. Instead of money, he poured us a glass of vodka. He was too avid to give me money, so he decided to share out some vodka instead. Three shots of vodka were fall to one share. But I couldn't drink more than one shot! I| did not sleep all night before and in addition the weather was hot. So, he missed me out of the round. I only weighed 40 kilograms, and I was only 13, and with an empty stomach. The vodka really hit me. I got home like that a couple of times and my mum gave me such an accusing look with a sorrow I still remember these eyes. Yes, that is my memories. But that guy came to a bad end, he'd been an assistant train-driver, but was kicked-out for indiscipline.
  

***
  We hadn’t got birch trees on the front yard, only now (interview with the sculptor in spring 2018) I can easily collect birch sap in the park, I planted several alleys of trees, nobody believes that the forest around my house I grew up by myself. But in childhood the woods were three kilometers away. So, I went to the woods to get trees to sell, when I was seven or eight. You could cut down a Christmas tree, then drag it to sell it in the wintertime. I could die in the forest, but that is astonishing, nothing happened to me. My dad was still alive then. If I could sell a Christmas tree, there was enough to buy one ice-cream.
  

***
My dad bought five apple trees, and planted them on our garden plot. Almost immediately or next day or after a week a man from the Tax Office appeared demanding tax on the fruit trees. My dad argued with him, saying that the trees would only produce apples in five years! But no. We had to cut them down. It was marasmus!  Goats and cows were taxed too, so most people avoided to keep cattle. I remember how my sister Katya and I picked up some apple’s cores at the town market and ate them up, that was already after my father had died. Apples were a luxury for us.
  

***
After my dad died, I visited his relatives, my Uncle Egor at Baksheevo and stayed for a week. I'd wanted to eat some meat, but they only gave me potatoes and milk. I went to the neighboring village, which was 2-3 kilometers away across the marshes, I was still only six or seven, and not yet at school. I caught a chicken, went to the woods and to cooked it for long time over an open fire. Surprisingly, I wasn't afraid!  What a fool I was! If they'd caught me, the villagers would have killed me. It was easy for them to find me by the visible revealing smoke. My chicken became charred all the time and I couldn't understand how to cook it, so that I ended up with some meat, and not just charcoal.

 

After my father's death

After my father's death I was just kicking around for three years, from 11 to 14 years old. I was living in the Moscow outskirts, at Alexandrov, and I used to visit friends in Moscow. I wandered around in Moscow for a week – if you could steal something, then you could eat. I got in touch with bandits and I took part in robberies. I was 13 years old I was already experienced and strong. This kind of activity contributed to my living atmosphere, in a town 101 km away from Moscow. In the post-war era there were fewer men around. Mostly there were just women and kids on the streets. We didn't see any respectable intelligent fellows around – they were all at work. The only men we saw around were crooks. Criminality was everywhere.


When I was six, I had an occurrence. Convicted men were loitering around streets of Alexandrov.  Now people use to say that all "victim of repression" were like an “innocent sheep”.  But that “sheep” acted towards me with a piece of wooden board! My mum with the neighbors were sitting on a bench and I was begging for something, maybe a bun or something else, because during the 1950s there were no bread bun, people were standing in lines for bread, even at night. So, I was capricious as any children behave. That convicted man saw that the small boy showing an affected manner and decided to give me a lesson. He threatened me with a wooden board. He wanted to show how great he is! He called me to order as it was conventional in prisons – with a crowbar on the head. I was scared! I was already frightened by repressed bandits before and when I saw him, I moved back and fell on my back. Something happened to me – I didn't speak for two days. After that incident I started to stammer.


I was involved in a hooligan gang, and we got up to all kinds of dirty activities. For example – the commuter train is coming in, there are around 30 of us, and – bang! - we smashed out the windows. I remember there was one boy cut his hand on the glass, but he wanted to show how cool he was. The glass sliced his artery open, and the blood was pouring out like a fountain. He went completely white, it was very creepy. I can still see that scene in my mind, even though 60 years have gone by – I still remember it all.


Our whole gang were going to become bandits. Ones all our street gang was put into the prison, around 15 fellows. They raped a girl in the forest ravine, she was from the same street. It all ended that the girl's parents had them all arrested, fifteen boys, all aged around 15. They got 5 years, or 8, or even 10. All street got into the prison! I was not at that day in the gang, otherwise got to prison too and that would be my end. I could get 5 years. Because breaking somebody nose and raping were equal things for us. But result was teenagers irretrievably ruined their future. The girl’s fate also was destroyed, because all street knows what happened. Imagine, how she felt! She turned to lone-wolf-cub-hermit after that incident.


I couldn't be a leader in a gang groups, because of my stammer. But I was following the Pack Law, because I was always starving. I suppose that my stammer saved me from a criminal future. With stammering I can't be a leader. Have you ever seen a stammering leader?  Someone who'll   call to robbery with stammering “Tia-tia-tia”? With a great effort to lisp something. Therefore, I always was in subordinate roles as a stand-by player. All my gang fallows got to the jail, but I did not. Point is, I am trying to portray of atmosphere where I was brought up.
The Good Lord laid out another path for me. Or otherwise I could be a very good tattoo master in the prison. Easily I could be a very respected gang leader, for sure. But somehow, I started to be ashamed mugging and stealing from weak people. I remember the eyes of a saleswoman, whom we were robbing, I still feel embarrassed about this.


It was later that I read American studies. I learned that a sense of shame is the most powerful feeling in the shaping of someone's character. It's either there, or it's not. The Lord programs each one of us - giving us a sense of shame and a level of self-improvement. We all enjoy getting involved with people. If being involved with people with a withered sense of shame is interesting for someone, it is his business and interests. I remember when I was 12, stealing something, and then showing off to your friends. But I grew ashamed of it and stopped doing it, and instead I started to study. I put all my energies into art, I crave for beauty and for a worthwhile life. I have just one silver line in my life – get into the art college!

I was drawn to attend House of Culture or Pioneer’s house. It must have been my father's influence, from the dead side. My mum had four of us small students, with two-year age difference between each child. She mostly cared about the daughters. She was less worried about me, because I had an authority.  I was the youngest one but she used to say, that 'if Seron’ka says something, then listen to him”. Being an artist – it was my fate, because all my life is a journey to art.


My stammer stopped when I started paying attention to girls. When I was in the 7th grade at school there was one girl I really liked. In school, during the lessons I had to answer to the teacher and at that moment I felt so embarrassed: I didn't want to shame myself revealing my stammer, so I concentrated hard and gave a good answer in class. The teacher was really surprised that I’ve read the poem without stammering. I realize, that if I concentrate, I can speak quite normally. It was a willpower – just concentrate and you can do it. I went through thorns, and avoided gang leadership.