Select language:

A Life Longer Than a Century

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / A Life Longer Than a Century

A Life Longer Than a Century


Anna Veniaminova-Tower is turning 102 on July 1. Grandgrand-granddaughter of Hierarch, Metropolitan of Moscow, apostle of Siberia and America Innokentiy (Veniaminov), granddaughter of widow empress Maria Fedorovna’s confessor, together with Russia has seen the Revolution, two world wars, a civil war and reprisals. They survived World War II together with her husband as a part of technical maintenance crew, restoring destroyed bridges at the Southern Front. For 20 years now, Anna Innokentyevna has lived in the Netherlands.

Anna Innokentyevna meets me at the door of her small cozy apartment in Hilversum, smiling humbly with her vivid eyes: “What do I tell you? Nothing interesting!”

Apostle Origins

Anna Innokentyevnas grandgrand-grandfather Hierarch Innokentiy (1797 – 1879) an outstanding orthodox missioner and illuminator, was the first orthodox bishop of Kamchatka, Yakutia, Amur River Region and North America. Ivan Popov-Veniaminov by his secular name was born in Anginskoye settlement in the Irkutsk Province to the family of an acolyte of the Saint Prophet Elijah. At the age of 9, he entered the Irkutsk Seminary, after which he became a priest at the Irkutsk Annunciation Church. In 1923, he left to have his service on the Aleut Islands with his family.

Hierarch Innokentiy (Veniaminov)

After the death of his wife, with whom they had six children, he took the vows, was given the name Innokentiy and became the bishop of Kamchatka and Aleutian Islands. His diocese included Aleutian and Kuril Islands, Kamchatka and Okhotsk sea coast. In 1850, he became an archbishop and Yakutsk Region was added to his diocese.

During his service period, he hristianized dozens of thousands of people, made an alphabet and a grammar of the Aleutian language, translated saint and prayer books into Aleut, Yakut and Tungus languages, opened numerous temples and schools for children and adults in his diocese, where studies were conducted in Russian and local languages. He stopped the smallpox epidemic thanks to vaccination, taught the natives to be smiths and carpenters and contributed to annexation of the Amur River Region to Russia. His Note of Unalashkinskiy Region Islands was a big contribution to the research of the Aleut Islands nature, and Something about Amur Note was dedicated to the opportunities of Amur navigation and settling its coasts.

From 1868 Mitropolite of Moscow and Kolomna. Canonized by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on September 23 (October 6), 1977. Memorial days - March 31 and September 23.

Between Wars and Revolution

Anna Innokentyevna Veniaminova-Tower was born in Saint Petersburg, in her grandfathers house, archpriest Ioann Veniaminov, widow empress Maria Fedorovnas confessor, Saint Aleksander Nevskiy Temple at Anichkov Palace Rector. After the revolution Ioann Veniaminov, Companion of the Order of St. Anna of 2nd rank and golden pectoral cross with precious adornments, was deported from Petrograd to Voronezh at first, and afterwards to Kashin, where he died at the age of 91 in 1947. Both of his sons, including Anna Innokentyevnas father, were shoot.

- I do not remember the Revolution quite well…, tells Anna Innokentyevna. The windows were covered with blankets and we heard shooting. Then we moved to Moscow. We all lived in Meshchanskaya Street mom, aunt, me and my sister, two cousins, my grandmother and our old nanny.

Grandmother was chosen a bread warden they gave bread to only one person from a house. She assigned an assistant and together they went to get bread for 21 flats with a big basket. Afterwards, she divided bread in grams for everyone and we delivered it. It was the only way to get bread then. And there was nothing more to eat. Together with my sister Marina, we got food at kindergarten there was soup and toys. After school, my cousins used to get free lunches from American canteen (non-governmental organization American Relief Administration helped the hungry in Soviet Russia in 1921-1923 authors note). A queue there gathered starting from night, but the boys squeezed somehow and managed to get the food. My mom and grandmother ate some kind of potato peelings, which my aunt got somewhere.

Anna Veniaminova. Family archive photo, 1929-30

It was cold. For ink not to freeze, we used to hold it in the bosom. It stayed warm then and we could write. We made ice rinks at home when adults went to work, we poured water in the passage, it froze and we skated. Our cousins walked near the railroad looking for wood heads, which were not entirely burned, took it and we fired a furnace, which was made right in the middle of the room from bricks.

Once a day, granny took us to the toilet at the Riga Railway Station there was no wastewater disposal system and the entire yard was fouled up.

There was a lot of thugs then, like those guys, who attached springs to their feet, wore white blankets and when it turned dark, they frightened passers-by and took their wallets. We called them bouncers.

I was once going to school on a tram, there was a huge noise, and everyone went off the tram. A naked man and a woman went inside with only ribbons on them, which read Off With the Shame!

And when I was at the fourth grade, they gave us ABC books and notebooks, made groups of three students and gave us addresses, where we had to go and teach the illiterate they were drunkards in general. Every group had its own student. They usually lived in basements, they were drunk, shouted, it was dirty all around. We shook our shoes, although they didnt offend us there. It was during a semester and at school, they asked us how our students studied. It was called elimination of illiteracy.

But NEP (New Economic Policy) was a merry time! After there was nothing, shops were full. What shop displays were like! We walked and watched. And the women dressed to kill. At school, we had a couple of girls, who got jumpers right away there were no clothing before. It was a kind of a prosperity period for a couple of years, but afterwards everyone was put in prison

Lighters, Bridge Construction Trains and Victory Day

- I met my husband Lazar Tower before the War, in 1937 at the construction of the Stone Bridge in Moscow. He was the main engineer, I was a technician. I was not allowed to become an engineer as a daughter of a public enemy. Stone Bridge, Krasnoholmskiy, Novoarbatskiy, Luzhniki he built all of them, four bridges only in Moscow.

Lazar Tower. Family archive photo

We were living in Moscow, near Nikitskiye Gates, when the war stroke. It was Sunday. My husband did not go to the construction site and all of a sudden his friend called and said:Listen, its war! He did not believe. And my mother called: You know, war has been declared. I just took her from hospital then and thought that she got something wrong they wrote about war in France then in newspapers. We did not pay attention Then, the Germans made air strikes every night at 10 oclock they launched those small bombs lighters. All the men had to catch them in the attic at night. I was to come to a bomb shelter, but everyone was like sentenced there. And I though I better die than stay there. So, I went to the attic with my husband and caught the lighters! We caught them and damped them in sand. But I have to say it was so beautiful! You look at the dark sky from the inside of a roof, German airplanes fly in it Machine guns are shooting with tracer bullets like burning dashes everywhere, glowing. Glowing planes around and a massive glaze on the background the Trehgornaya Manufacture was burning, it was so beautiful!

We went to the war together. A bridge construction train at the Southern Front was an entire organization with workers, technicians and carriages. Astrakhan, Rostov-on-Don, Nikolayev we restored destroyed bridges there, at the passages under bombings and there was our son with us, my mother, husbands sister and eight foundling cats. But the most frightening moment was when typhoid fever emerged, my husband got ill. And there were no hospitals, nothing I nursed him back to health

We came back to Moscow in 1944, our home was completely devastated. Our house and apartment remained intact, but everything was stolen, furniture destroyed. I went to the yard keeper and saw my cups there But the piano remained untouched! /p>

Victory Day We were waiting for it to be declared for three days! No sleep! We did give away our radios, when the War started. We only had a black plate. And we did wait for it to speak for three days. And, as luck would have it, fell asleep that day. And all of a sudden at three in the morning the streets were full with scream! It cant be imagined! Everyone opened the doors, windows and everyone screamed: Victory! Everyone ran outdoors, kissed each other, cried, ran somewhere like insane (her eyes get dim with tears). It was such a day!

Tatiana Tower

- Music was always playing at home. My husbands sister Sonya was a harp player a soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre. My husband sang, he had a wonderful voice, but his father did not let him enter conservatory, he said it was not a masculine profession. Our daughter Tatyana played harp ever since she was four. She was studying at the Moscow Conservatory in Vera Dulovas class, when Evgeniy Mravinskiy took her as a soloist to the symphony orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic. Every Saturday she came to us and then said: Mom, I cant take this anymore. And we moved to Leningrad.

Our daughter was an honorary artist, professor of the Leningrad Conservatory, she had numerous brilliant concerts! So many recording had she made, she travelled the entire world round! And I was baby-sitting with my granddaughter. Anastasia learned playing violin at the Special Music School under the Leningrad Conservatory.

Anna Tower with daughter Tatiana and granddaughter Anastasia. Family archive photo

We moved to Spain in 1991, Tatiana needed a surgery (thyroid cancer). And a year after to the Netherlands. She had another surgery here, gave two concerts, returned and died two weeks after it was in 1994 and I stayed with a 14-year-old granddaughter. I had to raise her, but did not want to move far away from the grave. I am grateful to Holland they did not leave me behind. My granddaughter Anastsia Kozlova won several international music competitions, finished the Amsterdam Conservatory, got married and now performs and organizes festivals.

...I did not even think I would live for so long. Everyone has gone: my husband, sister, my son and daughter But I have my grand-granddaughter Varvara, she is 11 now, although she is very busy she sings in the National Children Choir. And we are at home with my cat.

I visited Moscow last year only for the Victory Day. Embassy invited me to the Memorial in Leningrad, I flew to Moscow from there, I have nephews there. I was in the Mariinskiy Theatre four times ballets and operas! And restaurants have I visited, and they invited me to country houses. Holiday every day. Such a disaster! Such a way of life it was, hard to imagine (laughs). Like I am not hundred at all. I met all the friends, who still remember me. I walked. Alone (proudly)! No one was accompanying me.


New publications

The Shtandart, a historical frigate built based on drawings designed 300 years ago, celebrated its 20th anniversary. It is the replica of the first naval frigate built by Peter the Great in Baltics in 1703. The replica frigate was put afloat with all the honors and celebrations in September 1999. The ceremony was held on Orlovskaya embankment, St. Petersburg, in presence of more than 40 thousand people. Over the 20-year period the Shtandart has traveled 167 thousand nautical miles, visited 127 ports in 17 countries; it has been featured in a dozen films and dressed up in scarlet sails for the famous Alumni Festival held in St. Petersburg.
Vladimir Menshov, the maker of such iconic movies as Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears and Love and Dove, turns 80 on September 17. His life is an example of a remarkably successful creative and personal destiny. It's no coincidence that this year 900 people attempted to win admission to his workshop at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (aka VGIK), while enrolment is set to 30. Menshov is known as a very principled person; and he teaches his students the same thing - only a powerful person can create a truly serious film.
More than 190 nations live in Russia. They write and read in 60 literary languages. But what do we know about such literatures besides the Russian one? Meanwhile, work of modern authors representing various nations of Russia embraces a wide range of styles and genres, such as poetry, prose, folklore, and children's literature, realism, postmodernism and even rap poetry.
A son of a Russian emigrant and a Frenchwoman was born in Lyon and lived his whole life away from Russia. At the same time, Alexandre Zelkine sings in perfect Russian, and his singing is absolutely charming. Today, Alexander Vladimirovich lives with his wife in the French city of Le Mans. He agreed to talk about his life, and such the cultural phenomenon as Russian soul.
BRICS Reality 29.08.2019
The Chairman of the BRICS NRC board, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the State Duma of Russia and Chairman of the Board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov has delivered a lecture to the participants of the BRICS International School, which opened in Moscow. The politician has shared his thoughts on what really unites the BRICS countries, the values ​​of this organization and how BRICS challenges the liberal world order.
On August 23, 1939, Moscow signed a sensational non-aggression pact and a secret protocol to it with Berlin. Nowadays, many Western historians and the media consider this agreement almost an evidence of the criminal union of Stalin and Hitler, who divided Eastern Europe between themselves. But did the Soviet leadership have a choice? This is discussed by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Military-Historical Society Sergey Ivanov.
The American Sean Quirk, who is one of musicians and the manager of the well-known in Russia and beyond Tuvinian Alash ensemble, speaks four languages. On foreign tours, he announces the songs of the ensemble in English and sings Tuvan folk songs to the public and for himself. He can please the audience with a ditty in Russian when he is asked to. Besides that, Quirk reads books in the language of his ancestors - Old Irish.
A round-the-world expedition of three Russian sailboats - the frigate Pallada and the barges Kruzenshtern and Sedov is going to start this autumn. All three sailing ships of Russian Federal Fisheries Agency have already been on the round-the-globe trips but an event of such a grand scale takes place for the first time.