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Moscow is a powerful city

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Moscow is a powerful city

10.12.2019

Svetlana Smetanina

There are not more than 10 actors and directors from Greece who were graduated from Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS). And there were no doctorates in art history. The first is to become Vasiliki Veltsista (she's called Vasya here, Russian style name)who is going to submit her thesis this year.Just after getting an MA in mechanical engineering and working as the lead engineer in Athens metro, Vasya came to Moscow, following irresistible interest in Russian theater and passionate dream to become a theater director.

- How did you decide moving to Moscow and applying to the GITIS Theatre Arts department?

- First of all, I used to live and study in London and later in Germany before coming to Moscow. I'm sure that Russian theater is the best in the world. I think that Russian acting technique is one of the greatest, and I absolutely want to learn it. Since I've had already my Masters degree, I started doing PhD in theater directing.

Vasiliki Veltsista

I came to Moscow for only 3 months, and stayed for 6 years. I had a Russian teacher from Greece, who was graduated from Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography VGIK. Thanks to him, I have learned basics of the Russian acting technique and was taken by the idea to continue education in Moscow. I've decided to come to Moscow, and now I'm still here!

- Isn't it right that before you've started to study in London as mechanical engineer? Why?

- It's hard to explain. Probably, I just love to study.I had friends in London, and I've decided that I want to study there. I first wanted to study engineering because I was good at math, chemistry and physics. I've got my MA there and returned to Greece. But afterwards I've changed my mind, decided to be an actress, and started to study in Archi Theater school.

- What did your close people thought about your decision to completely change the path?

- They thought it's completely weird because at the time I had a great job, working as one of the principal engineers in Athen's metro. I decided to leave the job and apply to the theater school. Actually, I had a serious conflict with my parents – we even didn't talk for 2 years. Afterwards they understood I'm very serious about theater, and coped with it. By the way, I was dreaming from my early childhood to be an actress and a director. But this profession is not prestigious in Greece. Therefore, I've first studied at a polytechnical university.

I will submit my thesis in GITIS this December, and later I'm going to open my own theatre studio in Greece. I will work as director and teacher because I fancy both professions. During my graduate studies I found my own technique, my own style and new acting approachment.

- Your Russian is really great. Did you study it in the childhood? Did you know something about our country before you've actually moved?

- No. I've started learning Russian from zero only in GITIS. I didn't have other choice, I had to communicate in Russian.

Our famous director Stathis Livathinos, for example, also studied at the Russian Academy of Theater Art. Because of him I decided to study in GITIS as well. In Greece Russian theater is considered to be one of the best in the world. And that's true, not only because Greeks like to put Russian plays on stage.

Regarding awareness - Russia has always had many ties with Greece. I've always heard good things about Russia and Russians from members of my family and friends.

- Is Russian theater popular in Greece?

- It's extremely popular. And Russian theater school, as well. You know those who's studied in Russian GITIS are almost like gods in Greece! Maybe because there are so few of us in Greece. And there are no PhD graduates from GITIS for now, except me! I hope it will change; several more students from my country are currently studying in GITIS.

- What was your first impression of Moscow when you arrived 7 years ago?

- It used to be very hard because Moscow was very different. And I was different, as well. I remember that I was continuously telling my friends, “It's tough here but interesting.” I had a feeling that I'm being filmed in some strange kind of flick. Many things seemed to me completely unreal back then. I had a feeling that Russians are not really open with foreigners. I was constantly smiling, and that was apparently a very big minus because I wasn't considered seriously. I've got it much later. But indeed the very first year in Moscow was the most amazing year in my life.

- You've mentioned that Moscow is different now. In which sense?

- It seems that Moscow develops and changes really quickly almost every month. The city becomes more open for foreigners, English language is everywhere; the people smile a lot more. Moscow is a powerful city. If you really want something you always can achieve that. Everybody think it's hard because Russians are strict. The truth is in action, the people don't just say but act. If you want to grow and realise yourself, you really can do it, that's a huge plus.

- What did you learn during all these years in Moscow?

- First of all, to drink tea! It is a serious ritual here there's a tea-time and it's not that important if you have to work or not. You have to drink tea! I'm doing the same now. And also I don't smile that much, especially when I'm at work. My Greek friends think that I've became too strict. But it's just the way it goes: when I work, I work. It's not strictness, it's a diverse work attitude. I never knew my fate to be like this, but now I can definitely state the Moscow is my hometown. And even in Greece I sometimes feel like a stranger.

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