They met each other at the peak of their popularity: singer Vladimir Mulyavin, whom everyone loved, and fresh cinema star Svetlana Penkina. However, some people believed, their union will not last long. Contrariwise, some people liked to watch the obvious friendship and rare unity the couple demonstrated. So, gossips could not be avoided: the popularity of Vladimir and Sveta was too great.
This January Vladimir Mulyavin would have turned 65. He would have surely led Pesnyary band, due to whom the world learnt about Belarusian songs in its time, to a new performance level. But he is gone…
Svetlana Penkina recalls:
“I was at the last Pesnyary concert in Minsk. I feared that the age, tiredness of the performers could affect the show. I remember, Mulyavin appeared at the stage, he stroke several chords, started singing and that was it. Total subjection! His power, the power of a strong talented personality over the audience was immense. Colossal energy”.
“Whichever target he set for himself, Mulyavin always hit it. Even when he was ill. On his last birthday together we went to a gymnasium and Volodya stood by the Swedish wall! It was his goal — to stand, not to lie, and his reached it despite everything. You won’t believe how much spirit is required… He could have never been characterised as weak! With his humour, jokes Volodya cheered up us all. He never complained. If he told me quietly, “Sveta, I need a doctor”, I knew I had to run and shout, “Emergency!” He took all kinds of experimental treatment if there was a slightest chance. He dreamt of returning to his work, staging rehearsals…”
Now it is important for me to collect as much archive data, articles, and rarities, everything Volodya touched, as I can. I have a feeling: his spirit returned to the philharmonic society. It is his home — the home where he was a creator. He created for 50 years out of 65 years of his life.
“When did he usually use to create? What time and where did he like to create things best?”
“Home, only home. At night when the whole city was asleep, he would silently get up not to wake up me and the son and would work from 4 a.m. to 6–7 a.m. By the way, I have a largest video collection about Mulyavin.
After I became his wife, I did not act in films anymore, but I stood on the other side of the camera: I took pictures myself. Volodya bought me a video camera, and I always had it in my hands: at home, in Africa, America, backstage, during travelling. But the utmost trust I saw when Volodya would wake me up at 5 a.m. to show what he’d written. “Don’t repeat it!” I usually asked fearing the new “child” can be put an evil eye on. Then he would rest a little and run to the philharmonic society to rehearsals, then to the ministry: some people needed apartments, some — cars. Constant flow of life all day long: he had to hear the musicians, to talk to reporters, and to perform in the evening…”
“To what did Vladimir’s soul long for in his spare time?”
“His closest friends were books, paintings, and cinema. He always improved his education. Leskov, Saltykov-Schedrin — he liked juicy, precise words, he felt the language. Teffi, Dovlatov, Averchenko — he always re-read them. Or just imagine: we happened to visit Moscow for several hours while touring and hurried to see impressionists at Pushkin Museum”.
“Have you ever thought why the destiny had in store such a tragic and merciless end for Mulyavin — a car accident and then an illness?”
“I have a feeling that Volodya was not a common musician, he had a mission of his own. He completed his quest. Pesnyary is Volodya’s hard destiny. He followed the path. With dignity he survived the hardships he faced on earth. No moaning, no cries, no complaints or whims…”
“What is your life now without Vladimir? What words do you find to console the bitterness of the loss?”
“A very difficult question… I help myself with concrete actions. I want to make a photo album with my comments, a movie, maybe a television broadcast. I feel greatly responsible for everything that is linked to Vladimir name. I take care of Mulyavin museum. Besides, I must do my best to prevent Mulyavin “glorification”, monumentation, do you understand? I am very thankful to the president for his decree to immortalise Volodya’s memory. I am thankful for the museum, the book, the monument, for the special attention to my husband’s name. I did not expect it to happen: Alexander Grigoryevich was the first person to congratulate me on March 8 in the year Volodya deceased. Last year he did it as well”.
“Tell me how you met each other”.
“To tell you the absolute truth, I was not a fan of Pesnyary band! We got acquainted at Mosfilm studio in 1978 (and met later, three years later!) I was going for sound-on-film “Painful Wandering” while Volodya with the guys recorded a new disk at the same sound studio. I remember I was amazed at the first sight of him: child’s vulnerability, huge star-like eyes… Timidity, surprise. I thought the man was not what people said he was. Then, as I have already said, we did not see each other for three years… And then one time in Grodno, where I came to visit my father, I came to a performance by Pesnyary. They staged their new Christmas carols show. It was the first concert I saw. I liked it”.
“Amazing… The whole country was thrilled with Pesnyary and you say you just liked it… What year was that?”
“1980. I’ll explain. I knew about the band by their songs, popularised by the radio and television — Vologda, Birch Juice… In Grodno at the stage I saw a complete song performance, a canvas, the true scale of Mulyavin work and was amazed… By the time Volodya had seen me starring in “Painful Wandering”… Have you heard Mulyavin’s major works? His performances?”
“Yes, I have. And “In Full Voice” by Mayakovskiy as well…”
“The idea of the programme was born in very unusual circumstances. We were visiting our friends, village teachers in a rural area. We had a small room to ourselves, with a bamboo bookshelf and 13 volumes of Vladimir Mayakovskiy works published in 1956 on the bookshelf. One time we took the last volume and started reading it towards the first book — volume by volume. On the whole, it took two years to create the programme. Everything was thoroughly studied. I had to pick out the necessary literature. We believed, in our country Mayakovskiy has been too monumentalised, his crying human soul is known to very few people. Hear this, “I want to be understood by my country. If I fail, then, I pass my country sideways just like gloomy rain does”. And Volodya carried his musical talent as a destiny”.
“Is it your first interview since Vladimir Georgiyevich was gone?”
“After my husband’s death I am just recovering for life…”