Present to the fourteenth from Stefania Stanyuta

Life inspired great actress’ roles while nature provided her with a talent for crafts

By Yelena Buyakovskaya

As her son, Alexander, recollects, Stefania was an actress ‘from head to toe’ — able to take on the persona of anything from a TV set to a twig or a pair of spectacles! She’d often say, “I’ll show you rather than explain.” Her imagination and skill enabled her to cope with any role.

Over her long life, Ms. Stanyuta also loved crafts, making interesting gifts for her family, friends and fans from natural materials; she even shared her skills with the Nature and Fantasy Club (which has about forty of her craft works).
At first sight, it’s hard to tell exactly which materials Ms. Stanyuta used: looking more closely, you can see a peach kernel used for a pendant, and a beautiful locket made from a sea urchin. Her beads are acorns, and the seed heads of whitebeam, dogrose and other flowering plants. Almost all of her creations have a story of their own.

“Holidaying in the Crimea, Stefania found an interesting plane-tree, whose black pilose fruits she brought home for craft projects,” explains club leader Alexander Leiko, who knew the actress personally. “Another time, she fell over a stone while walking along the seashore: in fact, it was a mammoth bone.” The collection of this great actress includes items made from Manchurian walnuts, corn, beans, and seeds from the vetch and spindle tree. She also used pasta in various shapes: stars, spirals and so on.

Her hand-made crafts have also helped people in hard times. Her friends recollect a man coming to her dressing room after a performance, proclaiming, “Don’t you remember me? I’m that man from Smolensk: the fourteenth!” Naturally, this meant nothing to anyone else, but Stefania later told them about the winter of 1942. She had been evacuated to Russian Tomsk, with the Kupala Theatre and, on New Year’s Eve, was hosting a party. The weather was severely frosty and she lacked money but exchanged some of her craft works for bread and a fir tree. Unfortunately, thirteen guests appeared: an unlucky sign (especially during wartime), so she went into the street to find a fourteenth guest, asking the others to await her return. There were just ten minutes before midnight and the streets were empty, but she suddenly noticed a lonely man. He had been evacuated from Smolensk and became the fourteenth guest. Parting, Stefania presented him with a hand-made locket which he kept all his life.

The actress also loved to sew costumes for her performances, coming to her first rehearsal at the Kupala Theatre wearing a hand-made linen dress. Young Stefania had sewn this herself; it was truly unique, with nothing similar on sale in the shops. She had used a blench linen painted by her father, artist Mikhail Stanyuta, imitating the motifs found on Slutsk sashes. Naturally, she was the envy of all the young women in the company!

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