Stork’s nest on the roof

[b]Jubilee sketch[/b]A boy about ten years old… fair-haired… with an open look… wearing a blue checked shirt… runs down a hill … early summer… July… hot… the scent of newly mown grass, honey and bread…The boy’s face shows great joy — the joy that only a small child can know. Even his inability to live in the clouds like a bird doesn’t sadden him. He remembers well what it is to fly from his dreams, and he believes in miracles…I never knew this boy at that tender age, when everybody believes in miracles. The boy running down the hill is Alexey Dudarev. The image in my memory was born of a visit to Dudarev’s home village of Zaruby in 1983, following a family trip together to the Azov Sea; we were on our way back to Minsk, where his son Maxim was just about to start school. The scene appears in my mind like the beginning of a film. Alexey showed us around his village in Dubrovno district of Vitebsk region, pointing out where he studied (now, a museum) and played with his peers.
Jubilee sketch

A boy about ten years old… fair-haired… with an open look… wearing a blue checked shirt… runs down a hill … early summer… July… hot… the scent of newly mown grass, honey and bread…
The boy’s face shows great joy — the joy that only a small child can know. Even his inability to live in the clouds like a bird doesn’t sadden him. He remembers well what it is to fly from his dreams, and he believes in miracles…
I never knew this boy at that tender age, when everybody believes in miracles. The boy running down the hill is Alexey Dudarev. The image in my memory was born of a visit to Dudarev’s home village of Zaruby in 1983, following a family trip together to the Azov Sea; we were on our way back to Minsk, where his son Maxim was just about to start school. The scene appears in my mind like the beginning of a film. Alexey showed us around his village in Dubrovno district of Vitebsk region, pointing out where he studied (now, a museum) and played with his peers.
Picturesque landscapes are imprinted on my memory. I see hills behind the village and the endless view from them. I remember the confidential tone of Alexey’s voice recollecting his youth. He spoke of his father, Anufry Iosifovich, and mother, Anastasia Yefimovna. She died when Alexey was fourteen, leaving him to be brought up by his father and another woman, Agafia Ksenofontievna. Agafia introduced herself as Grandma Gasha when, after a long ride in the car, we entered her cool house, scented with cucumbers, fried eggs and boiled potatoes. During breakfast, Alexey’s voice became somewhat subdued and tender, as if the June sun had melted it. It happens when a man returns to his parents’ house and feels comfortable. Several times, I’ve seen Alexey soften like this, speaking of those he trusts.
At the time of our Zaruby trip, our friend was already being described as a future bright dramatist in Belarus, with several plays having been staged in Belarusian theatres and abroad. His scripts had been used to produce films, in which Alexey had also acted. I recollect him rejoicing over his first published collection of stories — The Sacred Bird (1979). After graduating from the Academy of Arts in acting, he’d worked at the Young Spectators’ Theatre. I well remember his funny Skomorokh — from the fairy-tale One Trouble for All — and his Barber in the play Edith Piaf — a lover of the great singer. In my view, it was his best role, revealing his romantic individuality. In real life, he hides this cleverly. It’s no exaggeration to say that he could have become a very good character actor. For some time, Alexey used to combine his acting work with his writing, working at the Young Spectators’ Theatre as Head of the Literature Department. However, his craving to write prevailed. His closest and longest friends, theatre colleagues and classmates, gather at each premiere, at children’s birthdays and at other pleasant family events, always rejoicing in Alexey’s theatrical and film successes. People’s Writer Andrey Makayonok, shortly before his death, recalled Alexey, saying, “Don’t worry, Dudarev will replace me”…
Back in 1983, 33 year old Dudarev’s Privates was being staged for the first time at the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre, to wide acclaim. Soon, White Rosy was released, making Alexey famous as a film writer throughout the Soviet Union. Later, this fame grew. At home, Dudarev’s desk bore a map covered with red flags marking those places in the USSR, and abroad, where his plays had been staged. Later, new plays and films were followed with titles and awards…
Today, Alexey is Artistic Director with the Belarusian Army Drama Theatre and Chairman of the Union of Theatre Figures of Belarus. He is still a very prominent person, with plays having shown in 142 theatres worldwide. There are even plans to stage his Privates in Australia. On seeing him recently, he chuckled that his hand had been shaken by the Russian President the previous week. He has always had a wonderful sense of humour, transferring some of his jokes into his plays. Watching a performance, I often feel that I’m hearing Alexey’s voice.
Fame has never been a burden to him; he willingly goes into schools, universities and libraries to speak and attends various festivals. His works are studied in literature classes at schools and universities. He’s been to many places — near where he lives and far abroad — and has met many outstanding people. No doubt, this has given him further inspiration for creativity… Nevertheless, the majority of his favourite characters in his plays are Belarusians, common folk whose unreserved sincerity always wins us over. Perhaps this is because he’s a very frank person himself, and because Dudarev is a patriot and proud of it. In my opinion, fame hasn’t changed Alexey’s ability to make friends and to comply with requests; he’s not let success go to his head.
Naturally, Alexey is a little different from the ‘common man’ — sometimes explosive, sometimes too emotional. He can be sharp in defending his opinions and calls his character unbearable but he also follows the ‘golden’ rule of treating others as he’d wish to be treated. He is absolutely confident that the same standards should apply to ourselves as we expect from others. He also believes that all our activity is potentially creative, regardless of our profession. He says that a good shoemaker can be a poet and a bad poet can be a shoemaker.
Spring… May… Summer house near Logoisk… Alexey’s wife, Valentina (his stalwart support) plants flowers: hyacinths, tulips and narcissus… Elder son Maxim busies himself with a camera nearby. Daughter Alesya appears with her father, who is carrying a huge armful of bird cherry branches to add the last stroke to the greeting bouquet for his wife’s birthday. They are immediately approached by grandson Arseny and charming granddaughter Ioanna…
Dudarev always congratulates his wife and other family members in a very original way — taking them for horse rides or cruises on the boat he made himself, treating them to helicopter trips or gifts of Czech crystal in unimaginable shapes.
When I speak to Alexey Dudarev, I always imagine him as the lad running down the hill, especially at those moments when he smilingly demonstrates his summer house economy. He treats us to home-made fizzy kvass, made from birch sap, and takes us to his wooden river moorage — also hand-made. Dudarev adores his summer house in Logoisk district (also called Belarusian Switzerland). Every spare moment there is spent creating something.
“Oh, we have our own theatre here,” says Valentina. “An open air one!”
His Life play continues even at the summer house, where the scenery of huge pine trees grows directly in the back yard. Alexey plays several roles simultaneously: playwright, producer and, often, main performer. “Why have you started writing?” a neighbour once asked him. Dudarev answered that he likes creating his own worlds, where he feels good… Sometimes, he comes on stage in his own plays. On his 50th birthday, he played Dobrynya in Polochanka. Another role was the Colonel in his Don’t Leave…
The small house that he built in the country very much reminds me of a fairy-tale hut, with a stork’s nest on the roof. From far away, the nest looks like a real one. Storks have always embodied flight and creativity, of which Alexey says, “This is a very beautiful bird, sacred, perhaps.” When storks circle in the sky and Alexey follows them with his eyes, it’s as if he wakes up inside as a little boy, running down the hill to try and fly over Zaruby.
He recalls his childhood birthday at the age of ten, when his father invited half the village. He recently celebrated his 60th birthday, gathering around two hundred people to his party.

By Valentina Zhdanovich
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