Tale of a Butterfly and a Stork, or the House of the Poet

Maxim Bogdanovich Museum in the Trinity Suburb celebrates its jubilee
Maxim Bogdanovich Museum in the Trinity Suburb celebrates its jubilee
A museum is always something solid, conservative and oldish. But this museum of the young poet is very young, just 25. Why isn’t it much older, by the way? The value of Bogdanovich’s work was recognized long ago, and they say that in the 1920s his father, Adam Yegorovich, was granted a personal railway car to transport his son’s archives to Belarus…

There was no special car, to tell the truth, says the director of the Maxim Bogdanovich Museum in the Trinity Suburb, Tatyana Shelegovich. — There was a laissez-passer signed by Ivan Zamotin, the director of the Institute of Belarusian Culture. The historian Vital Skalaban followed the route of commemoration of Maxim Bogdanovich. A so-called people’s house named after the poet was to have been established in Minsk in 1918. In the 1930s Maxim Bogdanovich became a symbol of decadence, “bourgeois influence”.

The name was hushed up for decades. People were too scared to sacrifice their lives and careers for the sake of the dead Bogdanovich. Times changed, though, and many letters were sent to the Union of Writers and the Central Committee of the Communist Party with requests to commemorate the poet. In 1981, the year when the poet could have turned 90, the museum was opened. There were also several branches — “Belaruskaya Hatka” in 1991, the house where Bogdanovich lived during his stay in Minsk in 1916, and a branch in the village of Rakutevschina in 1994.

— Two buildings in the Rakutevschina display were destroyed by fire a couple of years ago… Are you going to restore them?

— It was a disaster… A hot summer, wooden constructions covered in cane. One cigarette could have done it. There is a version that an empty bottle acted as a lens to start the fire. About 70% of valuable exhibits were lost forever. We would all love to have these buildings restored, especially in view of the possible tourist route that will cross Rakutevschina.

— And we still have new discoveries related to Maxim Bogdanovich. You have found a tomb of his grandfather. How did the museum find it?

— The retired teacher Vladimir Doroguzh called us and asked whether we knew where Maxim Bogdanovich’s grandfather on his mother’s side had been buried. I said we were not aware of it. “So take a pencil and get ready to write down the coordinates,” he said. Vladimir Doroguzh was visiting the grave of his spouse in Cherven and discovered a tombstone nearby with the name Afanasy Ivanovich Myakota. So we are getting ready to go to Cherven.

— Tatyana Eduardovna, what do you think about the fresh “Intimate Diary of Maxim Bogdanovich” published by one of the private publishing houses? The most talked-about unpublished lines of Bogdanovich, the authentic “Intimate Diary”, were not included in this collection of poems. The publishers explain that the oeuvre of the poet was like one giant intimate diary.

— I am glad that private publishing houses tend to popularize classical writers and poets. The publisher Vladimir Sivchikov asked us to provide Bogdanovich’s private publications for the “Diary”… But we believe it would be preposterous to have these letters published in a non-academic edition. Besides, the manuscript that was called the “intimate diary” also needs deciphering. As of today we have exhausted all deciphering means, and the most recent examination managed to clarify about 50% of the document, and only 20% of these 50% are absolutely clear and unambiguous. So why publish these doubtful letters and mar the image of Maxim Bogdanovich as we know him? Besides, the manuscript is very shabby, and the pencil marks are hardly visible. The folds have almost turned into dust, so if you open these eight pages again you will get 32 or more. The document needs to be conserved, and next year we plan to do so.

— There are plenty of legends connected with the name of Maxim Bogdanovich. If you come to his grave in Russia’s Yalta you will surely see a cat. The appearance of the cat cannot be explained. Another inexplicable thing is the presence of butterflies in the local church during the services to commemorate Maxim.

— Well, I can add that during the poetry feast in Rukovschina there is always a stork in the sky right above the stage. Men need fairy-tales, but I don’t believe in mysteries and ghosts. Bogdanovich belonged to light, and his soul was taken to heaven. One may call a mystery the fact that alarm very often goes off in “Belaruskaya Hatka”. The doors are locked, there is no one inside, but the alarm is activated all the time… It might be tiny land slides under the house or something. Besides, the hall dedicated to the Grodno period of life of the poet and his family was a very peculiar place, as visitors would very often faint there. We used to have a glass of water there and menthol valerate. We thought it was because of sultry air, as we had no air conditioning and many visitors. In the 1990s some enthusiast of esoteric studies came to that room with a frame to calculate the “energy radiation”. Her device went off scale near that display, which means a very bad man must have been buried underneath. I don’t believe this stuff, though.

— What did they use to have before the museum on this spot?

— A dwelling-house that dated back to the 19th century with a cook shop on the ground floor. There were no archeological excavations here, unfortunately. The Trinity Suburb is the historic center of the city. I remember these tatty houses before the reconditioning. So many people used to come here after the restoration. Sometimes they shoot movies here and have weddings, but life has certainly changed.

— But this “realm of the dead” has wonderful museums — the museum of the history of Belarusian literature and yours, besides, there is a picture gallery… By the way, the literary soirees in the Trinity Suburb always feature young poets who are eager to experiment…

— Bogdanovich was considered an avant-gardist in his time, so literary innovation must be present here. We have opened the contest “Adlyustravanni” (Impressions) among children timed to the 115th birthday anniversary of the poet. We accept drawings, panels and embroideries… In November we will name the winners and present awards…

by Valentina Zhdanova
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