This Land Breeds its Own Celebrities

Do Sharapova, Plisetskaya and Douglas come from Gomel?
I dare to presume that a city called Gomel can hardly elicit any familiar associations with the inhabitants of the sunny Italy or frosty Finland. However, I believe that the desirable associations will be established if a mention of Gomel will be followed by such names as the world-famous ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, actor Michel Douglas and tennis player Mariya Sharapova. It´s hard to believe, but there is a connection between Gomel and these people.

Gomel dwellers cherish their history. And if the city history is embellished with the names of illustrious people - though some of them have left the native land long ago or have never been here - the researchers of local history and culture will not let this fact slip away, will catch it and cage in the annals. All their efforts will serve the sole but pleasant purpose of rousing the pride in the city.

To be precise, the majority of stars are connected with Gomel through their parents. Thus, the father of the Russian prima ballerina Mikhail Plisetsky was born here in 1901 and spent his youth in Gomel before leaving for Moscow. American movie star Kirk Douglas (Isai Daniilovich Demsky) is well known to the general public for his leading role in "Spartak", but few would know that his father worked as a ragman in Gomel going from door to door and gathering rummage and paper. In search of a better life he went to Poland and then to the USA in 1908, where the future film star was born 8 years later. He has never seen the land of his parents.

One of the star personalities of the day that Gomel believes to belong here is tennis player Mariya Sharapova, whose grandmother Galina Sharapova and numerous relatives still reside in Gomel. Masha´s parents were born here and still have a lot of friends and relatives in this city. Her father was a builder, mother - an accountant. Right before the Chernobyl power station encountered a disaster, the family had moved to the Siberia, where the future tennis player was born. Then again they came back to Gomel for three years, bought a flat in Sochi and later emigrated to the United States of America. Mariya was last seen on the court of Gomel-based Luch stadium 7 years ago, when she came to visit her grandmother. Her relatives still keep the racket she used to play with at the beginning of her career. Mariya´s cousin Dasha is a more frequent visitor here. She lives with her parents in Sochi. When she arrives in Gomel, she always makes a visit to her first tennis coach Yevgeniy Shvetsov, who works with city tennis school #7. Time will show whether Dasha will become as popular as her cousin. But local historians are closely watching her career.

Viktoriya Druzhnaya
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