Photos of Anna, Gergard and James Tsvirko. History of a vanished Moscow family

Photos of Anna, Gergard and James Tsvirko. History of a vanished Moscow family
The Tsvirko family - Gergard, Anna and their son James
About the hardest time in the Soviet history, a patronymic derailing career and life, and happiness left only in memories.

In late March, the Museum of Moscow opened a 'New Arrivals. Memory Storage Chest' exhibition prepared by a writer and screenwriter Marina Moskvina and her husband, artist Leonid Tishkov. The authors call the 'Memory Storage Chest' an exhibition and a novel, since it tells about the life of the Moscow Zakharov-Moskvin family and things it has been storing since the early 20th century. Each exhibit is supplemented by Marina Moskvina's essay with the story of her ancestors' and relatives’ life interwoven with the history of Russia.

Today's History of Things features two exhibits related to the writer's aunt Anna, and the accompanying story we present in full.

Tsvirko. Marina Moskvina's Essay

My aunt Anna lived to a great age. All her life she had a picture of her, her husband and their son on her TV set. A portrait would not confirm with such convincing cogency that this moment is not a memory, not a fantasy or illusion, that this was for real.

The picture has a centripetal force, which shows how crucial their meeting was. But soon, under the pressure of circumstances, they would give up on each other, and their boy would die during the war. This seeming idyll raises the feeling of anxiety, because we know what will happen to them. This is the power of photography and the power of our look.

Power of attorney to receive medal 'For the Defence of Moscow' James sent to his mother from the front line in 1944

When aunt Anna and Gergard Napoleonovich got married, they lived a very poor but very happy life... Over time, Gergard started to work in the Kremlin as an assistant commandant at the Commandant's Office. He wore gymnastyorka with bars, and had a leather briefcase. It was a hey-day of their life with aunt Anya. A beautiful apartment in the Kremlin, Kremlin food rations. Anna had nice fashionable clothes. Their son James wore a bow tie and a lace collar. Aunt Anna used to make gifts for everyone, invited to come to their home, arranged parties.

And suddenly, the arrests related to suspected espionage started in the Kremlin.  Gergard was one of the first to be arrested (presumably due to his patronymic, Napoleonovich). Anna had to change her comfortable Kremlin apartment for wooden 100-flat barracks. She mopped floors and dud all other dirty work.

She was told that she must renounce her husband and confirm that he was a spy, otherwise she would also be arrested and exiled, and her son would be sent to an orphanage. She had three days to think it over.

Anna renounced Gergard. And that decision tormented her all her life. When I was writing 'Trash Can for the Diamond Sutra’, I made her enter another orbit with all her terrifying thoughts and doubts, all those pros and cons miraculously melted and dissolved into each other. And she beheld a coast of Sukhavati (Pure Land), previously hidden in clouds and mist, free from all illusions and wrong beliefs.

Find more stories about the Museum of Moscow exhibits in the History of Things project