Tuesday, October 8th, is the 110th anniversary of the birth of the great Russian poetess Marina Tsvetayeva. Her life lasted only 50 years - a tragic time in the hardest period of Russian history. The time of two world wars, two Russian revolutions, a civil war, establishment of the totalitarian Soviet authority, Stalinist repressions...
It seemed that Tsvetayeva, whom God gifted with a huge, powerful and original poetic talent, was born to a happy and creative life. Daughter of the famous Russian scholar Ivan Tsvetayev, the founder of the Moscow Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts (now known as the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts), she received an excellent education in Russia, Germany and Switzerland, and was a promising pianist.
Tsvetayeva's literary talent manifested itself at an early age. Her poems dated 1908-1910 strike the reader with their unexpected maturity, human and literary alike. They bear the imprint of an outstanding individuality and an all-conquering sincerity. Unlike many beginners of all times, she managed not to imitate the world's great poets.
Her poems denounce the usual conception of "feminine poetry," which was always regarded somewhat indulgently. Tsvetayeva's talent had a truly masculine scale. Even her great contemporary, Anna Akhmatova, seems too languid and too wrapped up in feminine emotion when compared to Tsvetayeva.
She refused to acknowledge both the February bourgeois and the October Socialist revolutions. "Freedom is a streetwalker on a mad soldier's chest," she wrote in one of her poems.
In 1911, she met and married her fate, the young journalist Sergei Efron. Many of her famous lyrical poems are dedicated to him, such as this one: "It is with a challenge that I wear his ring, a wife in eternity, not on paper..." It was because of Efron that she had to radically change her life twice: first in 1922, when she left Russia to join him in Prague (he was an officer of the Volunteer White Army that fought against the Soviet authorities), and then in 1939, when she followed her husband back to Russia. Before that, while still in France, where they and their children lived in emigration, he had been forced to cooperate with the NKVD in order to be allowed to return to Russia.
The return turned into tragedy. The USSR was going through a period of Stalinist repressions. Tsvetayeva's sister was serving time in a Stalinist camp. Her husband and 18-year-old daughter Ariadna, too, were soon arrested on espionage charges. Unlike many other Soviet Writers, Tsvetayeva lived in poverty and earned a living for herself and her son by doing poetic translations.
In August, 1941 she committed suicide in the provincial town of Yelabuga.