On Andreyevsky Spusk, down the street from St. Andrew’s (Andreevskaya) Church, is a house – a rather grand house built in the 19th century. The house, today in yellow and white, was the home for Mikhail Bulgakov.
At №13 Andreevsky spusk, Bulgakov wrote the The White Guard, The Master and Margarita. In the novel, The White Guard, Bulgakov refers to №13 Andreevsky spusk. Both novels are favorites of mine, thanks to Stefan who introduced me to them and Bulgakov. And Bulgakov is, now, one of my favorite writers. Whenever I find a translated Bulgakov text I find myself picking it up and thumbing through it…I am drawn as filings to a magnet much to my wife’s sighing. In fact, I made the special trip to Bulgakov’s home on my own; why I would go to see a dead writer’s yellow and white house was beyond my lovely wife’s understanding. Perhaps it was the snow and ice that dissuaded her?
Getting to the house was not exactly an easy task. Cars are not permitted on this portion of Andreevsky spusk; the road is blocked a distance before the house. Getting to the house in a Kievan winter means walking downhill in snow and ice. For some unfathomable reason the people of Kiev do not shovel their walks. Snow, ice, and their combination of slush are the norm and they deal with it accordingly by walking on, around, and through it as necessary to get to their destination. They move quickly, almost with haste.
I, however, moved slowly and cautiously with a few slips and slides here and there as though the pull of gravity might overcome my will to remain erect and retain my dignity.
When I rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill, it was there before me…
Today a museum, the home is well maintained. Bulgakov is, without a doubt, a literary treasure. I ventured inside for just a moment, hoping it would be a place wherein I could walk around and take in the air of his intellect – but, unfortunately, there was not much to see. The rooms were empty, save for a piano in the parlor. I did get to see some of his handwritten notes for one of his novels; his penmanship was legible and precise.
Outside there was a statute of Bulgakov…
I am uncertain what I expected, but the depiction presented by the statue was not it. Like his penmanship, his statue, if not his person, was legible and precise.
If you’ve ever read Bulgakov, particularly The Master and Margarita, you’d be within reason to imagine the author being disheveled and a bit mad. The statue was anything but.
I am glad I made the effort to visit this landmark; if for no other reason than to say, “I’ve been to….”
On second thought, having read The Master and Margarita… perhaps appearances can be deceiving.
Now that would explain a lot…
After this stop I worked my way uphill, again combating gravity. And, again, thanks be to God, I succeeded.
Oh yes, there were a few slips and on one occasion a bit of sliding, but I did make it up the hill. This time I felt as though I needed to give Andreevskaya Church a second chance; rather I needed to give myself a second chance.
After climbing the iron stairs to the church, I entered only to encounter the sound of heavenly voices. A young man was apparently reading the hours – smoothly and ritually, with a sense of timing and patience. His voice echoed off the walls with a crispness that one would hope existed in all churches. It was as though the cathedral was built for this particular voice.
Once within the nave, I apologized and prayed. It is not what is within the church; it is what is within the heart.
The church itself is still old, not clean, and requires millions in renovation monies. Despite this, its glory is still present – as are the angels and saints.
The time I spent was peaceful…and will be treasured within my heart forever. But the statues have got to go.
Okay, they are historic, period pieces – they will stay…
It was I who had to go.
It took me about an hour, but I walked back to the hotel. An hour walking on and in slush is nerve wracking. Take me back to church…