Meeting Dmitry – Part 3

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Outside the Alpha Hotel

We had a rather late start on the third day. We had decided to go back to Dmitry’s school and to the places where uncle Yakov took the pictures. It was already dark when Dmitry and Maria came to pick us up at the Alpha Hotel. Marion and Tristan had left earlier to catch a flight back to France. On the way to the school Dmitry had prepared some special tracks for us. He played Hélène et les garçons’ song – apparently the French 90s series had a massive success in Russia – then he went on playing his favourite Russian band, Leningrad. He kept saying that it was good we didn’t understand the language as Leningrad’s singer was a master in using swear words. Then the familiar Comment te dire Adieu de Françoise Hardy sounded totally out of context but somehow gave more closeness to our relationship.

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We arrived at the school. The gate was open. Dmitry had taken the old black and white photos with him. Memories came back to him, good and bad, and he started to tell us stories, showed us where the classrooms were. We went to a back courtyard and he showed us a window he used to jump from when he wanted to skip school : “We just needed to give some money to the security guard and he would let us go!”, he revealed. We then walked towards the block of flats where he used to live, about five minutes away from the school. The apartment still belongs to Dmitry’s dad but he doesn’t live there anymore and rents it. The light was on in a room which used to be his bedroom.

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January 2018

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September 1990

Dmitry talked again about his teenage years there, where he used to smoke, buy beer and cigarettes, he told us he got once in trouble with some friends and one of them got caught by the police. “We saw them put him in the police then he escaped through the other door! And they didn’t catch him back! That was such a funny image!”. We all pictured the scene and laughed…

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Then we went back to Dmitry’s car. He obviously didn’t want to stay in Golyanovo any longer. “The area has really changed. It’s mainly people from Kazakhstan who live here now”. We were also supposed to meet Dmitry’s grand-mother, Lidia and his uncle, Yakov, the photographer.

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Pauline and Nick at Dmitry’s childhood block of flats

We all had dinner at Dmitry’s again. This time, we had borsch, Cognac for the men and Aperol Spritz for the girls! When Lidia and Yakov arrived, I had a bit of an emotional shock. Lidia reminded me so much of my own grand-mother, Colette, who was such a character and whom I was so fond of. Pauline had the same shock. I had to pull back a few tears.

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Lidia kept on being elogious to me, thanking me for bringing back the pictures. Maria and Dmitry were translating to me what she was saying – well probably not all of it as she was particularly chatty -. Yakov and her went through the 16 images all over again, commenting, she paid compliments to Dmitry, saying how cute he was… Then we had dinner, more drinks and Lidia raised her glass to friendship and thanked us again to be there and now part of the family. A long interview with Yakov and Lidia followed.

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I wanted to find out more about the photos and the camera. I thought the film was its first and last one, I was half right. It was the last one but he had taken lots of photos before deciding to give up photography for painting which he thought was true art. It was his father who wanted him to be a photographer. Maria had told me before Dmitry’s grand-father loved photography and took a lot of pictures of his family but unfortunately died young a few months after Dmitry was born.

Lidia and Yakov left after the interview. So did we as Pauline and Nick had a night train to catch to Saint Petersburg. Meeting Lidia and her son Yakov was another emotional encounter. Seeing the photos obviously had an impact on them. While Yakov was talking during the interview, he had the Elikon in his hand and he kept rewinding it, not knowing there was a film in it, a film I had put in to take pictures of Dmitry at school… Since, the Elikon hasn’t been working. Probably a sign the last Elikon pictures must remain the ones taken by Yakov in 1990!

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