Elena Shishova: "I tried to be true wife of Baku man"
Historian, art expert, widow of Azerbaijani writer, journalist and journalist Farkhad Agamaliyev (1946-2012) Elena Shishova visited the studio of Vestnik Kavkaza.
- Azerbaijan and Russia are connected by bonds going back centuries - cultural, political, economic and, of course, human. Your family was a bridge between the two countries. How did you meet your husband?
- We met in 1974. I just graduated from the university and worked at the Artists' Union's touring exhibitions directorate. We took the exhibition to Sumgayit, and it was visited by Farkhad, who worked in the 'Communist of Sumgayit' newspaper back then, entered the screenwriting faculty at VGIK and was going to study in Moscow. We both felt chemistry between us. Farkhad's eyes amazed me - he had very intelligent eyes. Then we went to Baku, he showed me the city, and I was impressed by his knowledge of Russian poetry. He knew many poems by heart, read me poetry of Silver Age. He spoke excellent Russian.
Then he moved to Moscow, and we got married. I then worked in the State Inspectorate for the Protection of Monuments. I oversaw the Palibin House on Burdenko Street - a mansion of a thorny destiny. Now a branch of the State Research Institute for Restoration is located there. And then it was under the jurisdiction of theMinistry of Meat and Dairy Industry of the USSR, and needed restoration. But in order for the house to live up to this restoration, to prevent it from burning, for example, it was necessary for someone to keep an eye on it. We moved there with Farkhad to live there and inspected the house's condition at the same time, as it was literally falling apart. Then our daughter was born, and after two and a half years - the second daughter. Farkhad had already worked for the 'Soviet Culture' newspaper, and he was given an apartment in Domodedovo... That's how our family started.
- Farkhad Agamaliyev wrote stories, scripts for feature films and documentaries, plays, feature materials. But people especially liked the cycle of stories dedicated to his beloved city of Baku. His stories were published in the journal of the same name, and later published under the general title 'Bakinstvo'. How were these little masterpieces created?
- Farkhad was a great patriot not only of Azerbaijan, but also of Baku, he had a deep connection with it - his friends and his colleagues lived there. In terms of spirit, he was, of course, a Bakuvian. Baku is a very international city. Everyone there spoke both Russian and Azerbaijani. People from Baku were immediately recognized by their appearance, by the way they speak. For Farkhad, Baku was a city that resonates in the heart of every Azerbaijani person. All his childhood memories were related to Baku. The book 'Bakinstvo' includes his personal memories. He missed the city a lot, always tried to go there when he went to his family in Sumgait.
- What does 'Bakinstvo' mean to you?
- This is a special quality of people who belong to this city, who love this city, which it in their flesh and blood. All Bakuvians have a special connection. They understand each other perfectly, they have their own humor, their own special language. This is some kind of fraternity, the unity of the people united by this city.
- Have you ever been to Baku?
- Every year. It's really beautiful and romantic city. Beautiful boulevards, Maiden's Tower, Old Town, narrow streets, a special flavor. But above all, I remember the people: Farhad's friends, his soulmates.
- As an art historian, what do you feel about the culture of Azerbaijan?
- At first, it was a complete exotic for me: both food and air, and the fact that women and men stood separately in the queue. But gradually I began to understand this culture. There was music all the time — on the radio, on the television. Fakrhad was a great singer himself, his father was a singer. Our youngest daughter inherited this musical talent and became a singer too. But the main reason why I understood this city is, of course, love: Fakrhad was an extraordinary person, we were very close, and step by step his culture became dear to me.
- Recently the exhibition titled 'Harmony of space. Traditional Art of Azerbaijan' opened in Moscow. Have you visited it?
- Of course. I really liked the traditional women's costumes. I immediately imagined Farkhad's grandma wearing such a suit. He told me a lot about his grandmother, how wise she was. I also liked the carpets of amazing beauty. Enormous work was made to make their patterns! It's a beautiful exhibition. It is small, but very indicative.
- How do you assess the cultural cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan?
- It seems to me that there's not much Azerbaijan in Russia. There used to be more. We could see items from Azerbaijan in art salons, visit exhibitions. Now, I think there's much less such things. Although,perhaps, I am not very objective. I became a reclusive. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation invites me to events, but being there is very hard for me, because I used to go everywhere together with Farkhad, but he's not here anymore...
I would like Moscow to have more Azerbaijani culture, it is great, very ancient and quite extraordinary.
- Did you cook Farkhad Azerbaijani dishes?
- Of course. The culture of cooking, the Azerbaijani cuisine - this is fantastic. When I arrived there for the first time, I realized that I had never tried such delicious food. Also, Farkhad told me about dishes and sang folk songs. I can cook dolma, I know how to cook dolma, rice pilaf, kufta-bozbash and qutab.
- So you were a true wife of a Baku man?
- Maybe not fully, but I tried.