Moussia 32: 1925 Life in the Borovsky family


As we have seen in article 29, Moussia, with her baby, went to stay with her aunt Jozia at the family estate of Wylagi in Poland in September 1924. She stayed there until the end of February 1925, returning to Paris after Alexander Borovsky had come back from a second tour to the United States. He was often absent on tour that year and Moussia saw much of the Prokofievs and the Samoilenkos. In the autumn, Alexander invited his mother Vera to visit her young family in Berlin.


Borovsky wrote in his Memoirs (this fragment by courtesy of André Dzierzynski):

“It was October of 1925 when my mother came to see me, my wife and my daughter in Berlin. Russia was still maintaining its New Economic Policy, by virtue of which we had also arranged for Maria’s  mother to come to visit us two years before, when Maria and I were engaged. Now, we had a one-year-old daughter.

It was clear to Maria and me when my mother arrived, that she was not in good health, since she could not hold her hand up for very long at a time, nor could she hold it still. In addition, she was very heavy, due chiefly to the Russian diet. Which consisted mainly of starchy foods, such as bread and potatoes, with little or no meat or fish. Partly because of her ill health and partly because I knew she was accustomed to being the head of the family, I wanted Maria to exert the utmost tenderness towards her and be very submissive toward her. But Maria, as she had done with her own mother, chose the other course and insisted upon her own opinions and wishes and the resultant conflict led immediately to a strong hate between the two women. I was powerless to improve conditions, even though I knew my mother was suffering terribly through my inability to influence Maria.

Some doctors in Berlin told Maria that the only way to alleviate Mother’s high blood pressure would be to drain away some of the excess of blood by using leeches and the moment Mother heard of this, she flatly refused, true to her old dislike of doctors. Maria then insisted that Mother obey the doctors, wherupon Mother decided that Maria simply wanted to kill her, and that was that.

Prominent too was the jealousy between Mother and wife. Mother had never seen me as a married man and continued to regard me as a child, while for my part, I had to contend with the wishes of an undiplomatic wife, who rather than soft-pedaling the marital relationship out of deference to my mother, chose to stress her importance as my wife. It was a very sad situation.”

Poor Alexander Borovsky, he was as unprepared for dealing with such a classical situation as he was for fatherhood, busy as he had always been with playing the piano. The look on his mother’s face, on the above two photographs from Moussia’s private collection, illustrate what he wrote very well. The pictures were taken in Nice, France,  a point I have not yet been able to clarify.

One wonders if the situation would have much better, had Moussia been a bit more flexible. As we have seen in article 25, Alexander’s mother had always had a very strong influence on him during the first thirty years of his life. It is therefore all the more sad that his mother died about one year later in Leningrad, in the autumn of 1926. Prokoviev notes in his Diary that Borovsky heard the news in the middle of a tour and that Moussia  worried a lot about him.

(to be continued)

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