Moussia 38: 1929 Moussia’s brief reunion with her brother Julian in Moscow

Moussia and Julian in Moscow, 1929 or 1930. From Moussia’s personal collection.

In the previous article, we have learned that Prokofiev saw Moussia’s brother Julian in Moscow, on November 17 and 18, 1929, handing over Moussia’s envelope with some money. She had not seen Julian since her departure from Russia in 1917. In fact the two had not even heard from each other anymore, Julian was stunned to hear from Prokofiev that Moussia was married. He must have been in prison or in work camp all that time. Many years later, it was Natasha Borovsky’s belief  that he had been involved in some officer’s revolt against the Bolshevik takeover in November 1917.

Moussia and Julian were briefly reunited, shortly after Julian’s meeting with Prokofiev. I have been able to establish this with the help of the pictures which appear in this article, small 8×12 cms contact prints of photos taken in Moscow. One of them was pasted in an album, with “1929” pencilled next to it, tentatively, by Karin Antonini. In that case they would have met between November 18 and December 31, 1929. Maybe they met slightly later. I know that Alexander Borovsky played in Moscow in January 1930. Moussia must have accompanied him during that tour, in order to see her brother .

Before continuing, I draw your attention to the next photograph, taken in 1903 when Moussia and Julian were about  8 and 6 years old, approximately at the time that there parents separated, following which they were raised by aunts and uncles.

Both pictures, the one above and the one below, show a brother and sister united in tragedy. They must have been very close indeed.

Moussia and Julian in 1903. Picture courtesy Mr. André Dzierzynski.

These two very moving pictures are more eloquent than words. I know from Moussia’s daughter Natasha that her mother has, until she died, never come to terms with her sorrow and her feeling of guilt for not having been able to save Julian (“Julek’) from Soviet imprisonment. Shortly after their reunion, he was incarcerated again and all she heard, a long time thereafter, was that he had died in prison of tuberculosis on a date unknown. Although Moussia never talked to her daughter about Julian in enough detail to give her a complete understanding, Natasha guessed that a contributing factor to Moussia’s original approaches to Sergey Prokoviev (in 1921) and also to her decision to marry Alexander Borovsky in 1922 may have been: her hope that her closeness to a Russian with a famous name would help her with Soviet officialdom in obtaining Julian’s release.

Moussia’s reunion with Julian brought about the full revelation of Moussia’s past to Alexander Borovsky. In particular the uncertainty surrounding the dissolution of her marriage with Vladimir. This, according to Karin Antonini, played a major role in their estrangement which, in combination with other factors, led to their divorce. The period 1930 -1932 in Moussia’s life is shrouded in mystery, only some pictures remain — and they are very telling as will be shown in the following articles.

Later, Moussia never wanted to talk about that part of her life. It is obvious to me that Moussia suffered of intense sorrow and guilt feelings as a result of her divorce from Alexander and I hope to illustrate that opinion in my next articles. Prokofiev’s Diaries from January 1, 1931 to May 2, 1932, are missing and I am personally convinced that that is not merely a coincidence. He must have followed Moussia’s life during this period as intensely as he did before and after, and he may well have confided a lot about this to paper, which he destroyed later on.

At the time of the Russian Revolution, Julian was a 19 year old officer in the Russian Imperial Airforce.


Pilot Julian Sila-Nowicki (19), of the 18th Air Squadron, 1916 (see article 6)

Below, I show two more pictures taken in Moscow in the same session as was the one at the head of this article. Like all the other pictures in this article (except for the one from Mr. André Dzierzynski’s collection), they belong to Moussia’s personal collection.

I see a striking likeness between brother and sister. More importantly, having seen about  a hundred pictures of Moussia, taken before and after 1929, I feel that she never looked as beautiful, before or after, as on these Moscow photographs. They were taken, I think, on one of the very few moments in her life that she felt totally relaxed and happy.  She would never look the same again afterwards.  I also note that she is dressed  in a “gamin” style similar to what we have seen in the picture in article 15, taken during her escape from Russia, with Vladimir (repeated below). A coincidence?

Moscow, 1929

Moussia, in between Vladimir and Rear-Admiral Bosse on the SS Ecuador, traveling from Yokohama to San Francisco, in December 1917 (article 15)

(to be continued)

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