«This is about me,” says Tatiana Metaxa, deputy director of the Moscow Museum of the East and half Greek. Tatyana Сhristoforovna was born, grew up and lives all her life in Mamma Moscow, as she calls her native city. But what about the Greek half of blood and soul, about her golden-brandy surname that unites our heroine with famous namesakes-Hellenes?
– You know, I somehow did not think at school, whence I have such an unusual surname. Because we grew up in an international society, and in general we didn’t care about who had what nationality – we were just “Soviet” children. For the first time I focused on this in college, when one of my teachers at the entrance exams said: “What an interesting Greek surname!” And I felt certain specialness, even pride, perhaps… There was a funny incident (I already worked in the Museum of East), when one of my colleagues, Volodya Mokhnach, who had got encyclopedic knowledge, ran up from somewhere to me and exclaimed: “Tanya! I found out that your surname derives from the king Menelaus! ”Nowadays I know that it was on the lists of noble Byzantine surnames, and among those, who bore it, was, for example, an assistant of Admiral Ushakov–Yegor Metaxa. The word meaning in Russian is “silk”, “silky”.
I like my surname very much, especially since it connects me with my parents, to whom I simply revere, despite the fact that they have long been gone…
Tatyana Christoforovna says that she didn’t ask to much her father and Greek relatives about the history of the clan, but her “big Greek family” has always been there at her side. The celebrations of Easter are still unforgettable, when they all gathered in the house of their great-grandmother in Bakovka near Moscow, but the Greek language sounded only when “Grandma Lele” and “Grandma Marika” needed for secrecy.
The very atmosphere of mutual love, mutual acceptance and the joy of communication was probably absorbed by the girl and provided communication with the ancestors, being the very “airbag” that is so much necessary for any adult.
– Elena Emmanuilovna, my great-grandmother, and great-grandfather Dionisius Kostaki had five children, including their sons, the famous sportsman-motorcyclist Spiridon and the famous art collector George, whose collection, donated by him to the state, is exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery. On these holidays, families of all Kostakis, including us–children, gathered in Bakovka … Uncle Yura, I always called so George, he usually was our arbiter announcing who did the most delicious cake; and that of the housewives, including my mother, whose cake was honored with his appreciation, was very happy about it.
Some times ago George Kostaki moved to Greece; and in 1993 Tatyana Metaxa, and her daughter Masha went to Athens at the invitation of “uncle Yura’s” son. Since then the “Greek component” of our heroine has only expanded: trips to Greece, invitations to receptions at the Greek embassy, to the events of the Greek Cultural Center and the Moscow Society of Greeks. “I rarely can afford to respond to the invitations of the GCC and MSG, but they are doing an incredible job! The last time, I went on a wonderful tour of old Moscow, and two years ago, on the Day of Cultural Heritage, I even went up to the bell tower of the Nikolsky Monastery during a similar tour, ” says Tatyana Metaxa.
Greek roots made them felt in the daughter of Tatyana Christoforovna—“My Masha married a Greek, speaks Greek and goes often to Greece. But I was born and raised in Moscow, near my beloved Yauza, so despite the Greek half of my blood (as well as Polish, German and Ukrainian ones from my mother’s side), I am Russian, and I feel best in my beloved Moscow, walked along, and across, familiar to me from my early childhood.
– Well, let us then suggest that the native Muscovite conducts an excursion for a hypothetical dear guest from Greece. Where will you lead him, Tatyana Christoforovna?
– First of all I would lead him to Nikolskaya, tell about the brothers Leichoudes, about the fact that they founded the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy, which was located nearby, and that later many Greeks began to settle here, and trade. We would have visited the Epiphany Monastery, the magnificent cathedral with its icons, and then we would have reached the Leichoudes monument.
Then, we would return to Red Square connecting the past with the present. This is the heart of the city—everything begins and ends here, and all the guests arriving in the capital are still sent here first of all. Despite the stereotypical showing of, I love this place very much and often come here. I remember how my dad, Christopher Theodorovich, was carrying me on his shoulders during the November demonstration long ago while Stalin was standing on the platform of the mausoleum …And in the 70s I was a guest at the parade on November 7th. In general, I love such large-scale, general celebrations, bravura music—there is something in me from a warrior (smiles)… Will I take him to the mausoleum? I will ask, and if the guest is interested, I will do.
Did I visit it? I did, even when Stalin was still laying there.
Next, probably, I will show my beloved old Moscow and its museums, asking, of course, what exactly the guest is interested in. The Tretyakov Gallery will be the first, without a doubt, especially since there is a collection of my great-uncle George Kostaki, and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is my favorite, where my daughter Maria Kostaki works, and, of course, the Museum of the East, to which I have dedicated my whole life. In general, there are so many interesting museums in Moscow that the guest will not have enough strength to visit all my beloved ones. If he is like me in love with literature, then I could show him the Pushkin Museum on Prechistenka, I would take him to Ostozhenka, 37, where Turgenev lived from time to time, to Bryusov’s house on Prospect Mira, 30. And if my counterpart loves modern art, I will take him to the Winery, in the Syromyatniki, or to the “Garage” in Gorky Park.
You see, in my age, I like walking on the streets of old Moscow more and more, and in this sense the city is inexhaustible. Right here, on Nikitsky Boulevard, where our museum is located, there is a lot of interesting things around. Let’s say, very close is the estate of the great commander Suvorov (earlier the boulevard was called Suvorovsky), and next, there are two temples opposite each other. One of them is dedicated to Theodor Studite. I often attend it. Suvorov too did it… The temple of the Great Ascension is directly opposite. In it, they say, Pushkin got married. So I can bring my guest from Greece here, if he is also interested in Orthodox Moscow.
And lastly, to take a break from impressions, I would suggest to go in Lefortovo for a walk in the park, where I skated as a child, and now I just walk and admire the grottoes and ponds; and if he gets hungry…
I love delicious Russian food, but, unfortunately, there are sushi and burgers all around us. I better get him to the Baumanskaya area for his dinner in a very cute Greek tavern (“Magika Asteria” – Ed.), or to Tishinka, where is another Greek restaurant, and deliciously-tasty food is served (“Molon Lave” – Ed.). It will be an opportunity to find out how the local Greek cuisine is similar to authentic one (she laughs); and if our tour takes place in the summer, I will get him to the open cafes here on Nikitsky Boulevard.
P.S. Finishing our story about the “Russian through and through” Greek woman, I wish to use her words, in which sincerity there is no doubt:
– What is Greek in me?—She smiles.—I always feel the Olympic flame burning in me!