Yes, I love [my] movies. And they’re honest movies. Whether they’re good or bad is another story. But at least they’re movies that tell what I know. […] It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a crappy film or a good film. Anybody who can make a film, I already love – but I feel sorry for them if they didn’t put any thoughts in it. Because then they missed the boat. […] As an artist I feel that we must try different things – but above all we must dare to fail. You can fail in films because you don’t have talent, or you have too much humility, or you lack ferociousness. I’m a gangster! If I want something, I’ll grab it. […] I don’t want recognition. Recognition is a pain in the ass. But having a good time is not fruitless. Or having a bad time is not fruitless. Making something indelible is what I want. Something concrete. There are no rules. Just get together with good, decent, artistic people and value them – because they’re the only ones who will help you.
Gentle lady, do not sing
Sad songs about the end of love;
Lay aside sadness and sing
How love that passes is enough.
Sing about the long deep sleep
Of lovers that are dead, and how
In the grave all love shall sleep:
Love is aweary now.
Lev: “When I see my name on the envelope and it’s written in your hand, I always feel the same sensation —a mixture of disbelief, astonishment, joy and certainty —when I realize that it really is for me —and really hers. Yours, that is. There’s no point to this confession —and now I’m afraid that, having thought about it logically, you’ll start to send me empty envelopes.”
Svetlana: “The point of all this is that I want to tell you just three words —two of them are pronouns and the third is a verb (to be read in all the tenses simultaneously: past, present and future.)”
Lev: “Sveta let us hope while we still have strength to hope. I have understood the most terrible thing in life is complete hopelessness… To cross out all the “maybes” and give up the fight when you still have strength for it is the most terrible form of suicide.”
Svetlana: “You remember that September [during the war] when you said you didn’t want us to meet like that, whereas I was grateful for the week that was given to us? It’s the same now Lev: if it can’t be otherwise, this is better than nothing. We are both 29 years old, we first met 11 years ago, and we haven’t seen each other for 5 years. It is terrible to spell out these figures, but time passes, Lev. And I know you will do all you can so that we can meet before another five years pass.
I’m becoming stubborn Lev. How many times have I wanted to nestle in your arms, but could only turn to the empty wall in front of me? I felt I couldn’t breathe. Yet time would pass, and I would pull myself together. We will get through this, Lev.”
Lev Mishchenko [corrective labor camp inmate, Pechorlag, near the Arctic Circle] and Svetlana Ivanovna [engineer at a rubber factory, Moscow] corresponded for eight and a half years, from 1946 to 1954 and together wrote 1246 letters. […] He and Svetlana finally married in 1955 […] Lev died in 2008, at the age of ninety-one and Svetlana followed him eighteen months latter. [***]