It appears I was the first person to have sorted out Raissa’s papers after her death. Lumped together in boxes, the Kogevin archive was a mass of photos, letters, personal documents, watercolors and paper icons. Amongst them I came across a great many snapshots of Raissa, Eugene, Constantin and Alina, photos of Mirik and my St. Petersburg relatives as children. At one point I suddenly discovered the photographs of myself as a child, my brother and parents from the early 1960s. About one-half of the archive was Eugene’s watercolor drawings of Tyrolean landscapes, Austria, that he had painted as a DP camp resident at Kufstein. Eugene and Raissa Kogevin resided at this camp up to 1949 until they moved to the U.S. thanks to his brother Constantin’s efforts. Even aboard the ship Eugene did not stop drawing – among the papers I found a notebook of his pencil sketches of the Atlantic.
…Back in Moscow, while sorting out the Kogevin papers, I ran across Eugeny’s correspondence with Adrian Rymarenko, the protopresbyter of the Novo-Diveevo Monastery that he had founded in Nanuet, N.Y. Before the outbreak of the war Adrian Rymarenko lived in Kiev. He was arrested many times by the NKVD but miraculously survived. During the occupation of Kiev the Germans re-opened the churches and appointed Fr. Adrian priest of the Intercession Monastery in Kiev. In late 1943, when the Red Army was approaching Kiev, Fr. Adrian, fully aware of what awaited him and his parishioners after the end of the war, voluntary agreed to deportation to Germany. He later moved to the U.S.A. Judging from the correspondence I found, Raissa and Eugeny Kogevin had been familiar with Fr. Rymarenko in Kiev and might have been among the parishioners who left for Germany with their spiritual father. If so, the Rymarenko story was indirect proof of my grandmother’s legend.
I got to sleep at 2 AM thinking about how to take the papers back to Moscow.
The next morning Matushka took me to Walmart to get a small suitcase. From there we headed for the Flagler Memorial Park cemetery. The Kogevin tomb was not so easy to find, so we had to inquire the cemetery office. Having finally found the grave, we drove to a small shop to get flowers. The florist, a Cuban, understood not a word of English but Matushka, who could speak some Spanish, explained to him what we wanted.
We returned to the church where I left my purchases. After lunch we got in Matushka’s jeep and she drove to show me around Coral Gables, a picturesque town in Florida. If I were ever asked how I imagine a paradise I would most certainly say it looked like Coral Gables. Pricey villas costing millions of dollars surrounded by palm-trees and other exotic plants whose names I don’t know. Roads in Coral Gables resemble arched galleries whose ceilings are made of interwoven trees so thick that they block out the sunlight.
Most residents of Coral Gables are wealthy Americans.
“Cubans don’t live here”, explained Matushka, “too expensive for them to afford it. What’s more, they can’t speak English properly.”
“Where did they come from?” asked I.
“They are refugees from Cuba, we’ve had as many as three waves of immigrants. The first wave was wealthy and intelligent Cubans. The second wave was criminals, Fidel Castro intentionally released them from jails to harm us. Cubans keep stores here but we never buy from them preferring to shop at Walmart where you can get all you want at affordable prices.”
We are back in the church again. At about 6 PM Fr. Daniel held a memorial service in commemoration of Raissa, Eugene and other members of my family. I feel peace at the thought that I have commemorated the Kogevins’ souls, exactly in the same church they had attended. I am overwhelmed with a mystical feeling that their dream to return to Russia – at least in the form of the family papers – came true. That their papers didn’t get lost and came into the hands of the one they had been destined for.
The service is over, and we go into a small room. I ask Matushka to tell me about the Russian community in Miami. As it turned out, Matushka, with all her seemingly simple appearance and behavior, is a descendant of Russian aristocrats who fled Russia after the Bolshevik takeover. The Ustinov estate, Grabovka in the Penza gubernia miraculously survived, having lived through Bolshevik nationalization and change of owners. Ustinov’s descendants could visit their family estate only in 2007…
I pull out my voice recorder and the interview begins. I have only 90 minutes at my disposal – the McKenzies would get to sleep very early. I, too, am to get up at 5 AM to get to the airport to board a plane back to New York.
“My family moved from New York to Miami in 1972. I was 17 then and the idea of moving to Miami got me very excited. My dad didn’t feel that happy as he thought he was taking me away from my Russian youth community. But I did want to move to Florida. I had always dreamed of going to Florida on vacation but it turned out that I stayed here for good. When we moved to Florida, my dad took me to an orthodox church. It was a small church but I liked it at the very first glance, I felt like at home in there. So I and my dad began to attend the church on Sundays and even on Saturday nights. We immediately got acquainted with all the parishioners, most of which were old people. They supported each other and all met for a prayer. On Sundays they would hold tea parties or have lunch, sharing their recollections of old Russia and telling stories of their escape from the Bolsheviks.
This church was built by two waves of the Russian emigration. The first wave brought many educated people but almost no manual workers. There might have been some, but most of the Russians were engineers, architects, etc. After World War II, we had a flood of refugees who fled Stalin’s Russia; in some way they resembled the “first wave” in terms of their love for Russia. Just as the “first wave” they spent their lives “sitting on the suitcases” and dreaming of returning to Russia one day. But they were not as religious as the first immigrants and had difficulty acquiring the faith of their predecessors that they had brought to America. However, they gradually took to attending church and found in it a great consolation for themselves.
The “first” and “second” waves of the Russian immigration are known for not having been on very good terms. How was it manifested in Miami?
This is exactly what I was going to tell you about. The two waves did have some tensions but as a Christian community they managed to overcome this…
No. I wouldn’t put it like that.