This is my grandmother. Her image captured in the middle of a dance. It looks as if she is enjoying herself, without a care in the world. Is it a mazurka, or perhaps a dance traditional to Russia? I have no idea. Maybe it was a posed photo?
If I were to make a guess at the year this was taken, and remember I have no specific training in this, I would estimate it was between 1910 and 1912. My reason for this guesstimate is that in 1910 my grandmother turned seventeen, and in 1912 her father died. I know the family went into strict mourning after the death of her father.
My grandmother looks very elegant, doesn’t she? And very poised. As does her partner, whoever he might be. Notice his eyes, looking directly at my grandmother, perhaps admiring her beauty or her skill. All I know – all that is written on this photo – is that it was taken at a fancy dress ball. I wonder who her costume was based on. There is such detail in her dress, it is very beautiful.
The two of them look so young, so innocent. They have no idea of the tragedy which is about to let loose across Russia. A tragedy which impacted my grandmother for the rest of her life and, most probably, impacted her partner as well.
I am fortunate that I have access to my grandmother’s version of these events, as well as her stories of childhood and growing up in Imperial Russia, not only through her book Upheaval, but also through the many notes and diary entries I discovered after the death of my parents. These notes and diary entries, together with letters, certificates and documents, form the basis for the project I have been working on over the last couple of years. Gradually it has come together and I hope to reveal it to you over the next few weeks.