Anna Akhmatovia (Painting #4 of 13) “Influential Women”

Anna Akhmatovia 1889 -1966

Anna Akhmatovia

1886 – 1966

“Though my fingers are thin, still her thimble did not fit me.”

Known as the “Soul of the Silver Age,” Anna Akhmatovia was queen of that so-called period in the history of Russian poetry. Born, Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, at the turn of the century in Odessa, Ukraine, a bustling seaport with the inhabitants enjoying the last prosperous years before the revolution. Anna adopted her pen name, Akhmatovia, early in her writing career. Initially it was to not embarrass her family with her poetry, but later the pseudo-name became an important device to avoid the political wrath during the Stalin years.

Anna enjoyed fame early in her career, her style, characterized by its economy and emotional restraint, was strikingly original and distinctive to her contemporaries. Her strong and clear leading female voice struck a new chord in Russian poetry. During and after the Russian Revolution, life in the Soviet Union became increasingly harder for the people. War and political persecution beat the people of eastern Europe to their knees, but even with this incredible pressure, Anna continued to write poetry. Her husband was executed, as an enemy of the state, and her son was imprisoned for merely being the child of intellectuals, but Anna continued to write. Even during the two and half year siege of Leningrad by German forces during World War II (which was Anna’s home at the time) she saw starvation as the tool of the Third Reich in order to subjugate the citizens of the city, but still, Anna wrote. Her poems were increasingly darker with anti-Soviet themes. She loved her country and would not leave, as many of her friends did, but she hated the brutal and oppressive Communist system.

Although banned in 1925, Akhmatova’s work continued to circulate in secret, passed and read in the gulags. A small trusted circle would memorize each other’s works and circulate them orally. Akhmatova wrote out poems for visitors to her flat, which was constantly under surveillance, on a scrap of paper to be read in a moment, then burned. The poems were carefully disseminated in this manner but many were lost. “It was like a ritual,” Chukovskaya, her biographer, wrote. “Hands, matches, an ashtray. A ritual beautiful and bitter.”

Anna Akhmatovia, had that certain jen ne sais quoi, which only highly educated and intelligent women have, and even if her tall slender form and angular face, might not have been standard beauty fare, her inner sprit acted as a loadstone for some of the most prominent intellectuals men and artist of her generation. Writer Boris Paternack, painter Amedeo Modigliani, mosaic artist and poet Boris Anrep, writer Alexander Blok, and others were taken by her charms. But for Anna, life was full of tragedy from which she gathered material for her inspirational poetry.

(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

~ by Larry Revene on July 3, 2014.

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