Maximilian Voloshin's Haven in the Crimean


1911 - 1916

Koktebel, Voloshin's house, Marina with hat on cart, Max Voloshin standing on the right

Koktebel! Koktebel! We reached it the first time on a creaking cart passing the wilds of the Eastern Crimean. Only eight kilometers from Feodosia, but a whole day's travel," wrote Marina. Asya would join her later. “The landscape became more barren along the way until the earth was covered only by black volcanic rock, which, at noon, burned your feet through the soles of your shoes. We arrived at Voloshin's house and behind it lay the ink-blue sea. No green, no tree, no bush, only some tufts of high, bleached desert grass in a few sandy places. Stranded on the rocks. Max Voloshin called it 'Homer's Island'. At night the mythical heroes talked to us. We all went crazy, stricken by Greek madness. I was nineteen and Marina seventeen when we spent our first summer in Koktebel. We returned year after year before 1914.” Marina had found her world, as uncompromising and as abstract as her poetry.

Pra”, Elena Ottobaldovna Voloshina

Maksimilian Voloshin

Every guest was enthusiastically greeted by Maximilian Voloshin and his mother “Pra,” Yelena Ottobaldovna—the poetry of patronymics! Both dressed in long Tartar caftans, barefoot. Max, he was only fourten years older than Marina, a corpulent, genial philosopher. He wrote poetry and painted. His widowed mother, equally voluminous, was a firebrand, the soul of their guest house. They charged next to nothing for their rooms. It was not yet a fashionable tourist spot. The guests prepared their own meals or walked three kilometers to a ramshackle Tartar café for food.

The motley crowd of greater and lesser poets, painters, and revolutionaries all fell under the spell of Koktebel, reading poetry to each other, critiquing their art, collecting pebbles, nude bathing, making love in the warm transparent sea, moonshine nights - real Greece not plaster Gods: Max Voloshin as the conjurer and psycho-pomp. . . .

Koktebel, Seryozha and Marina in the door frame, Pra sitting, 1911

Sergey Efron and Marina(?)
Koktebel, 1911

There Marina met Seryozha, Sergey Efron, her "Boy-Prince with the huge eyes", her shining "White Guard," emigrant, turncoat, informer, the father of her children, her husband in eternity, liquidated in Stalin's Gulag, her fate and destiny. . . .

Sergey Efron and Marina at the time of their wedding, 1912
One of the few photos in which she wears glasses!

Marina and Seryozha flew onto each other. She had found the beautiful prince of the fairy tales, who would deliver her from the shadows of her childhood. He was a year younger than she, barely eighteen. Their meeting gave Marina what her heart had longed for: romance, heroism, exalted feelings. Seryozha was not only beautiful, young, and innocent but so powerfully drawn to her, as if she alone could bind him to his life. They rushed into each others arms to overcome their loneliness by merging into each other. He called her his “enchantress”. For the first and only time in her life her sarcastic and her ecstatic aspects were at peace, her soul at rest in her love for Seyozha. For two years she was so filled with happiness that she wrote very few consequential poems.

Солнцем жилки налиты - не кровью -
На руке, коричневой уже.
Я одна с моей большой любовью
К собственной моей душе.

Жду кузнечика, считаю до ста,
Стебелек срываю и жую...
- Странно чувствовать так сильно и так просто
Мимолетность жизни - и свою.

15 мая 1913

Veins filled with sun - not blood -
Hands, brown already.
I am one with my great love
Who owns my soul.

I am waiting for grasshoppers, I think of a hundred,
Stalks plucked and chewed ...
- It is strange to feel so strongly and so simply
The transience of my life - and his.

Koktebel, May 15, 1913

Seryozha had a compromised family background. His mother came from the aristocratic Durnovo family, his father was Jewish. Both parents were active members of the “Black Repartition”, a revolutionary group suspected of espousing terrorist ideas. His mother had been imprisoned during the 1905 uprising. Seryozha, the youngest of six children, was too young to have been part of his mother's revolutionary activities. His father had died in 1909 in France and his mother had hanged herself a year later. Marina and he had one thing in common, both had been orphaned at an early age.

In January 1912 she and Seryozha got married. They spent their honeymoon floating through Italy, France, and Germany. In September 1912 Marina gave birth to their first child, Alya-Ariadne, the carefully chosen name of the Greek goddess of the Crimean. From the very beginning Marina indulged “in her little shadow”. Like her mother she projected herself into the child whole heartedly - a heavy burden for Alya.

Прелесть двух огромных глаз,
- Их угроза - их опасность -
Недоступность - гордость - страстность
В первый раз...

Феодосия, 13 ноября 1913

...The beauty of two huge eyes,
- They are a threat - their risk -
Inaccessibility - pride - passion
For the first time ...

Theodosia, November 13, 1913

In 1913 Marina and Sergey founded their own publishing company "Ole Lukoe " and printed a second volume of “youthful” poems: From Two Books. The disenchanted critics tore it to pieces: it contained the same kind of lyrics as Evening Album. They had expected her to exceed herself. Marina fell back to her nearsighted hauteur. The opinion of the world did not concern her.

Моим стихам, написанным так рано,
Что и не знала я, что я - поэт,
Сорвавшимся, как брызги из фонтана,
Как искры из ракет,

Ворвавшимся, как маленькие черти,
святилище, где сон и фимиам,
Моим стихам о юности и смерти,
- Нечитанным стихам! -

Разбросанным в пыли по магазинам,
(Где их никто не брал и не берет!),
Моим стихам, как драгоценным винам,
Настанет свой черед.

Коктебель, 13 мая 1913

My poems, written so early
That I did not know, that I was - a poet,
Thrown like drops from a fountain,
Like sparks from a rocket,

That burst like tiny devils,
Into the sanctuary of sleep and incense,
My poems about youth and death,
- Unread poems!

Scattered in dusty shops,
(Where no one ever took or bought them!)
My poems, like precious wines,
Their time will come.

Koktebel, May 13, 1913

They returned to Koktebel and Max's kind, olympian ministrations every summer until 1914. In 1914 facing a new fateful emotional upheaval she dedicated these lines to Seryozha:

С. Э.

Я с вызовом ношу его кольцо
- Да, в Вечности - жена, не на бумаге. -
Его чрезмерно узкое лицо -
Подобно шпаге.

Безмолвен рот его, углами вниз,
Мучительно-великолепны брови.
В его лице трагически слились
Две древних крови.

Он тонок первой тонкостью ветвей.
Его глаза - прекрасно-бесполезны! -
Под крыльями распахнутых бровей -
Две бездны.

В его лице я рыцарству верна.
- Всем вам, кто жил и умирал без страху. -
Такие - в роковые времена -
Слагают стансы - и идут на плаху.

Коктебель, 3 июня 1914

To S. E.

I am defiantly wearing his ring
- Yes, in Eternity – as wife, not on paper. -
His overly narrow face -
Like a sword.

His mute mouth angles down,
Painfully gorgeous eyebrows.
In his face tragically merged
Two ancient blood lines.

He is thin like subtle branches.
His eyes - beautifully-useless! -
Under the wings of his open brows -
Two abysses.

To his face I am faithful and true.
- As you all are, who lived and died without fear. -
Thus – in such fateful times -
I compose stanzas - and go on the block.

Koktebel, June 3, 1914

In Moscow awaited them the old drab every-day. Her father had been dismissed from his directorship of the museum by the imperial minister. He, nevertheless, doggedly worked on at no pay. Finally in 1912, a couple of months before Ariadne's birth, the museum opened in the presence of Emperor Nikolas II. Having witnessed Marina's happiness and Ariadne's birth he died in September 1913 a broken man. In this winter Marina and Seryozha fled to Feodosia where Asya, her newly acquired husband and a little daughter had settled.

The Efrons moved into an apartment of their own in Moscow
on 6 Borisoglebsky Lane. The big house with all its memories stood empty. The end of their childhood....