The International Club located on Rose Luxembourg Street, which is now called Bunin Street, back in the Soviet times used to be the only place where foreign language students from Odessa National University could actually talk to a living foreigner. There they could practise their English, German, French – every language they put a lot of effort into studying at the Deparment of Germanic and Romance Studies. It is needless to say that most foreign language students were female – male language students could, of course, practise their language skills at the Club as well; but it is common knowledge one does not really see a lot of male language students around.
One could meet people of very different calibers from around the world at the Club, to be more precise, there were all sorts of foreigners there, but these people of varied ethnic backgrounds and employment records could really feel at ease at the Club, almost as if they were at home. Everyone spoke their language there, and what’s more, they could get a drink at the bar paying for it with dollars, pounds and marks. All of this was a luxury to the Soviet people. The other Club members mostly included local seamen, natatorials, as they were called in Odessa. The very idea behind creating the International Club was to provide a space that would serve as a place where seamen could spend their free time on the shore while the vessels they were working on were being loaded. The main point was to keep them off the streets and gather them in a place where well-off seafarers didn't have any chances of making a lasting impression on average Soviet citizens. Of course, ordinary tourists stopped by the International Club once in a while as well, since the simple task of getting by both in Odessa and in the Soviet reality overall was quite tricky back then. Frankly speaking, even nowadays we don't really have any English signs out there in the streets, let alone the past times, but at least the percentage of English-speaking people you can talk to in the streets is much higher than it used to be in the 60s.
The female language students came to the InterClub in gaggles or in pairs, but never alone. That was easy to understand. First of all, young women coming to the club for a chance to meet men there might seem like a rather ambiguous situation. I was about to write «it was their own initiative» but soon found myself having second thoughts – this initiative came from the university staff. That is, young ladies were kindly requested to visit the Interclub, with these visits becoming their regular routine, not less than twice a week. The club, of course, could not serve as a place to get international contacts, or, God forbid, as a place to search for a foreign husband. The main purpose of this was, as I had already said, language practice. In order to be able to visit the InterClub these young women had to take two exams – a language exam and a political exam, which tested their knowledge of the current political situation. They were supposed to be worthy representatives of the Soviet Homeland when communicating with capitalist sharks, or better, dolphins. Or bullheads. The carps of capitalism.
There were many seamen who had previously visited Odessa during their journeys. But sometimes there were newcomers who were visiting our city for the first time. Everything seemed new and interesting to them.
It was precisely two of this kind, non-catatonic foreign tourists that my mother met in June 1968, having successfully completed her academic year at the university. One warm summer evening my Mum and her friend dropped in the familiar place in the Rose Luxembourg Street. Taking a left turn under the arch of the Philharmonic building, which was once built by an outstanding Italian architect Bernardazzi and was originally meant to become a stock exchange building – taking a left turn one could find a beautiful wooden door. Upon entering, a Soviet citizen could find himself in the world completely different from the usual Soviet reality. Wide marble stairs led to the first floor, to a huge ballroom with high ceilings decorated by timber beams. Special tables were allocated for the arrival of foreign guests; these tables were tapped and the person listening to all this chatter in the quiet of his office was no other but the director of the InterClub. He was, of course, a KGB agent and had a very exotic surname for a Soviet citizen. His surname was Mariosabia. Clearly, my mother and her friend had no idea about any of this so their mood couldn't have been better when they entered the InterClub. The huge ballroom revealed an enormous bar counter of the latest fashions where one could buy luxuries which were otherwise completely out of reach for the Soviets. These luxuries were foreign cigarettes and alcohol. The room next to the ballroom was a library where one could not only find rare books in English but also hide from prying eyes– unfortunately however, one couldn’t hide not from prying ears there.
Meetings with foreign guests were organized as evenings of friendship. When a German vessel called at the port – the evening of Soviet-German friendship was held. When it was an Indian vessel, and this happened quite a lot – the evening of Soviet-Indian friendship followed. This time, however, it was the evening of Soviet-British friendship because a big British passenger liner had been moored to the pier of Odessa Port.
The students were the main “cheerleaders” of the friendship evenings. These young ladies were the best at their studies, sports and the Komsomol. My mother was one of them. The young females, though sometimes there were males as well, were usually putting on a small show where they were singing, dancing and acting all with the single purpose of making new foreign friends. After this warm-up all the people in the Club split up into groups and went on chatting at their tables.
That evening the club was loud and crowded. After saying hello to some people she knew, my mother looked around the ballroom. Two very young men drew her attention – they looked exotic even for foreigners. More than exotic – they looked provocative and eccentric at the same time. Both had long bushy hair, side whiskers and small beards. One of them was wearing a blue pinstriped jacket that was paired with a white turtleneck and brown flare leg velvets. The other one was flaunting a yellow jacket, a blue shirt with a turndown collar and flare leg jeans. Of course my mother knew what rock stars looked like – the Beatles photos were worshipped by all foreign language students, and their songs were an absolute must for everyone to listen to – and my mother had already been listening to the Beatles tape reels since 1964. But these two looked too eccentric even for rock stars. My mother's thought process was interrupted by Nolik – a komsomol cheerleader acting as the creative manager of the friendship evenings. In Odessa Nolik was a common short name for Arnold, Nyuma meant Naum, Dodik meant David. These were the great times when even komsorgs* in Odessa were Jewish.
– Sveta, it's time to get ready for your performance.
That evening my mother was performing her signature song – «Strangers in the night» by Frank Sinatra. Her song was the last number of the warm-up. Her bun hairstyle a la Babette, her short blue dress – my mother had all eyes fixed on her. Suddenly, one of the two eccentric men came up to her and started to sing together with her in the microphone. She was stunned. His voice was so rich and strong that it was not clear who was the main singer. The audience burst into ecstatic applause and everyone was asking for an encore performance.
– Let's sing Love Letters in the Sand by Pat Boone? – my mother asked.
– With pleasure! – the young man replied.
And again there was a round of mad applause.
After singing the last song the young man took several bows, then took my mother's hand and led her to his table. My mother was at a loss for some time, but managed to hide it and threw a glance at Lyuba asking her to join them. The other young man was standing at the table and looking at my mum with a smile. Both Englishmen looked surprisingly alike – to be completely honest, however, the latter seemed to be older and more imposing.
– Svetlana, – my mother said stretching out her hand. Back in those days only really decisive and emancipated young women had the courage to stretch out their hands for a handshake.
– Barry, – answered the young man.– And this is my brother Robin – he said pointing at my mother's admirer, who proved to be such a wonderful singer a minute ago. Robin shook my mother's hand and looked her in the eyes.
My mother blushed a bit and pointed at her friend conveniently making her way to the table:
– And this is my friend Lyuba.
Then it was Lyuba's turn to blush.
– Would you like some coffee? – my mother suggested.
– We'd love to, – the brothers replied in unison. Several minutes later Robin brought everyone coffee, took a seat next to my mother and looked her in the eyes again smiling.
– You look quite eccentric for an Englishman, – my mother said.
– We are not real Englishmen. We were born on the island of Man, then our family went to Australia. Came back to England only one and a half year ago, – Barry said. Came back to kick start our music career.
And then something incredible happened. Barry and Robin announced that they were not ordinary musicians, they were musicians famous all over the world. They are recording their new album now, their sixth album, and they want to name it Masterpeace as a pun bearing two meanings a masterpiece and peace. They are constantly having musical arguments since each of them believes to be the boss, and their different musical tastes cause frequent confrontations. Their producer keeps demanding new songs and they record a new album every six months. To top it all, they have been singing since childhood when they started together with their dad and now find themselves quite exhausted and ready for a break after a decade of singing. So therefore they have decided to go on a cruise in the Mediterranean and Black Seas to unwind and find new ideas. And here they were – in Odessa, stuck on board of their cruise liner for whole three days.
My mother has of course met quite different foreigners in the International Club – captains, businessmen, possibly even millionaires. But meeting somebody capable of such profound lies– this happened for the first time. Lyuba and she smiled at each other and gave each other gentle pushes under the table when they heard of yet another twist of fortune or recent music awards.
– How old are you really, world-renowned musicians?– my mother asked.
– I am almost twenty two, I am the elder brother, – Barry said. – Robin is three years younger than me. And Robin has a twin brother Maurice. He was born thirty five minutes later than Robin. He is also a member of our band.
– And what’s your band’s name?– my mother asked giggling.
– «Bee Gees». We are Gibb brothers. Therefore the name.
– Never heard of you! – my mother and Lyuba spluttered with laughter. – We listen to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, but Bee Gees – never even heard the name.
It was pretty obvious. The guys have decided to master their pick-up skills with gullible Soviet girls counting on the Iron Curtain and the fact that there is absolutely no information from the West and therefore no chance to check if their stories are really true.
The reality, however, proved to be different. My Mom was the daughter of an officer, a colonel, who was about to become a general. Moreover, she passed her political exam with flying colours. That's why she firmly refused the young men's rather persistant attempts to walk them home. But then she took pity on them and agreed to show them around Odessa the following day.
Back at those times it was prohibited for Soviet citizens to walk around the city with foreigners. But nothing is impossible for an intelligent person. A good brain is known to help in both cases – when one needs to solve problems and foresee them as well. When my mother was in her second year of college, she took a course in tour guiding in Intourist, which back then was located in the famous Krasnaya hotel. Now she was able to walk around the city centre with foreigners all she wanted.
The following day they met near the statue of Duke. My mother and Lyuba even had to skip some classes to make it to the meeting. Robin and Barry were looking even more exotic, obviously having decided to completely win the hearts of the two young women. Barry was wearing an anti-flash white suit with a pink shirt and a burgundy tie, and Robin – a white and dark blue striped suit with a yellow shirt and a beige neck scarf. Every passer-by couldn't help staring at this unusual four, which really stood out against the plain background of quiet every day Soviet fashion.
– Would you like me to tell you about our city? – my mother suggested enthusiastically.
– We have been waiting for this tour since morning! – Robin smiled and took my mother's arm.
– So let's start right here – the Primorsky Boulevard, my mother said and turned to the building of Duma, which then hosted the City Council.
At those times the Primorsky Boulevard was called the Captain's Bridge – retired captains and officers came to the building of the Palace of Seamen and afterwards spent hours sitting on the nearby benches telling each other and everybody else stories about their voyages, stories that were sometimes true and sometimes not so much… My mother together with Lyuba and the guys passed one of such groups on a bench where a fit grey-haired captain in a beautiful uniform was telling his story in a loud voice: «It happened when we were going from Norway to Finland…»
– I don't know why but I've always wanted to visit Finland – my mother said to Robin.
– It's difficult to understand this dream – Robin answered. That's a cold boring country.
– So what! – my mother tossed her head. – I want to go there!
Robin blushed. My mother blushed too.
– Well, let me tell you about Odessa – my mother said breaking the awkward silence, which was getting too long. The Londonskaya Hotel to the right of us boasts such guests as Wladimir Mayakovsky, Isedora Duncan, George Simenon, Louis Aragon, Anton Chekhov, and Robert Lewis Stevenson…
My Mum was rambling on enthusiastically, the brothers were watching her with admiration, and all around them the air was full of that special kind of Odessa weather, which can only be possible in June and at the beginning of September, when it is «a bit hot and unbelievably pleasant». Then they counted the Potemkin Stairs together, going down to the City Port, which didn’t use to have that ugly hotel back then, with a steamship waiting at the pier, the same steamship, which had had the brothers onboard on their way to Odessa… They took the escalator upstairs, made a turn towards the Vorontsov Palace, and then did the «Golden Triangle » tour – made it through the Krasnoflotsky Lane to the Potemkin Square and then via Carl Marx Street and Lastochkin Street to the Opera House. My mother told the brothers about the great history of Odessa, about its famous mayors… When the story came to Vorontsov, the brothers lightened up – their address in London was not far from the street named after the father of our general governor, Semen Romanovich. Overall, my mother boasted both erudition and excellent English skills. It must have been her love for Odessa that later on led her to her future job in the Local Heritage Museum…When they arrived to the building of the Opera House, Barry and Robin suddenly invited them to join them for the evening at the theatre and rushed to the box office without waiting for their answers.
Lyuba and my Mom hurried to catch up with them in order to help communicate with a box office assistant. It seemed embarrassing, simply impossible to say no. So the evening ended up with my mum watching the Swanlake once again, with Barry and Robin watching her…Later that evening, after the young people had a walk along Pushkinskaya and Deribasovskaya, they got tired and sat down on a bench in the City Garden for a short rest, it was then when all of the sudden Barry and Robin started to sing. It was much later, many years later, that my mother found out that they were singing their famous song «Words», but back then, Lyuba and she got really scared and asked the brothers to sing not so loudly – they were surrounded with Soviet people, militia, the KGB, which never sleeps – their all-seeing agents were everywhere, and my mother had no intention of explaining what they were doing there in the company of suspicious foreigners. The brothers were surprised and even looked offended by this, but stopped singing nonetheless. They invited the girls to visit their steamship, to look at their cabin – in order to get some rest before the Opera House. My Mom almost choked when she heard the brothers being so cheeky and was determined to head for the trolley-bus stop together with Lyuba, but Robin dropped to his knees, said he was sorry, smiled and kissed her hand. And then he suggested going back to the Duke and waiting for a bit while his brother and he go down to their ship and bring the girls their records. Curiosity beat common sense and there they were – near the Duke, waiting for the brothers to bring them two records – generosity unheard of at the time, two records, one for each of them! My mother got the album «Bee Gees' 1st», Lyuba– «Horizontal». Having seen Barry and Robin's photos on the cover of the records, the girls got excited. They didn't let it show, obviously, but the very thought of walking around Odessa with rock stars from abroad made their hearts beat faster. But they had to keep the standard flying. And in order to do that, they needed a snack.
It is a thankless job to compare restaurants and cafes in Odessa back then and now. These days we have gastronomic tours specializing in Odessa cuisine, and back then…Fortunately, some time before our events happened, a cafe named Crimson Sails had been opened at the corner of Deribasovkaya and Karl Marx streets. It immediately got the reputation of being a place for young people and students thought it was hypercool to take a walk along “Deriba” followed by a visit to the Sails and Lakomka opposite, which had brand new shining shopping windows – a novelty unheard of at the time.
It wasn’t so easy to find a table. It was obvious that the party attracted a lot of attention – Barry and Robin’s faces and clothes were too untypical for Soviets. My Mum didn't feel like paying any attention to the staring looks of people nearby, and she started to tell the guys about the new book she was reading – a Herman Melville novel Moby Dick, which they have been recently studying at her World Literature class. My mother told the brothers about a crazy captain Ahab and his evil dusky phantoms led by a Parsee Fedallah; about a poor mad boy Pip, who jumped overboard and had to spend the night in the sea holding on to a floating barrel; about the captain of Rachel ship, who lost his son hunting for Moby Dick; and Ishmael who miraculously survived, because he was able to float thanks to a coffin, which had been made in advance by his friend, a harpooner Queequeg…
The time flew by. It was getting darker. It was time to go to the theatre. For quite a long time Barry and Robin were sincerely admiring our Opera House, the creation of talented multi-tasking Vienna-based architects Fellner and Helmer, who ended up creating an entire concern specializing in building opera houses in Europe. During the interval they had coffee with cakes, talked about trifles and then my mother asked about the new album's release date.
– We recently left New York where we recorded several songs, said Barry. It seems like our album will be a double one. We will finish recording it at home, in London. We need to hurry up – Stigwood is getting nervous, as always. Our producer.
After the Swan Lake Barry and Robin decided to walk the girls to the trolley-bus stop. Number 10, whose final stop was then at the Martinovskogo Square, came quite quickly. Everybody felt sorry to say goodbye to each other after such an interesting day, but tomorrow meant exams and home meant parents. The brothers asked to walk the girls home again.
– How are you going to get back to your ship? What if you get lost? Trolley-bus drivers do not speak English, my mother said. Plus bus stops are not far from our homes now. I remember earlier, before my dad got this apartment, we had been renting two rooms in a house; its owners had a giant German Shepherd that they unleashed for the night. It was then that I was terribly afraid of returning home late at night. Finally this dog jumped over the fence once and ran away never to be found again. Now I remember it as a real nightmare.
– When are we going to see each other again? – Robin asked my Mum. – Tomorrow our ship is leaving for Istanbul…
– We’ll try to be the first ones to take our exam tomorrow and then come to the Duke at twelve. Deal?
– Deal! – Svetlana, can I kiss you?
– Just like that? – my mother gave him a sheepish smile.
– Like that! As a sign of friendship between England and the Soviet Union! – Robin smiled and kissed my mother no longer waiting for her permission.
I won't be telling about what my mother got to hear from my grandma – the thing is that my mother couldn't exactly warn my grandma that she was going to be home late – there was simply no such luxury as a landline telephone line in our apartments back then. Fortunately, my granddad came to my mum's rescue – he was the one who got to hear her elated story about the English musicians while examining the record with their signatures in his hands and later told my mother to go to bed without uttering a word about the possible consequences of his daughter hanging out with foreigners in case this information reached the Artillery college where he worked as a lecturer.
It was only my mum who showed up at the Duke's monument the following day – Lyuba had to stay at the university. Barry came alone with a huge packet in his hands. He was noticeably nervous. My mother was nervous, too. They both understood that this was the last time they were seeing each other. The Iron Curtain wouldn't be over for more than twenty something years…
– And where is Robin? – my mother asked.
– We had a small argument. He didn't let me sleep the entire night. You see… He wanted to tell you he loves you and stay here in Odessa but I am strongly against it – he is engaged, the wedding date is set for this August, and I promised Molly, his fiancee, to keep an eye on him during this cruise. So after having a row I left him in our cabin. At the end of the day, I am his big brother – Barry said with a smile.
– Robin asked me to give you this – Barry got out a paper cut-out shaped as a heart from the pocket of his jacket. This Valentive card is for you, Svetlana. We give such Valentine cards for St. Valentine's Day. We give them to the people we love with all our heart. And even though we are six months ahead of February, 16, Robin still asked me to give you this card to express his feelings.
My mother blushed.
– And I… I want to give you a surprise gift. Your story about Moby Dick and the sailors of Pequod was so interesting…Just before the cruise, in England, we bought the exact replica of a walrus tusk with an engraving – this sort of thing was very popular with the whale hunters. You can see this writing – “Whaling bark “Veronika”, 1837”. This is for you, Svetlana.
The tusk wasn't small at all – nineteen inches, almost half a metre. Fortunately, the brothers were cautious enough to think of wrapping it with thick paper.
It was time to say goodbye. Barry gave my mother an embarrassing kiss on the cheek and she hugged him.
– I will write to you, – Barry said. Give me your address.
My mother tore a sheet of paper from her notebook on Modern English Literature and wrote her address. Barry folded the sheet and put it in the pocket of his jacket.
– It's time for you to go, – my mother said. The steamship will not be waiting for you.
When Barry left, she unfolded the Valentine card. «I leave, but my heart stays in Odessa. Robin Gibb» – this is what it said.
One month later a letter from England arrived to my mother's home address. The envelope revealed that the letter had been opened and resealed. Another month later my grandfather was summoned to the director of his college; he was told that he could forget all about becoming a general, a title my grandfather had been expecting to get. The reason for this was that a general's daughter cannot write letters to citizens of anti-Soviet capitalistic countries. He also advised him to have a serious talk with his daughter.
My mum never told me about what was in the letter. Very soon she met my dad, and I was born one year later. But before that one very important event had occurred.
The very beginning of the new year 1969 saw the release of a double album «Bee Gees» first in the USA, and then in England. Many critics still consider this album to be the best and the most underrated album of the band. The album cover was very simple – a plain red background had big white letters that said : «BEE GEES. ODESSA». The title song of the album was called «Odessa (city on the Black Sea)». Interesting? It gets even more interesting. Hundreds of brothers’ Gibb fans were trying to solve the riddle and decode the lyrics. Here is the text of the song:
«14th of February, 1899
The British ship «Veronika» was lost without a sign
Black sheep you haven't any wool
Captain Richardson left himself a lonely wife in Hull
Cherub, I lost a ship in the Baltic sea
I am on an iceberg running free,
Sitting, filing this berg to the shape of a ship;
Sailing my way back to your lips.
One passing ship gave word that you have moved out of your old flat
You love the Vicar more than words can say
Ask him to pray that I won't melt away
And I'll see your face again
Odessa, how strong am I?
Odessa, how time goes by!
Treasure, you know the neighbours that live next door
They haven't got their dog anymore
Freezing, sailing around in the North Atlantic
Can't seem to leave the sea anymore
I just can't understand why you just moved to Finland
You love that Vicar more than words can say
Ask him to pray that I won't melt away
And I'll see your face again
Odessa, how strong am I?
Odessa, how time goes by!
14th of February, 1899
The British ship «Veronika» was lost without a sign».
After a great deal of attempts to decode the lyrics of the song both critics and fans concluded that the text, as well as the entire album, is psychodelic, and therefore has no meaning. There were only several people in England and in Odessa who knew the story behind the song. It was Robin who first insisted on the name Masterpeace and later came up with the name ODESSA for this album, and even more than that, he was also singing the title song. The main part of the text and the talking words of the refrain: «Odessa, how strong am I? Odessa, how time goes by! » were actually written by Robin. His fight with himself ended up the way it was supposed to end up– he married Molly Hullis, with whom he had two children; they separated eleven years later, in 1980. The words about the English captain of «Veronica» ship who lost his ship and was on the iceberg with a broken heart now become absolutely clear. As well as the words about the neighbours who no longer have the dog; the words about Finland… The date itself, the fourteenth of February, which is both at the beginning and at the end of the song, doesn’t leave any questions.
In fact, the names of other songs in this album were also «talking»: «You'll never see my face again», «Sound of love», «Never say never again». Should it be mentioned that already in March a parcel from London arrived in Odessa, a parcel that contained this album with a deluxe velour cover and a new letter, this time from Barry? In the letter he confessed that the argument they had had with Robin in Odessa had far-reaching consequences – Robin left the band and even started a solo career. Barry and the second twin brother Maurice decided not to give up and were also recording a new album – «Cucumber Ñastle». The other information in the letter remains a secret as my father insisted that my mother should tear the letter apart. Fortunately, I still have the disk, – at first we had nothing to play it on, but my parents made an effort and bought a radiogram «Rigonda», and then our «Accord». At the time it was «the bomb». But the bigger bomb was the «Bee Gees» album that was so different from «Melody» records…
A famous Odessa melomaniac Alexander Pikersgil, who made a handmade stereosystem with a radiogram and speakers, the sound quality of which was unrivalled all over the Soviet Union at the time and who had been offered a «Volga» in exchange for his system – an event unheard of at the time, found out through Vitya Stadnichenko about my mother's records and begged her to lend it to him for a couple of days. This was how the people of Odessa, who gathered at the weekend under his windows at the corner of Schepkin and Peter the Great streets and listened to jazz and to then popular Ray Conniff from the speakers that he had been putting directly on the window sills, heard the music of “Bee Gees” for the first time.
Then my mother, acting under the urging of my father, wrote a letter to the brothers telling them about everything and asking them not to write back. Did it reach the brothers? The question remains unanswered; letters from the Soviet Union often got lost on the way to addressees in capitalistic countries. Well, for better or for worse, there were no more letters from London; as for Barry, he got married for the second time – this time his wife was «Miss Edinburgh» Linda Grey, together with whom they had five children.
My mother's friend Lyuba immigrated to Canada in the early 70s as part of the first wave of Jewish immigration; there she was able to listen to any records of any performers – we, on the contrary, went on to living in the same country which had the most readers in the world and where there was no sex as it turned out… Fortunately, not for everyone.
My mother had a lot on her plate in the following years so she couldn’t pay much attention to music– first it was my birth, then one year later – cholera outbreak in Odessa, she took me and flew to Severomorsk, located behind the Arctic circle, where my father served in the navy after graduating from the Polytechnic University. There she worked at the radio and had a chance to play “Bee Gees” during lunch breaks among other performers. To do this she used the reels brought from home; at the same time the Gibb brothers made up under the pressure from their producer Robert Stigwood and remained together ever since. The singles «Lonely Days» and «How Can You Mend A Broken Heart» released in 1971, became bestsellers and were sold in millions. Four years later «Bee Gees» changed their style and from rock musicians turned into disco icons. And this was when Robin showed his best – it was his special, a bit vibrating, falsetto that became their trademark sound. Even now, thirty five years later, we still listen to their famous songs «Stayin' Alive», «How Deep Is Your Love» è «More Than a Woman» from the film «Saturday Night Fever» with John Travolta in the leading role.
There were many more new albums and new hits – until 2003, when the youngest band member Maurice Gibb,who had been born thirty five minutes later than his twin brother Robin, died. At the end of 2009 Barry and Robin announced about the revival of the band, but they didn't record anything new. And they will never be able to – Robin Gibb died in London in May 2012. He was only sixty two …
The mysterious song «Odessa (city on the Black Sea)» was attracting everyone’s attention, as well as the entire “Odessa” album, for quite a long time. It was released multiple times in different countries – the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Canada, Japan. This album has been released on CDs since 1983, but vinyl lovers cannot complain – not long ago, in 2009, the album was released again on a vinyl record as a deluxe gift edition that included a photo album.
As for me… I would be happy if I could listen now to the very same album that Barry sent to my mother. Alas, as my parents said, it was lost during one of our multiple moves out of one apartment and into the other at the end of the seventies – as well as the very first record that the Gibb brothers gave to my mom, and many others. I find comfort in the idea that I must have heard it back during those years – my parents often had guests over and played musical records using our “Accord”.
However, the walrus tusk, strange as it may seem, survived all our moves. As a child, I used to regularly and thoroughly examine it. Even now it is in front of me – one side of it has the words «THE BARK VERONICA. OUT OF NEW BEDFORD», the carvings of two birds and an emblem with stars and arrows; the other side – a silhouette of a beautiful young woman with the words «My Dear Kathleen», a wonderfully carved sailship with the caption «THE VERONICA», a pot with flowers on the table covered with a tablecloth and the date – 1849, and at the top, at the very top of the tusk – a five-pointed star.
* a komsorg – a Komsomol leader