The spiritual father of Yevgeny Yevtushenko: “Death is not the end, this is only the beginning”

They had known each other for 25 years. Recent years is very close. That is the American pastor Michael Morgulis in his small chapel in Florida came Yevgeny Yevtushenko with his last wife Maria. He told me to call before he died.

photo: From personal archive

Evgeny Evtushenko and Mikhail Morgulis.

“Sometimes I think that Jack is still with us, — said Mikhail Morgulis. Masha says that she always want to shout on the second floor of the house where they lived, “Jack, where are you?” And I find myself thinking that it is still waiting for his call: “Jane, when will you go to Moscow, may I go with you?” And the phone is silent.

Russian poet and a Protestant priest — what’s their connection?

Probably not a coincidence that we met during Easter week. Writer, philosopher, pastor Michael Morgulis flew in from America for the funeral of his friend Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Rather, they said goodbye to is still there, at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the poet spent his last years, but this was the official farewell, cold and proper, filled with beautiful words.

In Russia all differently — violently. Michael — Michael, as he seems to be on the phone, in the hall of the hotel came down in a simple black shirt. Comparing photos of them together, I notice that the 84-year-old Yevtushenko to the last was dressed like a dandy from the 60’s, colorful and festive. Especially the blazers.

“Yeah, Jack always called themselves pogacnik, but I rubashechka — smiles my interlocutor. — Actually I also love bright colors, and shirts I have about a hundred, just now mourning”.

Let’s go through the details, Yes. It was in America, so as not to confuse, people sometimes are so meticulous… the University of Tulsa I came into the civil service. With Yevtushenko said goodbye to his students, Professor, fellow teachers… I also said some words, turning to the portrait of Zhenya on the screen, because the coffin at the ceremony was not. And in the morning his wife Masha, I suggested that only nobody knew, went to the funeral home to see the dead Eugene, and to personally say goodbye to him. Without the press and other visitors: I, Mary, sons. I talked to him. Masha was standing next to. I began to read “our father” and the 22nd Psalm of David: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,/will fear No evil,/For Thou art with me;/Thy rod and Thy staff/They comfort me…” And at these words, Jack suddenly… sighed. His chest rose and fell. I thought I was hallucinating, but Mary said she saw and heard. So we realized that the soul Zhenya, apparently, waiting for some words of support from us to become free and fly off into the sky.

— Yevtushenko was a believer?

— No doubt. But how to count who is a believer or not? Sugars called himself an atheist, and lived by the laws of the Christian, so was Yevtushenko, he always behaved according to the highest moral standards. He never stopped loving people. Never… It was the most important, I think.

— How did you meet?

— It was 25 years ago on the street, on television. I then went on the “Return to God”, the first Christian program in the USSR. It’s hard to believe now, but the program was viewed by 70 million people. When I came to Moscow, I was often stopped by complete strangers, they all wanted to talk about faith and about God. And so I climb the stairs in the TV Studio, and Yevtushenko goes down. “Oh! he told me, clearly recognizing. You’re so popular now, Michael Morgulis”. “Do you think is it popular, — I replied. — Here you, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich, every dog in Russia knows”. He obviously have taken to heart my words, because he leaned over and almost ear whispered: “Try to often abused. In our country, the more cursing, the more glory.” It was the beginning of the 90s.

— And then what?

— After some time, he suddenly called and said that for some reason was often thinking about me. He admitted that he had read my essay, publish, and against the background of the hypocrisy of what is happening around, they liked him. So we all started. I felt he was friendly right off, talked about it and children, and his lovely wife Mary, after conversations with me, he seemed to have a brightened soul. Please, write about it, to not think that I am bragging.

— You can call him the Confessor the Confessor? Sorry for such a personal question, but our leaders from the Orthodox Church must pay attention to the fact that the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko spoke with a Protestant priest.

— I think that it doesn’t really matter. First of all, I was his friend. Yes, I have a spiritual title of pastor, there is a chapel in Florida, where I live, people go there with personal prayers. Importantly, people of different religions and nationalities. The other I’m not allowed, if you see that the person inside the evil. And sometimes there are miracles. For example, several years ago, came the grandson of Isaac Babel, Andrei, also my great friend, he was diagnosed with a serious illness, two weeks before the operation he asked for help, and I told him that before praying, we must believe — otherwise will not help. We prayed for several days, and the control showed significant improvement, the operation was cancelled.

— You told that in the early 90s, in his first visits to Moscow are often at odds with Raisa Gorbacheva.

Is Raisa argued with me. She said she looks at my program, she likes them, but not all agree with me. She was a serious scientist, doctor of philosophy. I explained to her that God is primarily love, but the first lady of the Soviet Union is categorically denied. So we parted not being reconciled. A call from Irina Mikhailovna them, Mikhail Sergeevich daughter, came in 1999, when Raisa died of leukemia in a German clinic. Irina gave the mother’s request. She was already unconscious. “Mom really asked you to pray about it.” I have just returned from the Caucasus, barely alive, but knelt beside the bed and fell asleep, only when I felt that Raisa will soon leave in peace and in the world. Much later I met Gorbachev, and he told me: “Michael, (I prefer to call it), one thing I was wondering: where is she now…”


I told him that her soul is in a good place because she deserved it.

— Tell me, Yevtushenko visited your chapel?

He was there with his wife Mary. I have photos of him with great concern and happiness considers the illustrations to the Bible, icons, that hang from me. I stroked him on the head. I loved him on the head to stroke. As a child. I tried to explain to him how I think myself that the most important is our confession to God is our life. What is important is what we do, not what we say. He knew that I was often working at night, and when he, too, couldn’t sleep, called. “Mike, nothing that I’m disturbing you?” “No, Jane,” he was always very delicate. One of our last conversations with him, and it was published after his death American and Russian media, who wrote about Yevtushenko, he said he would very much like to make between America and Russia has restored the trust relationship.

photo: Natalia Muslinkina
Mikhail Morgulis at the funeral of the poet.

But the stumbling block between us — Ukraine…

— Yes, he knew it, I told him that I was on the Maidan in Kiev and the Donbas, too, from there I brought the story of the murdered nurse from Makeyevka Ludmila Prokhorova. She didn’t do evil, she was just returning home when her insolently shot from a passing jeep, because lawlessness, war: “Pieces buried I/I — Prokhorova Lyudmila./Of the three jet machines/I got cut, broke…” was a concert in the Tchaikovsky Hall, the former Meyerhold theatre, I sat next to Boris Grebenshikov, and the one I remember, asked me who I am. I replied that it does not matter who we are on this earth, it is important who we will be in heaven. Eugene came out and started to read this poem, suddenly stopped, looked at me and said, “the Plot of this work gave me a priest and writer Mikhail Morgulis. It needs to be here.” And shouted into the hall: “Michael, where are you?” I had to go up. What Grebenshchikov said with a smile: “you see, all secret becomes obvious”.

— But he Yevtushenko in the Donbass weren’t. He knew about what was going on, only with your words?

— He was sick of what is happening. One of his books is called: “you Can still save.” It is about love between two people, about how easy it is to lose it, but if you look deeper, it is about what is happening to all of us: “Indifference is not revenge, We will destroy malice./Can still be saved, If both alive”. I kept saying to him: “Zhenya, you don’t have to leave, because after you’ll feel the void.” He promised to stay as long as you can. Recent years, he did incredible things, and published four volumes of poetic anthology of 800-900 pages each, where he gathered together all the poets living, dead, Soviet and emigrant…

— Probably, he felt his duty to the departed. He’s the last one left. The last of the sixties. The last of those who gathered. The last of the four. Christmas, Akhmadullina, Voznesensky, Yevtushenko. Punishment or gift, to relive all?

— All the more brilliant, perhaps, of their Quartet was Bella. It was the apotheosis of poetry, knowing how complicated things to Express complex language, but perfectly understandable. No, I’m wrong, and Yevtushenko — a poet of genius, stands, areal good angel that was given to Russia.

— For what?

— Just like that. For God there is no reason. Wants and gives. Performances Jack seemed to forget his poetry, and then hall told him his line. “River runs in the fog Ty,/Running it, enticing me…”

“Oh, gentlemen I it is enough,/But not love like my…” Well, your favorite what?

— “God forbid not to plunge into power/not to act fake And be rich — but not to steal, of Course, if it is possible”.

— “May God grant to your country/You are not kicked beetle-crusher,/God Forbid, that your wife/loved You even to the poor.”

— Katya, he wrote “your country, your wife,” but I know exactly what he was talking about himself. And yet whose songs went so wide in the people that were considered popular? Yes, he constantly remembered them four, most often bell. It was his pain. We, too, were familiar, and I noticed that, talking about Yevtushenko, she never called him by name, only as “he.” Perhaps she never forgave him for what couldn’t have children… I’m assuming this wine for Bella tormented him to the end. After all, he himself had five, five sons, one died — Peter, the second, Anton, however, is a serious disease, but Sasha, Zhenya and Dima all is well. Sasha and Zhenya read the poems of his father at the funeral, in Russian and in English, Jack read just like Yevtushenko, indistinguishable. The funeral came and his previous English wife Jen, mother of Anton and Sasha. Yes, Yevtushenko has always loved beautiful women and courted by many. Andrew Babel, Lida, among other things, told how too flirt with him, they drank champagne and went to ride on the car “Moskvich” turned upside down, both survived, not a scratch, this fact somehow got them to laugh till you drop. And home to poet all night put on your head gadgets, because from drinking a splitting headache, there can be no novel. When I reminded Yevtushenko about this story, he smiled: “Yes, Lida, Lida, do you remember her, of course.” By the way, here’s another love story. Shortly before his death in one of his old books Jack found the letter that had lain between the pages of fifty years. The writer is a woman apparently loved him very much… And he blamed himself for what so she didn’t answer. I put the letter in the book and immediately forgot about it. And the letter lay half a century… He asked me what he should do now. How to apologize? Because women that are long dead. I said that just to remember her, to stay well and love to think about it.

— Apparently, he trusted you.

— He’s in every conversation with me he told me something personal. I, too, in response, recalled, sitting in captivity in the Caucasus, worried that life was not talking about that… And it was about love. By the way, Yevtushenko liked my phrase: “Love and money is never enough”. As for the money, the one with Eugene there was a funny adventure. He, along with Andrei Bitov and editor in chief of one of the thick literary journals, whose name I do not remember, went to South Korea. They were invited to perform at the local University, but at the time, which was assigned to the concert, the mayor of Seoul was brought in to sway in the city with all the consequences. And both of our hero, except for Yevtushenko, a walk to Nightclubs agreed — who needs Russian poetry, who here still no one will understand, thought they, especially if you can break away for others? Yevtushenko refused to walk and one kept the whole room. Took him, however, enthusiastically. At the end of the organizers came and gave the fee, they say, Mr. Yevtushenko, we are ready to divide this amount by all the speakers, but since you were the one, then all the money is yours. All 15 thousand dollars. Neither more nor less. At that time it was a crazy amount! Fly back, all three in the plane, those head aching from the night’s excesses, and Yevtushenko cheerful and happy, but he couldn’t have told what happened.

— So he shared his money?

— I think not. After all, this is Eugene earned it. All to be honest. Although he admitted to them in vain, of course. Chief editor of the magazine, soldier and veteran is something else this revelation survived, but Bits of a lifetime offended. So sometimes, if you want to save the friendship, it is better to remain silent. In General, we often argued with Jack about what is true. Does she benefit? Needless to say it no matter what, or maybe a white lie is sometimes better? You can tell the scribbler how talented he is and the man still many years to live with an awareness of their uniqueness and die happy. Or to throw in the face of what I think, and kill. So choose. And Jack agreed with me. Sometimes better to remain silent. Any poet, and the common man too, in his old age becomes either very forgiving, or grouchy, caustic, and angry. I know that Jack chose the former, he forgave all, even forgave Brodsky for his betrayal and rudeness.

— Evtushenko regretted that unlike Brodsky did not become a Nobel laureate?

Maybe. After all, it was unfair. Best of all it said Anna Akhmatova, when Brodsky was on a plane to new York: “All I now about Joseph not worried. He was in good hands.” Understand what she was referring to his new patrons. But Yevtushenko was different. So when I propose to compare Brodsky and Yevtushenko, the level of talent they are difficult to put together. Jack was great. Brodsky — good, very talented poet, who at the right moment supported. His wife was hurt, of course, because he’s Joseph arranged a job for him back in the Union went to authorities to turn him released from prison. And the gratitude in all corners of new York said then that Yevtushenko — KGB agent.

— Maybe Brodsky and believed in it himself?

— You know, Yevtushenko is loved by millions, whereas Brodsky praised only a small part of the intellectuals. Yevtushenko was a poet and defenseless in his genius, by the way, I called one of his essays about it. Defenseless, because any goon could in the face and call him a shit, and Jack just didn’t know how to answer that.

Actually, emigre literary hangout, she cesspool?

— The people were different. Dovlatov, for example, was a wicked man, vindictive. One day we caught him of plagiarism. For one of the American edition he translated, or rather, completely rewrote the article about jazz famous Russian musicologist Yuri Dmitriev. And signed these publications themselves. I published the newspaper “Literary courier”, but to us it was inconvenient to expose Dovlatov himself, and so we came up with some old immigrant by the name Kulchitskaya-rice if she found out that the articles stolen. Published her open letter. Disgraced Dovlatov has promised to find and kill its offender. In the next issue we wrote that the way it happened… the Pen fell out of the weakening hands of the first Kulchitskaya-rays, but he was immediately picked up another Kulchitskaya-rice, sister of the deceased,… and continued exposing himself. Everyone who was aware of this hoax, was terribly fun, of course. Dovlatov also terribly angry. And then always wrote bad about me, loved to taunt the other, but your made-up image Bank. On Vasily Aksenov also got mad when he wrote that he “emigrant bytopisatel”.

— High relationship!

— Once we celebrated a birthday the same Dovlatov, Brodsky was, they, the people of Leningrad, always kept together, this St. Petersburg mafia. Sat at the table, Brodsky, all interrupting, Gerassimova: “Mr. Shaw, we are all about books and literature? Let’s get drunk!” So he was game. And Dovlatov portrayed the evil boy, the way in which all supported him, not knowing what he is and is not the image, but the essence. He was always in depression, said that he was tired of the priests to eat chicken — by-products, the cheapest American supermarkets. Staying near Brodsky, Dovlatov began with the expression to read his poem, and when we went out to the kitchen, he immediately said: “I can’t Stand his poetry’s so dull”. That’s all the local literary environment — in one eye, and the eye of the other. Envy, flattery.

— After Christmas, Akhmadullina, Voznesensky… Like to get in Wonderland. As Yevtushenko was able to fit into this world?

— He didn’t fit in. He was always alone among them.

— In the past year with great success, there was a movie based on the novel by Vasily Aksenov about the poet-sixties, and the prototype of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, played by Filipp Yankovsky, allegedly due to fear of the authorities did not go to Pasternak when the hunted after “Doctor Zhivago”, and not allowed him Akhmadulina.

— Maybe, but otherwise it was a good movie, I never saw that, maybe the creators of the series something for yourself is speculation, but if it was a shock. “Misha, how can you! I first went to Boris Leonidovich!” For him it was very sad and painful to see yourself on such a blatant lie.

— Maybe it’s not the writers? Maybe Feldman is invented?

I know that the relationship between Eugene and Vasily Pavlovich was very difficult. When he died the mother Aksenov, Yevgeny Ginsburg, she joined their hands over him and asked him, in spite of everything, to be together and be friends. I don’t know what’s between them and slipped when that they quarrel, something very personal… Bob actually was quite a difficult man, but brilliant.

— But Yevtushenko bequeathed to bury him right beside the grave of Boris Pasternak.

— Eugene very much wanted to lie in Peredelkino, but in Russia it turned out that the cemetery is saturated and for new burials need the order from the top. And suddenly it turns out that a bit of land there, and just a meter away from Boris Leonidovich. That was exactly what I dreamed of marrying.

— He knew he was dying?

Several years ago, amputated his right leg. Jack was lying on the operating table and asked Mary to recruit me: “Misha, I’m worried,” he admitted. To calm him down, then I opened one mystery — death is not interesting when her not afraid, she gets bored and she leaves. It takes only those who are afraid of her. “Calm down, Jack, and she’s leaving you”. And so it happened. At the time, his death was not touched.

— And 1 April 2017 — it is in fact it still took?

— So it was fate. An hour before his departure into eternity, we again talked on the phone. Mary turned on the speakerphone. Jack was lying in an oxygen mask and just listened. In parting, I told him that what is happening now with him, is not the end, this is just the beginning. And I think he understood me.