I am way into this…
She wants to go on my journey with me. I hate the word journey and normally hate people who use it, but I love this woman. How could I not?
Thank you so much for getting back to me - and for being open to talking about your relationship with my father.
Yes, narratives… It’s impossible not to create them, at least for me. I’m not even sure if I do it because it’s easier to process or organize information. I think it’s just a habit, though I’m not sure it’s a good one. Narratives complicate things. I’m trying to approach learning more about my parents as openly as possible, but it’s hard.
I’m not sure why my sister thought you were involved with my father either—I haven’t discussed it with her recently and it doesn’t seem worth going over again, but it really is strange. I appreciate you handling the fact that I emailed you out of nowhere to ask you about something you didn’t actually do so gracefully.
I’m really interested to know more about the rumors after his death - I’m not sure what you mean by “He must have told your sister this, because after the car accident there were a lot of rumors in the expatriate community in Kiev and my sexual orientation was part of the gossip.” I hate to think that my sister contributed to negative gossip about you - either about your sexuality or about the relationship that you actually didn’t have with my father. As you probably figured out from my father, our family was super liberal, so the idea of my sister having negative feelings about your being gay is surprising, and frustrating. I’m so sorry if you had to deal with shit.
It’s so interesting for me to hear about your experiences with my father. It makes me happy to think of my father being so cool with you, but it’s a little confusing. As I mentioned, we had a difficult relationship, and when I say difficult, I mean bad. One of the narratives that I’m trying to revise, or abandon, as an adult, is that because my father wasn’t a very good father to me (and he wasn’t) he wasn’t a very good man. But that isn’t true. He was a fascinating person, and he was very good to some people, and very good to Ukraine. For a long time, I literally could not compute information about him that didn’t fit my experience, but now I appreciate learning things that contradict what I decided was true. My experience was true for me, but that doesn’t mean other people’s experiences weren’t true as well. Now that I’m an adult, I understand how people really can be deeply different depending on who they’re with or on their environment.
Anyway, one of the things I’m trying to figure out is *why* my father was so bad with me - if he wasn’t universally like that, why did he have such a temper with his daughter? My current theory is this: I know my parents had a son who died between my sister and I, and I think that my father, good person though he was, was not only devastated and infuriated by that, but was kind of disappointed that he didn’t have another son.
As for the art…we still have it! It’s all in a storage unit in Boston. Every once in a while my aunt talks about exhibiting it, or trying to donate it, but she’s never had time to act on the impulse.
I’m trying to come up with some actual questions for you, but I think I’m both a) too jet lagged to think or write straight and b) overwhelmed by all the things I could ask you. I guess I’d like to know about the rumors, as I mentioned, and if my father was happy. I know the latter question might be impossible for you to answer.
Thank you again for being so open to talking to me. Sorry if this email is all over the place. I’m literally about to curl up on a bed of noodles and sleep for a day.
You speak of jet lag…did you just arrive in Shanghai or are you returning? What is it you like about China?
Don’t worry about asking too many questions, or about how they are formulated. I think it’s brave and worthwhile to try and piece together childhood experiences that cast a shadow on adulthood and I want to go on that journey with you.
> I guess I’d like to know about the rumors and if my father was happy.
When revisiting things in the past it’s very difficult to separate fact from interpretation. I will consciously try to flag what I know to be fact and indicate what is my take on things.
Most rumors following your dad’s car crash related to the cause of death. Was it an accident or was it an assassination? While this might sound rather crazy, it needs to be seen in the context of Ukraine in the 1990s. Economic transactions were totally unregulated and organized crime was consolidating its hold on business. At the time a number of prominent businessmen had been killed in Russia and Ukraine. So the rumors were that because your father was influential, both in his role with the Central Bank, and as the head of the Ukraine Fund, he must have had powerful enemies. He sometimes talked about the companies he was considering investing in. There were a number of enterprises that were offshoots of the Soviet military industrial complex. While these projects were technically quite fascinating, I recall that he avoided them, preferring to work with entrepreneurs involved in simple, bread and butter businesses, who were not connected in this way.
I never saw or heard anything related to his business dealings at the Bank or the venture fund that suggested he had enemies or was afraid of something. For me the accident was just that. Traveling at night was risky because the roads were poorly lit, not properly maintained. Add to that Soviet vehicles with bald tires and worn out mechanics, and the likelihood of a serious accident is high. Why was he traveling back to Kiev so late at night? I think he, the driver, and the two others just wanted to get home. Hotels were awful at the time, and they were tired after their business trip. It makes me so sad to think that the decision to drive home had such terrible consequences.
The other source of gossip was why I was living with him. Most people did not know this, and found out after the accident. In fact, some people expressed condolences to me in a manner that suggested I must be grieving my lover. I did not always spell things out for them because they meant well, and it sometimes seemed socially crass. I guess that might have perpetuated the story.
Regarding what he told your sister. She was coming to visit, and I know that he was a bit worried about what she would think of me living at his apartment. I saw a kind of furtiveness that made him seem somehow vulnerable and innocent. He told me that he had told your sister about me being gay, which I was mildly upset about, but it didn’t seem to matter that much. I really don’t think that she had any negative feelings about homosexuality. And she was not at the source of any rumors, as far as I know.
Regarding your sister’s and her take on things during her brief visit to Kiev. I think her instinct was correct if she felt that your father was attracted to me. This takes us to the tricky issue of how to define “affair” and “infidelity”. I think that your father was attracted to the vitality and optimism that comes with youth. There may also have been that desire that comes from wanting something that is not available. In my later twenties and thirties life dealt me some blows, but at 24 I was riding high and that was magnetic.
I think she must also have sensed an easy complicity, which is usually associated with couples. But in our case it was because we were good friends who had spent time together. You ask if your dad was happy. I don’t know if that question has an answer. Am I happy? Are you happy? Life is such a mixed bag of small and big joys as well as frustrations and disappointments that come in different guises. I think that your dad was really good at setting aside worries and really enjoying the moment. That is a really great quality.
I think I’ll sign off for now.