Poet's chilling Soviet diary
Victoria Fyodorova is as American as apple pie -- and at the same time as Russian as pelmeny mashenka.m This beautiful Russian actress became famous in the United States in 1975 when she came here to search for her naval officer father, who had been expelled from wartime Moscow just prior to her birth. Victoria's mother had been jailed for treason, then released to care for her daughter nine years later, after the death of Stalin. Victoria found her father, then stayed on, and married Frederick Pouy, a Pan Am airline pilot. They have one son and live in suburban Connecticut.Skip to next paragraph
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Now Mrs. Pouy and her husband are lunching at New York's famous Russian Tea Room. They are in town to help promote one of the "World" series, "Yulya's Diary" (PBS, Tuesday, 9-10 p.m., check local listing for premiere and repeats). It is a dramatized documentary about Leningrad's "second culture," more particularly a poet named Yulya Voznesenskaya.
The interviewer suggests that Victoria Fyodorova choose her favorite Russian dish and she orders pelmeny mashenka,m which she explains is chopped ham and veal dumplings in a broth with dill and mustard sauce and a side order of sour cream. This tall, slim, blond beauty is dressed like a stylish young suburban housewife in mauve plaid skirt, cowl-necked sweater, and navy blue blazer. She looks a little like a combination of the vivacious Melina Mercouri and the cool Dina Merrill.
As we wait for the order to be served in the upstairs room of this balletomane's hangout next door to Carnegie Hall, Victoria explains that she has had no trouble adjusting to American food and the American lifestyle," she says meaningfully and launches into an all-out defense of American democracy vs. Russian communism.
"All the time in Russia they show in progapanda how bad the whole thing is in America. They show the worst areas with windows broken and people on the sidewalks. They don't show that your city has beautiful houses and beautiful restaurants. Only the worst.
"I really feel strongly about this country. I love it and appreciate a lot what you just take for granted. I would like to do something for this society, try somehow to reach people and participate, not just be a watcher. That's why I am acting in this television show."
"Yulya's Diary," in which actress Fyodorova plays the role of the Russian poet, features many actual members of Russia's so-called "second culture" -- poets, writers, artists, musicians whose work cannot get published because it isn't "properly" politically partisan. The role doesn't give Victoria much of a chance to emote, but nevertheless she emanates strength and character on screen, just as she does in person. The one-hour program, even in its slightly disjointed form, presents a shocking picture of the restraints on artistic freedom that exist in Russia today -- with seemingly little hope for improvement in the future. Much of the content is smuggled film and most of the dialogue is straight from the pages of the real "Yulya's Diary."
"Every poet has a right to contact his readers," the poet writes. "I and my friends will go on demanding that right." However, in the film's shattering climax, it is revealed that Yulya has now been released from prison and has applied to leave for the West.
Victoria Fyodorova believes that the TV show is important because too many people in America do not realize how unpleasant and hopeless life is in Eastern Europe. She worries about the possibility of an American shift to the left. "It would be disastrous. America is the strongest society in the world, and you must be the leader. You just cannot give up that leadership because if you do, all the countries around you will go to pieces. Then the other side will pick up the pieces and build another society, their society. We are going in the wrong direction. We must show that we are strong. Why are other countries always taking advantage of America? Because we are too liberal. We are too polite. We are a very civilized country. But we should not take it any more. . . ."
Husband Frederick Pouy breaks in smilingly: "As you can see, Vickie is very independent. Her mother is visiting us now, and she walks around with her hands over her ears because she is frightened when her daughter talks politics so openly. Vickie would like a return to the czarist days. I jokingly said to her the other day that her politics have become only slightly to the left of Ivan the Terrible. She is a very much independent-minded. She has strong feelings. And she wants to try to awaken the American spirit much in the way of Solzhenitsyn. . . ."