Voices from Russia

Monday, 3 May 2010

Valentina Tolkunova: Everything is Born of Love

Valentina Vasilevna Tolkunova (1946-2010), People’s Artist of Russia

In the 64th year of her life, in Moscow, People’s Artist of Russia Valentina Tolkunova went home to the Lord. A beautiful singer, she performed with a perception and intelligence, she was an amazingly beautiful woman. Today, let us remember her words. They are from various interviews, where Valentina Vasilevna talked about both homely and important matters.

On Faith

Every person has faith. Perhaps, it’s not so important how one comes to have faith in a higher power, it may be unspoken, or understood only internally, or seen only as a meditation on your life, but, at least, if you believe that you shouldn’t do evil… this is already a great thing. Right now, I am reading the memoirs of Yelizaveta Fyodrovna. Ella came to Russia from Germany to marry Prince Sergei, and, eventually, the Bolsheviks killed her. She adopted our faith, that is, the Orthodox faith, from being a Catholic {actually she was Lutheran: editor}, she took on our way of life, all because of love. Everything is born and comes from love, absolutely everything.

On Spiritual Revival

We will only have spiritual revival when everyone realises that they must attend to their souls. Learn spirituality. We should understand that we shouldn’t become like Europe or America, but if we wish to be saved, we must love our land. We mustn’t allow anyone to break it apart. Don’t assume that only politicians and governments can do something about it. If someone is a street cleaner, and if he sweeps them especially clean, that’s good for all of us! People will admire it… what a clean street we have today! Everyone can do their part to raise our homeland up from its knees. Then, Russia will recover and it will be the happiest, the most spiritual, and the most powerful country in the world.

On the Eternal and the Transitory

I think that the greatest mistake some people and societies make is that they believe that today is going to last forever… that they have everything in life, but in fact, this isn’t so. I faced the difficulties between parents and children described by Ivan Turgenev (not my own kids, those of foreign friends), and I concluded that there will always be conflict between the generations. Thanks to Turgenev, I realised that all natural things are eternal, and all man-made and artificial things are transitory.

As if in a kaleidoscope, with constantly shifting shapes and colours, we change modalities, forms of conversation, words, expressions, clothing, fashions, but our true feelings are unchanged. What do I mean? Well, for one, take our joy at the birth of a child, our love from which the child was born, the happiness of his first cry.

Once, in a hospital, I gave birth. I was wearing a dressing gown, a cap… then, everything started… Holding my breath, I observed as we get rid of this very delicate, but still very heavy burden, a woman gives birth to a new being, and the baby, for the first time, forces the air into its lungs, and cries because it breathed in the smell of life. My son was crying, and, every time, I started to cry after him. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t forget the significance of what happened, and this state, I remember.

Until the end of our days, we keep the taste of the first kiss, the first love, the first recognition, the first flowering, the first argument, and the first reconciliation… all these emotions are subtle properties that you never forget. Like a subtle masquerade, the world suddenly plunges us into completely different problems, and we, in turn, learn to hide our true feelings… whether of joy or of anxiety… of all that we call life.

A tribute video to Valentina Vasilevna… the singer is Ivan Ilichyov

I Hate Lies

Since I am principled, I hate lies. If I see injustice, I will not keep silent, and many do not like that. Indeed, my nature easily finds a common language with the angelic, but when something is hurtful, unpleasant, or shameful, I will speak up about it. To be honest, I’m glad I’m that way, because you need principles, you can’t simply blindly accept everything that the world offers you. Unfortunately, the world is sometimes unjust, and when I’m pushed to go against my conscience, I simply won’t do it.

About Love

Over 27 years of marriage, Yuri and I never tired of each other. We didn’t even think of infidelity. Sometimes, I think on how we would cope with that. The fact is, most often, after living a long time with someone, we think that we found out everything about them long ago, but this is an error. I am extremely open to Yura and I see new qualities in him, because, with time, he changes, he makes improvements, he doesn’t stand still. All the time, I search for an understanding of the nature of my husband, how, under such circumstances, can he become uninteresting to me?

You know, my grandma always said, “The most important thing is patience”. You should be able to show compassion to the person with whom you live. Yes, it is compassion. I believe that the concepts of love and compassion are compatible. Despite the fact that they seem to be diametrically opposite things, they nevertheless form a coherent whole. If you can’t feel sorry for people, you can’t understand them, so, compassion is very important in family life.

In general, living together with a man is a rejection of selfishness. Well, then, what is, in essence, love? Love… it’s not where you are loved, and when you love. You must love your husband more than yourself. You must connect with your husband and live his problems and his life with him. However, of course, you do not lose your own essence.

The word “love” has become a streetwalker. Many think that love and sex are identical. Today, one sees sex everywhere. A woman of our time can’t cause a man to long for her, as all the classic authors wrote, because she is fully opened and is too available. Only when she closes herself up again, will she turn again into a gentle and lovely creature that has the wisdom of a snake and the tenderness of a dove. Until then, a man will despise her. I don’t see or anticipate any changes in this. Purification occurs through suffering.

Vechnaya Pamyat, Valentina Vasilevna!

On Fr Gennady Ogryzkov

Unfortunately, my acquaintance with Fr Gennady was short lived. We were good friends with the writer Stanislav Romanovsky, a truly romantic individual. He knew Russian history, honoured all the customs, names, and dates of our past, as a believer, he knew and tried to carry out the teachings of our Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy. He knew by heart the history of all the church buildings… especially the churches of the Kremlin… and, of course, went to Ascension parish, where Fr Gennady was rector.

In 1996, Stas died, and Fr Gennady served the funeral services. Before this, I was always afraid of death and funeral rites for the departed, but at this funeral and burial service, I saw suddenly, with what brotherly love, unearthly warmth, and even tenderness, that Fr Gennady showed in his farewell for my friend. Then, I understood and felt that all of us here on earth were just temporary sojourners, whereas, when we saw off Stanislav, he went on to real life… Eternity! Never before had I seen such a funeral, I had never seen the love that this shepherd showed for a departing human soul, yet the moment was still tragic and sad…

Then, I started going to Fr Gennady for confession and communion. He gave me a lot of necessary and useful advice; he helped me see the relevance and importance of faith and prayer. I was only able to attend services at Ascension parish a few times… the singing of the angelic female choir focused my prayer, it gave me peace, and I thought that I would have this for a long time…

Suddenly, we children of this bustling and noisy world found ourselves without a leader, without a shepherd, without a father. It just left us all dumbfounded. A great many people came to the funeral and burial of Fr Gennady… it seemed that all of Bolshaya Nikitskaya came to bid farewell to an extraordinary man,  one who saw the uncreated light of Eternity whilst he was still alive…

On the Meaning of Life

As long as we live on this earth, we mustn’t waste any time. You can’t waste a single minute. I give concerts all over our great motherland; I take the time to give people all my heart, to sing them my songs. I have now come to a point in my life where I feel complete, that I can commune with nature and people. I keenly feel that I must give everything that I’ve got.

I never refuse to perform for the disabled, veterans, children and youth. If the organisers of such concerts are short on cash, I’ll do it for free; money doesn’t matter to me. There’s a proverb:

“When you love, the unusual happens. When you do not love, it doesn’t happen at all”.

Since I live according to my principles, I go to where I’m needed. I was criticised and even blamed for the fact that I will work for free, because now not even a completely clueless singer will lift a finger until they’re paid. I’m often asked, “You do it for nothing?” I’m always surprised at this and I can’t and don’t want to get used to it. So, I always say, “Absolutely… I do it for nothing”. At times, some people heatedly reply, “Alright… How much are your songs worth?” Well, that’s crazy! How can a song or my presence be valued in mere money? They’re priceless. God gave my talent and my songs to me so that I could give them to people. What’s the price? It all comes from my work…

Here is one of Valya’s most loved songs Серебряные свадьбы (Silver Wedding)

Indulge in Life Itself

Money is a thing that comes and goes. It’s nothing that we should take overly seriously. I don’t want to hoard money, but on the other hand, I can’t say that I’m without means. I’m not rich, but I can afford all my wants. It’s important for us not to deny ourselves what’s most vital… life itself. After all, it isn’t necessary to have a hundred coats or a hundred cars, it’s enough to have one decent thing and be able to use it.

I am very blasé about jewellery and other baubles. You could even call me an ascetic of sorts. All my family, my mother, husband, and son feel this way and aren’t greedy. My mom is very frugal; indeed, she lives with us. If I have money, I can use it for expenses, give some to the church, buy a bunch of flowers, or I’ll give it to mom for no reason. I like to donate generously so that I don’t offend fate. Don’t offend the fate that gives you the opportunity to live well. You should give generously, then, you’ll get even more.

I don’t care much for cosmetics. If it weren’t for the stage, I would never even use lipstick. You must be natural. I can’t understand why people have plastic surgery. In fact, afterwards, you’re nothing but a Barbie doll. It’s terrible when people believe that they cheat nature with all of these dodges. But you can’t cheat nature. As for me, I think that growing older is nice.

On the Modern Woman

It’s not my inclination to wish to see too much authoritativeness or an eagerness for being in charge in a woman. I respect such women, they even have a kind of masculinity, but I’d rather see softness, vulnerability, and gentleness in a woman. This is my understanding of femininity. I had read about George Sand, imperious, passionate, who rode like a man in the saddle, smoking a long pipe, and wore trousers, but she was unique at that time. Now… there is nothing but copies of George Sand all over. It has become harder to be a woman, so, this has changed men too. It is hard to blame them for this if women want to act like one of the guys. The woman herself did this to herself… that’s why she’s treated this way.

Valya singing Ангел мой (My Angel)

About Femininity

In my opinion, everything a woman does should serve maternity. She comes into the world to give birth and raise children… it’s why a woman is made the way she is! But, unfortunately, girls today do not really understand this problem. I often notice a certain bleakness of feelings in women’s behaviour, in the blatant sale of their bodies in the pages of publications and on television. Lust, seduction, some unimaginable fashion, cosmetics, unwarranted trendy movements… there’s a feeling that women have forgotten their purpose. Personally, I don’t understand this behaviour. But there are a lot of things today that I don’t understand, and I don’t want to go there. If you reflect on what everyone else is doing, you forget about yourself. Yes, you must take care of yourself.

I think deeply on the feelings and emotions that I wish to convey to my audience. Probably, this is what determines the standing of every performer. In my opinion, above all, the artist’s purpose isn’t just to entertain people, but to change them for the better.

On Happiness

Until the very end, none of us will know what happiness and love truly are. These are absolute and unattainable concepts. Whether we agree or whether we differ, whether we touch or fly away, gossip or go arm in arm… in different ways, life happens. I think that’s where love is, that’s were happiness is. But the word “happiness”… it’s a ghost, it doesn’t “go bump in the night”. It can only give us a hint; it only conveys a whisper of the real thing. We have to live every day “straight-up” to feel the joy and happiness in all that we see, in all that we touch.

I start my day when my city starts to wake, when the bells are ringing, where they build houses, drive cars, chatter away, buzz with activity, and you… you are part of it all. You think, “Well, I woke up, Glory to God!” Not only you, but the whole capital too.

Православие и мир (Orthodoxy and the World)


Editor’s Note:

Let’s keep it simple and focused. Here are two thoughts from Valentina Vasilevna:

  • When you love, the unusual happens. When you do not love, it doesn’t happen at all.
  • Since I am principled, I hate lies.

These are two sides of the same coin. It’s why the New Age “love” of the therapists, facilitators, and conflict resolution coaches isn’t love at all… it’s nothing but hate in new and shining vesture. And they call those of us who love the truth passionately “haters”… interesting, isn’t it?

One Valentina Vasilevna is worth more than all of the poseurs on the stage at present put together (especially Paffhausen, Dreher, Stokoe, and Reardon)… I think that I’m not alone in believing that.



A Friend Said that Valentina Tolkunova Came to Faith after Surviving a Terrible Terrorist Attack in Tel Aviv

Valentina Vasilevna Tolkunova (1946-2010), Honoured Artist of Russia and Folk Artist of Russia {in Russian, an “artist” is an actor/musician/dancer, not a “painter”: editor}. Valentina Vasilevna received the Order of St Vladimir, the Order of St Nicholas, the Order of St Anne, the Order of St Barbara, the Order of Pyotr Veliki, and the Order of Friendship, and she was honoured as a Knight of the Order of the Patrons of the Century for her public work.


Since I’m principled, I hate lies. If I see injustice, I’ll not keep silent, and many don’t like that. Indeed, my nature easily finds a common language with the angelic, but when something is hurtful, unpleasant, or shameful, I’ll speak up about it. To be honest, I’m glad I’m that way, because you need principles, you can’t simply blindly accept everything that the world offers you. Unfortunately, the world’s sometimes unjust, and when I’m pushed to go against my conscience, I simply won’t do it.

Valentina Vasilevna Tolkunova

Honoured Artist of Russia


Why not one of Valentina Vasilevna’s performances?


Friday marks 40 days since the death of famous singer Valentina Tolkunova. According to an old friend, she became a believer after surviving a terrorist attack in Israel. In an interview published on Friday in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, songwriter Viktor Gin said that in 1994 Valentina was staying with him in Tel Aviv, and that all three of them went to the Dizengoff shopping mall. Whilst they were there, a terrorist attack that killed forty people. “God protected Valya. She was as far as you could be in the mall from the explosion. However, her friend, a doctor, was severely wounded and had to recuperate in hospital”, Mr Gin said. He went on to say that Valentina confessed to him before her departure, “My whole life is turned upside down! God protected me”. After this incident, she became a firm Orthodox believer. “[Valentina] really did a lot of soul-searching. For instance, she made regular pilgrimages to the Russian convent on the Mount of Olives. Every year, for many years, she came for a week or two. None of her Israeli friends knew that she was there. She went by herself and didn’t want to meet anybody”, Mr Gin recalled. Now, her friends say that there are plans to release a CD with Valentina Tolkunova performing church hymns.

30 April 2010





Here’s Valentina Vasilevna from 1982


Editor’s Note:

Isn’t that the way of it in so many cases? One has a crisis in one’s life that leads one back to belief. For instance, Lyudmilla Putina almost died in an auto crash. That not only led her back to faith, it brought her husband Vladimir to real belief, too. That’s how you can tell that the Renovationists are not true Christians. They hold real and obvious conversion stories up to ridicule and laugh at them (just as they cast doubt on the clear truth about the saints, the Scriptures, and the Church). Do take a look and see how they hate the Putins and besmirch their obvious and real Christianity. However, the fathers on the Mountain greeted Vladimir Vladimirovich with sincere and unfeigned joy when he came to the Great Lavra. You can stand with SVS (and JP and the HOOMies) and sneer at real Orthodox faith or you can stand with the Athonite fathers and embrace it. I know where I stand, what about you?


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