Serge Lifar: dancing in time of war


At Russian cemetery near Parish there is a tomb with inscription “Serge Lifar de Kiev”. Serge Lifar was one of the most prominent male ballet dancers of the 20th century. From 1930 to 1944 he directed  Paris Opera Ballet and raised it on the highest level.

But till the end of his life Serge Lifar remembered his youth time in Kiev when he was Sergiy, the pupil of prestigious Kiev Olexandrivska gymnasia (Shevchenko boulevard, 14). His father was a local official and Sergiy cared nothing. After lessons together with friends he ran away to a boulevardwhich was full of blossoming chestnut’s trees during spring. He spent week-ends in noble Kiev Château de Flers garden or on Dnipro isles.

In autumns he visited Opera theater performences sometimes headed by famous Feodor Chaliapin.  At Olexandrivska gymnasia  “gilded youth” studied. Among them future writer Mikhail Bulgakov, poetess Anna Akhmatova, artists Ivan Kavaleridze and Alexander Archipenko, future priest, doctor and saint Valentin Voino-Yasinovsky and many others. That time they did not know that their destiny had been already decided. After the Bolsheviks took power in Russian the intelligentsia mainly went abroad and never came back. Almost everybody who left spent their life in prison or were killed by the brutal Bolshevik’s regime.

Sergiy Lifar met his ballet in the most difficult period of his life. He was 16 years old when the Civil war started in Ukraine. About 15 times the power was  changed in Kiev. One day Write army rules in the city the next day Red army took a control. Civilians were confused while they had no food for living. Together with his father Sergiy went to villages to find food and woods. It was dangerous as once they met a criminal band. The life was dark and full of troubles. Once his friend offered him to take rest and visit ballet dance studio  on Luteranska street. It was like a magic. The moment Lefar came there he realize that he met his destiny.

Real dancers are really fanatic. Three years ago I took ballet classes of one fantastic choreographer in Podol. He was a very strict person and sometime such lessons ran for three hours and we were completely exhausted. When Revolution of Dignity started he said no matter we could die the next day. Today we have to dance  of all the best in our life.

Lifar trained himself six hours every day and got reward at last. His teacher moved to France and invited him. His dream came true. He had bright life. However till the end of his life he remembered Kiev and chestnut’s trees and his youth springs. French president Charl de Gol offered him French passport but the choreographer refused.

Serge di Kiev, French ballet master remains Ukrainian forever.