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Anna Vasilyevna Timiryova (Russian: Тимирёва, Анна Васильевна) (July 18, 1893 Kislovodsk - January 31, 1975 Moscow) was a Russian poetess. Born Anna Safonova, she was the daughter of composer Vasily Ilyich Safonov. At age 19 she married admiral Sergey Nikolayevich Timiryov, whom she divorced in 1918 to join her lover, Admiral Alexander Kolchak. After Kolchak's execution, she was arrested several times. In 1923 she married Vsevolod Kniper. She was the mother of the painter Vladimir Sergeyevich Timiryov
Anna Safonova was born into the family of the famous musician and manager of the Conservatory of Moscow, Vassily Ilyich Safonov. Kislovodsk is a Russian spa of the kraï of Stavropol in the north of the Caucasus. Another famous victim of Communism, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was also born there. At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, Kislovodsk welcomed many artists, musicians and members of the Russian nobility.
In 1906, the Safonov family moved to St. Petersburg, where she got a certificate of the school of the Princess Anna Obolensky and learned drawing and painting with Zeidenberg, also becoming fluent in French and German. In 1911, Anna married a Navy officer, Sergey Timiryov (Сергей Тимирев, 1875 - 1932). In 1914, she gave birth to a son, named Vladimir.
In 1915, Anna met Rear-Admiral Alexander Kolchak. Although Kolchak was her husband's closest friend and commanding officer, and had a family of his own, they began a clandestine affair. In 1917, Anna openly left her husband for the Admiral.
Russian Civil War
After Kolchak was handed over to Bolsheviks, Anna approached them and declared to them: "Arrest me. I cannot live without him." As a result, she was imprisoned in Irkutsk but was released after Kolchak's execution in October, 1920.
The GULAG archipelago
After Kolchak’s death, Anna Timiryova was released as part of an amnesty. In June, 1920, however, she was sent to Omsk labor camp for forced labour. After being released, Timiryova appealed to local authorities for permission to join her first husband in Harbin. Her request was denied and she received an additional year of imprisonment. The third imprisonment followed in 1922, the fourth one – in 1925. Official charges read “accused of undesirable connections with foreigners and former White officers.” She was sentenced to 3 more years in prison.
After she was released, Anna Vasilyevna married railway engineer Vladimir Kniper. But her sufferings continued. In spring 1935, she was arrested again for “concealment of the past”, and sent to a labor camp. Later, this was changed to internal exile in Vyshny Volochek and Maloyaroslavets. She earned her living by sewing, knitting and sweeping the streets. In 1938, the sixth arrest followed.
She was released after the end of WW2. She had no close family members left: her 24 year son, the artist Vladimir Timirev had been shot on May, 17, 1938. Her husband Vladimir Kniper died from heart attack in 1942. She was still not allowed to live in Moscow, and she moved to Scherbakov (present Rybinsk) in Yaroslavskaya Oblast, where she was offered a position of property manager in local drama theatre.
At the very same time when Anna Timiryova lived in Rybinsk, Admiral Kolchak’s niece, Olga also lived there. Several times Timiryova made attempts to meet her, but Olga refused. According to one account, she didn’t want to meet the woman who "destroyed her uncle’s family". According to another – Olga was afraid of the secret police.
At the end of 1949, Anna was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment in Yaroslavl and as a deported convict she was sent to Yeniseisk. Anna was said to have been denounced by her workmates – the actors of the drama theatre. They accused her of spreading Anti-Soviet propaganda.
After she was released Anna returned to the Rybinsk drama theatre. She was in her 70s, but she continued working.
Anna Vasilyevna could turn her hand to anything. She was a woman of considerable talent; when she was young, she drew and painted in private studio, and while in exile, she worked as toy-painting instructor and graphic designer.
She made beautifully carved gilded frames from paste impregnated papers covered with painter’s gold. The frames looked as if they were real. At a theatre performance, there was a huge vase on the stage. In the footlights it shone as a diamond. Actually, as theatre veterans say, Anna Vasilyevna made the vase from wire and pieces of cans.
Often, during the performance, Anna Vasilyevna sat among the audience to note how everything looked on the stage.
‘Look! How nice is this wooden gun!’ – she said to her nephew who stayed with her on holidays. Sometimes she even took part in performance, playing small parts, such as Princess Myagkaya in “Anna Karenina”. In her letters to the loved ones she admitted ‘I don’t like the stage and I’m bored in make-up room. I feel as a property manager, not as an actress, but it seems to me that I’m not out of the picture (it does no honour to the performing style) Please bring me a box of make-up, I can’t find it here and I don’t like to beg somebody for it.’
She was neat, well-mannered old lady with short grey hair and bright lively eyes. Nobody in the drama theatre knew about her, or about her and Kolchak's tragic love story. But to the surprise of others, every time when the director, a respectable man of noble birth, saw Timiryova, he kissed her hand. People talked in corners about such attention devoted to the property manager.
‘ I’m 65 and I’m in exile. Everything that happened 35 years ago is gone down in history. I have no idea who and why want that the last days of my life passed in such unbearable conditions. I ask you to put an end to it, do away with it and let me breathe and live that time which is left for me.’ she wrote to Premier Grigory Malenkov in 1954. But Anna Vasilyevna was rehabilitated only in 1960.
She was then granted a small room in a communal flat on Pluschikha Street, Moscow.
After long efforts, Shostakovich and Oystrakh obtained a small pension for her (45 rubles) thanks to her father's services as a composer. Anna Vasilyevna appeared in a crowd scene of Gaidai’s ‘Diamond hand’ playing the part of charwoman and in Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace, playing the part of noble old lady at Natasha Rostova’s first ball. She died on January 31, 1975.
In the years following the execution of her beloved, Anna Timiryova composed many poems dedicated to his memory.
In popular culture
Veronica Izotova recalled,
"I put on a red make-up using a brick. My face was dirty, my sad eyes, my clothes torn, and I have to walk many hours... I wanted to play the Snow Queen. I was always more expressive and more sensitive than the average of my compatriots."
Elizaveta Boyarskaya commented,
"She was a woman of such force, of such will, with such magnanimity... I feel an amazing resemblance to her... When I read script, I was even a bit scared: because she has the same vision of history as me. All that it can arrive at is me. And when I played Anna, I did not play, I was her. It was my epoch, my attitude regarding love.
After being asked about Doctor Zhivago (film), she said,
"The only thing that these two films share consists in the love which the Russian women can carry; it is a topic approached by many novels. They love up to the last drop of blood, till the most dreadful end, to the death; they are capable of leaving family and children for the love of the man which they have chosen."
The main original song for the film Admiral is called Anna. She is interpreted by the Russian singer Victoria Dayneko. The music of the song was composed by Igor Matvienko and the words were written by Anna Timiryova in memory of her lover, Admiral Kolchak.