This story is about two talented people whose lives elevated them to the very top of the Stalin era: ballerina Olga Lepeshinskaya and general Aleksei Antonov.
She wanted to build bridges, but became one of the most famous ballerinas of the Soviet Union and danced equally brilliantly at the Bolshoi Theater and on the front lines. He was a military man, a Soviet general and the Chief of the General Staff, but at the same time a sophisticated esthete and intellectual. They lived six happy years together until death parted them.
Stalin’s favorite ballerina
Olga Lepeshinskaya began to dance against the will of her father. Moreover, as a child, she didn’t dream of stage - she wanted to build bridges, like her dad, a famous engineer.
According to her own words, she was "the last student in her class" at the ballet school. But incredible perseverance helped her become one of the top ones: Olga performed 64 fouettés for a bet! She danced not only with her body - she danced with her soul. Spectators and colleagues noted both Lepeshinskaya's refined technique and her temperament. Directors also recognized her acting talent. Music was written especially for her, and parts were choreographed. The Government Box was never empty when she was performing: it was actually no secret that she was Stalin's favorite ballerina.
During four war years, Olga Lepeshinskaya worked in the frontline artistic brigades. There are many recollections of her performances, of how her flamboyant dancing brought the wounded soldiers back to life.
With such dedication and full concentration on the career, her personal life always remained in the background. The first two marriages of the ballerina - with director Ilya Trauberg and Soviet intelligence general Leonid Raykhman - fell apart. But at the age of 40, she met her true love.
A remarkable meeting
It is 1956. The reception ends very late that night. Olga in a light dress goes out on the stairs of the Sovietsky Hotel but for some reason there is no car to pick her up.
It's raining heavily. A man comes up offering to give her a ride home. She had no idea he was a famous general. And he didn’t recognize the ballerina, whose performances he had attended at the Bolshoi Theater.
She saw him well in the car. And fell in love almost immediately: he charmed her with his fine knowledge of arts and courteous manners. Her love was reciprocated.
A Soviet officer
Aleksei Antonov came from a military family. During World War II, he was an army general, the Chief of the General Staff.
According to contemporaries, Antonov had outstanding organizational skills. Iron discipline and endurance were inherent in him. Aleksei Innokentievich was in good standing with Stalin and spent a lot of time discussing the situation at the fronts with him.
At the same time, Aleksei Antonov was a recognized connoisseur of arts, spoke French, loved classical music and poetry. He was handsome too.
Lepeshinskaya succumbed to his charms. And after he had given her a ride on that rainy night, a beautiful romance began, followed by the marriage between the officer and the ballerina.
There is little evidence of their life together, but the rare facts that we have confirm that they were happy.
The age difference didn’t bother them: Aleksei was 20 years older than Olga. While married, each of them continued their careers. She — at the Bolshoi Theater, he — at the Headquarters of the Combined Armed Forces. After work, they were enjoying their family life, supporting and protecting their union.
They lived six happy years together, then Aleksei suddenly died - a blood clot. On the day he was buried, Olga lost her sight, and it took her long to get it back. She remembered only the bright sun and the black mausoleum on Red Square. The urn with his ashes - in the Kremlin wall. Nothing more.
After his death, she stopped dancing. Her joy and energy were gone with him.
Her later years - Olga Lepeshinskaya lived a long life and died at 92 - were devoted to teaching and organizational activities around the world.
The Russian ballet school is in demand everywhere, and Olga Vasilievna was its outstanding representative.
Interestingly enough, it was Aleksei Antonov, who, shortly before his death, encouraged Olga to end her dancing career and start teaching. And so it happened, but without him.