You are viewing ptichkafs

 
 
04 May 2009 @ 10:08 pm
In depth Berezhnaya article - p 3  
Cont. from http://ptichkafs.livejournal.com/43514.html, Orig at http://mamalena.ru/admin/scanpages/scan57.jpg through http://mamalena.ru/admin/scanpages/scan62.jpg
In 1999, Moskvina moved us and one more team to America. We decided to get to know the country a little before the upcoming Olympics. We lived in a small town of Hackensack, typical of a one-story America. Anton and I were too bored. There was just nothing to do.

On Sundays, I’d watch three movies in a movie theater. I signed up for art and karate classes. But that didn’t help. Then I noticed I was gaining weight! I stood in front of the mirror, bent my arm at the elbow, and thought, “My God! I’m turning into Rambo!”

Turned out the culprits were the American products and the preservatives that go into them. I did everything – asked friends to bring in produce from Russia, went to the Russian stores on Brighton Beach, starved myself – but the extra pounds melted away very slowly.

Just before Europeans, I got sick and went into the pharmacy to buy some cold medicine. Anton and I performed, won the gold, and then two months later at Worlds we’re told we’re disqualified. Berezhnaya failed the doping control.

We were shocked – what’s that? What doping?! I’m handed the analysis report – blood contained ephedrine, coefficient 13. We dug in, and then I remembered that cold medicine I bought at the American pharmacy. We fought, trying to prove it was an accident, but we still had to hand back the medals. After my incident, the minimal significant coefficient was raised to 25, but it didn’t get us back our championship.

In other words, our time in America wasn’t all that good. We were homesick, and finally in 2001 we could no longer stand it and returned to Russian half a year before the Olympics. We decided to prepare there; having friends and family nearby provide that support that always makes things easier.

I still recall the Olympics and all that happened afterward as a nightmare. We win the gold medals, we get the award, we are congratulated, and then Anton and I go out with friends. Hurrah to freedom! Later that night, I get back to my hotel room and turned on the TV – Canadian silver medalists Sale and Pelletier were on every channel. They were crying into the cameras, “Berezhnaya and Sikhuralidze stole our hard earned gold medals! It’s unfair judging!”
Steven Cousins was still married at the start of his affair with Lena.

I pretty much collapsed.

Anton knocked at my door. His eyes round with surprise, he nodded at the TV - you heard?

Our friends all came over – calm down, it’ll be fine. What will be fine? We didn’t even think the Canadians should have medaled – they fell in the short and shouldn’t have made it into the top three going into the free. But you can’t argue with the judges!

We talked through night, discussing how to handle it. In the morning, we came to Moskvina, all pale and scared.

“Will we lose our medals again?”

“Calm down, guys. No one can take your medals away. You certainly didn’t do anything. It’s politics, and it’s a whole different ballgame. Americans are fed up with the Russians winning every Olympics. The Olympics’ rating is fast dropping, they need a scandal. You’re just in the epicenter. We’ll try to smooth it out. Relax and don’t take it personally.”

That, however, was hard to do. Each channel seemed to smear Anton and me with dirt. “Undeserved gold! The Canadians were just one judge away from the gold! Russian mafia bought the judges! Berezhnaya and Sikhuralidze are in cahoots with the Taiwanese!”

They said so many things! It was all a lie. Anton and I walked around hardly looking up. Athletes living in America called to support us. Fetisov said to us, “Guys, my wife said – how can you compare a Honda with a Mercedes? You’re the best!”

One famous director, though, said, “I’d just flush that medals down the drain!”

To which Antoha said, “First, you flush your Oscar there!”

That became a refrain for us.

Three days later, we thought – why is it that they’re talking while we’re silent? We must respond! So we flew to New York and did a few TV and radio shows, even going to the Larry King Live. At the same time, we never wanted a fight with the Canadian pair. Running into each other, we’d just smile and joke – they weren’t at fault.

When the decision came down to do a second medal ceremony and award another set of gold medals to the Canadians, we giggled – it sounded like complete nonsense!

They must really be fed up with Russian dominance of pair skating! I also told myself, “Who else gets a chance to ascend to Olympic podium and hear their anthem not once but twice!”

There was also much noise about it in Russia. I flew to Nevinnomyssk, and happened to run into my father. We’ve run into each other before, and just do small talk. This time, though, he asked me to stop by his office. His coworkers were ecstatic. They asked to take a picture with me. My father then said with pride, “That’s my daughter”.

Following the Olympics, Anton and I turned pro and never planned to come back. We got an offer from Stars on Ice for four years. We agreed – one just doesn’t turn an offer like that away. Canadians Sale and Pelletier also took part in the show, and we even had a number together to commemorate the scandal.
Every channel was smearing us with dirt, 'Russian mafia bought the judges! Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze are in cahoots with the Taiwanese!'

 So it was America again. Touring. Hotels. Visits to Russia were rare. The rules dictated we couldn’t leave the continent when we had less than five free days in a row. But we always made it on New Year. Fun, champagne, friends are having fun, and throughout the hour handle slowly inches toward five. I grab the bag – “Bys, guys!” almost crying from not wanting to leave.

Sometimes, we’d visit Petersburg for forty eight hours and immediately go our separate ways. I’d visit my friends, he’d visit his. We’d then meet up at the airport.

One time, we almost missed a performance. We flew through Paris, and the plane was delayed for technical reasons. We spent the night at the hotel and only left in the morning. Like lunatics, we grabbed the taxi and made it to the rink an hour before the show.

We really needed those getaways. They brought us back to life, letting us drag on for a couple of more months. Meanwhile, our relationship has changed and we became friends. We talked a lot, discussing what has happened. We sat there at dinner once, and just realized that our feelings were greater than love. We are like brother and sister – it’s not like we love each other any less now.

Before leaving, he said, “We should have gotten married right away…”

I added, “And never skated together. Then it would have been all right.”

 

I was always reading on tour, always having with me a large bag with books. That’s when I started understanding myself, what I did and did not like. I was finally becoming myself.

I had a lot of time to think about what I looked for in a man. Our story with Anton taught me I didn’t want to get involved with my coworkers. The same went for actors.

I really liked Alexander Domogarov; I saw all his movies and all his plays. A friend once brought me backstage. I was so scared! The producer said, “Sasha, the Olympic champion wants to congratulate you!” I wasn’t even one at that time. I handed the flowers, and we chatted. I started joking, “Sure, our athletes just all live in America now, sure-sure!”

We became friends. Sasha and I are still close, and I am well aware of what’s going on in his life, though I still worship him a bit. I was never free with him, often feeling embarrassed. No, I knew I couldn’t create a family with him either.
Steven got the text message, 'If we happened to be at the altar, and the priest would ask if I were ready to get married, I'd say yes.'

Finally, I concluded that it should be a normal guy, not married, not an actor, not a skater, and not a foreigner – we must have the same language!

Dreaming of Mr. Right, I didn’t notice that I was for the past two years next to the man I’d fall in love with.

Steven and I skated in the same show, but we didn’t really notice each other. We lived in parallel universes so to speak. One time, the tour ended and the skaters all went home. In June, a friend invited me to Toronto. I sent all the Canadians from the show a text message – “I’m in your country, come entertain me!” They came. Steven did as well. We sat in a restaurant, laughing and joking. It turned out we all had a lot to talk about!

I got riled up, “Guys, come to Petersburg! It’s white nights there now!” Steven did. He was a skater, a foreigner, and he was married.

I can’t explain how our relationship started. He came, and it was immediately apparent that something was about to happen. It was like we always knew each other. Steven loved shish-kebob, my friends with their saunas and their dachas with the bathrooms outdoors. He exclaimed, “That’s how one should live!”

We walked, drank coffee, and talked endlessly. It came so easy! There was no tightness, no embarrassment. He even said,

“You’re the only person I can be myself with.”

“What about your wife?”

“Don’t even ask.”

I still don’t know what made him marry the first time. May be he was getting on in years, and all his friends were already married. His wife came from a very religious family. Any step out of line was a sin. He didn’t know what to do in their house.

I looked at Steven, and saw that he was very different form Russian man. He didn’t pressure, but tried to understand and explain everything. If I’m silent, he doesn’t bother me, “Why are you silent? Say something!” For him, as for me, words have no meaning.

Steven was flying off, and was seeing him off at the airport. He said,

“I’ll come over again really soon.”
When I got pregnant, Anton said, 'well, now he'll dump you and I'll have to make money to feed you and your kids!'

“Are you just planning to go back and forth?”

“I’m used to traveling. We have phone for communication.”

Once he landed, text message started flying both ways, telling of things we couldn’t say to each other in person. I wrote, “If we happened to be at the altar, and the priest asked me if I was ready to marry you, I’d say yes.”

Steven was floored. He couldn’t believe this was happening to him, who always felt useless in his family. He wrote back, “You saved me from the most terrible marriage on Earth!”

We discussed his divorce and what we were going to do. When he came over again in September, it was all serious. We lived together in my apartment, and I introduced him to my friends as my civil partner.

Steven and I never talked of love. Why? If you love someone, do things to demonstrate it to the other without words.

I felt his attention and care every second. Every detail was important to Steven if it had to do with me – what I thought, what I felt, what I decided. One time in the morning after a party I woke up to find he’d already been to the store, bought breakfast food, and cooked it. “That’s cool!” I thought.

Steven made me realize that relationships are simple. If you can’t be yourself, then it’s the wrong person.

In October, we went to visit his parents in Canada. They’re British, and they spend half-a-year in Britain and half-a-year abroad.

I had a hard time understanding their British accent. I kept asking Steven to explain. He was patient, and nobody gave me any looks. After we left, I got a call from his mom, “Thank you so much! It’s the first time in three years that I’ve seen happiness in my son’s eyes.” His dad also called. This touched me very much.

In the few years before that, I thought I was happy. Loneliness sucks you in and becomes pleasant. It’s easy to be alone, and to not have to care for or worry about others. There are always friends when you need to chat. After meeting Steven, though, I understood how lacking my life had been. Having Steven in my life has made me whole. He’s always with me, even when we’re not together.
Lena has been truly happy since Trysten was born

We both really wanted a child, and when I found out I was pregnant, I sent him a text message where I called him daddy. He replied back, “You’re pregnant?!” He then called every five minutes. “What are we going to do? Where will we be delivering? What do you need?”

He got really agitated and said, “Don’t tell my parents, I’ll do it myself!” They don’t discuss those things on the phone. He bought some cards, and signed them in the baby’s name, “I don’t know you yet, but mom and dad say you’re great grandma and grandpa, so I love you already.” He planned to give to it to them when he saw them next, but his parents found out from the Internet. He was so upset!

Anton said once, “Mas’, don’t make any babies yet.”

“It’s still half a year until the season ends, you still have time to get a job.”

“Well, and then he’ll dump you and I’ll have to make money to feed you and your kids!” he joked in return.

That’s our thing, that’s how we are.

I worried a lot over where to give birth – in Russia, in Canada, or in Britain. We decided it was important to ensure British citizenship[1] . Just before the due date, we went to Chester where Steven’s family has a small house.

I got a list of Welsh names from the library. The only one I liked was Trysten. So we decided to call the baby that, without even discussing it with anyone else. My relatives and friends were shocked – how can one live with such a name? We held fast, though. Steven later said, “Thank you, I’m so happy we called him Trysten!”

Steven and I went through labor together. He was watching the monitor. British doctors pursue natural childbirth, but it didn’t work for me. I ended up with a Cesarean.

Trysten was born October seventh, like Putin, and we call him President. Eleventh was my birthday. The little house had a whole crowd – grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles. The table was set, everyone ran around with the baby. I felt completely exhausted. But just a few weeks later the three of us drove to London. We strolled around, relaxed, and we knew we were a family.
Steven's mom called me - 'Thank you so much! It's the first time in three years that I've seen my son's eyes happy.'

Steven was very upset that the baby was born before he got the divorce. I just said, “We have to live, not think about what others are going to say. That’s their problem, not ours.”

Our baby is very handsome, active, social, and never stays in one place. He always smiles and babbles. When Anton saw him, he said, “High, Trysten, I’m you grandpa Anton”. So he’s called grandpa now.[2]

Anton himself isn’t eager to start a family. He introduces me to his girlfriends and asks for my advice. But he can’t settle down yet. He likes the feisty ones, but can’t stand it when they start telling him what to do. That’s when he quickly backs out!

Mom often comes over to sit with the little one and read him Russian fairy tales. When we visit Steven’s parents – they adore their grandson – they read to him in English.

Steven tries to spend as much time with us as possible, staying for two weeks every two months. So far, he hasn’t insisted I move to Canada because he knows I have many important projects right here. We’re still happy together. The more I get to know Steven, the more I wonder at how lucky I am!

I trust him and know for sure that Steven is sure to allay any fears I may have. He recently wrapped up the rather unpalatable divorce proceedings, meeting his now ex-wife one more time. He sent me a message, “Without you and Choka (that’s what we call the baby) I was like a broken pencil”.

I am now starting skating from scratch again. I’m learning to skate alone for a new project. More importantly, I have a feeling of a full life. Until Trysten’s birth, I was lukewarm when it came to life. I could jump with a parachute or bungy jump. Now, even if I got a chance to go to the moon, I’d say, “Thanks but no thanks. I’m needed right here on Earth.”
-------------------
[1] In another interview, Elena explained that they couldn’t get a straight answer as to what the baby’s citizenship would be if he were born in Russia; only later they found out he’d be a Brit anyway.

[2] Anton is also Trysten’s godfather.