In memory of Tatyana Retivova

In memory of Tatyana Retivova

In Kiev, at the age of 92, a veteran of the Russian service died; Voices of America, who for many years headed the editorial department of culture

On October 20, 2020, Tatyana Retivova, a veteran of the Russian service of the Voice of America, passed away in Kiev. She was born in Leningrad on April 29, 1929. During the blockade, she was evacuated to Kislovodsk. During World War II, she ended up in German-occupied Europe, then the family emigrated to the United States. In New York, the family lived first with the Quakers, and then on the Tolstoy farm, which provided shelter for many, many emigrants from Russia, the USSR and Eastern Europe..

In 1962, Tatyana Retivova was invited to work in the Russian service of the Voice of America, where her husband, Aleksey Retivov, had already worked..

Tatiana began to conduct mainly musical programs. Her creative pseudonym was Vera Spasskaya. She worked for Voice of America until 1989.

This is how Alexei Kovalev, one of the current veterans of American foreign broadcasting, recalls working with Tatyana Retivova:

“Together with Zhanna Vladimirskaya came to the Voice of America in Orwellian 1984, and we were lucky to work under the leadership of Tanya Retivova – and under her wing – for five whole years, before her departure.

She was also lucky in the sense that Tanya headed the editorial board of culture, and this period – the last years of the existence of the USSR – was distinguished by an incredibly stormy cultural life in the United States and the bright presence of prominent figures of the Russian emigration in it..

M. Rostropovich directed the National Orchestra in Washington, I. Brodsky gained more and more influence in literary life, A. Solzhenitsyn lived and collaborated with the Voice of America in Vermont, M. Baryshnikov danced in the New York Ballet, Y. Lyubimov staged Dostoevsky in in the capital Arena Stage, a unique festival of Russian culture was held in Boston, where there was an opportunity to interview M. Plisetskaya and R. Shchedrin, V. Aksyonov hosted his own program on the Voice of America and read his stories, and so on.

At this time, a lot was changing in the editorial office itself. Most of the employees, who represented mainly the second, post-war emigration – to which Tatyana Retivova belonged – was quickly replenished with representatives of the third wave. Since they carried with them not only fresh views and manners, but also a more modern language, their appearance naturally caused some suspicion. The authority and traditions of the radio station were immutable, and although the wind of change was already blowing in the air, it was necessary to have sufficient breadth, intuition and courage to make these changes. These properties were fully equipped with the chief of the Cultural Department of the Russian edition Tatyana Retivova.

In public opinion, the Voice of America has always been a source of truthful information. Due to its absence in the USSR, the most acute attention, naturally, was paid to information of a political nature. The second, no less important function – to serve as an instrument of so-called “soft diplomacy”, that is, to acquaint listeners with the daily life of Americans, with the social structure of the country and its institutions, as a rule, were treated by the editorial staff with patient indulgence, as a forced load.

And only a little later, when the Cold War finally ended, and the editorial office was overwhelmed by a continuous stream of letters from radio listeners, it became obvious how great the audience was thirst for this kind of information..

Now it is difficult to imagine that in 1985 broadcasting was carried out 17 hours a day, and from one list of programs, which were under the jurisdiction of the department, which was headed by T. Retivova, one may feel dizzy. Two hour-long religious programs – “Religion in Our Life” and “Review of Jewish Life”, and equally voluminous programs “Theater, Variety, Concert”, “Broadway Music”, “Books and People”, “Literary Readings”, “American Cinema” “,” Fine Arts “,” Sports “,” Popular Music Concert “, even a dance program. But in addition to programs directly related to art, under her supervision there were programs such as “Agriculture in America”, “Science and Technology”, “Medicine and Healthcare”, “English Lessons”…

Although the editorial staff has always focused on current political events, even the three daily one-hour news programs often included interviews and cultural news..

In memory of Tatyana Retivova

This vast economy, without fuss and complaints about insufficient attention to the subject of her worries, was managed by Tatyana Retivova.

It would seem that we, with our acting past, were destined for the career of announcers, but not the authors of programs. But the keen eyes of the head of the Culture Department were able to see something else. And without wasting time, she began to offer us one after another author’s programs.

I remember her low, slightly hoarse voice, inviting me into the office to smoke a cigarette (imagine – in those days, no one objected to this). But in fact, the speech immediately turned to what, in our opinion, should be included in the next series of literary readings.

This is how the readings “In the First Circle” by Solzhenitsyn, “The Taming of the Arts” by Y. Elagin, the works of John Dewey and N. Berdyaev, “Notes of the Federalist” and finally two books of memoirs by N. Mandelstam were born, which still appear on the air of Russian radio stations..

In memory of Tatyana Retivova
In memory of Tatyana Retivova

Soon the program dedicated to Samal Beckett received the Gold Medal at the New York Festival – it seems the only one in the history of the Russian edition.

Programs such as “Broadway Music”, “All About Jazz”, “American Cinema”, “Country Music”, and later – “Traveling America”, not only constantly received enthusiastic responses from listeners, but were often read with interest by colleagues.

Here is what Zhanna Vladimirskaya wrote in her memoirs:

“I was lucky. Starting with my acquaintance with American musicals – by pure chance the vacancy in charge of this aspect of American culture became vacant, and Tanya offered me to write a program. I began to doubt. This was a completely arbitrary assumption – you can be an actress a thousand and fifty times and even hear something like that about musicals, and be completely deprived of the ability to speak clearly about them. But, apparently, Tanya knew better than me and continued to insist gently. Anyway, in response to the offer to do Broadway, I said – I’ll try, and my test was successful, and – away we go … Following the musicals, I became the author of programs about American cinema. The parks sat and reeled their balls, and now it became clear that not talking about Country music is just a sin – such a giant layer of American culture. And about Jazz, which we have always heard, and which at that time was experiencing its late – maybe even the last – heyday, when both Jerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck were alive … “.

Zhanna Vladimirskaya

The foresight gift of the chief met with the indefatigable desire of subordinates to learn new things and tell about it to listeners deprived of such knowledge..

Creative cooperation quickly turned into friendship, and we gladly came to the hospitable home of the Retivovs in Washington, and then to their country house, where we first learned to eat crabs using wooden hammers, and to follow the cheerful bustle of hummingbirds in the branches of acacia…

Tanya Retivova loved and knew how to laugh, and her laughter was infectious. But in all other cases – especially in the confrontations of painful pride, inevitable in any mixed collective – she retained a calm dignity. And random squabbles dissolved by themselves “.

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In memory of Tatyana Retivova
In memory of Tatyana Retivova

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