I was born in Kiev, Ukraine, 1945, just when people were coming back from the war. Streets were full of them using wooden platforms as wheelchairs, with no legs or arms, with no government help at all. My Russian name is Yefim. I moved to Canada in the winter of 1975. And as a tribute to the country which let me do what I love to do, painting, I am going to introduce myself as Jimmy Maklyarevsky. My dad and mum were exiled; they left the country when I was a baby. I was raised by my grandparents, 100% communists. We lived in one room: me, my grandfather, grandmother and my aunt.
I didn’t have toys; I was playing with ammunitions I found outside. They were all over the place. It was a very puritanical black and white society, no greys. People couldn’t kiss each other in public. I was a very hyper kid looking for adventure: if there was a problem, I was there, next to it. Was very common to fight in the street to protect yourself at the age of five. School was hard. They give you like 3 hours of homework and you have to be very polite. If I didn’t behave, coming back home was crucifixion. But I learned to scream and cry quickly before they hit me. I also learned that pain could be positive too. Pain maybe is a sign that you are alive.
At the second grade I don’t know why, I started to draw. My first drawing was a duck. And I couldn’t stop. I drew in my books, on the walls. Everywhere. One day I was sleeping in my bed and I felt that someone took my foot and was trying to fit a shoe. I opened my eyes and saw a beautiful woman. My granpa said: this is your mother. I was 12 years old. At the age of 18 they took me for 3 years to do the military service in the Soviet Union. I was excited. Every generation in Russia participated in the army in some way. It was prestigious. If you tried to avoid this, you were not man enough.
From your bed in your underwear
to get dressed
in 45 seconds
Undress. Dress. Undress. Dress.
Training is hard.
5% of the guys die.
They don’t let you cry.
I think when you come back from war, you can’t live in the society, you don’t get it anymore. Like in the movie Hurt Locker, which you must see, when the guy comes back from the war, the scene at the supermarket. He is looking at the cereals. So many different kinds of cereals. He can’t understand people dealing with this. The problems are not the same back in the dessert.
When I learned to read I spent a lot of time in the library. Pablo Neruda, Maupassant, Cervantes, Jack London, I swallowed books. I also discovered erotic literature. In the middle of the training I went home to visit for ten days and I lost my virginity. Just imagine a horny kid full of muscles. I mean every morning during training all our blankets were looking like tents.
Bus going home. Beautiful 30 years old woman sits next to me. She is not wearing a coat.
-Excuse me for my impoliteness but, aren’t you cold? I would love to warm you up.
Russia was ruined. Young people had hard time to make love in public spaces. Police watching. My experienced friends told me: you want to know what happiness is? Be in bed with a woman.
We started talking and we ended up on a blanket, near some bushes, next to kids playing football. It happened so fast, I felt disappointed; I was expecting rainbows of happiness. That was it all? She took me to her apartment and we didn’t leave the place for 3 days. I did visit my family and friends. They were all happy to see me, and all I was thinking of was me chasing women.
In my twenties I was a motorcycle racer. Riding a bike is flying one meter from the ground. It’s a flight. You are free.
I met Claudia.
I was good looking.
She was beautiful.
Later that night:
-Do you want to marry me?
She says, why not?
We arranged to meet in ten days to apply for the marriage certificate. I didn’t want to tell anyone, so we kept it as a secret. I don’t remember why, maybe I wanted to be precocious. I had been married before. After ten days, I was waiting for her.
-I hope she doesn’t come.
It was a proposal under not very sober conditions. A normal woman wouldn’t show up. But Claudia did. She was there with passport and everything. We moved together. If I was up at 6 am, 6.15 breakfast was waiting for me. Few months later I was bored. We decided to buy a doberman. After a while the dog was sleeping with me and Claudia in the other bed. Sometimes she said to me: You look sad, go somewhere for 3 days. And hell I did!
I wasn’t ready.
She got pregnant.
I was excited.
I wasn’t ready.
Baby crying non stop.
Incredible this baby.
I looked carefully for the name of this baby.
We named him Artur.
Claudia was trying hard to keep me.
She was screaming to the walls.
I wasn’t there.
One day I came back home from work and I saw all my personal stuff in a bag outside, at the door. No hard feelings. I deserve it. I left. My son was 1 year old.
Time later, I found out they left the country. I never stopped thinking, somewhere is my son. I looked for them. They were in New York, United States. I found their telephone number. I called. She was very calm, absolutely not surprised.
-He is okey. He knows who his father is. It’s not the time for you to meet yet.
I kept calling couple of years. But when I called the last time, they were not living there anymore.
-If he has my adventure spirit, he will find me- I thought.
When I was already living in Toronto, Canada, one day the phone rang.
-Are you Yefim Maklyarevsky?
-This is your son.
I waited years for this call. Artur was 24. He came to Toronto and we met. He introduced me to his Canadian girlfriend. She was dumb and ugly. He had long hair, barely spoke Russian, looking like his mother. When he was born he looked like me. I can show you a picture when he was a baby if you want.
Do you know how many types of motorcycles exist in the world? He had the same color, same year, Honda seven fifty. This American hippie came to see me with the same bike I had. He played basquetball in the exactly same position I used to play. In Canada nobody collects books, and I had 4 or 5 books in my shelves. He brought one book as a present, the same book I already had in my shelves. He also loved painting. First time in my life, I started to believe in genetic.
We talked for 4 days and 4 nights. I told him everything he supposed to know about women. His brain wasn’t ready for these advices, but we enjoyed the conversations. I told him,Arturino, I am sorry for not being there and teach you how to be a man. But the greatest gift is you are an artist. And that’s my gene.
Few years ago I was going to Berlin to meet a woman. I called Arturino to tell him the news. He was going to spend new years in Berlin too. Seriously, how can you call that? The German woman threw me out after a couple of days. So I spent the rest of the week with my son. It was a great trip. He currently lives in Argentina. He is a talented designer. He introduced me to skype few months ago, so we communicate now more often. I just bought a web camera. We are going to meet again soon.
In my thirties I signed a contract to go to South Africa for 3 years. French Foreign Legion Army. We were like a family. Music, lots of food. If you were good you got a pass to a bordello. It was the only army in the world with its own mobile bordello. Our mission was protecting oil and diamond mines. It was the dessert. My head was melting. I hated the sun.
When you live in a dictatorship and suddenly they open the doors, you just jump. It was ok living in Kiev, but door was open so I left. All I knew about America was western. Al Capone. Guns. Didn’t want to move there.
So I went to Canada because it was more socialist, more Russia. I landed in Montreal in 1975. Impressive airport, contemporary elevators, peaceful music. I spent the night in a hotel. I turned on the tv. 40 channels to watch. Couldn’t sleep the whole night.
I only knew one phrase in English language:
I love you
I need you
I want you
Didn’t know the meaning though, it was just a Beatle sound. In Toronto I started doing some physical labor, communication was not necessary, and studying English. Every night at home I wrote in my note book one word in English on each page. If you write a word a hundred times, you will remember that word for life. Slowly I started reading books in English and writing in my note book every word I didn’t know.
Canada has given me the best gift: the room and the chance to paint. In Canada the phone doesn’t ring ten times a day, neither your door bell. You have a private life. I live alone. And my house is full of oil paintings.
They show the happiness of being alone. To start painting my soul has to be in peace. I listen to jazz when I paint. Or tango. My idol is van Gogh. I’m old fashioned. I don’t understand pop art where you don’t need any skills. Art is something that requires exceptional skills. Van Gogh was crazy enough to do it. He realized he couldn’t do anything else but painting, every single day.
I don’t do this for fame, money, I do this for myself. I was born with this desire, and I have no choice. I don’t have any school. I paint about what I care about, what amuses me, what touchs me. You must have ability, desire and soul. Painting is telling a story.
I am going to marry Iryne in June. She is in Kiev now. I am bringing her to Canada as my wife. I think she is the one.
By Bulkka.com: http://www.bulkka.com/jim-maklyarevsky/