Video Tours > Tour 8. Stories and Thoughts > The Oldest Tenant Remembers
expand/collapse this text box Summary
An old woman answers a journalist's questions about original panelling and the history of the apartment.
expand/collapse this text box Translation of the Russian Transcript
Nabutov: So how was it, in conditions when every board was worth its weight in gold, when people took apart anything made of wood to heat the house, how was it that these wooden panels were untouched?

Maria Yakovlevna: Because then there were real Leningraders, who protected things. Probably they thought it was too valuable to waste. Or who knows, maybe they didn't have the strength to take them down. I don't know. They burned some old magazines, there... But as you can see, this was preserved.

M.Ya.: Well, of course, people were more orderly then, it's obvious, but I don't want the other tenants... The other tenants are new, maybe they wouldn't like to hear this. But people themselves had a different attitude then, and Galina Rudolfovna is right when she says "At least you could, you could hire someone from the agency, the Neva Dawn, who would... do the cleaning." And now, if you don't have the strength, if you can't...

Nabutov: Do you think you could tell me how many people were living in this apartment at its most crowded?

M.Ya.: Forty. After the war there were forty. That's what it was.

Nabutov: How many people were living in the apartment before the revolution?

M.Ya.: Before the revolution? Before the revolution a banker lived here, by the name of Abelson. Who he was, nobody knows. People argue. At some point I heard, all I can say, I'm not sure precisely, but either in 1914 or 1916 two floors were added. But the building itself dates from 1828. Now people say that nothing was added. I don't know; that's what I was told. So he didn't live here so very long, that banker. Probably he had people make this apartment for him, the way some people do now. Of course, right after the revolution he made his escape. My mother used to say that he left... at this time... later they removed them, there were things of his that were sealed. And without any fuss, the apartment turned into a communal one.

expand/collapse this text box Details in Photographs
Entrance hall, arch, wallpaper
The entrance hall of this apartment is registered as a cultural monument, protected by the government. 1997.

A room with large windows
The room of Maria Yakovlevna, the apartment's oldest resident; on the ceiling are traces of a leak. 2002.

Traces of a leak on the ceiling
The ceiling will have to be replastered because of a leak caused by the upstairs neighbors.

The brightest room in the apartment
Part of a room damaged by a leak. This is the room of the oldest resident of the apartment in "Kamila, Lena, and Yulya," Tour 5. See also this close-up. 2002.

Part of the room in the mirror
The apartment's oldest resident lives in this room. Part of the room is reflected in the mirror. The sideboard was left by the pre-revolutionary owners of this apartment from "Kamila, Lena, and Yulya," Tour 5. 2002.

Probably this vase was left by the prerevolutionary owners. It is shown in the view of the room belonging to the oldest resident of the large apartment featured in the clip "Kamila, Lena, and Yulya," Tour 5. 2002.

A clock from a turn-of-the-century buffet
This room still has the furniture of its prerevolutionary residents. See the interview with the elderly woman who lives here. 2002.

On the shelf
The oldest resident of the apartment from "Kamila, Lena, and Yulya" (Tour 5) has figurines, a bust of Lenin, and a box of cookies on her cabinet shelf. See an interview with the resident of this room. 2002.

Portable radio
This 1970s transistor radio is shown here in the room of the oldest resident of the large apartment from "Kamila, Lena, and Yulya" (Tour 5). 2002.

expand/collapse this text box Basic Facts and Background
When: 2002

Where: A large apartment in a prestigious neighborhood in central St. Petersburg. More than fifteen people live here. Part of the interior of the apartment is under the formal protection of the government.

Who: Maria Yakovlevna, the apartment's oldest tenant. According to what other people say, her family took up residence in the apartment in the early revolutionary period. Kirill Nabutov, an interviewer with a television company. A neighbor, Galina Rudolfovna, comes up in conversation.

What: The story of how it happened that the valuable parts of the apartment remained intact despite the many years in which the apartment was communal.

Maria Yakovlevna has lived here since she was born. Her mother was a servant of the apartment's previous, prerevolutionary tenants. Parts of her room can be seen in the photo showing traces of a leak on the ceiling, statues and a bust of Lenin, the room through a mirror, and teakettles on an old-fashioned samovar table.

"Neva Dawn" was a Soviet agency in Leningrad that provided domestic services to the population. The residents of this apartment chipped in to hire workers from this agency to polish the parquet. Maria Yakovlevna's expressive glance at the ceiling at the end of the interview ("Probably he had people make this apartment for him, the way some people do now") relates to new wealthy residents, who bought the apartment upstairs and are now renovating it, with disastrous consequences for the people who live in the communal apartment below (see the leak on the ceiling and a basin on the floor in Maria Yakovlevna's room, as well as the blocked chimney that Yulya talks about in the video "Kamila, Lena, and Yulya").