Crossing borders



(A room with a closet, a couch and a chair. ISKRA enters the room. She opens the closet and pulls out a doll.)

ISKRA: (addresses the doll) Good afternoon, Doctor Freud.

(She takes the doll to the chair, places it on the seat. ISKRA sits down on the couch.)

ISKRA: For a long time I’ve been wondering what would it be like if you were living in this time? I imagined how we would meet, Doctor Freud. You would probably tell me to lie down on the couch. On Berggasse Strasse, number nineteen. (She lies down on the couch, looking at the ceiling. A pause. She turns toward the doll.) You’re silent, Doctor Freud. Perhaps you’re waiting for me to say something about myself, so that you may later try to find out the things that look hidden to me? (She turns toward the ceiling again.) My name is Iskra. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? A ballet dancer and a choreographer in the Macedonian Opera and Ballet. Time: the beginning of the twenty-first century. Not too far from your own, but still far enough for us not to meet. (She turns toward the doll.) I’ve been interested in you for a long time now. (She rises and stands behind the doll.) You’re probably wondering why would I, a ballet dancer and a choreographer, be interested in you, in your writings. You’d say: she works with the body, I work with the soul! And you’d make a mistake, Doctor Freud. Or is it my mistake to presume what you would say. (She places her hands on the doll’s shoulders.) You continue to be silent, Doctor Freud. (She takes the doll’s head between her hands and pulls it out of its body. The head is in front of her eyes. Iskra and the doll are looking at each other eye to eye.) If nothing else, Doctor Freud, we share at least the same affection for one thing. Travelling. And maybe that’s the reason why I wanted to make a performance about a woman that wanted to travel. Marina Tsvetayeva. Sometimes, I dream of her at night. And when I do, she is always together with one of your sisters. (She puts the doll’s head back, only the other way round, face turned opposite of the body.) You’d probably wonder why am I constantly dreaming about these two women, and you would dig carefully through my childhood and analyze me with your theories. And you’d make a mistake, Doctor Freud. (She turns her back at the doll.) I dream about them because they lived in the same time, and they both yearned to travel. And while your sister went travelling only once in her life time, when she departed toward her death, the other woman from my dream, Marina Tsvetayeva, travelled so often, as if she was trying to run away from death. And indeed, when she returned to her home, she marked herself the border between her life and death. (She gets away from the doll, enters the closet from which she took out the doll previously.) But before that, she travelled. First Berlin, then Prague, and then she settled in France. And from there, one day in May 1926 she went to visit a sanatorium in Switzerland together with Boris Pasternak. One single wish on her mind – the poetess wanted to meet the person that was the embodiment of poetry to her. Rainer Maria Rilke. Sometimes I try to imagine this meeting, Doctor Freud. I picture them alone – they leave Boris Pasternak aside and move away for a while. (She closes the closet.)


RAINER MARIA RILKE is turned with his back. MARINA TSVETAYEVA stands next to him.

MARINA: Just a while ago you said you feel as if you were standing on the borderline between life and death…

RILKE: Yes. A little peculiar for a man in his fifties? It probably is. One would expect that I am hoping for more life.

MARINA: You say you are dying. You are fifty years old and you look just like someone my age. As if you were thirty yourself.

RILKE turns around. His face is truly young like the face of MARINA TSVETAYEVA

RILKE: I only look that way to you. Ask the nurses about my face. They’ll tell you the truth. I am fifty years old, except I’m one of those fifty-year-old people who are getting close to their deaths. But, you… You see me as a poet sees another poet. Seeing the face you’ll take with you to the eternity.

MARINA: I wanted to meet you ever since I read your first poetry. I wanted to ask you so many things… But now… Now I am so confused. As if I am standing in front of Poetry itself.

RILKE: There are so many things I’d like to know about you… About your childhood…

MARINA: I’ve spent a part of it close to your sanatorium. But before that… Before that was Russia. The summers in Tarusa by the river Oka. And my mother, who wanted to read and to play the piano. I remember my childhood by the music and the words. And then, my mother died. I heard her last words. She said: “I am only sorry for the literature, the music and the sun.” She didn’t mention us, her children, at all. Then, a trip from Russia to Switzerland. Yes, I spent a part of my childhood here, very close to this place. You are in a sanatorium now, and I was then in an orphanage. Both sanatoriums and orphanages are separated from the rest of the world as if surrounded by a border. A clear-cut border that divides not only space, but time as well. It was as if the time there, the time in this orphanage that was also a boarding school, was standing still. And I had a feeling that the time outside of it was running on. Because I remembered the time of my carefree childhood in Russia.

RILKE: And when did you go back to Russia?

MARINA: It was all meaningless. Until I turned eighteen. Then, I met my husband, in 1911, in Crimea. He looked weary, he was suffering from tuberculosis. He was seventeen. One year younger than I was. His name is Sergei. Sergei Ephron. On the first day we met he brought me a wonderful mineral, cornelian, washed out to the shore by the Black Sea. I stood at the beach that evening, holding the reddish stone tight in my hand and repeating to myself: “I will marry him and we’ll be together forever.” The crimson stone he gave me was like he has given me his heart. And since I made a promise to myself that he would be my husband, and a promise to him that I would be his wife, I kept my promises. It’s because I can not betray my promises. And I gave this promise exactly fifteen years ago. It was May 1911. May, just like now. (A pause.) Are you wondering whether I regret giving this promise?

RILKE: No. If one does not betray promises, he can have no regrets on the fulfillment of the same. Regardless of the quality of life the fulfillment of these promises brought.

MARINA: I didn’t regret. Ever. But, first of all, the times were not right for regrets. I got back to my childhood days with Sergei. We furnished our apartment in Moscow to resemble my parents’ home. We even placed the photographs just like they stood in their summer house in Tarusa. I repeated the space, wanting to repeat the time. But that is impossible…

RILKE: Except in poetry.

MARINA: And life is not poetry. So, I had to say good-bye to my past, my childhood. Because I had to take care of someone else’s infancy: I got pregnant soon, and I gave birth to my daughter Ariadne. Then came 1917. Sergei left with the White Army to fight against the Red Army, and I was pregnant for the second time. It was the Red October 1917, I gave birth to our second daughter. Irena. I took care of her and Ariadne, and tried to find out if Sergei was still alive. I didn’t know where he was or how he was. Irena died when she was four. From hunger. I begged on the streets to be able to feed Ariadne. I was afraid that she might die too. (Pause.) Then, I found out Sergei had fled to Berlin. I took Ariadne with me and went there as well. We were together again. Sergei got some kind of a scholarship for Prague, so we found ourselves there. And, there I read your poetry for the first time. In the city where you were born. And when I read somewhere that from all the cities in the world, Moscow is most dear to you, I started to set down the crossing points where the lines of our lives intersect: the city you love most is the city where I was born. I also read that one of your favourite poets is Pushkin, and my father was the founder of the Museum of Pushkin in Moscow. The most wonderful poetry I’ve ever read – your poetry – I read in Prague, the city where you were born. And now, now I am just a few hours away from the orphanage-boarding-school that used to be a prison for my childhood and I meet you, the liberator of poetry.

RILKE: In this sanatorium, where I will soon die.

MARINA: No, you will not die…

RILKE: You’ve said nothing of Prague, except that you discovered my poetry there.

MARINA: Yes, there I discovered your poetry. And it was there that I discovered that I will be a mother once again. There I gave birth to Mur. It was last year. Actually, we didn’t exactly live in Prague, but in the vicinity of the city, in Vshenorny. In misery – I had only one dress, the roof was leaking when it rained, we had no money for fire-wood and we sat in the rooms wrapped in shawls, hats and gloves. We slept that way as well. With shawls around our necks. And then Sergei lost his scholarship. And Mur – he was just a few months old. We had friends in France, so we are there for almost a year now… I am trying to write… Sergei works and if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t survive. I am trying to live for the poetry, and for the children… That is my life. What about yours? (A pause.) What about your life?

RILKE: It is time for you to leave. Time for my medication. And for me to go to sleep.

MARINA: But, I want to know so many things about you. And I didn’t ask you anything. There are so many things. I should have at least asked for your advice. For the answers of the most important questions in my life. How should I live? And how should I write?

RILKE: Actually, that is just one question.

(The voice of RILKE is heard in the background – an excerpt from “The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge”. MARINA and RILKE are dancing – he as a man who is surrendering himself to death, she as someone trying to breath life into death.)

RILKE’S VOICE: You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simple emotions (one has emotions early enough) — they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighbourhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents you had to hurt when they brought in a joy (it was a joy meant for somebody else –); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along overhead and went flying with all the stars, — and it is still not enough to be able to think about all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labour, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves, only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

(Slowly, the light fades out.)


(The doll lies on the bed, and ISKRA sits next to the bed.)

ISKRA: After that, they never met again. They only saw each other through their letters.


(The space is divided in two parts. MARINA’s home is on one side, and on the other RILKE’s room in the sanatorium. ISKRA dances between them. Both holding pencil and paper in their hands, MARINA TSVETAYEVA and RAINER MARIA RILKE are not looking down on the letters they are writing, but keep looking at each other.)

MARINA: When we met I told you how much you mean to me. Now I want to write to you about that again. After the Revolution, when I left Russia, I went to Berlin at first, and then I lived in Prague. There, for the very first time, I read your name on the book covers. I began to fall in love with Prague, because that was the place where I later discovered your poetry. They helped me live through the entire misery of my life easier. So, I was in Prague between 1922 and 1925. And then, my family and I left for Paris.

RILKE: I was also in Paris at that time. I was spending most of my time with the Russian emigres… It is strange how we didn’t meet. It is a shame we didn’t meet.

MARINA: I didn’t want us to meet… I was afraid. Ever since I read your poetry in Prague, for me you were greater than Goethe. Why didn’t I approach you, why when I was invited everywhere where your presence was announced? It’s because through your poetry you became my most beloved. And you, you didn’t even know I existed. No, this was not poetic vanity, it was not that I avoided meeting you since I would be just one of those many poets you met in Paris. No, this wasn’t poetic vanity, but lover’s pain. I would have looked at you as a person in love looks at the dearest creature on Earth, and you would have looked at me as a person sees a stranger…

RILKE: No. You know well that poets always recognize each other. As if they all have the sign of poetry imprinted on their faces, that sign of bliss and curse. I would have never looked at you as a person sees a stranger…

(A pause. MARINA and RILKE are watching ISKRA’s dancing.)

MARINA: Perhaps you’re wondering what do I want from you, and why am I writing to you? Yes, what do I want from you, Rilke? Nothing. Everything. I am writing to you to get your permission to allow me to direct my gaze toward you in every moment of my life, like toward a protecting mountain peak, toward some kind of a guardian angel made of stone…

RILKE: A guardian angel… I need that too now. A guardian angel…

(A pause. MARINA and RILKE are watching ISKRA’s dancing. MARINA lifts up two books from the floor. Goes to the window and flips through the pages.)

MARINA: Today, on the 10th of May 1926, I received your books. “The Duino Elegies” and “The Sonnets to Orpheus”. I got them this morning. The children were still asleep. Now, they’re asleep again, it’s the end of the day. I remembered how, when my daughter Ariadne was still little, when she was barely three years old, she used to ask me every night before sleep: “Will you read me Raineke?” (She leaves the books by the window.) Your poetry was her lullaby. Raineke, that’s how your name sounded to her, she had compressed in those three syllables the entire Rainer Maria Rilke, cause children have no sense for pauses.

(A pause. MARINA and RILKE are watching ISKRA’s dancing.)

MARINA: As I’m writing you this, my son, who is only a year and three months old, is sitting right next to me and is taking my pencil out of my hand. I keep writing, his tiny little fingers wrap around the pencil, and I stop. He is so handsome, whenever we meet some elderly ladies, they just say: “He is such a cute little prince.”

RILKE: My daughter. I don’t even know how my daughter looks like anymore. I lived with her when she was about your son’s age. My daughter… I don’t think I need her. I don’t think I need anyone. This sanatorium is all I need…

MARINA: And I wrote to Boris Pasternak how nice it would be if we could come and visit you. But now you say you don’t need anyone…

RILKE: I say that whenever I remember my daughter.

MARINA: I asked Boris Pasternak once in a letter: “What are we going to do when life starts loosing sense?” And he replied: “We’ll go visit Rilke.”

RILKE: I lost the meaning of existence now as well. And with it, I lost the desire to write.

MARINA: When we met, you said: “Write because you must. Write because you’ve got something to say.”

RILKE: It’s like I have nothing more to say. And as life has nothing more to say to me, either. Only death is left. But I am numb before her.

MARINA: If you have nothing more to say, it is like poetry has nothing more to say. If you become silent, then poetry will become silent as well…

RILKE: I wrote you a poem this morning.

(RILKE’s voice is heard, reciting the poem, and while the voice is reciting, ISKRA, MARINA and RILKE are dancing.)


(Fade out. The stage is in total darkness. Only MARINA’s voice is heard.)

MARINA: Rainer, we must see each other. This winter. In France or in Switzerland, it makes no difference. Maybe in some little town on either side of the border, it doesn’t matter whether you or I cross the border. Promise me that we will see each other, Rainer. This winter. Or even better, before New Year’s Eve. Promise me, Rainer.


(The same room. ISKRA and the doll. The doll lies on the couch, ISKRA sits on the chair

ISKRA: He couldn’t make that promise. Just before New Year’s Eve, she was told that the poet became one with for good. So, she sat down and wrote him a letter.


(A coffin, RILKE lying inside it. MARINA stands by the coffin. There’s a clock ticking behind her – just a couple of minutes before midnight.)

MARINA: In just a couple of minutes, it’ll be New Year. And they told me you died… Is your death this year’s beginning? An ending? A beginning! (Rilke’s coffin slowly starts to lift up.) Look, Rainer, I’m crying, you’re running through me through my eyes. Oh, my Dearest, if you could die, then there is no death, or there is no life! (RILKE’s coffin lifts higher and higher, and then RILKE raises the upper part of his body and sits up inside the coffin, looking at Marina, while she stares at the floor.) Rainer, tomorrow it will be New Year, it will be 1927. Seven was your favorite number. The number you believed brought you luck. I feel so miserable, Rainer. (Rilke bents down from the coffin and with his arm he wipes the tears off Marina’s face.) No, I shouldn’t be in grief! Dearest, do your best to let me see you often in my dreams, or even better, come to live inside my dreams. (The coffin floats in the air. Rilke stands up in the coffin and starts to dance. He makes very slow movements, like he is dancing on the borderline between life and death.) You and me, we never believed in the earthly encounters, didn’t we? Just like we never believed in earthly life. And if we believed in our meetings in the letters, those meetings where our souls met, just as strong as we believed in our meeting in the sanatorium, that day in May, when our bodies and souls met, then the unearthly life is even more truthful than life on Earth. (The coffin slowly comes down, until it reaches the floor.) Can you hear me? No, you can’t be that high yet. Neither can you be so far away. You’re still here somewhere, your head is lying on my shoulder. (Rilke puts his head on her shoulder.) You will never be too far away, never unreachably high. You, my dear grown-up little boy. (She places her hand on his head.) Rainer, write to me! And promise me you will come to me in my dreams. (She lies down on the floor. Rilke stays in the coffin, and puts his hand on top of her head.)


(The doll lies on the couch. ISKRA sits by the couch.)

ISKRA: What would you say about this, Doctor Freud? The day she finds out he is dead, she is begging him to visit her in her dreams, and to write to her… Would you find Marina Tsvetayeva interesting as a patient? I find her interesting, in a sense of her way of experiencing the world. At the beginning of her writing career, she wrote:

MARINA’S VOICE: We will all pass away. In fifty years from now, we will all be under the ground. New characters will rise under the eternal skies. And I still have the will to cry out to everyone who still lives: Write, write even more! Solidify every minute, every gesture, every sigh! And, not only the gesture, but the shape of the hand that moulded the gesture, as well; and not only the sigh, but the expression of the lips from which the sigh glided through with ease, also.

ISKRA: I am just interested – can dancing solidify every gesture and every sigh, beside writing? Or the dance, too, just like the sigh and the gesture, is one of the things that pass, that need solidification, that need words to describe it in order to continue its lasting process after it is done? And then, Doctor Freud, while I was thinking about the lasting and the termination, even in my dreams, your sister’s face would appear in my dreams. I’ve seen her face only by chance, in two family photographs of the Freuds. And your sister always appeared in my dreams when Marina Tsvetayeva was there. Maybe, it is because they both wanted to travel. And while your sister went travelling only once in her life time, when she departed toward her death, the other woman from my dream, Marina Tsvetayeva, travelled so often, as if she was trying to run away from death. And indeed, when she returned to her home, she marked herself the border between her life and death.


(A tiny room. A bed, a window, and a ceiling with wooden beams. MARINA strides through the room with a rope in her hands. She goes back and forth. RILKE is in the room, but she can’t see him.)

MARINA: Why did I take this rope? Why did I take this rope? Oh, yes. (She puts the rope around her neck. RILKE comes near her and touches the rope around her neck. Finally MARINA sees that he is present in the room.) Rainer… You are here? Or am I loosing my mind?

RILKE: I’m here all the time.

MARINA: Then why couldn’t I see you? When I needed you most, when I felt worse than ever?

RILKE: You’re feeling worse than ever now. That is why you can see me. You can see me only when you come nearest to death.

MARINA: Yes. I’ve come nearest to death now. I am closer to you now than ever.

RILKE: Can I remove this rope from your neck?


RILKE: I want to take it away. (He tries to take it away. She stops him.)

MARINA: I can’t take it anymore, Rainer. I am tired. From life, from myself. From existence. Even from poetry, Rainer. Poetry was the only thing keeping me alive. I grew tired of myself and of life a long time ago. I lived only from poetry and for poetry. But now I grew tired of it, too. I can’t write anymore either.

RILKE: Remember when you asked me for advise about how you should live and how you should write! I told you that you should live a life that will make you write. A life full of experiences. Experiences should be transformed into memories, then memories should be transformed into your own blood, and then that blood should be used to write with. Now your memories transformed into blood, now you should use that blood to write.

MARINA: You’re deeply mistaken, Rainer. My blood is dried out. It is over, Rainer. You should have come to me sooner.

RILKE: But I did. I was always by your side. Ever since the night I died. The night you wrote me your last letter. You remember, you once asked me to be your guardian angel.

MARINA: But you did not protect me.

RILKE: There was nothing to protect you from. The poet should only be protected from being spoiled by life. Life gave you everything a poet needs to write – experiences.

MARINA: I guess I was given more than I could handle. I am tired. It is time to leave.

RILKE: It is much too early.

MARINA: I am forty-nine years old. Only a year younger than you were, when you departed.

RILKE: Then wait for another year.

MARINA: No. I can’t take it anymore. I am dying out.

RILKE: You look just as young as you were on the day we met fifteen years ago.

MARINA: I look that way to you because every dead poet sees the living people eternally young. You, too, are just as young as you were on the day we met. That same day you told me that only in my eyes you were looking as if you were my age, while you actually looked even older than fifty. Our roles have changed now. Then, I saw you young and vital, and now, you see me young, as if only a day has passed. But, that’s not true. Once I was like an amber. I used to emanate light, and the people whose lives somehow touched upon me, became illuminated themselves. But, now, I’ve lost my luminosity, as well. I feel I am in the dark, too. Maybe I’ll be able to shine again after I discard my body, this body I was always afraid from. (A pause.) Would anything have been different if I stayed in France? Would it have been better if I didn’t return to Russia. I thought it would be better here… The first couple of years in Paris, they published my work. Then, Paris rejected me. There, among the aristocracy of the Russian emigres, among the wealthy people, I was something strange, I didn’t belong there. Though, at the beginning, I did get my share of literary readings.

RILKE: I was there with you. You did feel my presence, although you never thought – his soul might be near. I watched you entering those literary readings with your head bent down. Always wearing the same dress. The only dress you had that wasn’t torn. They held those readings in tiny little rooms, and the audience was only Russians emigres.

MARINA: Not a single French person ever came!

RILKE: You were reading, all the people were looking at you strangely. They found your poems awkward, strange. I could hear them whispering while you were reading.

MARINA: I’m sure they weren’t talking about my poems…

RILKE: They were talking about your short hair. And that you were wearing the same dress again. And that your behaviour was awkward. They never listened to a single word you read.

MARINA: I knew they weren’t listening. I could see that. Only a few people came in those rooms where they held the literary readings, so I could see all of their reactions. I watched. I listened. I read, and I could hear the whispers. I continued to read without stopping. And I continued to accept their offers to read whenever they would invite me. Over, and over again.

RILKE: And then – the same humiliating scene at the end of it all. The miserable fee paid to you by organizers in public, in front of the eyes of everyone present.

MARINA: My stretched out hand, my hand stretched out like a beggar’s hand. The hand I wrote my poems with, stretching out as if begging for money, and someone else’s hand that places a little bit of money on it.

RILKE: And all those people talking while you were reading, leaving without a word. Never asking any questions. Never asking you a single thing about your poetry.

MARINA: And still, I begged them to let me read again somewhere. And again. And again. And again. To the next humiliation. When they stopped publishing me in the emigre’s magazines, we were left with no money at all. The only meat we could afford was horse meat.

RILKE: I saw you on the market. Buying only the smallest potatoes, and the cheapest left-over fruit. You had eggs only for Easter. The clothes you wore were other people’s clothes, and the shoes on your feet were shoes worn by other feet before.

MARINA: My husband and my daughter couldn’t stand it anymore. They wanted to leave. I told them: “Let’s hang on just a little longer. Just a little. A little.” They couldn’t. They went back to Russia. Mur stayed with me in Paris.

RILKE: I saw the dream you had on the twenty-third of April, 1939. In your dream, you were climbing up a narrow mountain path. The landscape was the same as Saint Helena. A precipice on the left, steep rocks on the right. Nowhere to escape to. Down from the path, there comes a huge lion toward you. You crossed yourself three times. The lion lied down on its belly, then he got up, and crept carefully past you. You moved along the your way down the path and then woke up. The same morning after you had that dream, you decided to get back to Russia.

MARINA: In June, that same year, Mur and I left Paris. He was fourteen then. And it was a long trip with the train to Moscow. I was looking at Europe through the window all along. The Europe I’ve wanted to meet, the Europe that refused to meet me. The Europe for which I was a bastard. The Europe that thought I was someone else’s bastard, not knowing I was one of her own. I kept repeating to myself that I will stop writing. But, then again, I didn’t…

RILKE: During your journey, I could hear your thoughts. Your eyes were being filled with landscapes from all those European cities, your thoughts were being filled with bitterness. I could hear your thoughts.

(A sound from a train on a railroad. Then, MARINA’s voice.)

MARINA’S VOICE: I will write no more. There’s no need to write anymore. No one really cares about what I write. So, I will stop writing. Not because I don’t want to write. I won’t write any more. Because I can’t write anymore. Words run away from me. As if I am trying to catch air and it slips through my fingers. Maybe, because they know that if I catch them, no one will ever read them. Europe refuses to read what I write. For Europe I am the bastard of literature. The Europe that thinks I am someone else’s bastard, not knowing I am one of her own.

MARINA: I was on my way to Russia. For Russia I was the run-away daughter. I was the prodigal daughter of Russia. Yes, the father awaits his prodigal son with his hands open for an embrace. But, Mother Russia greeted her prodigal daughter with a whip in her hand. (A pause. A sound from the stopping train, the slow diminishing sound of the railroad racket, until there is complete silence.) When I left Russia, I lost all my Russian readers. Seventeen years later, when I went back, I couldn’t hope for new readers. But, I did hope for a quiet life. I didn’t mind much about poverty. All I needed was just a little tranquility. Tranquility… I never lived to feel tranquility… First they locked up my daughter. Then, they locked up my husband. I wrote a letter to Joseph Visarionovich Stalin, pleading for a careful review of the case. The answer never came. A war was coming instead. And this summer came as well. Moscow had to be evacuated. So, Mur and I got up on a train. It was crowded with refugees. Our suitcases were only filled with bare necessities: clothes, some sugar, rice, tobacco. We were travelling. Running away. And looking at each other.

RILKE: I could hear your thoughts. You were wondering how you look like in the eyes of your son. Whether he saw you like an old, helpless woman. While on his face, his sixteen-year-old face, you saw the face he had when you met me, the face of a child that has just learned to walk.

MARINA: We sat in the train. Two hopeless creatures. A mother and a son. We shared our last piece of bread. And then we reached the last station, Elabuga. We’re here, alone, my son and I. He is sixteen. I will never see him again. (She makes a desperate gesture, no tears – only with her hands clenched in fists she touches her forehead.) He’s at the airport now. He went there with the woman that rents us this little room, to work. I work, too. I am washing dishes in a canteen. I’m supposed to go there tonight as well. To wash the dishes. But I won’t go. Not to the canteen. It’s time for me to leave. I am tired from being.

RILKE: I know that poetry is not enough anymore to make you stay here…

MARINA: Poetry is no reason to go on… We’ve split, poetry and I.

RILKE: But, there’s Mur. He’s only sixteen.

MARINA: He’s old enough to go on by himself. I would only be his burden. With me along, it’ll be harder for him to go on with his life.

RILKE: You’re not thinking how he will feel, knowing you’ve killed yourself. You don’t even think that he might blame himself, for not finding a way to make your existence more bearable…

MARINA: He’s smart enough to know that there is no one can make my existence more bearable. I’m nothing but a stone now, sinking toward the bottom.

RILKE: Still, if you kill yourself, he will feel guilt. He will blame himself for the rest of his life.

MARINA: I already told him that I want to leave. I’ve been telling him that I will do this for years. I’ve spent day after day telling him that the I only lack courage to do it. That is my unredeemable guilt – he has been hearing me saying that I will kill myself ever since he was a child. He knows he is clean before God. Just like an angel. He has already reconciled with my death long time ago. (She picks up the chair, places it under the beam on the ceiling.)

RILKE: Marina, if you kill yourself, four days after you do that, he will join the army as a volunteer.

MARINA: (Climbs up on the chair) That is not true!

RILKE: And he will get killed.

MARINA: Is this consolation? The thought that he and I will be apart only for a while? (She ties the rope to the beam.) What date is it today, Rilke? I want to know at what date I will join you forever.

RILKE: The thirty-first of August, 1941, Marina.

(Darkness. The sound of the chair tumbling down is heard.)


(ISKRA sits on the chair by the couch. SIGMUND FREUD lies on the couch, instead of the doll from the previous scenes.)

ISKRA: Yes, I dream about her death. Marina Tsvetayeva’s death. And sometimes I dream about the death of your sister. And sometimes, the two of them meet in my dreams. (A pause.) Are you interested in my dreams, Doctor Freud? (She turns toward him.) If I, somehow, came in your office one hundred years ago, you would certainly have asked me: “What do you dream about, Iskra?” I dream about these two women, away from the men they desired, away from the men desiring them. These women were very close in time, but space wouldn’t let them meet. Your sister has spent her entire life in Vienna, and the only journey she has ever made in her life was the deportation to the camp Teresin. Marina Tsvetayeva was searching for her life, or maybe escaping from death, all over Europe. But, their paths never crossed. (A pause.) I have no idea why they appear together in my dreams. Maybe it’s because, unlike you, who have made a bibliography out of dreams, to them, the dreams and the dreaming were biographies. And their biographies are actually oneirographies. (Sigmund Freud lifts his back up and sits on the couch.) Lie down, Doctor Freud. Lie down, when I tell you. (Sigmund Freud lies back again.) Doctor Freud, I identify myself with your sister. She always wanted to cross the border. She wanted to travel. But, when she could, she didn’t have the courage. When she had a need to cross the border, because the Nazi troops already marched in Vienna, she couldn’t get a visa. It is also very difficult to get a visa for Europe, here, on the Balkans, you know. I can get it only when a European ballet or theatre company invites me somewhere. Maybe that’s the reason why I keep dreaming about borders. Maybe that’s the reason why I dream about Marina Tsvetayeva and Adolphina Freud. And now, I will make a performance about them both. And I will cross the borders by playing their lives. Do you remember the life of your sister, Doctor Freud? The one who crossed the border just once, on her way to death camp?


(September 1942. The concentration camp Teresinshtadt. A room with wooden beds, and about ten bodies lying on them, immovable like dolls. Only one body is moving, it keeps tossing and turning, unable to sleep. It’s DOLPHY FREUD. She gets out of her bed, and walks to the center of the room.

DOLPHY: Where am I? (She moves from one doll, to the next) Where am I? (The dolls remain still.) Where am I? (She takes one doll by the hand, and the hand remains in her hand.) Where am I? (She moves to the next doll and caresses her head.) Where am I? (The doll’s head falls out, and rolls down onto the floor. Dolphy moves toward the center of the room, sits down on the floor and starts to cry.) Where am I? Where am I? Where am I?

(SIGMUND FREUD enters the room. He’s an eighty-year-old man, with a walking stick in his hand. He sits next to her, and rests his head on her shoulder. DOLPHY turns toward him.)

DOLPHY: Who am I?

SIGMUND: Adolphina Freud.

DOLPHY: Adolphina Freud?

SIGMUND: But we all called you Dolphy.

DOLPHY: Dolphy? I don’t remember. I don’t remember Dolphy Freud, either.

(Three dolls start to move. During the scene, they start dancing. At some particular moments the dolls depict what SIGMUND and DOLPHY are talking about with very accurate movements, and at other, they express them rather abstractly. )

SIGMUND: You were born in July 1862, in Vienna.

DOLPHY: Where is Vienna?

SIGMUND: Six years after I was born.

DOLPHY: Who are you?

SIGMUND: Your deceased brother, Sigmund.

DOLPHY: I don’t remember you, either.

SIGMUND: I taught you how to read.

DOLPHY: I don’t know how to read anymore.

SIGMUND: And before that, I taught you how to walk. Father was too busy with the textile trade, and mother with the house. She always loved the other children more than you. Me, Mitzy, Alexander, Anna, Pauline, Rosa. You were always left aside, you were often ill. “She will die”, mother used to say.

DOLPHY: And? Did I die?

SIGMUND: Mother used to say that without any compassion, without fear. She pronounced those words like a statement, and even worse – like a warning for the other children to stay away from you, and not waste their time with you. She used to say that like a warning for everybody: she’s no use, and she won’t last long, and soon, she’ll be gone. You should go on.
DOLPHY: And? Did you go on?

SIGMUND: And maybe that feeling that you’ll be gone soon and the thought of your evanescence haunted me to be beside you, to observe your world, to bring you closer to the world outside our home, because you didn’t go out at all. So I talked to you about everything I saw, I even told you the things I learned at the Leopoldshtadtter Gymnasium. Knowledge from mathematics, biology, geography. But you liked history most of all, you liked those written memories of events that ended long time ago.

DOLPHY: And now, I don’t even remember the things that still last.

SIGMUND: Pondering about your evanescent presence, since mother always said that you won’t live long, I figured out that this evanescence should be filled with beauty. So, I promised you that we will travel…

DOLPHY: Did I ever travel at all?

SIGMUND: We planned to visit all those places, where history left its most visible trail…

DOLPHY: Did I ever travel?

SIGMUND: … probably because we were excited with the idea to reside in a space where not only the contemporary, but also a certain past time exists.

DOLPHY: Why are avoiding to answer my question? Did I ever travel?

SIGMUND: No, you never travelled…

(A pause.)

SIGMUND: And then you got better, as the years went by, you didn’t get that sick anymore. Then, one morning when you were twelve, you told me: “I want to learn how to draw.”

DOLPHY: To draw?

SIGMUND: I was already studying medicine then. I spoke with mother and father and I told them that you should take drawing lessons. Father was silent as always. Mother said: “She keeps getting sick all the time. She should find herself cheaper comfort than drawing lessons.” I told them to understand it as an investment in your future, rather than a comfort. They said that if you do survive, your future should be a husband, a home and children to take care for. I told them that future of any human being lies in being content of one’s own existence. I told them that you would be fulfilled and content of your own existence only if drew. But, they didn’t understand. They kept saying, if drawing makes you content and fulfilled…

DOLPHY: Fulfilled? ….I feel so empty…

SIGMUND: They said if drawing makes you content and fulfilled, then you might as well do it on your own, without taking lessons. I said improvement only adds up to the feeling of content and fulfillment. They told me they didn’t have any money to hire a teacher for that. So, I told them I will spend les money for books, so they can pay for your lessons. (A pause.) I loved books. If there is anything I miss in the other world, it is the books. Do you remember how much I loved books, Dolphy?

DOLPHY: I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything.

SIGMUND: During my medical studies, I often told you all about the autopsies we made on dead people. I used to laugh my heart out seeing you all so disgusted with it. Then, one late afternoon, I got back home with a human heart I managed to steal from the anatomy class that day. I told you: “People love with this, they say. If you can draw this, it means that you have drawn love itself.”

DOLPHY: And? Did I succeed to draw love?

SIGMUND: No. I left the heart on a plate in my room. You were always drawing in my room. The apartment we had was too tight, and every room was crowded with many people. But, mother and father believed that if I have enough conditions for a proper education, someday I would make something grand and leave all the poverty behind. That’s how I got my own room. We used to call that room the cabinet. You used to come there to draw, and ever since the first drawing lessons you took, I said: “My cabinet will also be your atelier.” But, once I’ve put that heart on the plate, you stopped coming there. A few days later, I called you to come to the cabinet. Worms were crawling all over the heart on the plate. And I said: “Dolphy, remember – love is a matter that can easily be spoiled.”

DOLPHY: I can’t remember you’ve said anything.

SIGMUND: Try to remember.

DOLPHY: I don’t know if it is really necessary to remember.

SIGMUND: It’s strange. Once you were saying: “Sometimes it’s better to live with memories, than live with the presence.”

DOLPHY: I can’t remember I said that.

SIGMUND: Do you remember Gustav Klimt?

DOLPHY: Who’s Gustav Klimt?

SIGMUND: You were both studying at the School of Applied Arts at the Royal and Imperial Art Museum. After several years of drawing lessons, you began attending that school. You can’t remember that either?

DOLPHY: I can’t remember…
SIGMUND: Then you probably don’t remember the day you graduated at the School of Applied Arts. Or the day you decided to stop painting. You also don’t remember having fears about my health, when they found I have cancer in the jaw. Or the pain you felt, concerned about the pain I endured during those thirty operations. You probably don’t remember the day the Nazi troops marched in Vienna, or the day when they made us wear the Star of David on our sleeves. You also don’t remember the day I left from Vienna to London, and then, and then…

DOLPHY: I remember… And then one morning Rosa came to me, with her face drowned in tears. I knew what she was going to say. She said: “Sigmund died.”

SIGMUND: So, you do remember.

DOLPHY: Now I remember… I remember it all. I remember how I mourned your death. I remember how they loaded us in wagons, three months ago, and deported us here. Here. In Teresinshtadt. In the camp. To the last stop in my life. And the first trip in my life, actually. Sigmund, do you remember, when we were children, how many times you promised me that we will travel together? Do you remember, Sigmund?

SIGMUND: What do you mean by that?

DOLPHY: I mean that you never fulfilled your biggest promise. I mean that my biggest hope was not fulfilled. The biggest promise of your life was that we were going to travel together. You repeated that thousands of times when we were children. The greatest hope I ever had, was that someday, we were going on a trip together. It was a hope initiated ever since childhood. A hope I believed will come true before you die, for almost eighty years now.

SIGMUND: Dolphy, your behavior is so infantile. You need immediate psychotherapy.

DOLPHY: Sigmund, this is neither your cabinet on Berggasse number nineteen, nor is this wooden bed the couch where your patients used to lie, and I don’t need to solve my psychological problems. This isn’t the place or time for curing them. The most important thing is that my consciousness is clear. The most important thing before one dies, is to have a clear consciousness. That is the most important thing before a person dies – to have a clear consciousness. And, Sigmund, your consciousness is not clear.


DOLPHY: Yes, yours.

SIGMUND: Why would a dead man have guilty consciousness?

DOLPHY: The awareness for sin is probably stronger, once you cross the border between life and death.

SIGMUND: You underline the word border so much that I have a feeling you have something else in mind when you say border.

DOLPHY: Yes, I do. We, too, could have crossed the border.

SIGMUND: No. We couldn’t take you with us when we fled from Vienna to London.

DOLPHY: Yet, you could help your wife’s sister leave with you. And you left your own sisters behind. (A pause.) Pauline, Mitzy and Rosa are all in the camp as well. You left your own sisters, and you chose to save your wife’s sister.

SIGMUND: She was one, you were four.

DOLPHY: Yes. But, that doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe she’s dead, too, now, just like you are. Soon, we will all be dead… Of course, we might have lived a couple of months more, if only you were kind enough to help us leave Vienna with you…

SIGMUND: Stop blaming me for that!

DOLPHY: I don’t blame you for leaving us in Vienna, Sigmund, though you could have taken us with you to London. I am just confirming the fact.

SIGMUND: But, there is still an accusation in the tone of your voice.

DOLPHY: No. But there is an anger in your voice because you refuse to face your guilt and to repent for it. (A pause.) Our lives were almost over anyway. We were all almost eighty years old. I had only two months left before turning eighty. But, if I blame you for something, then I blame you for not taking me on a trip ever.

DOLPHY: Dolphy, these things you’re saying about travelling are so infantile.

DOLPHY: I see you preserved your title on the other side as well, though you’ve lost the sense of being a brother. (A pause.) Just a while ago, when you spoke about my past, you didn’t mention my loneliness. You forgot to mention that I was left alone.

SIGMUND: You weren’t alone. You lived with mother.

DOLPHY: That’s very comforting. You and Alexander got married, our sisters got married, but I was left alone. With mother. Yes, it’s probably infantile to blame you for betraying the promise you gave me when we were children. And if I weren’t infantile, I would probably be satisfied with this only trip in my life – from Vienna to this camp. Yes, I am infantile, and you, you have always been acting mature. Even when you travelled with your wife’s sister. You took Mina Bernays on all the places you promised we will visit together when we were children.

SIGMUND: Dolphy, you are not well.

DOLPHY: (ironically) Would you like to help me?

SIGMUND: At the moment you should be thinking how to find a way out of here?

DOLPHY: Forgive me, Sigmund, but I can’t help but notice that now you are being infantile. Do you really think that an eighty-year-old woman should raise her hopes to get away from here? Or you are so convinced in my infantility, that you hope you can change the subject of this conversation that easily?

SIGMUND: I just want to help you…

DOLPHY: And you think that you are helping me with your advice to think about an escape from here? Now, that is so infantile, Sigmund! Even if your infantile assumption was right, what should I do after I run away? Where could I possibly fit with my eighty-year-old-life? Where? (A pause.) Go away from here. Go away.


DOLPHY: I will die tonight. I’m exhausted, finished, I’m dying. You don’t deserve to be beside me when I depart from life. Go away… (A pause. They’re looking at each other.) Sigmund, this is my last wish. Please, just go away.

(SIGMUND FREUD turns around and leaves. DOLPHY lies down on the bed. Her heartbeats are heard. And then suddenly – they cease.)


(ISKRA sits on the chair beside the couch. SIGMUND FREUD lies on the couch. MARINA TSVETAYEVA stands left from the couch and DOLPHY FREUD stands from the right.)

ISKRA: In a letter to Pasternak Marina Tsvetayeva wrote: “My agony lies in the sheer impossibility for me to become a body.” Why could she be only a soul? Did she ever try, at least by dancing, to discover the body, to discover that she was also a body? Did she ever try to unite the body and the soul through dancing?

MARINA: I was afraid. I was always afraid to dance.

ISKRA: Even in your thoughts?

MARINA: No. I did dance in my thoughts. (We see the contours of a body dancing on a big canvas. Marina, Iskra and Sigmund are looking at it.) When I talked to Rilke, I could see me dancing with him in my mind. I wrote letters to Pasternak, and while I was writing my figure was dancing in front of me in my mind. Also when I taught Ariadne and Mur to read, or when I waited Sergei to come back from the front. But, that wasn’t my body dancing. That was my soul. My soul created the contours of my body and danced. (The figure disappears from the canvas.) But, with this body… (She touches her body like someone else’s, nonher’s.) With this body I couldn’t dance. I was afraid of it. I danced with my soul.

ISKRA: Dancing with the soul. Instead of analyzing the soul. Psycho-dance, instead of psychoanalysis. (She turns toward Sigmund.) And your sister, did she dance?

SIGMUND: (Rises from the couch, sitting down, with his head in his hands.) I don’t know. I can’t remember. I know she was afraid from her body, too. And I was afraid from her soul. I was afraid for her soul. There was something about her similar to madness. And like every bourgeois, I was afraid from madness. Everyone thought of me as the brave man who could heal it, but I was afraid of it. I was afraid whenever madness was near, whenever I was supposed to face it like a next of kin, and not like a doctor. So, if my sister did dance with her soul instead of using her body, that must have been some infernal dance.

DOLPHY: I don’t know whether I danced with my soul. Maybe I was afraid to look at it as well. Maybe I was afraid to see what I could find there. So, I was dancing. With my body. But, never in front of other people. I only watched them dance. Somewhere deep inside me, the music I had heard was being kept safe, somewhere deep I could hear Strauss, and then I’d close my eyes and start to dance. (She closes her eyes and starts to dance.) I was afraid to look in the mirror and see how I dance, but still, that wasn’t the reason why I closed my eyes. It was easier to cross the border between the real world and the imaginary world with my eyes closed. The only border I’ve ever crossed. (She bumps into an object and falls down. She opens her eyes, sits on the floor, and then folds her hands over her knees.)

ISKRA: Maybe this is why I dream about them, Doctor Freud. Maybe it is because their souls are searching for a body that will set them free with a dance. And maybe, that’s the reason why I want to make a performance in which I will tell the story of their souls with my body. And to feel in that way, by dancing, the melting down of the border between body and soul, earthly and ethereal, here and there.

(Slowly, she starts to dance. Fade out.)

Translated byArna Shijak and Jasmina Ilievska

Photography by: Katica Kjulavkova

This post is also available in: Macedonian

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