Elena Gordeeva and I worked together at the TASS news agency for over 12 years. Only a door separated my sport information section from her teletype office. So naturally, when Elena's older daughter Katia and her pair skating partner Sergei became World champions and later Olympic champions in Calgary, Lena was the first one to find out. She came out to the stairways, nervously lit a cigarette and… cried with happiness. All of us would congratulate this charming woman whose "creation," looking exactly like her mother, created magic on ice rinks all over the world.
Lena, how come I haven't seen you at TASS for a long time?
I left TASS two years ago after working there for 22 years. I went to work at the Academy for Creative Art. Then, a year and a half later, I found out that my older daughter Katerina was expecting a child. I told her that it was simply wonderful and that I would stay home. I am deeply convinced that they should continue working. Besides, our family is big, everyone is different so it has never been a "breakfast at 8 - dinner at 7" situation. Our house has always been full of people and I like being a busy housewife. In any case, last August I quit work and on September 11 Katyukha gave birth to our wonderful Dashka.
Who's helping you, "bamulechka" (a child's way to pronounce "babulechka," short for "babushka" OVS) while Dasha's famous working parents are conquering the American continent?
My younger daughter, 17-year old Masha who is a student of the Externative University for Humanities – for which Katia and Seryozha are paying for. Of course, I wouldn't be able to handle my granddaughter without Mashka because my elderly father is living with us and my husband needs attention too.
If I am not mistaken, he used to dance with the Alexandrov Dance Company.
Yes, but Sasha has retired and at one time was working as administrator for Tatiana Tarasova's show where our children were also working after they left amateur sport. Now, my husband works for a theater management company, he's director at the Art Manager Club.
When did Katia and Seryozha get married?
April 20, 1991. She was 19, he - 23. At first they had a civil ceremony and on April 29 they had a Church wedding not far from our house. Now Katia's Godfather, a Priest, is waiting for Dashka to be baptized.
You probably weren't surprised when they decided to turn their professional partnership into a personal one?
I have seen many pairs who sooner or later became husband and wife. By the way, I have always thought that it is not necessary to become a pair in life if you are a pair at work. But a long time ago I noticed – probably because I have a daughter – that Seryozhka is a nice guy, although somewhat wild, and that Katia likes him not only as a partner, but as a boy. Nevertheless, I can't say that it was some crazy love, fatal attraction – no. She had quiet, peaceful feelings inside. Everything was very calm. Of course, Seryoga wasn't attracted to her at all at first. Then, he started treating her like a sister, and then I noticed that he fell in love with her.
That's when the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan?
You should have seen Katyukha after she gave birth! She is still an ugly duckling. She weights 38 kilos - that's with her height of 156 cm! She has never been this thin before. But she has also never been in better shape. Of course, she looks more grown up now, there is something feminine in her face…
By the way, she is a copy of you.
That's arguable. Our close friends think that Katia looks very much like her father.
This means you and Sasha look alike.
Of course! We got married in 1969 after dating for five years. We have been together all our life so we look alike. The period of young love between Katia and Seryozha coincided with their preparations for the 1888 Olympics. Their choreographer Marina Zueva noticed it right away and created their famous "Dream of Love." I can't say my daughter had a choice – she and Seryozha were always together but now I am convinced that they indeed love each other. They practically don't fight. I think it's because Seryozha has a wonderful personality – he doesn't hold grudges and is very kind, he becomes better and better every year.
What kind of personality does your daughter have?
Very tough but because she is an athlete she can't be different. She is a Gemini and Seryozha is an Aquarius. Although Katia loves to move around, she is very homey – she loves taking care of plants, baking, doing laundry. Creating a home wherever they are is her hobby.
Katia was 20 when she became pregnant. Was there a question whether to keep the baby? Didn't her career depend on that?
Of course. Katerina wanted to have an abortion because they didn't plan that pregnancy. That was the time when they left amateur sport and were kind of stuck between two worlds – didn't know what was ahead of them but knew what was behind them. Having titles and money, they didn't know what to do next.
They really wanted to skate. At that time, it wasn't as serious as it is now though. Many people wonder – how could they have a child and just leave her behind like this? I am deeply convinced that Katerina is at an age where she can really open up. Seryozha is stable, although he too is skating much better now. Katerina has new qualities now, that's why she was so frightened by the pregnancy. She was afraid to lose these qualities. I told my daughter, "You are young and you must work. You will have something to work for. You will give birth and get back into shape right away. The sooner you do this, the easier it's going to be for you and for us. I am healthy and I will help you." It took us awhile to convince her, we took her to different doctors who were against the abortion.
Didn't Katia work almost half way through her pregnancy?
Until she was five months pregnant. It wasn't hard for her and the doctors didn't object. Although they had to take out most difficult elements.
Did she give birth here?
Seryozha was against her giving birth in Moscow. Besides, Russian doctors wanted to do a c-section and I was against that. By that time, she had an invitation to deliver at a hospital in New Jersey so a month before her due date she left for America.
So, according to American laws, Dashka is now a US citizen?
When Katia was planning her trip this idea didn't even enter her mind. But it turned out like that. A month after the due date, Katia and Seryozha were supposed to start working in a show. My daughter had a normal delivery and when I got there several days later I saw that miracle – 45 cm and 2.6 kg.
My God, how tiny!
I remember my wonderful daughter taking me to a dark room upstairs and saying, "Mom, look what I have given birth to." Then Mashka told me that in a telephone coversation Katia had mentioned that she was afraid her mother would be mad at her for giving birth to such a small child.
Len, you should have a third child yourself! It would be easier to take care of them!
Actually, Katia was trying to convince me, "Come on, Mom, let's have children at the same time!"
Does she follow some kind of a diet?
With her structure she can eat anything she wants but eating healthy is considered good taste in America so Katia is following this rule. Hot dogs and bologna are considered bad food, something your body doesn't need. She eats oatmeal, whole wheat, wild rice.
But it tastes so bad!
It doesn't, Lera, it doesn't. When I come back here I can't even look at this salty crap – I mean, bologna.
When did Dasha's mother start working out?
Two weeks after delivery and at the same level of intensity as before she was pregnant – 6 hours a day at first, then 10. Two trainings sessions, 4-5 hours each. Plus swimming pool, gym, weights. Imagine, Seryozha comes home, watches television and works out his legs. They need it. They have an amazing job and they must work. They have practically become one with their work, they have a strong drive to keep working and they work like crazy. When they came to Moscow in Feburary-March they both were in perfect shape.
I heard your children bought a house in America. Does it mean they are going to live there the rest of their life?
Absolutely not. When people have a huge contract in another country they should have their own roof above their head. So on March 28 the new owners were given keys to their house in Florida.
Valeria Mironova. Photos by Alexandr Yakovlev. Copyright © 1993 Semya (Family).
Translated to English by Olya Smolyanova
Special thanks to Tatiana Emelyanova for this article.