A memorial service in Yelabuga today, the 70th anniversary of her death, commemorates the life and work of influential Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, described by Annie Finch on Harriet as, “a warm poet, so unbridled in her passion, so completely vulnerable in her love poetry, whether to her female lover Sofie Parnak, to Boris Pasternak, or in one of my favorite porms, her passionate ode to her desk, that Akhmatova seems cool and controlled in comparison.”

Here’s the story behind two of Tsvetaeva’s earliest champions:

Marina Tsvetaeva, one of Russia’s most remarkable poets of the Silver Age—took her own life 70 years ago, on Aug. 31, 1941. In recent years, her poems and life story have come to life as a dramatic chronicling of the first half of Russia’s 20th century—a wrenching tale of revolution, exile, émigré life, espionage, and the inevitably fatal encounter with Stalin’s Terror. […] Rediscovering her poems and preserving her life was a life-long project for two women—Marina’ sister, Anastasia, and Nadezhda Katayeva-Lytkina.

I met Anastasia, the author and younger sister of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, in 1990. She gave me her newly printed novel that she, as she informed me with a mischievous smile, smuggled out of the camp over the years on packs of cigarettes. During Stalin’s reign, and after his death, she sat 22 long years in detention and exile, because she was the sister of the famous Marina—and also because Anastasia was an author herself.

Anastasia Tsevetaeva became friends with Nadezhda Katayeva-Lytkina. A young surgeon, and member of the intelligentsia, Katayeva-Lytkina also lived in what was once the house where Marina lived.

The two women combined forces to promote Tsetaeva’s work:

The struggle went on for decades and resembled a political thriller. The Central Committee of the Communist Party threatened the surgeon: “If you publicly speak of the measures taken, your house will be demolished.”
Then Perestroika began. Undeterred, employing civil disobedience and the assistance of friends and fans, Katayeva-Lytkina finally got the museum to add Marina Tsvetaeva’s house to its exhibit. In the autumn of 1992, as the country officially celebrated her 100th birthday, the museum finally opened its doors. They were long- awaited days of celebration for Katayeva-Lytkina and Anastasia Tsvetaeva, who died three years later.

Today, the Marina Tsvetaeva Museum in Moscow is a visual feast for people interested in the Silver Age and the abundance of prerevolutionary culture.

For more information, see the Marina Tsvetaeva Memorial Flat & Museum Cultural Center, or read the full article here.

Originally Published: August 31st, 2011