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A Poem by Victor

written in his English
November 2001

asd
So - I'm going to live right now. Last thing I want to do is  send you my last stupid poem (I've promised):

Am I there tomorrow or not – doesn't matter
I am just passerby at the virtual space
Many people around are doing much better
Many people around belong to the place

Not the question of birth, nor the question of borders
Just the different style of accepting the life
But whatever it is, with no respect to orders
You can live at the full or just try to survive

And possessing the right not to judge but to mention
Just a couple of words at the edge of the page
Life is lovely and rather amusing invention
With the option to close – or to open the cage

[Hope you aren't sick after reading.]

 


Victor with his kids, Polina and Vlad
1999


 

 

 

 

 

 


Victor is gone, killed in an accident in Kunduz. He moved to Kabul for a business venture in 2004. V. traveled a good deal around the country and got to know it well. Word reached me from Afghanistan remarkably late, and I'm sure there are plenty of friends on Victor's international roster that haven't heard the terrible news. If you are one of them, you're welcome to contact me for more information and to share your memories of Victor, or to contact Vlad, Victor's son, directly. This virtual memorial has been unexpectedly comforting. Thousands of miles from Victor's family and friends, emails of thoughts and photos fill a painful void in the mourning process. The Larins have been delighted to hear continued words of support from everyone across the globe who loved Victor. And there were many.

In the next days and, possibly weeks, there will be updates of photos and thoughts about Victor. Hopefully something lovely will be up for his 44th birthday on Sunday, November 6th. If you’ve anything to share, please drop us a line in his memory.

{itinerantnastya[at]yahoo}

 


Victor in Wardak

Victor in Wardak, a province west of Kabul.
January 2005

 
The Layers   by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?



In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

—submitted by Biju


 


Lataband
a mountain not far from Kabul
January 2005

 

 

Memories of Victor:  One last bulk

The news of Victor's death finally reached me from Afghanistan via e-mail, twenty-three hours before a midterm and minutes before teaching a yoga class. When I skimmed the e-mail, "Oh, so that's where he's been," flashed through my mind in that first split second. Then my heart crashed and I began to wail as I understood where he's been.

My difficulty processing grief is well established, and Victor's death poses a unique challenge in that I am far from his friends and family, from the places where we were. But I haven't seen Vitya in years. We kept our friendship up online, as so many do these days, and that is where I have turned to grieve, to mourn this beautiful man and pay him the respects I owe so deeply.

Though he was a Samarqandi by birth, we worked together in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I was a tour guide and he was a hotel manager. Vitya taught and supported me in ways I will never repay, and I hope that under my arrogant, obnoxious façade that he knew how much I loved him.

I'd have preferred to—I'd have been honored to—go out and wail with the women, beat my chest and meet the intense, tamasic pain which the “strong” demand the impure live out for them. But I had a Hinduism midterm to prepare for and I was not about to ask out of it. Instead I treaded a middle ground. I studied as much as able, concentrating on the meaning and rituals of death because we'd recently covered it and that is where my mind was rooted. Alas, Yama [Hindu god of death] barely graced the midterm (he can be such a tease!), but I worked in what I'd learned as best I could, and now sit down to write. To wail.

And to acknowledge that it does not feel right to march on in polluted strength when there are tears denied and pains shooting through my rib cage on to my heart because Vitya, and another part of me, is dead. But how to grieve when there are no family and friends around to sit with and remember his warmth and beauty? In that, this electronic connection has bridged a painful separation.

Vitya loved to argue as much as I do and we debated endlessly, in his office, in the Taj restaurant on Chekhovskaya Ulitsa, and after I left, by e-mail. We offended each other daily, but he never gave up or shut me out. Instead, he explained himself, his culture and his way of seeing time and again, and encouraged me, ordered me, to keep interpreting it for those not willing or able to venture to Uzbekistan. And, of course, for the tourists who did. So now it's time for me to sit and remember, to write the Victor I knew from my way of seeing him, which might be, please understand (as Vitya would have), quite different from your own.

Victor was larger than life, almost mythological. He loved to take care of people and he lived for it, sometimes to his detriment, when he didn't say no and others took advantage. He knew this and he had started to fight it around the time we met in 2000, perhaps before. But once identified, these habits are still tremendously hard to break. Hell, being a sexy hero has its merits. By the time of his death, Victor had two families to care for and an endless list of friends, lovers and business associates who counted on him in different ways.

In the last year, Victor and I stopped writing as much. Nothing he wrote was really meaty and interesting as our correspondence had been, and as that's all I really respond to, I didn't much respond (yeah, you aren't alone). I've been enjoying my inward journey of late, minding my own nonsense, which is interesting to very few and annoying to the rest. I sensed it was annoying to Victor, not because he didn't appreciate the inner-world, but because he was moving out (as I will too at some point), traveling and working madly, trying to establish the business in Afghanistan. So much for balance. I sigh in pain as it's unlikely that I have to explain to you my take on workaholics, those who run in bright-fast circles to numb the pain of their existence, full force against a second's rest to simply breathe the depth of life, its torments, and its fertile joys. What's hell is that Victor knew it but fell anyway. For the year, with small exception, most of his emails looked like this:

My life here more and more become gypsy style. I stay in Kabul for not more than 3 nights a week and my knowledge of geography of Afghanistan is getting better and better. I've seen nice places on the north, east and south - on the way visits to Kandahar, Helman and Herat. Than Badahshan. As you see not enough time for something more than a couple of words to write. I'd like to write down some impressions, but I'm afraid I won't. Anyway - good to know that you've been safely landed at home. And I'd like to see your central asian diaries published and signed for me.

       and:

Sorry for being silent for too long. Just owervhelmed with business issues and absolotely have not time due to the very tough travelling schedule. I've made around 2 thousand miles in the last couple of weeks(also on SUV, but just 14 years old Toyota Surf). I've been in Jalalabad, Wardak, Kunduz, Takhar, Saripul, Wardak and few more less prominent places. Tomorrow I'm leaving again to Shibirgan, day after I have to be in Kunduz, than one night in KAbul, then Jalalabad (to pick up my team) and then to Ghazni. After Ghazni I'd probaly have to go to Herat and Kandahar and somewhere in the meantime to visit Badahshan and Fayzabad. Few pictures were made, of course no comparison with your professional ones, but anyway reflecting unimaginable wonderful scenery of this country. I would like to get a bit more time to learn Dari finally. I'd like to get a bit more time to write down some of my road impressions. May be later.

Belinda, a New Yorker to whom Vitya introduced me in Tashkent, who's helped me immensely in this grief, had the same complaint. "He'd made a choice about where he wanted to put his time." Belinda expressed her annoyance to him but I let go. He sent me boring emails (with some beautiful photos) and I didn't reply. I just waited for this stage to pass.

Victor was forever pressing me about writing my stories down, which he knew all too well doesn't happen much when you are trying to get the big life done. But the reason I stopped writing about him, and about much in Central Asia, was because I got too close and it got sticky. I cared about the people too much to write them simply, and didn't feel I had it in me to explain my friends' different decisions and different ways of life to folks back home.

In one of our last great debates, which always included a great misunderstanding, Victor showed me his vulnerability in a way he seldom did. He told me I'd hurt him, that I flattened him, made him two dimensional and poked easy fun at him in my comments about his life decisions. I don't recall now what I'd said (I'm still unable to look back at those emails), but I can still feel the shock of pain in my heart when I read it. I immediately emailed him, "No no no, Victor, dorogoi! Please, no, that's not what I meant, not how I feel!" I didn't say that often, and certainly not enough. I've never felt that about anyone I've lost and it feels, it feels like my heart muscle has been stretched out like a rubber band and ZING snapped free, left to find it's form somewhere new, somewhere again. We took for granted that “May be later.”

A little more than a year after I left Uzbekistan, Victor moved to Moscow because life in Tashkent is abysmal (much thanks to Karimov) and he eventually wanted to get his family out. He didn't bring his family though, because it took awhile to find a job and set up. Ethnically Russian or not, being Uzbekistani did not make life in the big city easy for Victor and he didn't like it there. Nevertheless, he fell for his landlady and married her. They had a daughter, Anastasia, in May of 2003. (Given the nature of time, I thought she was 18 months now, but she's already two and a half.)

This involved leaving his Uzbek wife, which never totally happened as he was ever-dedicated to supporting his family. And now families. Victor thought that I judged this brand of heroic masculinity, and, yes, I did. Most Americans would, which is why I never told the story. I didn't know how to do it without flattening him. Though it looked all the while like Vitya was building himself a heavy cage, one he simultaneously yearned and plotted to escape, he knew it and fought it. Beneath his heroic, manly mask there was poetry aching to break free. This made him human. And loveable.

I never told him that though, and he thought I looked down on him. I didn't. How could I? When in Uzbekistan, I benefited from his generosity like any other. He watched my back, taught me without letting me know it, and never, ever once made me feel like he wanted something from me, physical or otherwise. We talked about relationships and sex, and he certainly had all sorts of lovers, but he never once let me feel that irksome pressure of fanciful expectation that most hetero friendships have now and again. Nor did he presume it of me. He was an excellent friend.

Yes, I was frustrated that he chose to work himself to the end—he must have had so much to say about his life there!—but we both thought it was just a stage. At least I did. I really did expect him in New York, my borderless city, one day. I'd take him about to my favorite Indian places, as I did in Tashkent. Yes, that's what I thought.

I encouraged him to go to Afghanistan, because though he was working like mad and escaping his families, justified by trying to support them (a man's man), he was also having the adventures he always wanted to have. Of course I understood his wanting to be somewhere else and we related heavily on that note. He loved my bulks and encouraged me to do more with them. I didn't. But now, with Victor gone and so much left unsaid, this memorial is the very least I can do for him. The photos capture his beauty, at once his heroic, manly stance and his sad, searching eyes. Oh, beautiful Vitya, may you be happy and free. You are loved.

 

 


Victor with Frederick, a French client
on site at Puli Khumry

 

 

Another Poem by Victor
in his English
contributed by Belinda

Misunderstanding! Such a common case
While sharing the treasures of the mind
We are so different and even golden cage
Could be your bless and still the curse of mine
We used to stay inside the armoured shell
Be ready to defend the allien's strike
And PRIVACY is universal spell
So many years we were tought to like
We growing older with protected soul
With habit of surviving on your own
And after seasons then will come the fall
To whisper calmly - Here you are.. alone..

Kabizdoh
2001

 

 


Winter, early 2005

 


April 2005

 

Victor and Polina
May 2005

 


Vlad Larin
2005

 



The Larins and extended family in Samarkand

 


Victor took amazing photos of his life in Afghanistan.

 


Victor with his friend, Arthur (a Bukharan!)

“I was always telling Viktor that I studied five years at the foreign language university and my English is very very poor, and Viktor learned himself and he could write poems. This is another example that he was unique.”     —Arthur

 


Victor, thank you

For Almaty.

For five years of communication, conversation, sharing and moral support.

For the things you gave and the times you let yourself take.

For being curious, patient, accepting and open-minded.

For being beautiful and being you.

You wanted to have adventures and see new things, and I'm glad you had a chance to do that in a place you loved. Though I wish you'd gotten to see the ocean.

Love you always, sweetie. Rest in peace.

—bc

 

 



VIctor sent this photo and some others to Belinda a few months before his death with the following message:

Yes, it sounds nice. Could be a first sign. At the same time new governor of Fayzabad, whom I have visited personlly on his third day at the new office is former chief of the Guelbetdin Hikmtir army hedquarters. Anyway, something is changing here. I was in Khost and Ghardez for the last couple of days, just few days later after an encounter where few US and 17 tliban militants were killed. Sending to you the picture from the sites visited. Hope to take a couple of weeks vacation next day - want to travel to Samarkand, to see my parents, then to Tashkent - to see my kids and then to Moscow - to be on the second year birthdy of my daughter.

I do have a strange feeling - I feel really tired last weeks and at the same time I don't feel really good bout leaving now. Too much of my heart is here. I don't know now, where is my home or is it somewhere at all.

 

 

 

Everyone who helped me with this, thank you.

Especially Victor.                  —Anastasia