An in-depth 2003 Protopopovs interview. Note: sometimes it's not clear what they (especially Oleg) are trying to say. I did my best to translate it as close to the original as possible.
Face to Face
Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov
Alexei Kuznetsov: This is Radio Liberty. “Face to Face. Leader answers to journalists”, a weekly program of the Moscow studio of Radio Liberty. Today’s program is unusual. For the first time, its protagonist is not one person, but two. We easily went for this break with tradition, since those two people are always together. Our guests are Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov. Famous skaters, 2-time Olympic champions, they are visiting Russia after 24 years abroad.
First question. You’ve only spent a few days in Russia. Tell me, would you have left the country had it been like it is today, or do you not have enough impressions yet to make such a conclusion?
Lyudmila Belousova: We would not have left the country as it is today.
Oleg Protopopov: I agree with Lyudmila.
Lyudmila Belousova: The country we see now is very different. Absolutely different from what it was back then.
Oleg Protopopov: People are different, too. I’m not talking about the simple folk. The simple folk always loved us, and they do still. You know, the Russian people, if they love, they love all the way. But if they don’t like something, than it’s real bad.
Alexei Kuznetsov: This program will be about figure skating, and about today’s Russia as the famous soviet skaters Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov saw it. Posing questions will be journalist Rodrigo Fernandez from “El Pais”, and Zifa Arkhencheeva from “Moscow News”. Your host is Alexei Kuznetsov.
Let’s start with a brief bio of our guests.
Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov are amount the most famous teams in the history of Soviet and World figure skating. They’ve skated together since 1954. They’ve become Olympic champions in Innsbruck in 1964 and in Grenoble in 1968. They are four time World and European champions, from 1965 through 1968. They have two Medals of labor Red Flag.
They left Soviet Union in 1979, and have lived in Swiss Grindelwald since, having received Swiss citizenship in 1995. They continue to train and to perform. A few years ago, the International Skating Union gave them its most prestigious prize (Cup of Jacque Favre) for their role in the development of world figure skating.
For the past seven years, they’ve been regulars of Radio Liberty, commenting many important championships, and not just of figure skating.
Lyudmila Evgenievna and Oleg Alexeevich, according to the tradition of our program, I now ask you – did we make any mistakes in your bio?
Lyudmila Belousova: Everything is correct.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Let’s move on to your current trip. I think, it is now the most important even in your life and in ours. It coincides with the 50 years from Radio Liberty’s first transmission in Russia. In that sense, your arrival here is, I think, remarkable.
Lyudmila Belousova: Congratulations. Fifty is a good age. We, though, are a bit younger. We started skating a year later, in 1954. So, we’ve skated together for 49 years. Next year will be our anniversary. This year it’s yours, next year will be ours.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Oleg Alexeevich, last year was your anniversary.
Oleg Protopopov: Yes, last year.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Belated congratulations.
Oleg Protopopov: Thank you. The first official congratulation came from Vjacheslav Fetisov, chairman of Federal Sports Committee. Actually, it’s through his hard work and initiative that we are here today. We received such an official invitation to Russia, and Vjacheslav Fetisov said, “Russia awaits you”. Of course, we couldn’t refuse after such words.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Zifa Arkhencheeva, correspondent of “Moscow News”.
Zifa Archencheeva: I am astounded by your family union. What is the secret of your family longevity? Normally, love goes away after 5 or 10 years, and then it’s just a habit, children, mutual respect, work, etc. What about you? Does the love live in your union still?
Lyudmila Belousova: Of course, love live s in. We don’t have children, because we didn’t have time for children. Besides, if we had kids, they would have become hostages in Soviet Union. But we think we have a lot of children, because all the skaters are our kids.
What else? The love that binds us is the love of our work, or rather our art. Therefore, this is the union were people love something common, they have common interests, and common views, so it lasts longer.
Zifa Archencheeva: Do you profess your love for one another?
Lyudmila Belousova: Every day.
Oleg Protopopov: Every day.
Lyudmila Belousova: Every day. Especially when I cook something good.
Oleg Protopopov: When she cooks a great dinner, it’s so great, I kiss her hands, and say, “You have golden hands”. Each of those golden hands then has to hold on for the lifts on the ice. She has great hands, very strong.
Lyudmila Belousova: On the ice, it’s also “golden feet”.
Oleg Protopopov: “Golden Feet”.
Lyudmila Belousova: If I come up with some steps or something, it’s “golden feet”.
Zifa Archencheeva: Do you remember the first time you talked of love?
Oleg Protopopov: You know, it wasn’t like that. Everything just happened. In 1954, Lyudmila came to Leningrad. She was a muscovite, and I was still in the navy. When we decided to skate together, the official sports committee said that “you know, first of all you’re too old” (she was already 20, and I was 23, a seaman in the Baltic navy).
In our club “Dynamo”, the coach Petr Orlov said, “We don’t need no carpetbaggers! Why bring in a muscovite? You couldn’t find a nice girl in Leningrad?” It so happened, we met in Moscow on the first artificial rink in Soviet Union, it was 9 meters by 9 meters. We had to demonstrate. We’ve never done pair skating before, but we were the youngest ones at the seminar, because there were coaches from all over the Soviet Union, many of them quiet large, and we were the youngest, and he says, “Just try. We will read…”
Lyudmila Belousova: The instructions.
Oleg Protopopov: "… the instructions on how to hold your partner, and you just figure it out.”
Then it got more serious. We thought – we should try it on the ice. So we went. It was in Maryina Grove, it was a tiny rink built by Moscow enthusiasts. Of course, I wanted to show off, after all she’s a girl, a really nice girl at that, and I have to show how I can skate. By then, I was the Leningrad champion in single skating.
We gained speed, she skated in a circle, and so did I, and somehow our paths crossed, and we couldn’t turn back. Our hands intertwined, and so she skated left to right, and I – right to left. That was our first pair spin. We didn’t know it’ll last 48 years.
A man asked, “You’ve been skating long? It’s not bat. I guess that word, said at the right time; perhaps it played this amazing trick with us.
After that, Lyudmila moved to Leningrad, and that’s where our story really began. We never told each other of love. You see, pair figure skating is a sport where, whether you like it or not, men and women come very close together.
Alexei Kuznetsov: That in itself must be love.
Oleg Protopopov: Yes, yes. Perhaps we didn’t need any words because you feel everything through your hands.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Question from El Pais correspondent Rodrigo Fernandez.
Rodrigo Fernandez: From love to politics. You recalled Soviet Union. A whole generation has been born since you left. They must wonder why you ultimately decided to leave, and why you waited almost 10 years to make that decision.
Lyudmila Belousova: Unfortunately, we then had no chance to leave. You could only run from the Soviet Union, not leave it. As you know, it was a closed country, and we could only leave when we went abroad to perform and stayed.
It was a moment when we were apparently a burden to the athletic governing bodies, as well as to the balletic governing bodies, where we participated in the Leningrad ice show. It was called “Leningrad Ballet on Iced”. The former said, “You’re to theater-like”, whereas the latter said, “You’re too athletic”. We didn’t know who we really were.
In short, we were practically…
Oleg Protopopov: Chased out.
Lyudmila Belousova: … chased out of the sport. It took us a whole year to get work at “Leningrad Ballet on ice”. They didn’t want us. Efforts of the Regional Committee led to an interesting…
Oleg Protopopov: Fight. It was such a fight. Culture minister Ekaterina Furtseva…
Lyudmila Belousova: She was…
Oleg Protopopov: She for one was very…
Lyudmila Belousova: She was very good to us.
Oleg Protopopov: Yes, very good. She’d say, “Guys, just move…”
Lyudmila Belousova: To Moscow.
Oleg Protopopov: “… from Leningrad to Moscow”. I said, “I was born in Leningrad. I’ll die in Leningrad”.
Lyudmila Belousova: Through Furtseva’s effort we finally got work with “Leningrad Ballet on Ice”. Everyone hated us, because we were kind of like stars. Nevertheless, our names were never to be found on programs. They explained that they had no paper to write who takes part in the ballet.
The ballet performed on a tiny rink. It was so hard for us, to switch from a big ice arena to much a tiny one. The only joy for us were exhibitions in other countries such as America. There were invitations. Dick Button invited us to Germany, and to Switzerland. But it was rare.
Oleg Protopopov: Rather, they let us out rarely.
Lyudmila Belousova: Right. There were some invitations.
Oleg Protopopov: We had a lot of invitations. Every year.
Lyudmila Belousova: A lot. But we could only go occasionally, as we were told that there was a rule to only let us out once every two years.
Oleg Protopopov: That’s what they did.
Lyudmila Belousova: In 1979, we were invited to go to Switzerland, and we were already packed when the Ministry of Culture called and said, “Things have changed. You can’t go.”
Oleg Protopopov: Georgi Tovstonogov, a famous Leningrad director, was abroad at the time, and he was recalled from Germany to Russia because “things have changed.”
Lyudmila Belousova: Ultimately, we started fighting to be allowed to go. They tried to stop us, but we finally tricked the party committee. At the time, “Leningrad Ballet” was getting ready to perform in Brazil. They offered us to go along, but we said, “We’ll only go if you’ll allow us to perform in Switzerland at the large arena before. Just to get some practice”.
Oleg Protopopov: A work “trick” is a bad word. We never tricked anyone. But we were tricked repeatedly. That’s why Lyudmila said “tricked”. Ultimately, we realized they were just using us.
They needed our names to give “Leningrad Ballet” the trip to Brazil for 3 months, for 90 performances (a performance every day). But they suggested we perform at the rink of 27 by 18 meters. Do you realize what that is? It’s a nightmare, when you have to hold yourself, just to avoid gliding father.
Lyudmila Belousova: It’s like telling a piano player to…
Oleg Protopopov: …only use one octave for a whole Tchaikovsky concert. Figure it out. He needs to go there, but no, he can only go here.
We once had a terrible trauma in Chelyabinsk. We fell from a lift. Lyudmila had a concussion. I said, “I’ll never skate on this ice again”. It’s like a bird in a cage.
When they suggested we skate at that small tiny rink, they say, “Listen, they don’t know t he first thing in this figure skating. Just move around a bit…” I say, “You know, that’s not how we don things. We are two time Olympic champions. We represent Soviet Union. What do you want? That we take the ice with a little kerchief in had? So to say, sorry, pardon me. I can’t do anything on that ice, because that is just impossible”. Then I ask, “Tell me, how much are you going to pay us? You’ll be creating the advertising around us”. “How much? 10 dollars, just like everyone else…” I say, “Even the last row of corp de ballet will be getting 10 dollars?” “Yes, we have equality”. Then I told Lyudmila, “Lyudmila, we never lied to anyone. That’s why everyone hates us, because we’ve always told things to their faces, we always said it like it is. They just detested us for it. We will lie to them one time in our lives. But they will remember it forever”.
So we said, “OK. We’ll go. We’ll try. But we have to give us a chance to go elsewhere, to prepare how to skate on that tiny rink”. Good. They let us go. Before, they said, “We have nothing against your trips, but you have to go with the troupe”.
That’s why we did it like that. It was the only solution – to leave, and then to say “See y’a”.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Lyudmila Evgenievna, Oleg Alexeevich, you site as the reasons for your defection not only political and economic considerations, but also athletic ones. At the time, a style change was under way not just in sport and in art, but also in the whole atmosphere of Soviet life. In figure skating it was clearly evident in the pair of Irina Rodnina and Alexei Ulanov, who clearly represented an athletic style. I think the way you were chased out of figure skating and of the sport in general had a lot to do with this. You could not by definition work in that style or even agree with it.
Oleg Protopopov: Soviet Union couldn’t allow open competition between two different skating styles – athletic skating and artistic skating. It was the same way as Gorky factory makes cars. This months they only do blue cars, the next they only do silver ones.
When we were told, “You’re too theater-like. You’re too theater-like, a not athletic, and we’re into athletic direction now”, it was the same thing. If they allowed the competition of two diametrically opposed styles, I think figure skating would have only benefited. For figure skating, it didn’t matter what places we’d take. It was, however, important for the development of the sport.
In 1972, we were taken out of competitions. We had every reason to assume we’d go to those Olympics. They didn’t send us, because they said, “You know, you’ll make other USSR team members nervous”. I then ask, “If you think we’re old, and we have no speed, and we have no elements, whereas you’re so strong, then why are you nervous?”
Though we understood everything. It was, you know, a typical behind-the-scenes game, because we said (we were, you know, quite patriotic), “We can guarantee a Soviet podium. We don’t care who’ll be on top. We will be 3 Soviet teams on the podium. So, Rodnina and Ulanov will take the top spot. Smirnova and Suraikin, our students, they came second. We’ll be number three. That should matter above all – an all-Soviet podium!” Apparently, it wasn’t so simple. Soviet men’s skating was rather weak then. For the first time then, Serezha Chetvertukhin became a silver medalist. He was a great skater. But he had help, you know? To put Serezha in second, something had to be given in return. So, Soviet judges voted to put the GDR team Groska and Gelman in third, and the GDR judge supported Serezha Chetvertukhin. He got the silver. That was it.
Alexei Kuznetsov: That just goes to show that the statement “Sport is outside politics” is wrong and has nothing to do with reality.
Oleg Protopopov: Absolutely.
Rodrigo Fernandez: I would like to get back to talking about styles. I suppose you follow figure skating today. First of all, I’d like to know whom you consider the leaders. There are Russians, Canadians, there are also the Chinese. Also, what do you think of the critique that the Russian pair uses too much dance elements? What is your vision of pair skating today?
Oleg Protopopov: I don’t know. Perhaps, some see it as outdated, but we Lyudmila and I consider the dance to be the highest mastery of figure skating. That is to say, when all the technical elements, moves, and positions combines so that you can’t tell one from the next. It was like the famous Russian American choreographer George Balanchine used to say, “I want to see music and hear movement”. That’s our figure skating credo.
Therefore, to talk about one team having too much dance, and other not having enough… Figure skating is an artistic sport. Otherwise, it would not have been so appealing. That’s what gives it life. That’s what goes into the romance of figure skating. That’s what launched the last century of skating, with skaters such as Sonja Henie and Nikolai Alexandrovich Panin, all looking at the beauty of the body. That’s very important.
Today, few pay attention to the beauty. The all notice the elements – three turns on the lift, three rotations on the throw, everything is counted. They end up throwing away the baby with the bathwater. They miss what’s most important.
I’ve recounted countless times how in 1964 we met Anatoly Tarasov, the greatest hockey coach. It was just after our first victory when the world press called it the pair skating revolution, and he told at the next morning at breakfast (we were so tired already), “So, guys, that’s the end to skating.” I asked, “Why? Why should we quit skating? I think we’re just beginning to skate, and you’re telling us we should quit”. You know, he was a rough and direct man. “You have to teach the young ones. Teach them to skate like you do today”. I said, ‘You know, I haven’t yet come to the full realization of what happened at those Olympics.” We had no hopes for winning anything. We just worked hard, and skated, and that’s that. “You know what”, said Tarasov, “you know, everyone does the same elements, the same lifts, the same jumps, footwork, and gliding. But when others do it, it’s not interesting. When you do the same things, it’s interesting. Pass that on to the young”.
So, to “skate interestingly” is not to just do certain elements of figure skating, Just look at the styles of Berezhnaja and Sikhuralidze and the Canadians. The following has to be understood. Look at Plushenko, his skating is different. He uses his hands, and legs, his head, he uses everything. He dances. He doesn’t just skate. That’s the key.
Berezhnaja and Sikhuralidze, they dance with their bodies, they create a harmony of bodies between a man and a woman. They are not just two strong athletes who assist each other. He throws her, she throws him. In dance, you see the woman carrying a man. Is that good? No matter how it looks. I don’t like it much. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think figure skating will develop in that direction.
“Skating interestingly” is not easy. It’s very hard, and it takes the highest level of movement. Then it’s interesting. Then, people won’t just pay attention to specific elements, they’ll perceive it as a piece of art.
Lyudmila, tell them please about how the woman came to see us in Grindelwald you saw us in 1960, where were first doing “Love Dream” (Liebestraum).
Lyudmila Belousova: We were training in Grindelwald. We bought some ice, and it’s very expensive there.
Oleg Protopopov: Rented.
Lyudmila Belousova: Rented, bought…
Oleg Protopopov: For skating.
Lyudmila Belousova: To put together a new program. We see a woman standing at the boards, waiving for an autograph. We told her we’ll do it after the training session, because the ice is very expensive.
When we finished training, we came up to her, she was with a little girl. She told the girl in German, “You see, I saw them when they skated “Love Dream” (Liebestraum) and “Meditation”.
She didn’t recall how many championships we’ve won, or how many medals we have, she rather recalled the image of “Love Dream” and image of “Meditations”. In other words, that connection of music with movement.
Some skate, and the music is on its own, and they are on their own. When…
Oleg Protopopov: There is no harmony.
Lyudmila Belousova: … there is no connection, no harmony, then it’s not as interesting to watch as when everything comes together, both music and movement.
As to today’s Berezhnaja/ Sikhuralidze, I guess they won’t be competing this year, same as the Canadian team that got half a…
Oleg Protopopov: We call them half-champions.
Lyudmila Belousova: … half a medal. We don’t think that’s right. I think Sikhuralidze, Berezhnaja/ Sikhuralidze are the real champions. Even if he had a small mistake, their style, the level of their skating is on totally different level. It’s much higher. The Canadian team is like, well, you know, there are housewives, and there is… country…
Oleg Protopopov: There is “country music”, and there is “classical music”.
Lyudmila Belousova: … and there is classical music. Well, in our opinion the Canadian team is “country music”, and Berezhnaja and Sikhuralidze are classical music.
Now, we can only expect a sensation from the Chinese. The Chinese are very musical, very technical, and very hard working.
Oleg Protopopov: Also very flexible.
Lyudmila Belousova: I think that’s because they learned from the Russian school.
Alexei Kuznetsov: I’d like to remind the Radio Liberty listeners, that for the past 7 years the great skaters Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov have been brilliantly commenting on sports programs “Pressing”, and comment on almost all major competitions, as I’ve mentioned before not just limited to figure skating.
Oleg Protopopov: Even curling!
Alexei Kuznetsov: We’ve recently discussed the curling championships with you. Zifa, your question.
Zifa Archencheeva: I’m sure that in 24 years of living abroad, you’ve often imagined your coming back to Soviet Union, to Russia. Did it live up to expectations?
Oleg Protopopov: We never thought of coming back to Soviet Union.
Zifa Archencheeva: To Russia then. To your homeland.
Oleg Protopopov: To the homeland – yes, we have.
Zifa Archencheeva: How do you feel now? Have you had a chance to see Moscow? Do you want to see anything in particular? How do you now feel?
Alexei Kuznetsov: The really important question here, I think, is how do you feel here after so many years abroad? What do you feel? You said wonderfully at the airport, “We were AWOL. We’re back”.
Oleg Protopopov: Yes.
Alexei Kuznetsov: I recall it happened 2 days after the 23rd of February. Now it’s called the Fay of the Country’s Defenders, but it used to be the Day of Soviet Army and Military Navy. Almost your professional holyday.
Oleg Protopopov: Yes.
Alexei Kuznetsov: A rather opportune return.
Lyudmila Belousova: As for me, I didn’t even realize we were back in Russia. I felt we were in New York or Washington rather than Moscow, so much has the atmosphere changed. I kept wanting to talk to the hotel maid in English. The difference in restaurant service is amazing. It used to be that you come in, sit down, and you see thee the waitresses sitting at a different table, and you can wait for them forever, and ask them “Please, serve us”, “A minute. Wait.” Now it’s all different.
Zifa Archencheeva: Have you had a chance to walk around.
Lyudmila Belousova: Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance yet. We’ve mainly watched from the car windows. Of course, Moscow as changed a lot, there is much new here. A lot of advertising and lights. It used to always be dark on the streets.
Oleg Protopopov: Not just dark, but kind of poor.
Lyudmila Belousova: Yes. Very noisy. Very noisy. So much hustle and bustle. It’s just like New York or Tokyo. It’s a very busy life.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Allow me a question.
Oleg Protopopov: Sure.
Alexei Kuznetsov: I got a few requests before our program. You’re talking about our life, about the life here in Russia, but I got requests to ask you about your life. You’re living in a quiet, small, and modest place, in a town of Grindelwald. Tell us a little about it. Why did you choose it? What is your routine like? How do you live? People haven’t seen you in a long time, and they’d like to know about you.
Oleg Protopopov: You know why we chose Grindelwald? Our home is where there is a piece of ice where we can skate.
When we stayed in Switzerland in 1979, we got many job offers for various shows. When American company “Ice Capades” invited ice, we, obviously, had to seriously prepare. First of all we needed to know the size, and to the company’s credit they invested in making the rink bigger for us. They even made it 42 meters long to allow for a nice lift. Of course, we needed to train, as our performances started in America in October of 1979. It was August. We needed the ice, and in August it’s hard to find in Switzerland. We asked our friends to find a rink where ice is available in August.
Lyudmila Belousova: That’s because at best, the Swiss rinks open in late September or early October. That’s the best case. Yes.
Oleg Protopopov: But we needed to train, so to speak. We only found one town – Grindelwald. It’s rather a village with a population of 3,800. It’s called “Top of Europe”, and almost a million tourists visit it every year.
Lyudmila Belousova: It’s in the mountains, a ski resort.
Oleg Protopopov: We found the only place where one can skate in august. We, of course, went there right a way. I guess we are one-love people. We’ve been together for 48 years. We have friends whom we cannot forget. We’ll always go through life with them.
That place is the same. We came there, there was that rink, we started skating there, and we still skate there.
Rodrigo Fernandez: I’d like to get back to the topic of Russia. You probably have some plans… I know you’re visiting Petersburg…
Oleg Protopopov: Yes.
Rodrigo Fernandez:: As I understand, that’s your native city. As you’ll be there, the “Grand Prix” will take place. I don’t know, are you going to perform there? I’m sure your fans would love it. Actually, in general, are your plans for the future in any way connected to Russia?
Oleg Protopopov: First of all, we didn’t plan any performances simply because “Grand Prix” is organized by the International Skating Union. Now, the International Skating Union, it thinks that everyone has to be amateurs, though all the skaters are earning… If we won the World championships today, we would get 82,500 dollars, twice what we used to get at Professional Worlds. I don’t know any more who is amateur, what kind of amateurs are they?
Lyudmila Belousova: Even the last place gets something.
Oleg Protopopov: The last place gets 2,400 dollars. The 24th place, can you imagine? In our day, we got 25 francs.
Lyudmila Belousova: Swiss francs.
Oleg Protopopov: Swiss francs. Of course, we cannot perform because we’re considered pros.
Lyudmila Belousova: We are the guests of National Sports Committee.
Oleg Protopopov: Of course, our fans would like to see us on the ice, but that won’t happen, because as I recall when the Olympics where in Calgary, the Canadian audience darling Browning wasn’t allowed to do even as spin at exhibitions. So, we weren’t even hoping for any performances, but we did ask the organizers for a little training session at the training rink at the “Ubilejny” center where we used to skate (we don’t even need the main rink). As I wrote, “a piece of our soul continues to live there, on that rink”.
In 1964, we met Khrushchev and Brezhnev at the Olympic banquet, and I had the courage to come up to Nikita Sergeevich and ask him if it were possible to build a rink in the city of Lenin where the fans would be able to at least once in their lives see their Olympic champions? Three years later, they built the rink. So it has a bit of our blood, too.
Lyudmila Belousova: We are certain that if we have that training session, many fans will come to watch. It will be in a way a performance for our fans.
Zifa Archencheeva: Do you have a hobby that’s not related to figure skating? What do you do when you want to get away?
Lyudmila Belousova: I get away every day when I prepare dinner. We never go to restaurants, except here in Moscow. I cook myself.
Zifa Archencheeva: What do you cook?
Lyudmila Belousova: I cook simple Russian stuff. I used to do pancakes…
Oleg Protopopov: I love it.
Lyudmila Belousova: … and pelmeni.
Oleg Protopopov: Especially since Mardi Gras is coming.
Lyudmila Belousova: We don’t do that anymore. We mainly eat vegetables and porridges – buckwheat, wheat, barley. We use natural products. Rough rye bread, never processed.
Zifa Archencheeva: Where do you get such bread? Is it available there?
Lyudmila Belousova: I bake it myself. From unprocessed flour. Bake it myself. I bake bread myself.
So, I have something to do every day. Besides, I do our costumes myself. I have a German sewing machine “Paff”. Sometimes, my sister visits and helps. Otherwise, I do all of the costumes myself.
Oleg Protopopov: Her sister Raisa was just staying with us, and she sewed our costumes for our new program to Grieg’s “Love you”.
Lyudmila Belousova: Now, we’ll return, and I’ll have to finish up. I have to be done before the end of May.
Oleg Protopopov: Essentially, we don’t have a hobby. Everything coincides. I don’t know if it can be called a hobby, because this computer montage, all of those computer commutations with “Liberty”, and with the whole world, it all takes time. Once you go on the internet, you can’t get out. There is always more, and then it’s 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s very interesting. In our life, we never had opportunity to get such wide information.
Lyudmila Belousova: And, of course, reading. We get information from the First Channel in Russia. We have…
Oleg Protopopov: “Dish”. Satellite.
Lyudmila Belousova: Yes, we’re always in the loop.
Oleg Protopopov: At 7 o’clock, and then it’s dinner. As Albert Einstein said, when he was asked to explain his theory of probability.
Lyudmila Belousova: Relativity.
Oleg Protopopov: Yes. He said that life flies by very fast, but the time to dinner last forever.
Rodrigo Fernandez: Do you have any plans related to Russia?
Lyudmila Belousova: So far, we don’t have any plans. This is our first time here.
Oleg Protopopov: Perhaps, not the last.
Lyudmila Belousova: Of course, not the last. But planning… If we complete our movie, we’ll release tapes or DVDs, and of course that material has to available in Russia.
Alexei Kuznetsov: We’ve talked to you a long time, and covered many issues. We’ve jumped from topic to topic, which often happens when you haven’t seen each other a while. When you meet, you want to talk about everything. Still, your impressions?
Oleg Protopopov: Frankly, I don’t like those standard journalists’ questions about training schedules.. I pushes me into a mold, and then I don’t even want to speak at all. Today, though, I had fun talking to the journalists.
Lyudmila Belousova: More importantly, we met not just on the radio, but face to face.
Oleg Protopopov: Face to face.
Alexei Kuznetsov: Zifa, your impressions? What would you like to wish Lyudmila Evgenyevna and Oleg Alexeevich?
Zifa Archencheeva: As an old fan of figure skating, I would like to see you skate, since I’ve long admired your both family and athletic longevity. I’d like to wish you love and happiness, because those are rare today. Also health, so you can continue to bring us joy. Finally, I’d like to pass on a “hi” since both my mom and my grandma were very envious when they found out I was coming here.
Rodrigo Fernandez: I am very glad to have had an opportunity to speak to such legendary figures of figure skating. I would like to wish you many performances in Russia, and for you to regain you old homeland.
Alexei Kuznetsov: My dear Lyudmila Evgenyevna and Oleg Alexeevich, let me say a few years in closing. Once again, I’ll break with some Radio Liberty traditions (of which you’re probably not even aware), and tell you (according to those traditions) that the host of “Face to Face” must be objective. Of course, you’ll never forget that you left Soviet Union in 1979, you’ll always remember the date. I, though, remember that date for another reason. It was in that year, in 1979, that a famous immigrant writer, a contributor to Radio Liberty and my father Anatoly Kuznetsov has died. Since then, I take each return of those who once fled the Soviet Union very personally. Especially a return such as yours. It means that the connection of time is not broken. And even if it is, it gets fixed.
Thank you for coming. I join the wishes of my colleagues. I really want to see you in Russia on the ice, not in training session, but a more formal environment. Of course, the invitation from National Sports Committee is official, and you are right in accepting it. Now, I hope you get an invitation to come and perform, so that the whole country and the whole world can cheer, as it was before, as it will be, I hope, for many years to come.
Note: Now, in 2005, Protopopovs have been invited to do an exhibition number at the Cup of Russia.