Kálmán Vera (Makinskaya Vera)

When the gypsy was touching the strings the viola was taking breath and the “Can you remember me…” was being heard. I couldn’t express my tears. I had never thought that this sentimental melody of Csárdás Queen could be played as a requiem. The queen of the operetta was being buried, the operetta was being buried itself because Vera Kálmán was being buried. The mortuary of the central cemetery of Vienna foundered under flowers. The children’s farewell wreath, made of rosebud was put next to the photo of Emery Kálmán and Vera Kálmán. Farther away there were wreathes of friends, musical companies, the Russian Embassy and the Russian Cultural Collage with the colours of the Russian flag. After all Vera never came home, although in her last interview for  the Russian television she asked the prime minister to recall her officially.

Vera was born in Perm and emigrated in her childhood. She could speak several European languages and could keep her wonderful mother tongue. For the Russian prime minister at that time not the operetta was the main problem. He played much more dramatic roles mostly in tragedies, sometimes he even got into operatic situations.  

While he was playing on the violin I was thinking about Vera. How her life followed the spirit of the operetta because there must have been inevitable elements in it. She got married twice. Both to the loved Emery Kálmán who fell in love into the young Vera and loved her till his death.  

There were sharp changes in Vera’s life. For example, in a ball when she ran off with a French diplomat who fell in love her. She left all clothes and jewels behind that she had got from Emery Kálmán. Soon the diplomat died and Emery begged Vera to come back him. Remarch also courted her but she felt this love boring and commonish. And what else were there in her long life?

 Vera knew a lot of prominent people of her century.

There were some tragedies in her life she did never speak about. One of her daughters was sacrificed by a sect with such a dreadful death that Vera devised another story to be able to accept what had happened. According to it, her daughter died as a member of the Red Team. I had taken a leave of Vera earlier. Approximately a year before. Petya Hudikov, a well-known conductor of the Don Cossack Choir in Austria told me that Verocska had got back and she was in a very bad way. You should have come to farewell. I was finished in a while and realised only at the exit that I had to get dressed to a dying person and bring flowers.

In the hall of the hotel we waited about 40 minutes to go up to her and I felt that we might have been late when suddenly… Do you remember the great scene of the Csárdás Queen? Vera was standing on the stairs, Petya was stretching out his hands, her husband was walking up to help her and she with some support was gliding down the stairs as a tsarina. We kissed each other and I felt that I was touching a legendary. Vera was pleased to see my husband. Verácska hated insincerity and always became aware of clear and sincere love. Ah, and they celebrated their birthdays on the same day though there was almost 50 years difference in years. In addition, my husband could speak Hungarian fluently. For the events of Kálmán’s 100th birth anniversary, which was celebrated within widelimits in the Social Hungary, Vera arrived at the shore of Lake Balaton. Though she was over her youth, she danced csárdás with the greatest ease at the grand ceremony. There was no holding her, since no one in the world can play Kálmán’s music as the Hungarian can.

“ And now let’s go and have dinner” Vera said. We sat down to have a talk. In accordance with the traditions we drank a vodca and the spell spilled away silently in a few moments. The light of the fire was still burning in her eyes but she was trembling and wrapping up herself in fur. She was overcome with fatigue and we said goodbye. And at that time I took leave of her for ever.

It must be written in the book of destiny that a lot of things in connection with Vera passed off twice. Even her last honours. At first in Losona where Vera died then in Vienna. It was a week later than the appointed time because according to Vera’s last will the Don Cossack Choir would have sung Easthern farewell speech but the choir made a guest appearance at that time. The whole is comic, you laugh in tears just like in operetta.

The choir was singing her eternal memory when the flowers were being taken to the family tomb and at this time it turned me obvious that the performance ended for ever. The later guards, the soul of the operetta in Vienna came to give the address at her funeral. Actors, conductors and composers’ widowers. Prima donnas also came to Vera’s last premiere. Marcel Prav in his farewell speech recalled some nice pictures of Vera’s life. So Yvonne, her daughter broke into a smile on the memories. The people who gave the address at her funeral livened up at her last way too. After the funeral all of them went to the Vienna Wood Restaurant where there were a memorial room to Kálmán and Vera. Vera(over 90) hadn’t say no to two or three shots.

Vera was always brimming with life. She was never afraid of telling the truth. By her death she couldn’t forgive Austria that it had expelled Emery Kálmán at that time. However, now they are both parts of  the history of Austria. After their death Austria laid claim to them though Kálmán’s music is rang up in an other capital, Budapest. Kálmán’s and Vera’s music has still run in Hungarian people’s blood. The century of operetta has ended, other types of music come. But Vera (whose name means belief) firmly believed that in the new century people keep pureness of their soul and the hope in love. All that Kálmán’s music is about.

Marina Vladimir

Kálmán Vera in Hotel Janus