Cover image for Airplanes, women, and song : memoirs of a fighter ace, test pilot, and adventurer
Airplanes, women, and song : memoirs of a fighter ace, test pilot, and adventurer
Sergievskiĭ, Boris Vasilʹevich, 1888-1971.
First edition.
Publication Information:
[Syracuse, NY] : Syracuse University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 272 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
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Item Holds
TL540.S414 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Boris Sergievsky was one of the most colorful of the early aviators. He made his first flight less than ten years after the Wright brothers made theirs; he made his last only four years before the Concorde took off. Born in Russia, Sergievsky learned to fly in 1912. In World War I, he became a much-decorated infantry officer and then a fighter pilot, battling the Austro-Hungarians. During the Russian Civil War that followed, he fought on three fronts against the Bolsheviks.
Coming to America in 1923, the first job he could find in New York was with a pick and shovel, digging the Holland Tunnel, but he soon joined Igor Sikorsky's airplane company. Over the next decade as chief test pilot for the company, he tested the Sikorsky flying boats that Pan American Airways used to establish its world-wide routes, setting seventeen world aviation records along the way.
Sergievsky also flew pioneering flights across unchartered African and Latin American jungles in the 1930s, flew with Charles Lindbergh, tested early helicopters and jets, and flew his own Grumman Mallard on charter flights until 1965. Through it all, his sense of humor remained intact, as did his passion for beautiful women.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the summer of 1934, pilot Sergievsky began to dictate the memoirs of his "vital, turbulent" life. Born in czarist Russia, the rakish Sergievsky served both as an infantry officer and a fighter pilot in WWI. After the Bolshevik revolution, he fought in the White Army before emigrating to the U.S. in 1923 and eventually becoming the chief test pilot for the Sikorsky aircraft company. Intended for quick publication, these memoirs instead occupied a desk drawer for more than 35 years, until Sergievsky's death, and were then published in Russian as part of a memorial booklet given to the aviator's friends in the New York émigré community. The memoirs were subsequently discovered by Sergievsky's nephew, Hochschild (The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin, etc.), who teamed up with aviation writer Forsyth (The Chinese Communist Air Force) to present the memoirs in the larger context of Sergievsky's role in both Russian and aviation history. As an airborne raconteur, the adventure-loving, lady-killing Sergievsky is tough to beat. But the book's greatest value is its remarkable view of the sparsely recorded events of the Eastern Front of WWI. Liberally illustrated with period photos, this memoir will attract military, aviation and history buffs and anyone interested in reading about a lustily lived‘and somewhat charmed‘life amid the perils of the 20th century. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Sergievsky led a life of high adventure. A decorated infantry officer in the Tsarist army in WW I, he went on to command a fighter squadron and was credited with 11 aerial victories. He fought on the White side during the civil war in Russia, was captured by the Bolsheviks, escaped, and ended up in the US. After a stint as a construction worker on the Holland Tunnel, Sergievsky became chief test pilot for his fellow emigre Igor Sikorsky, designer and builder of the great flying boats of the 1930s. His work took him to both Latin America and Africa, where he flew long distances under hazardous conditions that nearly cost him his life. In 1934 Sergievsky dictated his memoirs but failed to attract a publisher. They now appear in a carefully edited and handsomely produced volume that makes a significant contribution to the early history of aeronautics in Russia and the US. The editors also provide helpful material on Sergievsky's later flying career, which did not end until 1965, when he lost his medical certificate at age 77. A pleasure to recommend. General readers; undergraduates through professionals. W. M. Leary University of Georgia



Chapter One A Russian Youth The family of my father, Vasily Sergievsky, comes from Saratov, on the River Volga.     All my ancestors on my father's side were in the Army, and one of my great-grandfathers distinguished himself in the famous Battle of Moscow against Napoleon. Some members of his family were Cossacks of the Don River. My father was the first one in many generations who was a civilian. He was a civil engineer, working on what we call in Russia "Ways and Communications."     All of my mother's ancestors were also in the military service. Probably this family background accounts for my inclination toward military service and my keen insight in military affairs. I got my education as a civil engineer, but after my obligatory army training (which, for the educated class in Russia, was one year after reaching the age of twenty-one), I liked military life so much that I decided to stay in the service. Also, I knew that through the Army I could get into aviation more easily than as a private citizen, because at this early stage, aviation was a very expensive game. I could not afford to do it on my own.     Speaking of family, I remember stories my mother told me as a child, of her grandfather playing a very important part in the war against the Turks that led to the conquest of the Caucasus Mountains for Russia. I remember often reading a very official-looking paper, yellow from age, that gave a dry account of such and such villages being captured by Colonel Tomashevsky (which was my mother's maiden name). These villages were taken in the heart of the Caucasus.     The Colonel's son, Pavel Savich Tomashevsky, was a very capable and brilliant officer in the Horse Guards in St. Petersburg. As a young colonel of the Imperial Guards, he played a joke on Tsar Nicholas I--who did not like having jokes played on him! He was one of the most serious Tsars in the history of Russia. Nicholas I was a soldier himself and extremely strict about requirements and regulations covering discipline, the uniform, and such. One of the rules of the Russian Army was that an officer never had the right to wear rubber overshoes. The climate in St. Petersburg is cold and wet, and my grandfather, who was always very smartly dressed, wanted to preserve his shoes and keep them clean. Violating the rule, he had rubber overshoes made with special slits in them to put his spurs through, to make it hard to see that he had overshoes on.     When an officer met the Tsar on the street, he was supposed to immediately stand still and salute. My grandfather, out for a walk with his rubber overshoes on, almost collided with the Tsar and, stopping in front of him, saluted. The Tsar looked him over from head to foot and, in his typically abrupt way, commanded, "Rubber shoes, to Jail!" My grandfather obeyed the Tsar's order very strictly. He took his rubber shoes and deposited them in the Military Jail, reporting, "The rubber shoes are brought here by the order of His Majesty," and then he went quietly home!     In a few hours, the Tsar sent one of his aides to the Military Jail with an order to release the colonel of the Horse Guards sent there by him for wearing overshoes. The Commandant had to tell the aide that the overshoes were there but the colonel was not. In spite of my grandfather's explanation that he actually had carried out the exact order given to him, the Tsar got very angry and exiled him to Fortress Kerch, on the Black Sea.     My grandfather was appointed commandant of the fortress, but despite the honor, he was considered to be in disgrace as he had disobeyed the Tsar.     My mother was only three years old when my grandfather died in Kerch from a sickness that would probably now be called appendicitis; the quiet young man had to die simply because medical science was not advanced.     Relatives of my mother took her back to St. Petersburg, as her mother had died soon after her birth and there was no one to take care of her. These relatives also took her only brother, later my uncle, who was two years older than she. Mother was put in an exclusive girl's college in St. Petersburg, called the "Smolny Institute for Girls of Noble Birth." (By the irony of fate, the name "Smolny" became infamous as the headquarters of the Bolshevik party during the revolution in Russia, when all the girls of noble birth were thrown out into the streets to give place to the drunken sailors who were in power in St. Petersburg. That place which had had such a retiring and special atmosphere for many, many generations of our great-grandmothers became a place of extreme cruelty and torture.)     My mother's brother Boris, in whose honor I was named, was placed in a similar institution for boys, situated in the little town of Gatchina, a summer resort about two hours distant from St. Petersburg.     As the Smolny Institute for Girls was what we called "closed" the whole year round--even visitors were allowed there only on big holidays--the relatives who were taking care of the Tomashevsky children moved out to Gatchina. During one vacation, my mother went from St. Petersburg to Gatchina to join the family. There she met my father, who had just graduated from the Engineering College and had his first job, straightening out the streets of Gatchina. They were married the year that my mother graduated from the Smolny Institute and the next year I was born, on February 20, 1888.     I was still a small boy when my father was transferred to Odessa on the Black Sea, where he was in charge of the construction of the harbor. Here I received my early schooling, corresponding to the American high school and known as "real school." In Russia we had two sorts of schools. Classical school, called the "gymnasium", focused on ancient languages and moral literature. The "real school" had no Greek or Latin but two modern languages were obligatory. Great stress was put on the study of mathematics and physics. Those graduating from the "real school" were qualified for engineering and technical vocations.     I graduated from the "real school" in 1906 and at graduation I maintained the same standard I had set during my seven years there: first in my class in science and last in behavior!     What I remember of those days in school is a great interest in all sorts of sports. Studying took a very little part of my life; it seemed that it just came to me. I was more for listening to what was going on during class than studying at home. Most of my time at home I devoted to physical exercises and games, especially to bicycle racing and racing on skates. At sixteen, I was a champion in both. I took part in several public contests. I was also threatened with expulsion several times, as pupils were not allowed to take part in public contests. Only my extremely good standing in science saved me from being expelled.     My two young brothers were in the same school--one two years and the other four years lower in grade than I. My second brother, Gleb, had much more inclination for music than for sports, but our third brother, Roman, liked aquatic sports more than anything else. From his early childhood, he was allowed to spend all his time away from school in a boat. We were all good swimmers and we spent much of our time in sailboats; our house was close to the seashore.     We played many interesting and thrilling games together. One of the most popular was the "war" between the English and the Boers, which was raging then in South Africa. The trouble was that no one wanted to be English; everyone wanted to be Boer. The sympathies of the Russians were entirely on the side of the Boers. I still remember that the youngest brother, who couldn't help being "English" in the game, was beaten several times by the two older "Boers."     At this period of my life I met Sergei Utochkin, who was then the World Champion of bicycle racing and was considered almost a "God Almighty" by all the youth of Russia. He stuttered slightly and boys wanted so much to be like him that many of those interested in bicycling began stuttering. I did not follow this habit, even though I became closely acquainted with this extremely interesting man, who was not only a champion cyclist but very capable in everything he was doing in life, and he took a great interest in me.     Utochkin later became one of the first men to go up in a plane. Like all the pioneers, he had no one to teach him how to fly. He bought a plane and flew it without knowing how! He gave me my first few flying lessons, and it was largely through this friendship that I became so interested in aviation.     When I was sixteen, and still in the Sixth Class, I saved the life of a boy who was swimming in a very rough sea off the coast of Odessa. This was a spectacular event. It looked as if the boy could not be saved and was about to drown, as nobody dared go out in such a rough sea. After several attempts to put out boats from the lifeguard station were unsuccessful, as the boats were thrown back to shore by the surf, I succeeded in swimming out to him and bringing him to shore. The event was reported to St. Petersburg and, quite unexpectedly, the head of my school gave me a silver medal with a black and red ribbon, awarded to me by Tsar Nicholas II for saving the boy. At the time I did not think of the rescue as outstanding. To me, it was only natural to help a pal who was not doing so well fighting the waves. But of course such an award for a boy of sixteen from the Tsar was thrilling! I still have this medal and though since then I have received most of the medals and decorations that a Russian officer can receive, I still value this little silver medal very much.     After graduating from the "real school" I had a summer of extremely hard work, studying for a competitive examination for college. We organized a group of six young men and took a cottage on the shore of the Black Sea, where we worked eighteen hours a day, helping each other with difficult mathematical problems and getting ready for this severe competitive examination, which took place that autumn.     For my examination I went to the Polytechnic Institute of Kiev. There were 864 applications for sixty vacancies. The exam covered four subjects, worth a total of 20 points. One boy received 20 points; I was second, with 19.5 points. On being admitted to the Institute, I selected the Division of Civil Engineering. I wanted to follow the profession of my father.     My mother decided to move to Kiev with me. She left her two younger boys in the care of servants in Odessa because she was afraid to leave me alone, knowing my character. She thought I was going to get into trouble if she left me alone, but her presence did not help much! I was in trouble constantly.     I fell in love with a Polish girl and naturally, being eighteen, I thought that we had to marry immediately. Her parents felt quite differently, for two reasons: They thought we were too young, and they would never consent to the marriage of a Catholic Polish girl to an Orthodox Russian boy. The fact that we were not allowed to see each other made it much more romantic and interesting, and I started neglecting my studies, inventing different ways to meet the girl.     Her parents were annoyed by this, and decided to send her off to some relatives in the country. Of course I found out when the train was going to leave and went to bid her good-bye with a big bunch of flowers and a box of candies. I was in the same car with all her relatives; I could only say, "Farewell," and give her the flowers and candies. I was standing at the end of the platform when the train started to move; as the last carriage was passing I jumped in. For a long time I saw her father and two cousins running behind the train, waving their fists in the air and shouting unpleasant things. When I entered my sweetheart's compartment, she actually fainted on seeing me. I came back the next day as I had to report for my studies at the Institute, but that unexpected trip is one of the sweet memories of my life.     During my second year in college I met a student by the name of Igor Sikorsky, who had just entered the mechanical engineering school at the Institute. We met in a so-called Aviation Students' Club. That club had no planes and no one knew how to fly, but we were interested in aviation, making drawings of planes, building models, and discussing the flights of those fliers who were pioneering the new way of transportation through the air.     Even then, Mr. Sikorsky wanted to build large planes with several engines. He was thinking of an airplane as a real flying ship--he called it a "flying truck." Safety was his main aim in his projects. I was more interested in the art of flying and my dream plane was a single-seater, so small that the pilot flying it would feel like a bird. The wings of the plane would become his own wings and he would feel himself not as flying a "machine" in the air, but flying as a bird flies.     Flying at this time was a very expensive game and no private individual with limited means could afford to buy a plane. Almost every flight, if not actually every flight, would end in some sort of a crash. Then the plane would have to be rebuilt or repaired and that would involve additional expense. Mr. Sikorsky's father, a well-known Professor at the University of Kiev, helped him financially to carry on his projects. Not having the money to buy a plane for myself, I thought of joining the Army and starting to fly as a military pilot. Then I was called up for my year of obligatory military service.     After completing this year, I took an officer's examination and was commissioned on December 6, 1912. As I was not quite through with my studies at the Polytechnic Institute, I went into the Reserves in order to finish college.     In 1912, I took my first few lessons in flying from my friend Sergei Utochkin. After about three lessons he gave me an antiquated plane which had a sixty-horsepower Gnome engine, with an elevator in front and the pilot sitting between the wings. The engine was behind his neck. I made my first solo flight on March 16, 1912.     I graduated from the Polytechnic in 1913 and that summer went back to active service in the Army. There were so many applications for the Air Force and their forces were then so small that I did not succeed in securing a transfer from the Infantry to the Air Force. Disgusted by this fact, I returned to the Reserves and got a position in the city of Kiev as an engineer, constructing reinforced concrete bridges.     I was peacefully building bridges in the summer of 1914 when one beautiful night, about 3 o'clock in the morning (and three days before the official mobilization of the Russian Army was declared), there was a strong knock at my door and I was handed a sealed package. When I opened it, I found an order to report immediately for active duty with the 125th Kursk Infantry Regiment, which was stationed at Rovno--about eighty kilometers from the western border. I had twenty-four hours to arrange my personal affairs, say good-bye to my family, and leave the peaceful life of Kiev forever.     The small border town of Rovno lies on the railroad from Warsaw to Kiev. At the moment when the general mobilization of the Russian Army was ordered, a train occupied by a musical comedy troupe was traveling from Warsaw to Kiev. It was stopped in Rovno, and as no civilian travelers were allowed to go anywhere during the period of mobilization (all the trains and carriages being needed for transportation of troops), the musical troupe had to stay in Rovno for a few days. They hired a theater (a moving picture house) and gave marvelous performances there. The leading lady of the musical comedy was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my long life.     After long hours of training with the regiment in the field, preparing for our march to the western border, we hurried to the theater. Three young men, all with college educations and all second lieutenants (among them myself) sent their cards backstage asking the leading lady to have supper after the performance. Our invitation was accepted. All three of us fell in love!     At the next performance, the leading lady sang for each of us our favorite song. We knew that the regiment's stay in Russia was limited to a matter of hours, or a few days at most. There was no time to lose and we knew also that three of us could not succeed together, so we wrote our names on three pieces of paper. Then a fourth officer (an impartial one) drew the name of the lucky fellow who was supposed to invite our "queen" for the next supper. We agreed that if, in the course of the evening, she showed that she didn't love him, he was eliminated from the race! For the next evening, it would be one of the two remaining officers whose name would be drawn.     The first night, neither of us slept. We were waiting for the return of the lucky boy. When he arrived about 3 o'clock in the morning at the barracks, we did not have to ask any questions. He was unlucky. He almost fell down on his cot and told us, "She doesn't love me."     The second night my friend Stefan was the lucky man, and he invited the fair lady for supper. I stayed awake alone, again waiting for my friend's return. When he came back, also at three in the morning, my first impression was that he had been successful. His face was radiating happiness. He came straight to my cot and told me that he was extremely happy because he loved such a wonderful person. But then he said he thought that the girl was interested in me, because several times during the evening she asked where I had gone. My first friend had said the same thing the night before.     As there was no more drawing of names, the next night was my turn to invite the lady for supper after the performance. That same night, we got orders to start the march to the western border at five the next morning.     Before going for dinner I packed my few belongings and told my orderly to bring my pistol and my possessions straight to the place where the battalions were to assemble at 5 A.M. I had a hope that I would not have to return to the barracks that night--and that hope was justified.     The regiment lined up in front of the barracks, officers on the right flanks of their companies, the whole regiment of four thousand men standing in the courtyard. It was a beautiful sight. Sharply at 5 A.M., General Ruzski, commanding the Third Russian Army, arrived. He was a thin tall man, with a little gray moustache. He went to the middle of the courtyard and in a few words, in a clear loud voice, explained why Russia had to go to war. He asked that we have faith in the high command, telling us that they had studied the problems of this war for many years, knowing that it was coming. He said that we should do everything in our power to spare the lives of every soldier; that in a war mistakes are unavoidable, and we should not judge anyone too severely for mistakes and for losses that were unavoidable. Instead of everyone judging or finding fault with others, he asked each of us to think of his own immediate duty and be the most severe judge of himself. If everyone did his duty to the fullest extent, said the General, success would come.     After this speech we started for Austria. Loves and a Marriage Sergievsky's pursuit of the Polish girl established a lifelong pattern of unruly romantic pursuits and conquests, often accompanied by choruses of outraged relatives. His range of romantic possibilities was expanded in 1910, when his father died after a long and costly illness. Relieved of the hospital expenses, granted an ample pension by the Tsar, and thriving as a private tutor, Sergievsky's mother, Katerina, bought a mansion in Kiev.     The scale was grand. The central room, with its crystal chandelier, had French doors opening onto a forty-foot porch where parties and lunches were held in the summer. The front courtyard was flanked by small buildings for the staff and a few working-class tenants. The enclosed garden, occupying a whole city block, was laced with paths that wandered among the fruit trees and berry bushes. Orest Sergievsky, Boris's son by his first marriage, conjured up the scene decades later in his autobiography. Roman, Boris's youngest brother, was still like a colt--all arms and legs. Only after his teens did he become a competition to his brother with his good looks. Gleb, the second son, was a quieter personally--an artist. Music was his life. Some people thought he was better looking than Boris; in his own calm way, Gleb attracted attention at the grand piano, creating magic with his music. Boris, the eldest, was usually the life of any party, charming the guests with his looks, love of life, and enchanting voice. He fell in love with a lovely young lady named Yadviga, who was often among the guests who used to attend the vecherinki --the evenings of talk, music, and singing at which tea was served with the ever-popular piroshki . Looking back on this--Boris's first passionate encounter with a woman--it is easy enough to see the pattern which their love would soon take: the inner storms, the unseen wounds which would fortunately dissolve with time, and the many things which remained unspoken but still created shadows on family relations. Before graduation and receiving his diploma as an engineer, Boris had to acquire practical experience, to gain firsthand knowledge in different parts of the country. When Boris was leaving to spend several months in Odessa, Baku, Sevastopol, and other places, he asked his brother Gleb to keep the young fiancée, Yadviga, company. Gleb was asked to accompany her to concerts and parties so that she would not be lonely. But even before Boris left, the subtle charm, the deeper personality of Gleb, started to intrigue and fascinate the young woman. The mother of the family, and gradually a few others, began to realize with uneasiness the possibility of drama in the near future. Gleb did not encourage Yadviga; he was a gallant escort, but ever conscious that he was with his brother's fiancée. Nevertheless, by the time Boris returned, Yadviga was hopelessly in love with Gleb. After a few weeks of polite coolness and uneasy silence, Gleb left to visit a friend outside of Kiev. Boris had to go to Odessa; his mother wrote to the Bergau family in Odessa to try to cheer Boris up when he visited them. The Bergaus had been neighbors of the Sergievskys; their sons and daughter Ella had been playmates of the Sergievsky boys during their childhood. The "cheering up" of Boris led to his engagement and later marriage to Ella. I, their son, arrived upon the scene in August 1911. Sikorsky I: The Russian Years Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky (1889-1972) spent the years 1903-6 at the Imperial Russian Naval Academy in St. Petersburg and six months after that studying in Paris. Shortly after he entered the Kiev Polytechnic Institute in 1907, aged eighteen, to study engineering, he organized and headed the Aviation Students' Club there. Such leadership was predictable in a young man who literally had been pursuing his dream of flight since 1900. Sikorsky later described the dream that had inspired his life's work: I saw myself walking along a narrow, luxuriously decorated passageway. On both sides were walnut doors, similar to the stateroom doors of a steamer. The floor was covered with an attractive carpet. A spherical electric light from the ceiling produced a pleasant bluish illumination. Walking slowly, I felt a slight vibration under my feet and was not surprised to find that the feeling was different from that experienced on a steamer or on a railroad train. I took this for granted, because in my dream I knew that I was on board a large flying ship in the air. Just as I reached the end of the corridor and opened a door to enter a decorated lounge, I woke up. Everything was over. The palatial flying ship was only a beautiful creation of the imagination. At that age I had been told that man had never produced a successful flying machine and that it was considered impossible. By the time his fellow student Boris Sergievsky met him in 1907, Sikorsky knew that his dream was not impossible. In France, accounts of the Wright brothers' flights, published in L'Aérophile in December 1905, had stirred a frenzy of aerial experimentation by such pioneers as Santos-Dumont, Blériot, Farman, and Voisin. In January 1909, Sikorsky returned to France, by then the center of the aviation world, where he learned much hard-won knowledge from the leading aviators and designers of the day. Thanks to his sister Olga's generosity, he also managed to buy one of the first engines designed for airplanes, a twenty-five-horsepower, three-cylinder Anzani like the one used by Blériot in the first flight across the English Channel that same year.     Sikorsky came back to Kiev in May 1909, determined to build a helicopter, but after two unmanned test models barely got off the ground, he returned to his concept of the "flying truck." As Sergievsky notes, Sikorsky taught himself to fly by the pioneers' method of building and test-flying a series of his own designs. He built four biplanes in 1910, wrecking the S-1 and S-2 during his tests, but his S-5 was a success; he taught himself to fly in it and earned Pilot's License No. 64 in 1911. Sikorsky later attributed the rapid advance of aviation to the fact that mediocre designers were soon killed by their own flawed designs, leaving the field and the financing clear for the more talented and skilled survivors.     Sikorsky's genius as a designer flowered quickly. On May 26, 1913, less than ten years after the Wrights' first flight, Sikorsky's giant passenger transport, the Grand , soared above St. Petersburg. The Grand , with its spacious enclosed cabin for crew and passengers, was the first four-engined airplane in the world--in part because other designers feared that an engine failure would make such a plane uncontrollable. Sikorsky proceeded to demonstrate that the Grand could be flown safely even with two engines shut down on the same side. One year later, Sikorsky flew an even more advanced successor, the Ilya Mourometz , on an epic voyage from St. Petersburg to Kiev and back--2,400 miles in less than 26 hours' flying time. Later versions of these four-engined giants gave Russia an almost invincible long-range bombing and reconnaissance force in World War I. More Loves, Another Marriage By the time of his romantic interlude with the musical comedy star on the way to war in August 1914 (p. 23), Sergievsky had a new wife. His first wife, Ella Bergau, had gone back to her parents' home in Odessa for good in 1913, leaving their two-year-old son, Orest, with his grandmother, Katerina, in Kiev. Orest described in his autobiography how this situation came about: Our neighbor, Dr. Kotchoubey, and his wife, Alexandra, shared our garden; their house was on one side of our block, and her music room had windows overlooking the garden. During my father's visits home there would be small parties, singing. I would wake up and listen to the melodies of Rigoletto and Traviata . It was Father singing the operatic duets with Mme. Kotchoubey. I heard these melodies many times without knowing their names. Dr. Kotchoubey was constantly away and the three handsome men [the Sergievsky brothers], Boris, Roman, and Gleb, were tempting company for the future opera star. But Roman was always misbehaving. For example, he would start sneezing when a much-perfumed lady would pass the veranda. Gleb was too busy with his music. But Boris, a gallant officer who loved to sing, would oblige willingly and sing a duet or two. The duets were followed by other meetings. In the evenings one could hear the melody of a then-popular romance, with a definite message in the lyric: "Sunset is beautiful across the river, the perfume of flowers fills the air; meet me, my dear, in the garden.... " Relations became more personal. As I write this, I still cannot understand why Dr. Kotchoubey used to give me chocolate candies. Was it because we two were left out--he by his wife and I by my father? I remember the Doctor telling Granny during the war (1914) that he was actually grateful to my father for "taking away" his wife. I remember, too, overhearing that Alexandra threw the doctor's wedding rings out of the train window on their honeymoon. Grandmother had tried to call the romancing couple to reason. She had a talk with Mme. Alexandra, reminding her that Boris was a married man, that there was duty to the family in married life. But Mme. Alexandra's answer was: "Until one is thirty, life is ruled, experienced by the heart and senses; after thirty it is governed by brain and duty." Father was then twenty-three years old. Sergievsky divorced Ella Bergau, and then married the newly divorced Alexandra Kotchoubey on November 21, 1913. Copyright © 1999 Allan Forsyth and Adam Hochschild. All rights reserved.