Tatiana Samoilova and Rimma Sushanskaya
In 1960, when I was a graduate student at
I watched a Soviet film entitled "Cranes are flying." It was a romance
movie based on a WWII scene. The star in this film was Tatiana Samoilova
playing as Veronica. Tatiana was regarded as the Russian Audrey Hepburn
and is loved by all Russians. Does this lady look like her?
Tatiana was 23 years old in 1957, when she starred as
Veronica in a classic Soviet film "Cranes are Flying"
(Letyat Zhurabli in Russian), linked from
In February of 1999, while I was spending a weekend in London, I met a Russian-born lady looking like Tatiana. Her name is Rimma Sushanskaya and is an established violinist. The Washington Post once commented that she is the best living violinist. You can get her CDs in music stores. She was the youngest student of the legendary Ukrainian violinist named David Oistrakh. When I show this photo to my Russian friends, many of them believe she is the real Tatiana. Some say she is too young to be Tatiana and therefore must be Tatiana's daughter. In either case, I have some stories to tell. Please continue reading.
Back from London
- I came back from London after spending the last weekend there. As always,
I tell stories about myself in order to talk about you. Your most urgent
problem is how to enter the international water and swim. The swimming
becomes easier if someone shows how he/she swims.
Click here for my photos
Traditionally, London is an international city with many interesting districts. Near the northwestern corner of the Hyde Park, there is a short street (about 500 meters) called Queen's Way, lined with many restaurants and cafes of different national origins. You can meet many interesting people there. I met a professor from Sweden who wanted to be away from students, just like me. I met also a French woman who married a Bangladesh engineer. I met also professional musicians from Romania making money by playing popular music at a German restaurant.
At one of the Chinese restaurants, I met a Russian lady who came with her English relatives. I became curious and asked her what her background was. She told me she is a violinist, and asked me whether I heard about David Oistrakh. I said Yes. She then told me she was his youngest pupil.
- David Oistrakh (1908-1974). When I was a high-school
student in Korea (1953), I picked up and tape-recorded his
playing of Aram Khatatorian's violin concerto from the NHK radio
from Tokyo, Japan. I used the Hallicrafters shortwave radio
- David Oistrakh was born in Ukraine in 1908 and was one of the top
the 20th century. I told her I learned about Oistrakh when I was in high
school and that I once tape-recorded Aram Khachatoryan's violin concerto
played by him when I was still in Korea. Since, at that time, Korea
did not allow music composed by Soviet composers, I had to pick up
Khachatoryan's music from Japanese broadcast. The Russian lady told me
Khachutoryan's concerto is her most favorite music and she loves to play
She then asked me how I know so much about Russian music. I said I have a bad habit of getting interested in countries other than my own. I told her that I recently wrote a short article about a Russian film entitled "Cranes are flying." She asked me whether I know the title in Russian. I said "Letyat Zhuravli." This really turned her on. She asked me to look at her face, and asked me whether she looks like and looks better than Tatiana Samoilova. Indeed, she looked like Tatiana and I had to say she is prettier than Tatiana. Tatiana Samoilova is the Russian actress who acted as Veronica in the film "Cranes are flying," and she is regarded as Russia's Audrey Hepburn.
We then became very close, and I asked my wife to take a photo of myself with her. I will be visiting Russia twice this year. I will bring copies of my photo with this "false" Samoilova, but I will tell my Russian friends that I was with "true" Samoilova. If they insist that the lady with me is an imposter, I will tell them actresses look different on screens.
- Here is the point. These days, you need money to open up the heart of
a woman. I do not know whether I opened the heart of this Russian lady,
but she gave me the telephone number of her son who lives in the United
States (she likes to meet me again). If I opened her heart, I did only
with my music knowledge which I acquired in Korea 46 years ago. In
terms of music, Korea is a very advanced country. I am not the only
one who thinks in this way. Queen Elizabeth II is going to visit Korea
later this year. She told Korean authorities she sincerely wishes to
visit one of Korea's music schools while in Korea. Her visit will bring
Koreans closer to her country. It is safe to assume that the Queen's
idea came from the British foreign policy establishments.
Chun Doo Hwan was the President of Korea while Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Britain. When Chun visited England, the Prime Minister mentioned first Admiral Yi Soon Shin in her welcoming speech and then mentioned Lord Nelson. She said Admiral Yi lived two hundred years before Nelson did. People say British people are diplomatic. This means that they clearly know whom they are talking to. This is the strength of Britain, and this is precisely what Americans still need.
Let me add one more story of mine. I am known in my professional world as a man with strong influence on a number of conferences. Thus, in order to get good seats at those conferences, many people try to impress me. Most of them tell me how great their research results are. To be very honest, I am not interested in their research results. I am only interested in whether they understand my own papers. If they understand my papers, I am kind to them. If not, I am totally neutral to them.
- Let us summarize. When you deal with someone, try to understand
him/her first. He/she will then be kind to you. You can open up the
heart of any lady of any country even without money if you have a sufficient
understanding of her country. Not every Korean thinks the United States
is kind to Koreans. If you are one of those, try to learn about the U.S.
including some of the personalities. Then the United States will be
kind to you.
Cranes are flying!
- We used to call Russians "slaves of communism" before 1990. But you
would agree that Russian scientists did very well while being slaves of
communism. How about the slaves of capitalism on our side? They also
did very well. If you look at those individuals who did well on either
side, they did not know how to complain about their environments. The
easiest way to become happy anywhere is not to complain.
In order to stress this point, I will give a Russian example. As I said in my previous article, Russians are picture-loving people, and the communists used motion pictures to impose their ideology to those within the territory under their control. Indeed, those film makers had to follow rigorously the party line in order to survive, and they were the true slaves of communism. Yet, they have been quite creative under the given circumstances. There are many examples I can mention, but I will mention only one.
- Mikhail Kalatozov was a relatively young film maker in the 1950s. In
1957, he produced a cinema entitled "Cranes are flying" (Letyat Zhuravli
in Russian), and this film was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1958 Cannes
film festival. I watched this movie in 1960 while I was a graduate
student. The story is based a war-time romance between a girl named
Veronica and a boy named Boris. This is a very straight-forward story
everybody can understand.
Veronica and Boris love each other and decide to get married during the WWII period. However, Boris volunteers to the Soviet army, and gets killed in action. Veronica is told of Boris's death by his comrade and also by Red-Army authorities, but she does not believe Boris is dead. After the war is over, the soldiers come home. So far, there is nothing unusual, and the story is quite consistent with the communist party line.
- This movie was quite meaningful to me because it contains a military
march entitled Proschanie Slavianki, which
I used to hear when I was a high-school student in Korea, but was not
available in the United States. The music is quite appropriate for this
movie where a boy goes to war leaving behind the girl he loves.
- After the war is over in 1945, the soldiers come home. Before
the train arrives, the relatives of those home-coming boys
wait at the station. Veronica also goes to the station to meet her
husband-to-be with a large bouquet. When the train arrives, a communist
official emerges and makes a speech. The speech goes like "Comrade!
Thanks to the great sacrifice we all made, we have achieved the greatest
military triumph in human history. Our next task is to rebuild our great
country, and complete our great goal of achieving socialism for the world."
The speech continues, and it is a standard speech anyone can recompose.
While the speech continues, those soldiers meet their parents, wives, and children, and they embrace.
- The motion picture uses simultaneously two
different languages. One is of course the acoustic language of the
communist official, the other is a pictorial language on the screen.
Would the audience be more interested in listening to the patriotic
speech or in the emotional scenes in which the ordinary people embrace
their loved ones? The film maker makes a strong point. Socialism is
important, but there is something more important: humanity! Some
people say that this film was the beginning of the end of communist
totalitarian rule in Russia. and I agree with them.
Veronica could not find her husband-to-be, and she has to face the moment of truth. Instead of showing sorrow or desperation, she picks up a stem of flower from her bouquet and gives it to the person nearest to her at the station, and she continues until she gives away the last flower.
- What lesson can postdocs learn from this film? First, the film maker
did not deviate from the existing ideological framework. He simply added
a new dimension. Sometimes this new dimension is difficult to see, but
it will be eventually known and appreciated. In physics, I and my Korean
colleagues added a new dimension to the research line initiated by Eugene
Wigner. If I tell my colleagues about this new dimension, they get
turned off, but sooner or later they will have to accept what the Korean
boys did. I am travelling around the world to make it sooner instead of
Second, Boris never comes home to marry Veronica, and she has to start a new life. She does this without giving troubles to others and without complaining about the Soviet system.
- I always insist that the pre-college
eduction I received in Korea was the best in the world. On the other
hand, my education went through four different political systems, namely
Japanese colonial rule, Stalin's communist rule in North Korea (1945-46),
American military rule in the South (1946-48), and Korea's democracy
(1948-54) including three-years of the Korean War (1950-53). Indeed, I received
the most imperfect education in history. How can this imperfect education
be the best in the world? Well, I have something to give to you, as
Veronica gave flowers to her fellow Russians. I will talk about my gift
to you next time. Have a nice summer!
- Note added later in 2005. In 2000, I was able to get a video version of
this movie and watched it carefully. This video contained the 1973 version,
and the final scenes were quite different. The speech by the communist
official was replaced by an address of non-political nature. I have to
say that I like the original version much better than the second edition
This movie I watched in 1960 was quite different from usual Hollywood productions, and had a profound impact on me. It appears that the story touched my Korean background. Read the following story.
These days, many of my young friends are asking me how they could enjoy their postdoc years, instead of suffering. They seem to be sensitive to the word "slave of capitalism" which I borrowed from the cold-war period. That is right. If you are a postdoc, you have to do the research which will bring more contract money to the professor who hired you. I would like to add here that the professor in charge of getting money for you is also a faithful slave of capitalism. They spend twenty five hours per day to figure out how to get more money to pay you.
Koreans and Russians: Tough People
- Russians are interesting people. Like Korea, Russia has been invaded
many times by foreign powers. Unlike Koreans, they were able to repulse
the invasions without foreign assistance. In this article, I will tell
you first how Russians repulsed Hitler's invasion. I will then discuss
whether it has anything to do with Koreans.
- When they were withdrawing from Ukraine during the initial stage of the
War, Russians stripped the Ukrainian factories. They took every nut and
every bolt as well as all light and heavy machines from Ukraine to the
Sverdlovsk deeply hidden in the Ural Mountains.
They started making tanks on open fields, without even roofs to protect workers (mostly women) against rain and snow. The Russian weather is not so friendly during the winter, as you know. Those Russian workers managed to put engines, chains, guns to their tanks, but could not afford to polish their tank surfaces. The tanks from those roofless factories had unfinished surfaces like rocks. Ugly indeed, but they managed to do their job of destroying Hitler's army.
After the War, Russians made better-looking tanks with polished surfaces. Those shiny tanks laughed at their ugly-looking predecessors asked why they are so ugly. Do you think their questions impressed those older tanks with an established battle record?
- In 1972, Korea's Chung Joo-Young started building oil tankers without
factory, and some people compare this with Russia's roofless tank factory.
But this is a minor story.
- Koreans of my age are tougher than those ugly Russian tanks. We
have built a respectable industrial base after pulling out ourselves
from the chronic hunger. Korea is now one of the ten richest countries
in the world.
In the academic world, we have established a beach head in the international community of scientists. Yes, like those ugly Russian tanks, we still have some ugly spots on our face, but we have an established battle record. We were able to do this much because we had and still have the ideology that we work hard because we are smart. We used to say that genius is a son of hard work.
This philosophy is not shared by our young people. I have a reputation of having an inferior brain because I work hard. These days, Korean students do not hesitate telling me so directly. They seem to know how to become smart without working hard. Could they please teach me how? Here is my opinion: I work hard because I am smart.
Y.S.Kim (1995.11.21, rewritten in 2022).
- If you have comments and/or criticisms, do not hesitate to communicate
- copyright@2022 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified.
How did I talk to Einstein?
I received my PhD degree from Princeton in 1961, seven years after high school graduation in 1954. This means that I did much of the ground work for the degree during my high school years. Click here for my high school diary.
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