Alexander Schalvovich Porokhovschikov is a succesful Russian actor and film star who belongs to a noble family. His greatgrandfather was a patron of art, an architect and his uncle is Alexis the First, a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Porokhovschikov married Irene Zhúkova, who is around 30 years younger. She has been his muse, friend and soulmate. According to author Anna Velygzhánina they first met when Irene was only 13 years old and he was 42. Irene recalls how they met:
“Alexander had had lots of women who worked at the theater, press, and opera house, but he led the life of a true bachelor. This man met me at a mature age, when I was still almost a child… There was something unthinkable about it.
At first I'd been avoiding him. One day he was walking right at my side. He asked me for my name and address [….] It is so funny to recall my first date with him. I'd thought he would take me to the movies but we went to the Taganka Pub. [...]
At first we'd been keeping our affair a secret. I hadn't been aware that he could be put in prison for a long period of time. I could not understand why we had to conceal my love for him.
We used to meet at pubs and poolrooms. Alex had found a place for me where I could look at him while he was playing [...]. Alexander's friends thought that he had no relatives to entrust his daughter to. But I was longing for a real romance! On stage he was like a god and in real life he was a bon vivant.
He liked to go to restaurants after work, and I did not like it how his friends would order something at his expense, and his friends couldn't stand me. Alex would phone me at night when I was a 13- to 14-year-old, begging me: Take me away, Irene. […] When I would arrive [at the restaurant] I knew his friends had taken him to another restaurant. There had been no mobile phones back then, so I would have to run after him all night and even searched for him at his house.
I would ask his mother: Is Alex OK? Has he called?, and she wouldn't let me in. I would stay by his window until the next morning. There was the Cosmos Hotel, whose janitor took me for a prostitute. I was ashamed and upset, but I loved him, so everything would repeat itself time and again.”
Irene was even taken for a prostitue at the theatre and she was being treated as if she were a leper.
"But I was saved by Vera Aléntova, she said: Leave the girl alone! If she departs for Moscow, I'll go with her, and everyone has respected her. She saved my future marriage. Alexander Zbrúeff said to my parents: Do not interfere, their relations are deep.
From that time my affair with Porokhovschikov hasn't been a secret. For him this story was like water off a duck's back, but not for me. My punishment was moving to the male part of the theater. It was terrible! They'd called me a server (????????) for I'd been serving socks and washing to the actors. How could I know that such a job was illegal for minors? I will never forget an ironed shirt thrown at my face: If she'd touched it, it must be washed! That's how a girl's first and the only life-long love was met.
Even when I was a student writing notices and issuing articles, when my texts were boarded in the theater I was still giving them socks. My punishment was having my career growth blocked.
In the tours I 'd been settled down apart from Alexander for that had been a rule for non-married couples.
Every morning actors were discussing Porokhovschikov taking some new girl into his room last night. It was so painful for me… Once Bezrúkoff took his son to the tour, and little Sergio was pointing a finger at me: R you a whore? ... "
Alexander hadn't taken me seriously…
"I'd been hurt by Alexander too. When I was with him in hotels he'd introduced me as his fan, and I 'd been often thrown out from his rooms by militia-men. One night I was knocking at his door, and a chambermaid thought I was pestering the theater star — she called militia. I spent the night imprisoned and despairing of why he did not look for me.
Once in a Novosibirsk tour Alexander departed for Moscow. When I came to the public call-boxes I heard Alexander inviting some woman to spend a night with him. When we were connected I could not say a word. There had been no mother, no friends with me in that town. But time goes, I'd forgiven him and realized I could not live without him. Though there had been lots of surprises. Once I was crossing a Moscow street and saw a car. In that car Alexander was hugging a woman! Even those who spy are not able to see the things which can be noticed only incidentally.
There had been another bitter story when Alexander, Leo Filátov and Tatiana Drúbitsch departed for Colombia to participate in making Sergio Sóloviov's picture Ísbrannye. I could not imagine how would I spend a month apart of him. I used to cross out days in a calendar. And happy reunification happen. Alexander's friend did not want me into his car, so I went to the airport by bus. I was in a white summer-dress with flowers in my arms. Even customs officers saw how nervous I was and let me cross the frontier.
They were interested who I was waiting for. A group of actors appeared. My Alexander went by, jauntily took the flowers and brought them to another woman waiting for him. I was shocked! The custom officials stood agaze. One of them ran and took the flowers from that woman…
When I was complaining Alexander said: Who do you think you are? - I'm your wife. I knew we'll marry some day, but he did not believe I fitted to family life. I had to wait for this for a long 14 years. We'd been living in my parents' home, in a small room. I'd been using an ironing board there and writing notices. Lacking material goods we'd been rich with our love. It took much time for my husband to attach himself to me, to learn how to help me and take care of me."
Family is the main thing
"I love Irene so much," the actor said, "she is my wife and my daughter at the same time. I took her when she was a child. Sometimes her caprices irritate me. But I cannot live without her. If something happens with me, she won't stand."
"Most of all I'm afraid to lose Alexander," Irene told me when Alexander wasn't about.
"Our quarrels are not serious, but sometimes we raise our voices. In five minutes Irene calls me: Schúrik, Sáshegnka… And I cannot grow calm after this for a week."
Do you still court your wife?
"Of course I do. I love her, she's a good person and needs understanding. We are both maximalists, if she does not like something she won't tolerate any compromise. She's smart and industrious, and kind."
Who rules the family?
"We're equal, I even prefer to be subordinated. She can do everything but I cook by myself. Irene appreciates it and is always sincere to me. She is 30 years younger than me so I consider her as a child. I treat her with trepidation. Her love is my only support, Irene is everything that I have. We cannot live without each other."
The couple is ironical towards themselves. In the new performance Sarantschá of Puschkin Theater repertoire Porokhovschikov's role has no cues. Irene teases him he takes wordless roles because he can't learn plays.
"Soon he'll be dreaming of Herasim role! Only wives know what their men are. But when he was rehearsing Revisór by Gogol I thought I will go out of my mind. I had imitate everybody's cues but his role was only one. Moreover he always wasn't satisfied by the result and wanted me to start again. I thought I would hate Gogol."
The wife is my vocation
I rejoice at their happiness. Actor and usual families does not live so long, couples are rarely so like-minded. They're a single whole, I cannot imagine them separated.
Even when her husband is near by she asks about him every minute. He also cannot stay without her. If we are talking by phone, I can hear her husband's voice: Where are you, Irene?, and I try to stop our conversation.
He must always be able to see me, Irene says, It is a kind of art, being an actor's wife. Keeping the first love alive in spite of all ordeals.
The wedding ring
"One of the happiest days in my life is 13th of May 1995 when Alexander being my de facto husband brought me into the civilian registry office. It was offered to me unexpectedly. We were in Turkey, came into one shop and he bought two wedding rings. I was crying! How tender and loving he was. As a legal wife I felt a new status, new emotions."
All troubles are in the past, the family is happy. Ordeals made their happiness stronger and long-living, they have been together for 26 years. They cannot part even for a day. We like spending time together, when he departs for making pictures we are longing for each other. Our life is interesting, Irene says.
Their professional lives are also connected. Irene had gone from the theater, she used to work in a TV station, then in a picture-making company. Now she works on state projects being a respectable woman of fashion. But for him she is still a girl in the white summer-dress. They built a cottage by Moscow, restore Prokhovschikovs' estate. All the household is Irene's work, while Alexander creates.
"I've always been faithful to my husband, I've never had another man, and I don't need nobody else. But I cannot say the same about him. I know what infidelity is. But everything can be overcome if you love."
A year ago the Porokhovschikovs got married at church. They did it unofficial and modest, not in the trendy way, without glossy publications. They consider love too holy to make a show of it.
I owe this case to Cyril Galaburda.