Friday, January 04, 2008

13x365: Yuri

On tour in Berlin with a youth orchestra, Yuri defected from the Soviet Union one night. When his mother heard, she pleaded with the police to allow her to visit him in the West. She told them that she would take his cello to him, and remind him of how much he loved to play for his comrades and country. She eventually succeeded in convincing them to let her go, and returned to Russia a week later, minus a son and a cello, and never to be heard from again.

Being thus reunited with his instrument and livelihood, Yuri began a brilliant busking career, eventually making it to Canada, where he learned English, became a vegan and joined an artists' collective in the Gulf Islands.

He spent time with us whenever he was on the mainland. He had an odd odour, a mixture of pot, garlic and unidentifiable other substances, though mom would never let him smoke in the house.

The garlic was another matter. There weren't many things for vegans to eat in the 80s, so breakfast for him was always the same thing: homemade eggless, milkless bread toasted with peanut butter and sliced, raw garlic that he would cook himself in our kitchen. It didn't take too many times for him to visit before mom had had enough of his bizarre eating habits and started making him oatmeal with nuts and fruit in it for him.