The author of this piece is a former employee of the Podari Zhizn Foundation, founded by Chulpan Khamatova. He left because, like some of his colleagues, he was disappointed in what was happening there.
Apparently, there are reasons for this. When a project is suddenly abandoned by its founder, one cannot help but wonder how its catchy name really does justice to its proclaimed humanitarian goals.
In the film ‘In the Land of the Deaf’ by Valeri Todorovsky, the girl Rita is going through a difficult time. Her boyfriend Alyosha, a roulette player, owes a huge sum, and now his life, like Rita's, hangs by a thread. Rita accidentally meets a deaf-mute dancer from a restaurant named Yaya who saves the girl from the persecution of creditors. Despite her congenital total deafness, Yaya nevertheless has a good grasp of the situation. She convinces Rita to forget her lover and convinces her to share her dream to save money and go to the ‘Land of the Deaf,’ where they can live without denying themselves anything.
There is an amazing coincidence in the fate of the two performers of the main roles of this cult film – enchanted by the press and film awards Chulpan Khamatova as Rita and Dina Korzun as Yaya, apparently, so get used to their roles that repeated the plot in their real lives. It is clear that after the release of the film on the screen they got a lot of offers of further shootings in the movies. There were tours, state awards, and the title ‘People′s Artist of Russia’ awarded to Chulpan Khamatova.
There has been also a sharp turn in her personal life. She celebrated the birth of daughter Arina together with her first husband Ivan Volkov, son of the famous actress Olga Volkova. But their marriage lasted not long. They got divorced after Khamatova met the dancer Alexei Dubinin on tour in Germany. This love affair was also short but the meeting with director and producer Alexander Shein brought both the creative success and fame. In his works, Khamatova was always filmed in the lead roles. When the couple had a daughter Iya, it seemed that this union would last forever. But five years ago, Shein and Khamatova separated, but the prestigious work in the theater, invitations to appear in films, participation in all possible Russian and foreign festivals continued. All everyday problems were solved by financial compensation for creative work, considerable royalties for appearances on the theatrical stage. Khamatova bought the accommodation in the city center for 120 million rubles ($1.94 mln) and a summer residence in the elite eco-village Amatciems near Riga. All this, among other things, brought moral satisfaction. By the way, the village was created exclusively for the European elite. Prices only for the site start from 400,000 euros. So, the territory under the house cost 24 million rubles, and the house itself cost 300,000 euros.
Apparently, it wasn't enough to enjoy the results of the success of ‘In the Land of the Deaf.’ So, Khamatova, together with Korzun, created the Foundation for the support of children with cancer. The idea is noble, which is probably why in just six months, good people have transferred 500 million rubles ($8.11 mln) to the fund. The money from sponsors and patrons both from Russia and abroad was pouring in. The foundation was based on the model of partners from the United States (Podari.Life) and Great Britain (Gift of Life), with which, by the way, it still has close ties. Staying at the peak of success, Khamatova met the new year 2022 with optimism. Plans for the future, of course, were ambitious, but then suddenly February 24 came. After the start of the special military operations in Ukraine, one of the most popular Russian actress was in Latvia, trying to save a property that was about to be confiscated. She suddenly changed, quickly securing her renunciation of her homeland by publicly condemning the special military operation. Moreover, she rejected the title of People's Artist of Russia, calling it “nonsense.” Khamatova showed the peak of cynicism when she told journalists, “...I hate the Second World War. I cannot be proud of it.” It is the pain and suffering not only of the Russian people, but also of the German soldiers and civilians of other countries. Without hesitation Khamatova went along with it, thus kicking in the teeth at the country that had rid the world of fascism and fed her for years. Some semblance of remorse overtook Khamatova afterwards, when she suddenly realized that staying in a foreign land was not as rosy as she had imagined. Not so long ago, the star admitted frankly that “it is not it,” commenting on her life in Latvia. It seems that the artist's earnings abroad ceased to match the level received in the homeland, where for decades she has been on the list of the highest paid artists.
So now, receiving in one of the theaters in Riga for each appearance on stage about 60,000 rubles ($972.88), Khamatova, by her own admission, barely making ends meet. The success is not the same as she had in the country she left. Those who attended a performance in Riga with Russian celebrities are surprised that their former acting skills have been reduced to a minimum. The performance of the actors Chulpan Khamatova and Anatoly Beliy, who had escaped from Russia, turned out to be a failure in Riga. The two-hour-long dialogue with the actors' suitcases onstage produced boredom in the audience. The fashionable for the West beginning – declaration of pro-Ukrainian slogans, continued by monotonous reading of the text with the help of prompter for hour and a half – did not help either. The audience was so unhappy with the performance that they demanded their money back for the tickets, saying “What was that all about?”
Unfortunately, the departure from the native country of some recent “stars” in our troubled times is not uncommon. Some of them just have a nervous breakdown, and others have trivial problems with their conscience toward their homeland. The reason for most of them is obvious. They are afraid of losing their overseas property, in which they invested, earning in Russia by “excessive,” often not entirely legal work.
In her eco village, 46-year-old diva, resting from the bustle of the city, enjoying the fresh air and admiring the beauties of nature surrounded by forest and a pond, drinks a cup of coffee, probably sadly thinking about the rejected past and the future – and whether to call her friend and colleague in ‘In the Land of the Deaf’, now the head of the Give of Life Foundation Dina Korzun to ask how the construction of a boarding house in Peredelkino on Lermontov Street, next door to the cottage of Boris Pasternak, the museum Bulat Okudzhava, is going. Heart must still be bleeding for the foundation, which has been created recently. That is why she calls there practically every day, hinting that she would not mind coming back. So, who is waiting for her here now?
I wondered what those who believed in Khamatova and enthusiastically joined this project thought about it. Here are just some of the thoughts of those disappointed in the realities of the Podari Zhizn Foundation that can be found in open sources.
Olga Tromonova says:
“...I don't know about the results of the help to children and how it looks in reality but after my volunteer work for the foundation I can say one thing. I met people there who are not very decent and who are only pursuing their own mercenary interests. So, it is disappointing.”
Mikhail Che says:
“Who else believes that Khamatova is a 'key figure' in this foundation? If so, why did she leave? Was it because of her great love for children? And how can the foundation be trusted now?”
Temyan Letny says:
“Aren't the founders of the foundation breaking off too big a piece of the pie from the donations? Their reporting is very unclear, with many obscure schemes. There is still no answer to the Foundation's inquiry about the account from which hundreds of millions are used to maintain the administrative apparatus. To my thinking, the sick children get at best 25 percent. The rest ends up in someone else's pocket. Office rent costs 25 million rubles ($405,367.25), events cost 80-100 million ($405,367- 1,621,469), payroll costs 70 million ($1.14), and so on. Rumor has it Khamatova had ousted her colleague, actress Yelena Yakovleva, from the Sovremennik Theater. It would be a great exaggeration to say that she was loved by all the staff. She was famous for being one of those who, without hesitation, stepping over anyone for his own success. However, all was forgiven, and even many were worried when she left the cinema and her native theater. Still, she created the charity foundation! Now, this once national favorite, as they say, is back at the bottom of the ladder: no home theater, no foundation, and, apparently, no motherland. “You can be a complete idiot, and still you will be loved,” says Rita in In the Land of the Deaf. Maybe, the performer of the role, Chulpan Khamatova, just got used to this idea, hoping for forgiveness of the country, scolded by her?