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Nelli Kobzon: we did not talk with her husband about death

On December 13, Nelli Kobzon celebrates her 72nd birthday.

Of course, she is known primarily as the wife of the People’s Artist of the USSR Joseph Kobzon, who passed away three years ago. Therefore, our conversation with Nelli Mikhailovna is dedicated to her beloved spouse.

I am happy that fate brought me to this particular person. We lived 47 years. We have wonderful children and wonderful grandchildren. In life, I am grateful to my husband for many things. Even some misunderstandings, quarrels, as it happens in every family, all this was a plus for me. I tried to find in myself what I was doing wrong. I wanted to change for the better for him, I always tried to match him. We started with an unsettled life. Two children were born immediately. They were sick, I didn’t get enough sleep at night. And when he saw a disheveled woman in a dressing gown with a displeased face, probably as a man, as an artist, accustomed to success, to the holiday, he was somehow hard. Gradually, I realized that my husband should always like me, so that he would always be pleased to watch and communicate. I woke up very early, turned on the TV, watched all the news programs. And when he got up for breakfast, I already had something to tell him. I was a kind of morning home Scheherazade. And every morning of our communication, we both really appreciated, for us it was sacred.

Photo: Nelly Kobzon’s personal archive

– In 1971, I came from Leningrad to Moscow to visit my mother’s friend. She was, as they would now call her, a socialite. She went to all the premieres, exhibitions, she had a lot of friends in the field of culture, and in the field of politics, and in the service sector. She was friends with many artists. In particular, with the family of the then-famous entertainer Emil Radov and his wife Lilya. On that visit, I ended up in their house. For me, of course, all this was again, insanely interesting, I saw there at once a huge number of popular people, beautiful. The table was beautifully set. I remember I went into the next room, where some of the guests were watching on TV the recently released film “White Sun of the Desert”. The light was off. A man got up from his chair and made room for me. At first I did not understand who it was, but the room was dark. When the film ended and the lights were turned on, he held out his hand to me and introduced himself. Of course, I saw Iosif Kobzon on TV, I knew his songs, but he seemed to me different. In life, he turned out to be a tall, slender, fashionably dressed, interesting man. I can’t say that some kind of spark immediately passed between us, as they often say. No. Just drew attention to him. And then everything happened quickly.

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

Three days later he invited me to an apartment on Mira Avenue to his mother and sister. Then he proposed marriage. I refused, said: “I can’t accept your offer. If you want, come to Leningrad to meet my family – my mother, brother, relatives. Let’s get to know each other better.” It was in March. And for the May holidays, he has already come to visit us. I remember that before his arrival, my mother said: “Now we’ll see how he comes to us. If with a bottle of vodka, we will give him a turn from the gate. And, if with flowers, then, probably, we will consider this proposal. In our family, my mother always dominated, and her word was dominant.

Iosif Kobzon and Nelly Kobzon, photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

Joseph arrived with a huge amount of pink carnations. At that time, red carnations could still be obtained somewhere, but pink ones were rare. He brought them with him from Moscow. And when he walked from the Moscow railway station to our house, on the way, when the girls passing by smiled at the flowers, he took a carnation and gave it to each. But the bouquet still remained large. On that day, Joseph invited our family in August to rest in Sochi, where he was scheduled to tour. He made us a reservation at the best hotel in the city “Leningrad”. And we went. Here we already began to meet, and I agreed to his proposal. Sochi has remained my hometown for the rest of my life. Every year we tried to go there, especially on Joseph’s birthday. I always remember how good it was for us there!

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

Both my mother and Joseph were from Ukrainian places. They grew up in a certain family, in a certain way, with traditions. Now I understand that they probably had the same tastes in food, sang the same songs, spoke the same language – Yiddish, lived about the same hard life. I grew up in a time when no one asked who was of what nationality. My family did not celebrate Jewish holidays. I remember when I was a 17-year-old student of a catering technical school, I first went to the synagogue for a holiday dedicated to the harvest. It was fun, we danced and sang. At this time, people in uniform arrived, they put us in black “funnel” and took us to the police station. They called my mother there. They scolded me, threatened to expel me from the Komsomol, which at that time was considered bad for a future career. It was a big stress for me. Mom cried, asked not to start any “cases”. Half-dead we escaped from there. My desire to go to the synagogue disappeared for many, many years…

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

But Joseph’s mother wanted her son to find real family stable happiness. After all, before me he had two Russian wives (Gurchenko, perhaps, half – Ukrainian), moreover, bright, beautiful actresses. His mother understood that people have different mentalities, different understanding of what kind of wife a Jewish man should have. Housekeeping, homely, without any specific ambitions to give birth to children.

To people who do not know Joseph Kobzon personally, he seems so monumental. Strict, harsh, cold. In fact, he was a kind-hearted person, a huge heart, a great desire to help everyone. How many people he arranged in hospitals, solved their affairs, problems! He has helped so many people! A normal person would have enough for ten lives what he did for others in one life. And in recent years, Joseph was especially sentimental, gentle, sympathetic. If he heard that a person had some kind of problem, then he himself offered his help. He has been gone for a certain amount of time, and I still learn some new stories about him that are amazing.

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

Joseph spoiled the children, allowed a lot of things that I would not have allowed. Of course, he did not have much time to communicate with children, like a simple family man. He saw the growing up of his daughter and son in his own way. Natasha, in general, has always been his favorite, the most adored. And he treated his son like a man sparingly and strictly, he sculpted a man out of him. Probably, he was more demanding of Andrei. He told his son: “I earned my surname myself. And it’s already been given to you. Therefore, he must always comply and not dishonor. There were misunderstandings between them, but nothing criminal. Now I can safely say that our children have succeeded. And as a son and daughter, and as individuals, and as people, and as parents. Andrei and Natalia, their children are the most important thing for me now.

Put on a clean shirt and went to the terrorists

Of course, I was worried about all sorts of rumors around the name of Kobzon. I think Joseph did too, although he tried outwardly not to show his grievances and frustrations. He was betrayed a lot. Remember these allegations of links with some kind of mafia. It was later that we learned that it was a political order. But, do you know why it was easy for Joseph?! He did everything sincerely, he was sure that he was right. I could honestly look anyone in the eye. He did a lot of good, but he could never do evil. There was a moment when in the 1990s we left to live and work in America, because there was no normal life here. We received terrible letters threatening to steal children for ransom. Who did not threaten! Chechens for not giving them money for weapons, Yeltsin’s guard Alexander Korzhakov and his team wrote all sorts of slander against him. In my opinion, his relations with Boris Nikolayevich did not work out very well either. In general, Kobzon lived at that time in some kind of blockade and suffered from it. But he managed to survive. I can compare it with a wall, with a block, with an icebreaker. He is basically like that!

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

– He was always the first of the artists who went to perform in “hot spots”. For example, he went to Damansky Island, where there was an armed conflict with the Chinese. Nine times he went to speak to Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. I don’t know if I should have gone there? But civic duty compelled him. He said: “Our sons are serving there now, it is hard for them, they have no joy. They write scary letters to their parents. And so, they will inform: “Dear dad and mom, Kobzon came to us. He sang, was in a concert costume … “To make parents a little happy that their children have some positive emotions.” By the way, for the first time my husband did not tell me that he was going to Afghanistan. He deceived, said that he was flying to a concert in Tashkent. And he called his mother later, said that everything was fine, he was returning from Afghanistan. I was given. Of course I was shocked! Probably, in this way, he felt sorry for me, did not want to upset …

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

Arrived then incredibly depressed, even depression was. Then in 1986 he performed after the Chernobyl accident. And he didn’t say anything to me either, I was vacationing in the south with the children then. I think the consequences of that trip later affected his health … He also went to Chechnya. True, he set the condition that he would go when there was a truce, so as not to take sides in this civil war. And he kept his word, gave a big concert. By the way, there he met with Shamil Basayev, who threatened him with his life and demanded money. But Iosif replied that he was helping only the wounded children of Chechnya. By the way, after that, Kobzon’s office was blown up on the 20th floor of the Moscow Intourist hotel. Thank God no one died then.

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

– That day, October 23, 2002, he had a concert. He came home at about ten in the evening. I already had televisions everywhere that broadcast the news. Of course we were all shocked. Moreover, our Andrei was friends with a guy whose son played in this musical “Nord-Ost”. As it turned out later, the boy died. Joseph watched TV, turned to me and said: “Well, I went.” I gave him a clean shirt and tie. He cleaned himself up in the bath. It was useless to dissuade him, so I did not even try. She just said: “Go with God!” Joseph was a brave man, I don’t remember him being afraid of anything! If only, at the end of his life he was afraid to upset me, upset me, quarrel.

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

– I think he did the right thing by telling everyone about his oncology. Because all this speculation, talk, gossip would be much worse. And then, with his behavior, with his life, he showed people that it is possible to overcome the disease, to live and work with it, to be useful. And this helped many, they wrote to him with gratitude, which gives people hope. I was there and saw how much he endured and with what strength. For example, when he was given chemotherapy, the doctors told me that he needed to lie down for two or three days. And he got up after three hours and went to a concert or to the State Duma. We never talked to him about bad things, about death. There should be only a good mood, and you can not relax.

Photo personal archive of Nelly Kobzon

– Once I asked him: “Joseph, you are a normal mortal person, how can you remember three thousand songs?” And this is only from his repertoire, not counting other compositions. And he replied that he remembers not the words, but the image of the song. It’s something cosmic. Once he was lying in intensive care after an operation, unconscious. And I was nearby. Suddenly he gets up with his eyes closed, sits on the bed and sings a song in Georgian. He sang it and lay down. Without regaining consciousness. Then I asked him what song it was. It turns out that Joseph learned it when he served in the army in Georgia. Especially for one girl with whom he was in love. And now, after so many decades, this song came into his subconscious.

– For some reason, now I remember every day … When we could argue, he said: “You are being rude to me now, but wait, I won’t be there, and you will find out with whom you have lived all these years!” Turning every page of our life with him, I understand: this man really was a legend. Now I am preparing to write a book about Joseph Davidovich. We are also creating a charitable foundation named after him. But the main thing for me is to keep a good memory of Joseph Kobzon.

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