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Vladimir Voroshilov’s wife: I admired and forgave him

On December 18, the legendary author and host of the TV game “What? Where? When?” Vladimir Voroshilov.

He is remembered by his wife, General Director of the television company “Igra-TV” Natalia Stetsenko.

– We met in 1968 at a television studio on Shabolovka. It all started with … an owl and resentment. Margarita Eskina, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Youth Edition, appointed me to the position of assistant director of the new Auction program, which can be considered a distant relative of our future game What? Where? When?”. I was told that I needed to get acquainted with the head of the program, Vladimir Voroshilov, and that he was waiting for me in the lobby of the television center. I already heard about him. A good theater artist, he worked at the Moscow Art Theater, at the Maly Theater, at the Taganka Theater. By that time, he had been working on TV for two years, making documentaries. And now he is preparing the author’s program. Joyful, I go down the hall, looking forward to meeting a creative person. And he saw me – and immediately quipped: “That’s what you are, Natasha Stetsenko! As fat as me!”

Vladimir Voroshilov and Natalia Stetsenko, photo personal archive

I choked with indignation: I did not expect such rudeness! My son Boris at that time was one and a half years old. Obviously, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Offensive words I left unanswered, but they hurt me like a splinter. Voroshilov gave me the first order: to find a good video of an owl that can be used in the intro. I wrote it all down in a notebook. Outwardly, she was completely calm, but deep down she was ready to burst into tears from resentment … And the cameraman Gena Slavkin and I went to shoot the owl at the zoo. We were allowed to set up a TV camera near the enclosure. And we secretly climbed into the cage from everyone. There were a lot of birds there, but I liked one – the polar one. The owl, frightened, hid in a corner. He sits, his silver-white feathers rear up, his huge eyes sparkle. Voroshilov liked this frame, and he inserted it into the screensaver. Later, it was she who opened the first episodes of the TV game “What? Where? When?”.

Vladimir Voroshilov, photo What? Where? When?

“I have always been crazy about geniuses. Now I know that sometimes it’s not even worth getting to know them, so as not to be disappointed. But then I was young and did not know how bad their character can be … Volodya was terribly spoiled by his mother, for whom the son always stood above everyone else. Even at the age of 70, he continued to feel like a sissy. But his gift could not but captivate. I was then married, but I felt that I was irresistibly drawn to Voroshilov. He drew superbly, was always full of fantastically interesting ideas. I admired – and forgave the fact that he was absolutely selfish and even arrogant towards others.

Vladimir Voroshilov, archive What? Where? When?

– About two years after we met, my friend, fellow student at the pedagogical institute, Irina, was sitting in a cafe at the television center. She complained about her problems at school, I complained about a talented but harmful boss. Suddenly, the thought comes to my mind: “Let’s play him!” We went up to my office and dialed Voroshilov’s home phone number. He picked up the phone: “Hello?” – “Volodya?” the friend asks. “I’m listening,” Voroshilov boomed. “Oh sorry. Apparently, this is not the Volodya. I made a mistake,” and hung up. A minute later we call again. And again, Ira pretends that she didn’t get there. And so several times. At that time, Voroshilov was divorcing his next wife. And, of course, he became curious, what kind of girl is so absent-minded. They talked and got to know each other. Ira pretended that she had no idea who Voroshilov was and what kind of program “Auction” was, they say, she doesn’t watch TV and is generally a serious girl. And he … invited her to a restaurant! Ira went. They met several more times. As a man, he did not attract her, but he was an interesting interlocutor. A friend then told me everything they talked about, what he told her about himself. And I eagerly listened to it all. But we were quickly exposed. Once, the three of them were sitting in a restaurant: Voroshilov, Ira, and Tolik Lysenko, a youth editorial journalist. It was he who talked to her, finding out that Ira is my friend. So Volodya realized that I was interested in him.

Vladimir Voroshilov, 90s

– I remember how we went on a business trip to Uzbekistan with him. He is like the director of the new program “Contact”, I am like its editor. By that time, the Auction program was closed … And now we are filming a program about one unique eye operation. In the evening, after a long day of filming, I get out of the hotel shower – he was alone on the whole floor – and in flip flops on my bare feet I go to my place. The door to Voroshilov’s room is open. He stands on the threshold and looks thoughtfully at my feet. I stopped and looked at him. So for two minutes they stood in silence. Then, just as silently, he closes the door behind him. Later, already in Moscow, he confessed to me: “You know, I was struck by your little toe on your foot.” Then I already learned to treat his oddities philosophically … He didn’t particularly care for me – he didn’t consider it necessary to waste time. Therefore, small episodes in which he revealed himself are so dear to me. I remember how at the Kyiv metro station he ran after me along the escalator and persuaded me not to go home, but to him. How we walked along Gorky Street and, like children, kissed in telephone booths.

Vladimir Voroshilov, archive What? Where? When?

– Without signing, we lived for 13 years. I didn’t even talk about marriage. We were both already divorced and we didn’t want to prove anything to anyone. We are Sagittarius, for us the main thing is independence. The scariest question we can ask is: “When are you coming?” or “What are you going to do today?” This did not sound with us, and everyone lived as he saw fit. We could go to our apartments for a while and meet only at work. In addition, his mother would never have tolerated another mistress in the kitchen. And I had no particular desire to live with her together. So they lived: sometimes together, sometimes apart. Our mutual friend Kira Proshutinskaya asked every time we met: “When will you get married already?” And in 1984, Volodya and I decided to do something nice for Kira: we went to the nearest registry office and signed. Then they celebrated the wedding in the restaurant of the World Trade Center. By the way, Kira then also just married Tolya Malkin, so two weddings played at once in one evening.

Natalya Stetsenko with her friend Kira Proshutinskaya, photo personal archive

– I introduced Voroshilov to my son Boris when he was six years old. Their relationship then all my life amazed me with its adulthood, or something. Volodya for him was not a father, not a stepfather, but a partner. Boris managed to accept this, although he was surprised at first. Everyone treated him like a child, they always gave him the best piece, and Voroshilov … It used to be that Vera Borisovna put Boris a piece of herring, and Voroshilov a part from the tail. Volodya was sincerely offended: “Why do I need a tail, and not the middle?! And why, if an apple, then only to a child?! We must be equal!” I remember how, at our dacha in Svetlogorsk, Volodya sat down with Borey in the gazebo and discussed questions for the game “What? Where? When?”. Checked if it’s too easy. And if it’s difficult, he asked what hint is better to do so that there is a chance to guess. At the age of 15, Boris was already sitting in the qualifying rounds: he compiled tables, summaries, combined teams of experts. When he studied at the Bauman Institute, he worked as an administrator on the set. After graduating from the institute, the son announced: “I want to work on television.” Voroshilov said: “Please! We have a congress of experts in Mariupol for 700 people in a week. Everything has to be organized.” The next day, Boris flew out there and did a great job. Then the son worked for Volodya as a second director, scriptwriter, editor. They often argued, and then Voroshilov said: “When will you do“ What? Where? When? ”, Then it will be your way, but now do as I tell you!” Boris was offended, but he recognized the justice of these words.

Voroshilov, Statsenko and Boris

– In January 2001, Vladimir decided that Boris would be the host of the TV game. After we finished the series of winter games, Voroshilov gathered everyone in the office. He announced that he was going to leave to live in Nice soon. And the transfer offers to Boris. The son replied: “I need to think.” Volodya became furious: “I offer you, one might say, a whole life, but do you think whether to agree or not ?!” He ran out of the office and slammed the door. It was always difficult to communicate with him when it came to work. And perishing to convince in something – the more. Well, of course, Boris agreed.

Vladimir Voroshilov, photo Channel One

– Voroshilov had all sorts of illnesses. You see, sending him on vacation has always been a big problem. He worked very hard. Volodya prepared for the games, spent them, then found many other necessary things – and … went to the hospital with another sore. Each time, once in the ward, he asked me: “Natasha, am I sick with cancer? Are you hiding from me?” “No,” she answered, “you just have pressure problems.” “Then write a receipt that I don’t have cancer.” And I wrote in all seriousness. The papers are still there. Our astrologer Valery Ledovskikh told him: “Vladimir Yakovlevich, I see you have problems with pressure, heart, it’s time to pay attention to this.” But Voroshilov had no time.

– Two days before his death, Volodya called me at work from this house and asked: if my heart starts to hurt when I get up, and I take nitroglycerin – and the pain goes away – does it mean that I have angina? I suggested going to the hospital. But he again said that he had no time. On March 10, he went up to the bedroom to rest – and died. Heart attack. Boris and I still cannot go into that room – memories of the tragedy immediately come to life. This pain still doesn’t go away.

Grave of Vladimir Voroshilov

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