Svetlana Godillo, who died on the eve of the New Year, was an astrologer who didn't totally believe in astrology. She said she found it "spooky" when her predictions came true. Mostly, she saw astrology as a tool. She said astrology created the climate but did not and should not rule a person's life. She believed people were in charge of their own destinies.
Astrology paid her bills and gave her a certain notoriety she enjoyed; most important, it offeredher an opportunity to write a newspaper column and permitted her to be around a newspaper and newspaper people. It made her feel she was a newspaper person. And, she confided, it made her feel closer to her father, who had been an editor in Warsaw, where she was born, but whom she had never known well because her parents divorced when she was a child.
In her Sunday columns appearing in this space, Svetlana used astrology as a basis for her comments and predictions on world figures and world events.There were times when her predictions were startlingly accurate, as when she warned on Aug. 9, 1981, that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat "should be very careful about his safety starting from the first days of October." Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981. But there were other occasions when she was totally inaccurate, as when she predicted this fall that then-California Gov. Jerry Brown would be elected to the U.S. Senate. The hit-and-miss aspects of her predictions amused Svetlana, and she had planned a column for today that would highlight both her successful and unsuccessful predictions of 1982.
Svetlana was aware that Washington is a city of survivors who are careful not to antagonize, careful not to express opinions, careful with their emotions. Svetlana was not careful in any of those ways. She had passionate convictions, volubly expressed in her husky, Eastern European accent. And there were times when she embarrassed her colleagues and her important clients, many coming from the highest levels of the city's political, social and governmental ranks.
"I don't care what other people think of me," she would argue, puffing angrily on the long, thin brown cigarettes she smoked constantly. "I am Eastern European," she would rasp, "and Eastern Europeans are passionate people."
Svetlana seemed incapable of indifference. During the 1981 hunt for the murderers of several Atlanta children, Svetlana called the FBI, Atlanta police, anyone who would listen, offering her services. She could get so angry about some celebrated figure whose chart she was reading for her column that her outrage seemed personal. She hated Menachem Begin and Sen. Edward Kennedy, but was almost adulatory about Yasser Arafat and President Reagan.
Svetlana spent long hours working on her writing. She had sent some of her short stories and a book idea to a New York literary agent, a friend was seeking syndication for her column, and the National Press Club was reviewing her membership application. If these writing possibilities came through, she planned to concentrate on writing and give up most of the clients who paid up to $200 to have their astrological charts read.
She had been excited to learn shortly before her death that her agent liked her writing and felt he could sell her work. What Svetlana didn't know was that her friend had found several newspapers interested in her column and that her application for membership in the National Press Club had been approved by the membership committee and the board of governors.
(Funeral services for Svetlana Godillo will be held at noon Tuesday--the day following what would have been her 59th birthday--at St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral, with burial in Ft. Lincoln Cemetery.)