"I hope there will be no retaliation," Soviet defector Victoria Mullova said at her first public appearance in the United States, a press conference at the International Club.
The 23-year-old violinist left behind a father, mother and two sisters when she went to the American Embassy in Stockholm on July 5 and asked for political asylum. Would the Soviet authorities take revenge on them for the loss of a young musician who has won several international competitions? "My family didn't know anything about what I was planning," she said. "I didn't tell them because I was afraid they would try to change my mind."
"The only people who were aware of our plans were the two of us," added 40-year-old conductor and pianist Vato Jordania, who left the U.S.S.R. for Finland with Mullova at the end of June, eluded their government-appointed escort and crossed the border into Sweden on July 2. They took a taxi out of Finland, leaving behind in a hotel room a 350-year-old Stradivari violin that was the property of the Soviet government. Besides his parents and two brothers, Jordania left behind two children from a former marriage.
Mullova is virtually unknown in the West, but she has won prizes in several prestigious international competitions, including the Tchaikovsky (Moscow, 1982), the Sibelius (Finland, 1980) and the Wieniawski (Poland, 1976). Jordania, who won the Von Karajan conducting competition in Berlin in 1971, has conducted all the major orchestras of the Soviet Union and others in Eastern Europe, specializing in the music of such Western composers as Aaron Copland and Carlos Chavez. Until they can become economically self-sufficient, the two defectors are being aided by the Tolstoy Foundation, an organization established in 1939 to help Russian refugees in the United States.
The reason for their defection, both musicians said, was that Soviet authorities were stifling their careers. "My concerts were limited and I was not given an opportunity to show my art," Mullova said. "On the average, I did about two or three concerts a month . . . concerts in which I was not interested at all. They were concerts booked into schools and clubs in the very deep provinces. Occasionally I did a concert in a large city, but of course I was forced to do all of the concerts to be able to pay for the apartment that I rented.... I was promised a great deal, but nothing ever came of it."
One of the reasons given for the lag in her concert engagements, she said, was the fact that she had not passed conservatory courses in such subjects as political economics and "Scientific Communism."
"Since I won the Karajan Competition in 1971," Jordania said, "I have never been able to tour once, for 12 years, out of the Soviet Union. I can't complain that I didn't have enough concerts in the Soviet Union; I did. But I have the impression that 85 percent of the things I did were not necessary for anybody, including myself.
"I feel that I have a new begining in my career," he said.
Mullova said that she could not explain her mistreatment by Soviet authorities. "We were not in favor with someone or other," Jordania said.
Mstislav Rostropovich, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and unofficial mentor to many Soviet emigre's, said that "in the Soviet Union, everything is political . . . Art is an instrument of politics; sport is an instrument of politics. The internal organs of the Communist Party choose the people they will help and the people they will not help." He recalled that his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, was forbidden to tour overseas because she did not attend meetings of a Marxist discussion group.
Mullova was asked whether, besides their common interest in freedom and developing their careers, she and Jordania had a romantic interest in one another. She laughed when the question was translated and instantly answered, "Nyet," adding "No" in English.
"Maybe later," Jordania said.