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  • Nick Zalevsky

Flying Over the Cuckoo's Nest

A history how the "for Soprano" painting was conceived still resembles a mystery.

It was a long time ago, I lived in Kiev, the capital of what is now Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union.


In one of the city's huge parks, there is an ancient church built in the 12th century. In this, abandoned park, amongst unkempt trees overgrown with foliage, a hospital is located. It was a monastery before, filled with monks as one would expect. The church was destroyed and plundered many times and then rebuilt. The monastery was closed in the 18th century, its facilities turned into a psychiatric hospital. There had not been a service in this church for a long time, and it was as abandoned as everything else in this park. This amazingly beautiful and picturesque place is covered with many dark legends and rumors.

But that's not what I'm talking about here. I had a plan to draw the church. Once, with a sketchbook, I wandered into this park, found a church, put up a sketchbook and began to work. On the other side of the church, from the upper floors, at times, someone would throw out construction waste. There must have been renovation work going. Several patients were wandering in the park. They wore the same mouse-colored hospital gowns. About an hour later, a middle-aged woman came up to me in the same hospital gown. She said, "Take me out of here." I replied, "Okay." She took an envelope from her pocket, put it on the sketchbook and went to the church. Before entering, she took off her hospital gown. Under it was a white medical coat, and she took it off too. There was nothing under it, and she entered the church in only shoes. After a couple of hours, I finished the sketch, it was getting dark. I took off the canvas, collected the paints and entered the hospital building. There was a doctor on duty, and I said there was a patient in the park. The doctor replied that no one left the building (and this was the women's building), and he was waiting for the head doctor of the department. When she returns, he will lock the door. I went home. There I opened the envelope. On a piece of paper, it was written: "Sheet music for soprano." That very night I came up with the painting "For Soprano".

By Nick Zalevsky

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