We were having a drought and the constant news about fires was quite disturbing. I have lived in San Antonio for over 20 years now and have never seen a drought of this magnitude.

Kerop and Tanya's apartment Guest portable bed in Kerop’s and Tanya’s apartment…studio/living room/bedroom/guest room

The day before, my neighbor Connie had called, and said that her son’s house in Fair Oaks Ranch was in danger. She wondered if Robert and I could take people in, just in case there might be refugees. Yes, we have a big house (and big hearts, I’d like to think) so we would take in people.

Paintings in Anya's home Russian art in Anya’s house in San Antonio

After I hung up the phone, I started thinking about what I would take before running, if a fire came to my house. What do I have that is irreplaceable? After my German Shepherd “Buddy” and His Majesty pure mutt “Duke”, there were just two things that came to mind: my old picture albums and my oil paintings from Russia.

And thus began a journey through my memories…
This is my childhood album…and this is me at three years old, pushing other kids around…

Once I opened the cover of an old black and white picture album, my life flashed back at me. Stern, non-smiling faces of my childhood…my nanny Anastasia, who loved me more than my own grandmothers and was always embarrassingly overprotective, spoiling all my hide-and-seek games by standing by me and revealing my hiding place. She told me that my “Director” personality came out when I was 3 years old. We lived in an eight story apartment building in Moscow and when Anastasia took me out to play with the kids, my “army” of 2-5 year olds was waiting outside so that I could organize fun games for them.

Kerop Sogomonyan in front of his worksKerop Sogomonyan in front of his works

Here is Anastasia’s picture. My nanny – Russian babushka Anastasia – raised me. My father loved his job as a violinist in the Moscow Philharmonic and was away a lot. My mother had two jobs: she taught violin at music school during the day and played in the orchestra at musical theaters in the evenings. I have spent a lot of time backstage at theaters and symphony halls in my life. One time I was sitting in the orchestra pit with my mom at a Red Riding Hood play and the Wolf on stage decided to play a trick on me. He roared so viciously at me, that I shuddered for a quite a while afterwards. What a stupid actor! Or maybe I was just too sensitive as a kid.

Here is Kerop and Tanya in their small apartment in Moscow, looking happy and hospitable. My art is irreplaceable, because most of my paintings were presents from my artist friends in Moscow, and it took a lot of effort to bring them here to the US.

Kerop exhibit Kerop, Anya and Tanya at Kerop’s exhibit in Moscow in 1992 in National House of the Artists

My closest friends in Moscow are Kerop and Tanya – I have known them since I was 15. Kerop’s art was not conventional and he could not make a living at the time by painting, so he fixed roofs in Moscow. This is how he met Tanya. She was practicing cello on the 5th floor of the five story building in an old part of Moscow and…it was love at first sight. When the Soviet Union crashed, Kerop became a well-known artist and now his works are housed in museums and private galleries in Spain, France, Italy, Russia and in a couple of his friends’ houses in the US, including mine.

All this feels like a different lifetime but it is still very dear to me. Thanks to the drought, I have decided to scan all my old picture albums to preserve my family history for generations to come…