A Few Minutes with Vincent van Gogh


Wheat Field with Cypresses, by Vincent van Gogh (1889, oil on canvas, 73.2 × 93.4 cm).

Millions of people around the world today are ready to travel across continents in order to see original Van Gogh’s paintings. I am a happy one of them: I have done this more than once. Luckily, Van Gogh became appreciated quite soon after his death, so most of his works have been found, restored, and are kept with proper care.

I have been looking through Van Gogh’s paintings, and decided to share a few lines about this amazing man. I believe, these facts about Van Gogh’s life will be new and interesting to you-

His life began with a strange decision made by his parents: they gave him the same name as they had given to their previous child. It appears that Vincent had an older brother who died at birth. His name was also Vincent.

Then, according to a common tradition, Van Gogh was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. Luckily, he was strong enough to choose his own way in life. Here is a photo of young Vincent.


Van Gogh did not start drawing in early childhood, like many famous artists did. He was 27 years old when he painted his first piece. Before that, he had been failing as an art dealer and engaging in missionary work. He was mostly self-taught and he started out by painting dark and sad depictions of peasants. Only later he started drawing light and life-welcoming pictures, like First Steps, after Millet (1890, oil on canvas, 72.4 x 91.1 cm)


In late 1885, interested in honing his skills as a figure painter, Van Gogh left the Netherlands to study at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium. Three months later, he departed for Paris, where he lived with his brother Theo, an art dealer with the firm of Boussod, Valadon et Cie, and for a time attended classes at Fernand Cormon’s studio. Van Gogh’s style underwent a major transformation during his two-year stay in Paris (February 1886–February 1888). There he saw the work of the Impressionists first-hand and also witnessed the latest innovations by the Neo-Impressionists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. His  Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat is a good illustration of the Impressionists’ influence on his work.


Between 1886 and 1889 he painted over 30 self-portraits. Was he trying to understand himself this way or was his own face just the handiest object to draw? We will never know.

In May 1889, fearing a new breakdown, Van Gogh voluntarily entered the asylum at Saint-Rémy, where, over the course of the next year, he painted some 150 canvases.

(Corridor in the Asylum. Vincent van Gogh , September 1889. Oil color and essence over black chalk on pink laid (“Ingres”) paper. Dimensions: 65.1 x 49.1cm. The Met Museum)


In the time frame of only 10 years, he created nearly 900 paintings! A number of them are now considered the greatest works of art ever created.

Everyone knows that during his lifetime Van Gogh sold only one painting, this one:

(The red vineyard (Arles. November, 1888), By Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), oil on canvas; 75 x 93 cm, © The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia)


He painted Portrait of Dr. Gachet in 1890.  In May 1990, the portrait was sold for $148.6 million dollars. As funny as it may sound, neither the artist, nor Dr.Gachet could ever imagine such a pile of money.

(Vincent van Gogh, “Docteur Paul Gachet, 1890, private collection)


The Feeling of Being a Published Author

I know, this would not be a big deal to many, but it is to me. My short story, Every Day of Spring, was accepted by One Persons Ttash literary journal and is available now on their website as a featured fiction story .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a real personal victory to me, because I have been working for years to make this happen. English is not my native language, but it is the one I love very much, so I have always tried to become really good at speaking and writing it. I have published many non-fiction works before, they were in Russian, Ukraiian and English. But writing fiction is different, it requires deeper knowledge of the language and its culture, and so, this publication has come as a confirmation that I am good enough to stand in one line with the natives. So, I am going to have a little celebration today! And tomorrow, I will certainly wake up more confident, and hopefully, more of my published works will soon appear in the western magazines and book stores!



Being a Teacher…


One of a few pleasures that a teacher can get from her work is the gratitude of her students, and this is an award which is never easy to deserve. Something just reminded me of a beautiful letter which Albert Camus had written to his best teacher and I thought, what a wonderful reward for the years of untiring effort, which remains invisible until your student himself becomes a worthy person.

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honour, one I neither sought nor solicited.

But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.

I don’t make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

The work of the teacher, as well as the work of the mother, becomes visible years later, when our students grow up ans begin to share their knowledge and experiences with others. It means that, whatever we, teachers, put into a student’s mind, remains there through decades and never stops to influence the developing personality. Isn’t it a huge – inspiring and frightening – responsibility?

It is to me. Teachers, like doctors, have human lives in their hands. They make an injection of knowledge into the mind of each student they meet in the classroom. Depending on the quality of the injection, the student will either become enriched or miserable. Well, the only thing I know for sure is that I refuse to be the kind of a teacher who uses placebo “pills” and “injections”, which never provoke thinking of any kind.

A Few Thoughts on the Nature of Intuition


My book, The Soft Spot for Luck, is a suspense fiction novel with a few elements of fantasy. It is narrated by Luck, an immaterial being that carries chances and watches how ignorantly people waste their time, opportunities, health and lives in a silly rush for happiness, quite often- without knowing what happiness means to them. Luck watches people from her own point of view, and thus, she can see us differently. Here are a few of her thoughts.

“The more I watch human beings in action, the better I understand their motives and behavior. Whenever human brain is about to make a decision, it always looks back at its body to make sure that the outcome of mind work is not going to affect it. Like a clam, whose entire outlook is limited by the size of the shell, supporting its life, a human being is bound to thinking within his body’s physical capacity. Instead of trying to make maximum use of their brains, people have learned to minimize their mind work – sometimes even switch it to zero activity mode – because this, they believe, can protect their bodies against unnecessary risks in given circumstances and environment.”


Luck comes up with the term zero activity mode and comes to a sad conclusion that people deliberately teach each other to set their minds to it:

They said on TV that a glass of red wine equals an hour at the gym–”, People say it is safer to vote for the Democrats, so I will–”, Like my mom, I always take a hot bath when I am getting a cold”: These are examples of setting one’s brain to a zero activity mode. Listen to what others say, follow exactly what others do, and relax! Hmm.

Well, I don’t blame them. This is people’s way to feel safe. The dangerous part is losing intelligence. Because people have to be so cautious about their life and health, they share accumulated knowledge and experience with the young generation to protect it from thoughtlessly ruining their bodies, which, of course, results in nothing else, but boosting their fears to unprecedented levels. Every child’s parents invest most effort into teaching the kid how to switch his mind into zero activity mode since very young age. Uh–huh.”

Due to her ability to look at human beings from a different angle of vision, Luck identifies a few components, which influence our mindwork, but these factors are of litle use to Luck, because people cannot use them to improve their skills of picking lucky chances:

“At the same time, I have come to the conclusion that the human brain operates in a certain, always individual, environment, which is generated by a complex combination of the person’s experiences, fears, knowledge, beliefs and intuition. Every human being, of course, has peculiar levels of each.

These five factors, however, are of little importance when it comes to picking a lucky chance. Chances come and go too quickly, leaving a person no time to process available knowledge, experiences and beliefs; neither he has time to measure his risks by the yardstick of fears. No, these factors are negligible here. Still, one of them attracts my attention as a direct antipode to mind work: intuition. I wonder, how does it influence human decision making?”


Here are Luck’s thoughts about human intuition. I have been wondering, what would people say to these thoughts? If you are not bored reading this so far, please, take na look at two more paragraphs, and maybe you will have something to add or to argue here.

“People describe intuition as “knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor by perception.” If I had a human body, I would grin here. This isn’t even a definition! I wish I could face that guy who said this and ask him to clarify. I would say, “So, dear scientist, what is your point? Is your personal intuition a knowledge? Or, maybe, it is your belief? Be precise, please. Define them for me. You suppose that intuition “is obtained neither by reason nor by perception.” Doesn’t it mean that it can’t be obtained at all? And what do you mean by the word “obtained”? No, dear scientist, you have just demonstrated your complete ignorance. You agree with me? Eh?”

Finally, Luck realizes that, of all the five abovementioned factors, intuition is the only one that boosts – rather than slows – our mental activity.

“People know really little about the processes taking place in their own minds. Their knowledge about intuition is fragmentary, despite that every person has it to a greater or lesser degree. Based on intuition, people have made hundreds of outstanding discoveries; intuition helps many to build up correct strategies, make lifetime decisions or plans. But most importantly, intuition is a basic condition for making the right choice of chances. Why? Because it helps people block their fears.”

What do you think about Luck’s conclusions? I would really love to know your thoughts. Today, we are facing the world in its most dramatic change since the beginning of human history. We have created incredible technologies, but we still have not studied the powers given to us by nature. Intuition is one of them, but only a few individuals in the whole history of the world have ever devoted time to studying it. Albert Einstein allegedly called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine, he said [1976, The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples, Quote Page 26, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts]. Do you agree with all this? What do you think about the nature and powers of our intuition?


The Unknown, but Gorgeous Sights of Ukraine


Recently, Ukraine has been known mostly as a huge 40-million country to the east from Europe, which is being continuously challenged by geopolitical battles taking place in and around it. At the same time, numerous facts about the country are never brought up by any media, and today I would like to focus on Ukraine’s beautiful nature, because- what can be better than spending a vacation in a quiet place away from large cities, with beautiful nature behind the window and a plate of the most tasty food on your table after a long walk in the fresh, crispy air?

Here are a few sights of Ukraine you have probably never heard of.

The above photo features Kolochava village, which is called the longest village in Ukraine, as it stretches along the hills to 40km! There are ten ethno-museums located in the village, so you will never be bored there.


The name of Bakota village in Khmelnitskiy region is translated as “an always desired place”. It used to be the capital of Podillya back in the 13-th century, then it survived a very big many of historical events and today it is a small tourist place for those who love moderate climate and peaceful rest in the mountains.


Dzembroniya village in Ivano-Frankivsk region is called “a place where clouds are born”. Famous Ukrainian poets and writers used to stay here to get inspiration from its gorgeous nature.


Mezin, Chernihiv region lies on the side of Desna river. Archaeological findings of Paleolite epoch attract scientists and tourists here. The beautiful forests located around the village have gained it a second name – “Mezinska Switserland”.


Oposhnya (Poltava region) is also one of the most picturesque areas of the country. It is also a Mekka for ceramists and potters.


Iza (in Zakarpattya) is the center of basket-weaving. You can learn the craft here, right from the local masters, and also Iza is famous for producing the best cheeses ever!


Strusov, a village in Ternopyl region, is a beloved place for many travelers. The place has a long and the most exciting history, which has become immortal due to the ancient cave-church of St.Anthony and an old castle of Knight Goluhovsky.


Kamennoye village in Zhytomir region is regarded the healthiest place in the world, where everyone can heal their diseases. You will find a beautiful hodgepodge of huge rocks with natural caves that look like houses (though nobody lives there); the mysterious landscape of the place has given way to numerous legends, ballads and tales.


Trikraty (Mykolaiv region) is associated with a kossack family of Skarzhynski, one of whom devoted his life to studying botany and local plants. There are three famous nature parks in the area, and a beautiful Aktovsky Canyon, also known as “Devil’s Valley”.


In Lviv area, the old castle of Pidhirtsy has been called the local “Galician Versailles”. Right near and around the castle, a beautiful parkland and St.Josef Roman Catholic church are located.


Roztoki (Chernivtsy region) is a beautiful landscape nature park with its seven Bukovinski waterfalls and gorgeous hilly forests everywhere around.


A blue-water lake Synevir and a tiny village around it attracts those who seek the fresh air and peaceful vacation away from people and civilization.


Cherkassy region has its own peaceful corner: Morintsy village with a museum of Taras Shevchenko, the most beloved Ukrainian poet, painter and thinker, who was born here.


Trypillya (Tripole) is a worldly known town today due to the archaeological findings made by Vikentiy Hvoika, who excavated numerous items of the previously unknown ancient culture.Hvoika’s sensational discovery brought lots of attention to the place. Today, there are two museums in the town, where tourists can learn about the unique culture of the ancient local dwellers.

This list is certainly not full. Ukraine is uniquely rich in natural sights, qunique cultural traditions, and history, so everyone who is interested is welcome to visit and is guaranteed to never be bored here.

What Makes Some Women so Uniquely Feminine?

The awareness of my own femininity struck me for the first time when I became a university student. After a cloudless childhood in a family of a marine scientist, where no such thing as femininity or sexuality had ever been mentioned at all, I suddenly found myself living in a student dorm and being surrounded with hundreds of absolutely awesome-looking girls, whose main goal in life (as it seemed to me) was to look


Femininity is a skill that can and should be developed through life.

impeccable and beat the fierce competition for the three boys, who happened to be the only three male students in the whole Foreign Languages Department. As I watched how skillfully my fellow-girls could fight between each other for a time in a shower room and then immediately turn into innocent angels because a male species would turn up in the doorway, I admired their talents and thought to myself that I would never learn that science. A year later, by the beginning of my sophomore year, I caught myself practicing the “science”, too: I learned to do it so well that our male professor of phonetics (oh, he was as hot as George Clooney!) seemed to have a crush on me, which even made me the “queen of the bitches” for a while. It was the time when I realized that femininity, though probably being an inborn quality of some women, can and should be developed, fostered, fed, and never left to chance. Later, when I started working as a relationship coach, my numerous meetings with women gave me more awareness… and more confidence in my own femininity.


A woman is not defined by the way she looks, but by the way she behaves.

I realized two things: first, that just being beautiful or knowing how to wear awesome make-up is not enough and second, as unusual as it may sound, that femininity and sexuality are quite different things. While sexuality is a quality that determines a woman’s relationship with other people, femininity is always a part of her nature, the basis of her personality, the trendsetter of her style, a substance contained in her blood. This is why a woman is not defined by the way she looks, but by the way she behaves.

I used to read many magazine articles suggesting tips about how a woman could look more feminine. Those advice were good, but to me they did not have enough value when taken just as they were. I believed that to become really feminine, a woman needed to change her whole personality. Here are a few ideas from my own diary, which I had when I was a student.

  • Learn to move gently. Avoid Arguments, work on your intonation and, of course, on your vocabulary.
  • Do not swear. Never.
  • Be cool, but don’t be baited into arguments by people who can’t respect you. Be mature enough to know when your presence is needed somewhere.
  • Soften up and speak Softly. What can be more feminine than a girl who cares about the way other people perceive her? Learn to carry yourself with dignity regardless of who you are talking to.
  • Be ready to face the fact that when you bring yourself to the level of a man, you will be treated like a man. A classy lady can always find ways to express herself with words that don’t offend others.
  • Be yourself and love yourself for who you are. Just live up to your own expectations. Remember, that all choices in life are yours: you are the one in charge of choosing which lifestyle is the right one for you, so it’s only your concern; and, of course,
  • Read, learn, grow! Take every opportunity that comes. When there is no opportunity, create one! Be persistent, but not aggressive; be strong, but not sharp; treasure harmony in everything you do, say, or think.
  • Your femininity is not defined by what you do or how you do it, it is defined by the way you relate to other people and to yourself. It reflects your attitudes to learning and developing as a mature, reasonable person. It reflects your kindness and your compassion.
  • The way you think and act will always echo back to you. For that reason, a woman should not just look feminine, she should really be supportive, positive, and loving to everyone around. Isn’t it a natural part of female nature? By showing people that she cares for them, a woman sets up the ground for what she believes in.

So, I guess, the solution is simple, yet it takes lots of effort to reach. Femininity cannot  be drawn on a woman’s face with the help of lipstick and brushes, a woman needs to work on her personality first, and then skill up with make up or take care of her hair, nails, heels and purses, because appearance only works to support our self-awareness and self-recognition, not the other way around.

The Infinitive Is a Verb, Taken Naked from Its Dictionary Page…

“Берём глагольчик – голенький, из словаря. Это – инфинитив.” Такое объяснение действует на студентов гораздо лучше, чем сухой текст правил: яркий образ обнажённого глагола (без окончаний) врезается в память, как сцена из любимого кино. Теперь, когда всем ясно, что за словом “инфинитив” не кроется ничего особенного, можно поговорить о его функциях в  английском языке.

1. Инфинитивную форму глагола используют в предложениях как подлежащее или дополнение.

To know me is to love me. (Знать меня – значит любить меня)

To live in Hawaii is my lifetime dream. (Жить на Гаваях – мечта всей моей жизни)

2. Инфинитив также используют как дополнение, которое традиционно следует за определёнными глаголами, которые вы найдёте ниже, в таблице

I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your gift. (Я хотел сказать, как высоко ценю ваш подарок.)

He hesitated to ask the embarrassing question. (Он колебался, задавать ли затруднительный вопрос.)

3. Инфинитив используют в качестве сокращённой формы для фразы in order to

*in order to означает: чтобы / для того, чтобы / с тем, чтобы

You must take this medicine (in order) to get well. (вместо “ in order to get well” можно просто сказать “to get well”

I went to the bank (in order) to cash a check. (Я пошёл в банк (чтобы) обналичить чек)

Частенько инфинитив работает так же, как наши сложные сказуемые:

We hope to find the person who did this. Мы надеемся (что сделать?) найти человека, который это сделал.

I was asked to make a dessert for the dinner. (а тут ещё и с пассивным залогом, но в целом – всё то же самое: Меня попросили (что сделать?) приготовить десерт к обеду.

*А вот и список (неполный, но более, чем достаточный для жизни) глаголов, после которых традиционно используют инфинитив. Например, afford to buy (a car) / agree to sign (papers) / arrange to meet (her), и т.д.














know how









































Fiction Readers’ Preferences in 2017: What Are They Like?

I just ran across a short article by Mia Botha on WritersWrite*, and while I was studying a table illustrating it (below), a thought flashed through my mind that lately, witout realizing this, I have been in the mood of writing short fiction. It was an intuitive, subconscious intention, very similar to the feeling which I generally have when I experience a disturbing urge to write (every author knows the feeling), but in this season – surprisingly – I have been more apt to writing in short, completed, self-sufficient fictional pieces, which could be valuable in meaning, like parables, but emotionally challenging, like poetry.


(* The above scheme taken from http://writerswrite.co.za/what-exactly-is-a-short-story-and-how-do-i-know-if-i-am-writing-one)

A short story is an etude in creative writing, writing one is similar to rehearsing before a big concert. However, it never occured to me before that short stories and flash fiction as independent genres of creative writing are inevitably going to attract more and more of readers’ attention in the nearest time. Why? Because the world’s pace is accelerating and the readers’ traditional patterns about what, when, and how to read have been changing.

In 2017, an average book lover may only have a few short intervals of time for reading during the day (while having a meal break, while waiting to pick up a kid from school, or simply to break concentration between two working meetings). During each of such intervals, the reader would love to acquire a high-quality, finished, practically useful, yet sensible and emotionally satisfying piece of knowledge. Readers are no longer satisfied with reading for the beauty of the style, they need a lot more. In fact, what they crave for today is an informative, action-packed, imaginative, emotionally captivating, and smartly composed how-to (or how-not-to) presentation of a topic of their particular interest, be it a romance story, a detective plot, a fantasy, or a sci-fi piece. This is why I believe that the readers’ preferences will continue to shift toward reading short stories and flash fiction rather than the longer works of fiction.

I would love to hear your opinion on this. You are very welcome to leave your comments below.


What Distinguishes a Successful Blogger in 2017?


As I have been learning how to blog, I never miss publications on the newest tendencies in the world of blogging. It goes without saying that every beginner must find a niche and identify a group of ideal readers for their blog, but then… what else? According to my research of publications authored by well-recognized bloggers, the following features will become a must for every successful blogger in 2017:

  • compelling content that adds value to readers;
  • preferably short articles and posts;
  • attractive illustrations, at least one for each post (I have no doubt that in 2017, visualization will become No1 factor of success for bloggers);
  • simplicity and preciseness of all information;
  • an easily identified, unique feel (or a unique author’s voice) of the blog to attract repeated visitors;
  • clearly displayed personality of the blogger;
  • positive general mood of the posts;
  • rational use of social media, (the bloggers should not focus too much on them, they should rather focus on writing);
  • ongoing research related to the main blog topics;
  • regularly appearing video and audio content.

Please, add your ideas in the comments below if you can think of more items. Thank you! Wishing you all the best with your blog!

Some Facts from the Life of Fedor Shalyapin

Opera Singer, born Feb. 13, 1873 in Kazan, Russia. Died April 12, 1938 of kidney complications in Paris, France.


Feodor Shalyapin (or: Chaliapin) was born into a peasant family in Kazan in 1873. At the age of 9 the boy, who had admired choir singing in a local church, was accepted into the choir and immediately displayed a wonderful voice and a perfect ear for music. The boy studied passionately and was given a scholarship for singing in the church. Later, he was sent to continue musical education in a private school of Vedernikova, but was excluded for kissing his class-mate.

His family did not see Fedor’s future as a singer, though. His father wanted him to become a shoemaker and young Shalyapin had to apprentice in his older brother’s shop for a few years, until he finally escaped to the capital and started building a career in singing and theatre acting.


At the age of 17, in Russian Ufa, while performing his role in the opera “Halka”, Shalyapin accidentally missed the chair and fell on the stage. Since then, all his life long, he kept a sharp eye on every object on the stage, wherever he performed. After a few years of circuitous search of his own artistic personality, he finally acquired success in the Russian capital.


Shalyapin’s personal life was quite complicated. He was married twice. He met his first wife, Italian ballerina Iola Tornagi (1873–1965), in Nizhny Novgorod. They married in Russia in 1898 and had six children. While married to Tornagi, Shalyapin lived with Marina Petsold (1882–1964), a widow who already had two children from her first marriage. She had three daughters with Shalyapin. His two families lived separately, one in Moscow and the other in Saint Petersburg, and did not interact. Shalyapin married Petsold in 1927 in Paris.


Shalyapin was a very tall and strong man. Many of the singer’s contemporaries also noted the unprecedented power of voice. Once, after a performance, Leo Tolstoy shared his impressions about Shalyapin’s singing: “His singing is too loud.” Semyon Budyonny (the bolshevik cavalry commander and later and Soviet General in World War II), who met Shaliapin in a train once and had a bottle of champagne with him, remembered: “The car shuddered from his mighty bass.”


In 1918, soon after the Bolshevik revolution, Shalyapin took the position of artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre (do do this, he had to refuse a similar position at the Bolshoi Theatre) and received the first and the highest Soviet-time title of “People’s Artist of the Republic”. Though in his young years Shalyapin sympathized with the revolution, the bolsheviks were not very supportive of his unique talent. The new revolutionary authorities confiscated his house, his car, and his bank savings; there were numerous attempts to accuse his theater colleagues and his family members of not being loyal to revolution. Trying to protect the family and colleagues, Shalyapin met the highest leaders of the country, including Lenin and Stalin, but those meetings only brought a temporary relief. Finally, in 1922 the family decided to immigrate. Shalyapin with family left Russia and took a number of highly successful projects in Europe and America. In 1927, the Soviet authorities deprived him of the title of People’s Artist and of the right to return home.

Shalyapin was known as a very good painter and sculptor, as well. Many of his drawings were preserved to our time, including his self-portrait.


Shalyapin used to collect old weapons – pistols, rifles, spears. Many of them were presented to him by his friend A.Gorky (famous Russian – Soviet writer), who was a highly respected figure among the Soviet authorities. This friendship helped Shaliapin to keep his collection through a few attempts of local housing office to confiscate it.

In memory of his talent, a star with his name was installed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A recording of Shalyapin’s singing:






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