Emotional return for Harbin-born elderly sculptor

Updated: 2011-01-19 07:55

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

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Emotional return for Harbin-born elderly sculptor

First person | Tatyana Schremko

Editor's note: Tatyana Schremko, 76, was born in Harbin and later became a US citizen. She is the eldest ice sculptor taking part in this year's Harbin International Ice Sculpture Competition.

I have been sculpting for the past five decades and use a range of materials, sand, steel, ivory, snow and ice. Most of my sculptures were made for parks and city streets, including in my hometown, Washington DC. Some have even been in commercials and movies.

Because of my age, I can no longer afford to travel around the world to take part in various competitions, but the Harbin Ice Festival is an exception.

Any sculptor would to be proud to compete in Harbin, the world-famous "City of Ice". What makes it more special is the fact I was born here.

My parents were from what was then the Soviet Union and they were living here when I was born in the 1930s. My family returned to the Soviet Union when I was 3 years old. Then, after World War II, we emigrated to the United States and settled down in Washington DC.

This is the fourth time I have been involved in this competition. There are always photographers around me, taking photos of the elderly American lady. Organizers gave me a "special contribution award" in 2010.

This year, my 35-year-old daughter Alexa has come with me to Harbin to help out. She has been really looking forward to her first trip to China. After the festival, we'll travel to Xi'an, Beijing and Shanghai.

Alexa teaches philosophy in university and knows nothing about ice carving, so her task is to hand me tools when I need them. I'm not as agile as I used to be. The Japanese participants next to me also help a lot, fixing chisels and installing extension cords.

However, two days into the contest I realized I wouldn't be able to finish my sculpture in the time allowed. My form is Marguerite, a character in the French novel, Camille. It doesn't matter whether I win, I just enjoy carving and appreciate the beautiful pieces here.

The photographers here will see me again next year and I hope to continue with the competition until I'm too old. I want to leave one piece a year for the residents of this beautiful city - my birthplace.

Tatyana Schremko was talking to Zhou Wenting.


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