1989 | Kiev, Ukraine | Age: 15 | via Austria and Italy
I am probably 9 or 10 years old. My mom and I are on the train to my ballet practice, and a young man approaches us. “I’m sorry to bother you; I would normally never do this. I assume your daughter is a dancer.” This is summer. I’m in my leotard. My mom is always late and is doing my hair. He continues, “I’m a sculptor, and I’m graduating school. I’ve wanted to make a ballerina piece, but it’s very difficult to find a girl who has that look that a ballerina should have. Your daughter, though, has the perfect facial proportions." He begs us to come and look at his work, and when we later come to his studio, the first thing my mom says to him is, “I just want you to know that we’re Jewish. Maybe you don’t want such a Jewish face for your sculpture.” He doesn’t care; he’s ecstatic.
He worked on me for a year. The actual statue he made is full-length bronze, and my whole class went to see it displayed at the Kiev Museum of Russian Art. He couldn’t pay us, but to thank us, he made me a plaster bust copy. Because he then became famous, we had to pay a lot of money to the government to take it out of the country when we immigrated. We had it shipped in a container, half of which was looted. I think the bust wasn’t touched because the government was involved.
Over the past 30 years I had looked but couldn’t find the sculpture or the sculptor. Eventually we did track him down, and I asked if he would make me a full length reproduction of the original work. We agreed on a price, got government permission again, and my mom now has the full-length bronze sculpture of me as a little ballerina. I had been looking for a sculpture called "Little Ballerina." But he had called it “Little Masha,” after me.