Mara Bobrushkin-Amromin – doctor, family friend of the Hirshhorns
We became acquainted nearly thirty-five years ago and from that time on we maintained close relations.
Some friends phoned me to say that a young couple had just arrived in Brussels: she was an artist and he, a violinist. They arrived with their three-year-old daughter Veronika.
The apartment they had just rented was empty. It was a difficult time for them. And so we began the fight to improve the situation together. The apartment was quickly furnished as best could be managed. But finding work was tough. I phoned up a friend; she and her husband then organized a concert in their home for 100 guests. They had a Steinway on which Vanden Eynden accompanied Philippe. They ordered catering from the best restaurant in Brussels. They had a select audience. The fee paid for the performance was substantial. That helped Nina and Philippe considerably.
We often met at my home. We sat out on the terrace, and there was always plenty to discuss. You cannot call Philippe a simple fellow, although it was easy and pleasant to get to know him. We understood one another without exchanging a word. Sometimes just a glance was enough for him to say: "yes, yes, I know.” And he knew precisely what I was thinking. Interesting people gathered at my home back then – Vladimir Emelyanovich Maksimov, Yuri Lyubimov and his wife, Edward Kyznetsov. Vasily Aksyonov also stopped by. Stories were told, and there was laughter and jokes. People stayed on till three o’clock in the morning. Philippe felt right at home.
Philippe had the key to our house. My husband and I would leave for work and he would come and practice a lot. He knew the place inside out – the kitchen, the fridge and everything else. He told us that he could work well there, whereas in the apartment where he and Nina lived it was difficult to practice.
Once I came home from work and there was Philippe seated on the couch, wrapped in a comforter and watching television. I sat down next to him. There was a show of folk dances on the television, Finnish, I think. As I recall, elderly people wearing wooden clogs, with red caps on their heads, all holding hands and dancing. Stamp your feet, clap, stamp your feet, clap! Without saying anything, I looked at Philippe and he said: "Yes, yes, I am precisely that kind of dancer, only with a fiddle in my hand."
Then there’s another story to share. We had a Ficus in our living room which didn’t want to grow at all. It had two withered leaves and two half-dry branches. But when Philippe started practicing there, the Ficus came alive and turned green once again. I said to Philippe: "Just take a look! Your music works miracles." He replied: "Of course. It feels that I am sometimes playing especially for it."
When Philippe was dying, he maintained his dignity, was brave and showed enormous force of will. My experience of many years as a doctor allows me to say that not everyone can do so. It was a very difficult period. His illness lasted a long time. Nina was at his side all the time. Every morning, before work, I arrived and fed him his breakfast. He asked me to do this. Several days before he died, Philippe was thinking what to give Veronika for her birthday; she was about to turn sixteen.
And then he was gone. He did not die. He simply moved to another world where things are simpler for him. Fabiola, Queen of Belgium, knelt down and placed flowers. She lost a man whom she valued dearly. She felt the refinement of his soul and remained a friend of the family to the end of her days.