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IG Online Interview: Yelena Grosheva and Steve Barakatt
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1996 Olympic silver medalist Yelena Grosheva of Russia and her husband, Canadian composer Steve Barakatt, are the first couple to be appointed Canadian Ambassadors to UNICEF.

1996 Olympic silver medalist Yelena Grosheva of Russia and her husband, Canadian composer Steve Barakatt, are the first couple to be appointed Canadian Ambassadors to UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund). They are in Russia this month on their latest humanitarian mission, which includes the Moscow debut of Barakatt’s symphonic work "Ad Vitam Aeternam" on November 19.

Preparing for the performance of "Ad Vitam Aeternam" in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory, Grosheva and Barakatt have also enjoyed a visit to Grosheva’s hometown of Yaroslavl, where in 2010 Barakatt debuted the work as part of the city’s 1,000-year anniversary. Grosheva has also been able to connect with her gymnastics friends during their Russian trip.

Known for her elegance and precision, Grosheva was a mainstay for the Russian team during the mid-1990s. She competed at four world championships from 1994-1997, and helped Russia win the team silver at the 1996 Olympic Games. Following her competitive career, she was a performer with Cirque du Soleil. She and Barakatt now live in Quebec City with their daughter, Victoria.

Grosheva and Barakatt shared aspects of their mission, and Grosheva’s nostalgic visit to her homeland, in this IG Online interview.

IG: Steve, having performed your work in Yaroslavl in 2010, what motivated you to present it this year in Moscow?

SB: This Moscow premiere of "Ad Vitam Aeternam" is a combination of several desires. First, we wanted to do something special to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the fifth anniversary of "Lullaby, the UNICEF Anthem" I had the honor to compose in 2009. In the meantime, it was a dream to perform the symphony "Ad Vitam Aeternam" in one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. So we simply decided to do it.

Grosheva at the 1996 Olympic Games

IG: What do you hope the performance on Nov. 19 will do to inspire not only the audience members, but worldwide listeners?

SB: "Ad Vitam Aeternam" is a musical experience inviting the audience to look at Life Experience with a new perspective - a time of introspection. We hope it can inspire more and more people. We will actually release a live recording and videos of this historic event. So yes, we hope to send a positive message to all citizens of the world!

IG: Yelena, how does this performance factor in terms of your and Steve's roles as Canadian Ambassadors for UNICEF?

YG: As UNICEF Ambassadors, we wanted to make sure that the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights for the Child would be celebrated, and we thought that a musical event is a good platform to pay tribute to the world's children.

IG: Which of your gymnastics friends have you been able to visit?

YG: For sure I contacted and hopefully will contact more with some of my friends from the gymnastics world. I would love to see all of them, but Russia is a big country, and for sure I will not have chance to see all my friends! Through the years we kept a great friendship with Sveta Khorkina, and every time I visit Russia we do our maximum and always find a way to see each other. In Yaroslavl I also have one of my best friends from the gymnastics world. For sure I will go to visit Aleksandr Timonkin, my coach. Unfortunately he is not with us in this world anymore, but I always visit him in his new home, the cemetery. And I know that a few of my friends and coaches will come to see the concert on November 19 in Moscow.

IG: How is your daughter, Victoria, enjoying the trip?

YG: She loves to come here and spend some time with grandmama and all her friends! She is going at the moment to a Russian preschool to improve her Russian, and she just loves it! I think this experience for her will be memorable as it will be for us!

IG: We have read some of Steve's interviews in Russian press. If you are serving as his interpreter, how are you enjoying this "job"?

YG: Yes I did, I do and will do this "job" of interpreter. I cannot say that it is easy for me, especially the radio interviews in Russian and English, but I kind of enjoy doing the newspaper interviews, especially if I have time and I do not have to rush. I think it’s very good exercise to improve my English also!

Read "Catching up with Yelena Grosheva," a profile in the June 2009 issue of International Gymnast magazine, and "Boldly Beautiful," an interview with Grosheva, in the March 1997 issue. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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Hannah Victoria Franklin said:

I check IG online everyday and was thrilled to see this. Yelena is my favorite gymnast of all time. They just don't make them like that anymore. I went to the Worlds in Puerto Rico in 1996 as a spectator and Yelena was out from an injury, so I remember sitting in the stands about 3 rows behind her as she ate and ate and ate. Burritos, yogurt and virgin Pina Coladas mostly. Haha. I asked for her autograph and tried to speak with her but she just looked at me with a terrified expression because she did not speak a word of English. So fun to her she's an interpreter now and that she's gone on to be as classy in her adulthood as she was as a gymnast. Oh course... the best Grosheva moment of all time (and best demonstration of her artistry) was when she forgot her music for the Atlanta Olympic test event and had to "improvise" to a random piece of music. It was so beautiful and electric. Here is the video.. Truly.. she had a quality so Russian, so powerful, so vulnerable, so human and so so beautiful.
November 18, 2014
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