Everybody in Sweden today shares their memories of Olof Palme, the Swedish Prime Minister who was assassinated thirty years ago. A bit similar to J F Kennedy: everybody - old enough - remembers what they did. I am old enough. But that's another story.
On the day following the assassination, Staffan and I were going to a city in Sweden where a play he had translated was opening. I was still in bed when Staffan stormed in, screaming: "I am not going to any f*ing opening night!" My reaction was that the author had said something stupid or the theater had misspelled Staffan's name on the poster or something mundane like that. Instead, he threw the morning paper at me, with Palme on the front page.
The opening night was of course postponed, and Staffan and I, together with the rest of Sweden, spent the following days in front of television.
Inescapably, I remembered my only encounter with Palme, which I will share now. A couple of years earlier, there was another opening night (now you will get the impression that we didn't do anything other that attend opening nights, which is very true since Staffan was much involved with theatre in those days). It was a musical which Staffan co-authored and which featured a very famous actress in the main role. It so happened that she had participated in Palme's election campaign, and therefore he was a guest of honour at the performance and the following party. I happened to sit next to him at the party, and when he realised I was Russian, he looked at me, took a deep breath and started reciting one of the best-known Russian poems by Alexander Pushkin:
Буря мглою небо кроет,
Вихри снежные крутя...
There he stopped, and I picked up without thinking and finished the whole poem, which ends by a proposal to have a drink, which we did.
Staffan thought it was hilarious when I told him. Not that the Swedish Prime Minister could recite the first two lines of Russian poem, which he had likely learned as a child from his Russian nanny, but that I could immediately pick up and continue. I didn't find it remarkable at all. Every educated person in Russia can recite poetry for hours.