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Moscow and Cairo: Two Homelands of an Artistic Family

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Heba Abdel Fattah, choreographer:

"We have two Homelands: Moscow and Cairo. When they ask me, "Which country you love more?", I say: "I cannot answer this question, because it is just like asking: "Whom do you love more – mother or father?" I love both mother and father. These two are both my Homelands, indeed."

Sisters Heba and Galla Fattah were born in Moscow. Their parents moved here from the capital of Egypt in 1968. In Cairo, their mother Nadiya Abdel Malek studied choreography at the local Institute of Art. And their father trained to be a cameraman in the same institution.

Heba Abdel Fattah, choreographer:

"They met there, and then they were sent to study and complete their theses in Russia: father - in VGIK, mother - in GITIS. After that, me and my sister were born here: first my sister, then I."

In GITIS, Nadiya trained as a producing choreographer. According to her, she was familiar with many Soviet masters even before she moved to Russia! In the Cairo Academy, ballet was taught by our masters.

Nadiya Abdel Malek:

"Russian people are very kind. They are very good, and they gave me a warm reception, because they taught us in Egypt! Specialists from the Bolshoi Theatre taught us at the Institute, in Academy. It’s so warm in Egypt, but when I came here, it was so cold! And of course, I put on more and more clothes…"

They had to learn Russian and get used to dress warm – these, perhaps, are all the challenges the young Egyptian family had to face after moving to the Soviet Russia. The intelligent pair from North Africa assimilated into Moscow quickly. Among the regular guests of their home, there were Vladimir Vasilyev and Yury Grigorovich. And famous professor Golovnya became the father's mentor during his study in VGIK.

The elder sister took after the father, and the younger Heba after the mother. They don’t only look alike. Heba followed in mother's footsteps: she graduated from the Bolshoi Theatre ballet school and after graduation, walked into the main stage of Russia. Heba Abdel Fattah is said to be the only African who danced in the Bolshoi Theatre. This video shows 18-year-old Heba performing the Kitri Variation from the ballet Don Quixote.

Heba Abdel Fattah, choreographer:

"I think that I am lucky to be in Russia and have danced on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre."

Heba speaks Russian better than Arabic. When she was a child, parents often read Pushkin’s fairy tales for her. Alexander Sergeyevich is Heba’s favourite poet, for he is also "a little bit African", the girl jokes. Father taught the girls Arabic. He brought for them videotapes with children's Arab movies from Egypt and used any opportunity to get daughters acquainted with the ancestral lands.

Gaul Abdel Fattah, artist:

"Father told me a lot about Egypt, and showed a slightly different Egypt, the Ancient one. Because he photographed temples – he had fantastic slides, and the beauty of these temples was incredible, and everything was so ancient. And when I went to Egypt for the first time, I even was astonished a little… I thought everything there must look like that."

Galla first went to Egypt when she was twenty. At that time, she was already a student of The Surikov Art Institute. When she was a child, Galla dreamed to be a ballerina, too, just like her mother. But parents saw another talent in her.

Galla Abdel Fattah, painter:

"This photo has always been displayed at our home: mother and father, and me between them. When I was three, I made a copy of it, I just tried to draw father and mother, well, and considered myself unnecessary. This is the first drawing where I revealed my artistic talent."

It was after this drawing when the parents decided that their elder daughter Galla was a promising artist. However, at first children's dreams did not release the girl: she drew ballet and things associated with it. Of course, quite often, Galla's pictures depicted her ballerina sister. But as she grew older, Galla began to change subject. Today, her works are not only about dancing. Warm vibrant canvases, according to the artist, resemble the art of Ancient Egypt her father told her so much about. Time goes by, and today, Galla already tells her son about Egypt.

Galla Abdel Fattah, artist:

"I try to do everything like mother and father did it, and I tell him a lot. It’s not a problem at all, because both the love for Russia and the love for Egypt are in our blood."

The ninth-grader Alex plays percussions and likes cinema. He, just like his grandfather 50 years ago, dreams to study in VGIK.

Alex Zateynikov, school student:

"I have been fond of cinema since my childhood. I love watching movies in my spare time, study the stories of directors, watch biopics, read some interesting facts about movie making, cinema history, how it all was created, how they made it. I was going to enroll in an actor school, and then to get the second higher education of a film director."

Grandmother Nadiya talks to her grandson only in Arab, to let the young man, as well as all members of this unusual family, know the language of his ancestors. But granny will always be a granny: no matter what language you use, she will also have treats for a child.

Olga Bubnova, Anton Kosolapov. TV BRICS