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Misha: A Musical Face of Russia

Misha plays by Vitaly Vakhrushev
Misha by Vitaly Vakhrushev

Having grown up in an era of overweening ambition, Misha dreamed of nothing else but living in a big city. In 2003 he left his village for Moscow, ready to conquer the world. Years later, he realized that the world is not enough for his Russian soul, so he came back and settled in a quiet Russian village to play his music and raise his three children.

His interest in harmonica developed and grew gradually, together with himself, and reached its peak at the age of eleven, when he felt that the instrument knew the chords of his soul.

“I was attracted by its simplicity, its Russian-ness”, Misha explains to me,

“If you cross the country, you’ll discover multiple variations, and each one is a product of that particular region and is distinguished by its unique character, name and history. Harmonica is the product of its own people, their folk songs, rhythms and melodies”

Misha plays by Vitaly Vakhrushev

The inexhaustible desire to play his harmonica led Misha to give in to the temptation of conquering a big city and studying there. He received his formal musical education in Orel and later moved to Moscow to study at a university. The glimpse of big city life reawakened the curiosity that had always lived inside him – that of the Western world. Invitations to participate in various contests and competitions gave him a chance to lift the heavy curtain separating the two cultures. Like a blow of fresh wind, Misha’s prowess fused with a rare ability to feel everything very deeply, helped him win.

“The final stage of the contest took place in Rome. I honestly didn’t think I could impress them with anything and felt very insecure among other very promising musicians. So I simply decided to enjoy the process and win them over with the traditional Russian melodies. I was quite certain that I would have lost and felt reluctant to go on stage when they called me. Then suddenly someone told me, “It’s you! You’re the winner” and I thought that it must have been the Russian harmonica that charmed them.

Misha’s fascination with Italy was strong but fleeting. Very soon he became dis-enamored with the country that at first glance offered him so much poetic inspiration.

“I had serious intentions of settling there and establishing a life, but as it usually happens, certain circumstances proved to me that I would never feel at home there, and no one would have cared two straws if something ever happened to me”.

That’s when Misha started looking for the right answers and met with Father Anatoly.

“That’s when my faith was reawakened. God was showing me my path. When I met Father Anatoly, I thought “who needs Italy? This is my Italy!”

At first Misha and his wife-to-be (also educated at Moscow State University) chose to stay in a village for a summer. But coming back to the grayness of Moscow life and leaving the vastness of the country behind, became insupportable. So they decided to settle there.

While the society of country lovers is under construction and slowly becoming a growing trend, lots of people still don’t feel suited for the hardships of the country life.

“Do you feel nostalgic for the big city life and your travelling all over Europe?” I ask and look up at him: his curly hair against the evenly tanned face and green eyes translucent in the light. I intuit the answer but still wait for it.

“I’m not a gregarious person, there’s nothing in the city that lures me or that I cannot find here. People living in places like Moscow have chains around their ankles and yet they brag about their presumed freedom. I keep asking myself, why has it become necessary to live in the city and have absolutely no choice? I’m not saying everyone should move to the county and have chickens, but having the freedom to make that choice, whether to live in the chaos of Moscow or in the peacefulness of the country, that choice we should all have”.

"Would you recommend your way of living to everyone?” I ask him, imagining myself enjoying rivers of air caressing my skin, listening to the emptiness of the valleys, colored in deep green.

“Absolutely not. One should be honest with oneself and comprehend the consequences. Each person is unique and has a unique purpose on this planet. We all have our unique paths, and that’s where the beauty lies, in recognizing it."