Is this a dagger which I see before me?

Such virtue hath my blog.

I’m a journalist, playwright, and a perpetually harassed-looking mother. I write prose in English and plays in Russian. Am currently working on a book.

Visit The Moscow News to take a look at some of my past work. I was deputy editor then acting editor-in-chief of the paper, before the agency that owned it, RIA Novosti, was liquidated and an entire era ended. Here are my parting words on the matter.

After the publication I loved was taken over, I directed social media for Russia Beyond the Headlines for a few months, but left under mysterious circumstances.

I also used to be editor of Global Comment – an internationalist online magazine.

My writing has appeared in The Second Pass, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Strange Horizons, TechPresident, Moskovskiye Novosti, Mic, The Moscow Times, Newsweek Europe, Balkanist Magazine, openDemocracy, and so on. The good people of Feministe have occasionally allowed me to deface their blog as well.

I was born in the greatest and saddest city in the world, which is Kiev, and did most of my growing up in the States. In the South. It wasn’t like “True Blood,” but it was sort of like being in Rivendell, when Frodo had this “mortal wound” crap going on, and the Hobbits could finally chill. Then I lived in the Middle East – in Dubai and Amman – where I learned what Jerusalem is worth. Then, back in Ukraine again – where I had many adventures and became a playwright, because that’s what one does in the middle of a long Kievan winter. I lived in Moscow for some years and now flit between Russia and Ukraine a lot, because that’s what the cool kids are doing these days.

I once made a poem out of my favourite books list on Facebook:

Human Croquet, The Master and Margarita, Lolita, The Lord of the Rings, The Book of Lost Things, American Gods, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Secret History, The White Guard, The Hero and the Crown, Written On the Body, Fragile Things, Wicked, Harry Potter, As I Lay Dying, The Beach, The Life of Arsenyev, The Death of Ivan Ilych, Not the End of the World

This is a personal blog, and does not reflect the opinions of my family, friends, and employers, past, present, and future.

Some of my best friends happen to be mean, saber-toothed IP lawyers. Just putting that out there.

Banner image ⓒ Alexey Zhiryakov. 2014.

40 thoughts on “Is this a dagger which I see before me?

  1. Pingback: Natalia Antonova « Best Blog on Wordpress

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  3. I just read this!

    I am also the only jerk I know who’s able to mix Glenfiddich with diet Pepsi and not bat an eyelash nor shed a tear.

    This cracked me up.

  4. You are a fantastic writer, although I’m not sure how I feel about your tainting of single malt with aspertane-water.

    *subscribe*

  5. Natalia,

    I am the chief editor of the Kyiv Post. I am writing to see if you are interested in allowing us to post your blogs on our website in the bloggers section – and link it back to your site. I see you write about many issues relevant to our readers.

    Thanks, Brian Bonner

  6. Hi Brian, good to “meet” you. I’m not entirely sure how relevant this blog is for the readers of the Kyiv Post, but I will trust your judgment. It’s cool if you use my blog posts, but please let me know if you intend to edit anything. Also, I would not like for any posts tagged as “stories” to be used, for various reasons. Thanks. :)

  7. Dear Natalia,

    I´m Paula Campos and I’m working for Chorus+Echo, a new web magazine and community powered by over 200 bloggers in 20 cities across the World, talking about a wide range of subjects… from Design to Arts.

    Alongside the site we will also be holding physical events and think tanks in our launch cities, connecting creative, government and business leaders together to solve common problems with the help of other likeminded individuals globally.

    The site will initially be only available in English. This means our search is made harder, as are trying to amazing global city blogs written in English and based in Moscow. I hoped you might be able to help us identify some of the best blogs in your city, we are especially looking for Design, Technology, Arts and Ideas.

    Thank you very much.

  8. Hello from London,

    We just wanted to stop by and let you know that we love what you’re doing with your blog. We also wanted to offer a way for us to work together.

    Who we are? We’re two London based editors with deceptively French sounding names. We travel, read and engage in creative projects across the board and know how difficult it can be to find inspiring content written by local people. So we’re doing something about it by starting Chorus+Echo – http://www.chorusandecho.com – C+E is way to give our readers informed access to ideas and cities across the World, while at the same time giving our family of contributors a far larger audience and an opportunity for them to make a little bit (but hopefully a lot!) more money from their content.

    We have spent months pouring over thousands upon thousands of blogs and sites and have decided to launch in 20 cities with a handful of blogs in each. We would love to work with you here in London, in Moscow and beyond. We would use the content you post up on your blog, so there’s no extra work for you at all. At the same time you would be credited for any content, which means extra traffic for nataliaantonova.com.

    With the launch of C+E imminent, we’ve put together the first in our series of launch events in TOKYO [woo hoo!] between March 15th-22nd. We’ll be meeting up with several of our contributors from Tokyo, meeting boutique and shop owners, interviewing several creative and business leaders from lecturers and architects to designers and musicians, being interviewed by local press and also holding a C+E event with London Calling at ELEVEN where I will be headlining.

    If you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with either of us. We can send you more info about the project.

    Hope you’re interested in getting involved!

    Jean-Robert and Luc Le Corre

  9. I am very much offended by Natalia Antonova, whom I think to be a wilfully dishonest invididual. Your videos with Anna Arrowtunan, on promoting Russia, include serious misinformation. Most Russian women would consider a woman who goes back to the former USSR and marries a local to be some kind of nutcase. Russia is a corrupt land, where females struggle to survive, and yet that is something you never mention in your so-called “video rants.” Try to be more honest about Russia for a change – women who have escaped the situation will thank you for it.

    Signed,
    Married to a beautiful Russian woman

  10. Dear Natalia,

    I was a big fan of yours while you were with Global Comment and was very distressed to find that you no longer wrote for them. That being said after doing so digging online was able to find you here and am so happy to be able to partake of your perspective on issues having to do with women, politics and the global community in general. As an American I think our news is sorely lacking as it relates to anything happening outside of the US unless completely catastrophic so it is nice to know that there are some venues where although they need to be sought out have a different take on things. I am a great admirer of your humor, grace and want to wish congrats on your marriage and baby. Keep up the good work…

    All the best,

    Anna
    NY, NY

  11. So? Does that give “offended” the right to call me a nutcase for marrying a Russian dude? I think “offended” can take a flying fuck on a rolling donut, pardon my Francais.

  12. Hi Natalia,
    I hope you don’t mind me popping in just to say that you are not only a very talented writer, but a beautiful one as well. Your husband is a lucky man, don’t let the h8rs get you down – their h8 is just validation that you are living the life of a true human! ;-)

  13. Hello Natalia! I love your confident posts and replies… something I hope to achieve someday in my everyday life You are such a talented writer! I am so happy you decided to do this blog!

  14. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the words “your husband is a lucky man” offend me so, it;s so patronizing and well sleazy….erase all the comments and ban posting on this intro

  15. What’s offensive about pointing out that Alexey is, indeed, lucky? Women who come to see his shows say similar things to me all the time with regard to my husband. (Well, some of them are downright batshit nuts, but those are in the minority)

  16. Hey Natalia. Do you think someone who’s not a native English speaker will ever be able to write as good as you do? I recently started writing about Russia in English, which is not my first language (my native language doesn’t give me the same global audience as English does). I’m curious about your honest opinion, you say you would never write fiction in Russian (which is, I presume, a second language for you).

  17. Russian is my native language – but I lost some profound connection with it as a child, and have since re-built it. I write plays in Russian and not English, which is not a function of my comparative ease or unease with either language – it’s down to other factors.

    To write *well* in any language, you need to spend a few years in an appropriate country, and to actively satisfy your intellectual curiosity, to not just consume the culture, but to eventually approach it from the perspective of craftsmanship, I believe.

    But what do I know, then again. I’m just some person on the internet. :)

  18. Natalia you’re not just a person on the internet, you’re an editor and a journalist. Russian was my first language too, the one I uttered my first words in. But parents whisked me away from Russia at age 4, just when world was unravelling around them and Russia was collapsing in the middle of criminal 90ties. My mother is not Russian and father soon stopped speaking to me in his language. Thanks for the advice, sometimes I think it’s hopeless and I’ll never be a writer in English nor Russian (this is one of the so called *white people problems* really, since I write well my *mother tongue*), I’ve been living in Anglophone country for 5 years now, but I missed the formative teenage years when your language ability truly advances. Thanks for the advice, do not hesitate to delete this comment, I know I’m spamming your thread here.

  19. It’s never just about living there, though. It’s about paying attention to how the language really works. When I began “re-learning” Russian, I understood the process well. You have to talk a lot, consume a lot of bad books and good books, and not be afraid to embarrass yourself. It works, trust me. :)

  20. Interesting booklist indeed. We have some common ground there. No, definitely not Harry Potter though. But, I would like ask which translation into English of The Master and Margarita you might recommend. Yes, this is a serious inquiry. I have read the Michael Gleeny translation. Thank you.

  21. Well, Natalia Antonova (I hesitate to call you Natasha, in light of your pieces about the Natashas) — I’ve poked around your blog, and Moscow News, and Trendsetter — and you leave me speechless (which is unusual). You are a remarkable young woman, and I wish I could meet you (although I only know about ten to fifteen words of Russian, left over from my childhood before my parents switched to accented English so as to raise a genuine American). But you are there, and I am here. So I can’t and we probably won’t. Which means all I can say is, keep going. You’re great!

  22. 1. Since I AM fluent in both languages, I can honestly say that the old one IS dated. I guess some people prefer that style, but it really doesn’t do much for me.

    2. Nina, “there and here” are pretty fluid concepts nowadays. Glad you liked Trendwatcher, that column had a good run. ;)

  23. Yes, the reason that you are fluent in both is why I asked in the first place. “Dated” is duly noted. Language does change over time. Which would best represent the author’s voice is a concern. Literature is created withing a context. Shakespeare’s plays presented in modernized English do convey the meaning of the drama–but — the beauty and poetry of the words is generally lost. Often readers of such aren’t even aware that something has been lost. All they want is easy reading. Purely a rhetorical point. Good day. )

  24. So some comments:

    Was living in Rivendell a good or bad experience for you? I’m from Texas (part of “the South”, and am curious to know what you thought of us).

    What is Jerusalem really worth?

    I really liked your city when I visited in 1994. I particularly enjoyed the Pechersk Lavra. I guess it is a very touristy thing to do when you visit Kiev, but it is a very nice place. I had a spiritual experience there, although I did not realize it until about 3 years later. Sailing the Dnepr was also a highlight. The 14-hour train ride from/to Moscow sucked. Before I boarded the train to go back to Moscow I bought 2 bottles of beer from a kiosk near the train station. I only drank part of one bottle – I think it was mostly water mixed with a little beer and piss (seriously), but I tried not to think about it too much afterwards. I spent the bulk of my time on the train laying down on a dirty mattress in my cabin with the lamp on and with my head wrapped in a tee-shirt in order to keep the roaches from crawling into my mouth. Every now and then I would have to get up in order to remove one of about five drunk Russians (or Ukrainians – couldn’t tell) from my cabin. It’s funny but every drunk Russian I ever met were always accompanied by a heavy smell of garlic.

    When I was in Moscow I stayed in an apartment a few blocks away from Октябрьская metro station. The complex was owned by some Georgian mafiosos who also owned a cafe on the bottom floor. The only people that ever went in or out of the cafe were Georgians. I tried to eat there one day, but as soon as I walked in the very busy cafe (it was full of Georgians) went silent, and everyone started staring at me. I asked the hostess a few questions about the menu, and then left as I started to feel really uncomfortable. One night some friends and I were drinking at a little bar near the Kremlin. We were in a good mood and there was some pop singer named Angelika Varoom playing on the stereo. Some Russians we had met told us about this nightclub in another part of town, and we tried to find it later that night. We got off of the metro around midnight (last metro), at the station near where the club supposedly was. We never found the club, but we spent the next 3 hours walking through Moscow in the middle of the night trying to find our way back to our apartment. We all (5 of us) spoke a little Russian, so together we managed to find our way back but it was a pretty stressful experience nonetheless. It is a fond memory of a time when I did something really stupid that could have turned out very bad, but didn’t. I had a girlfriend while I was there, her name was Katya. Katya was from Siberia. She was pretty with red hair, very nice, a good guitar player with a beautiful voice, quiet, and a little shy, but surprisingly very aggressive in other ways. I tried to convince her to come back to Texas with me, but she said she didn’t want to leave because Russia was her home. I lost contact with her about 2 years after I returned to Texas. When we first arrived in Moscow our apartment did not have any hot water. It was summertime, but still cold outside (for a Texan). We were told that the city was cleaning one of four very large boiler tanks that the city used to provide hot water to everyone, and our tank happened to be the one they were cleaning at the time we arrived. We didn’t have hot water for about a month. At first I boiled water and took warm baths. Very quickly I got tired of doing this, and just took cold showers. It wasn’t pleasant but I got used to it. As much as I found Russia to be filled with a lot of social problems including crime, poverty, unemployment, and alcoholism, it was still a very appealing place with a rich history. All of the people I met were exceptionally hospitable and friendly and very eager to make friends. I very much enjoyed the food, and have been unable to mimic or find anyone who can make a good pot of borsch or Салат Оливье.

    I think one day I will go back, but not to Moscow or Kiev. I really like Russia, and I want to take my wife to see the Hermitage so I think we will try to go to St. Petersburg one day. Hopefully all of the political bullshit going on in the world will calm down, and we can travel safely to Russia sometime soon.

    Thanks for writing your blog, and for educating us about human trafficking. There are many churches in the US that are trying to work with the victims of these horrible crimes. There is one church in the Houston area that has a very effective and growing program to help girls and young women out of these situations. It is called Redeemed Ministries, and their programs are called Sparrow’s Nest and Sparrow’s House. They are a working field ministry with agents who actually go inside brothels in order to build relationships with the girls, and help them escape from their situation with shelter, education, food, and true love. You can view their website here, and refer people you may know to it if they need or know someone who needs help:

    http://www.redeemedministries.com/

    Regards,
    Steven

  25. I heard you on NPR today and like the way you talked, so I looked up your blog. Glad I did. Good reads here. I like the poem. I’m just not that creative – I roll with fridge mags. It’s nice to whimsically discover something worthwhile.

  26. I’ve become fanatically enthusiastic about your poetry and your stories!

    “I was born in Kiev, Ukraine –
    Thank you, physics, thank you, fate,
    Thank you, lindens, thank you, chestnuts,
    Thank you, cemetery gate.”

    I can’t tell you how much I love this. More power to you and many thanks!

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