Leschenko, Petr



Leshchenko, Petr (June 14, 1898 – July, 16 1954)

Petr Leshchenko was born in the village of Isaevo, Odessa region. His mother - Maria Kalinovna Leshchenko gave birth to her son out of wedlock, and he never meet his biological father. As an illegitimate child, Petr was not given a metric, and the first document was baptismal certificate, dated July 3, 1898.

Nine months after Petr’s birth his mother leaves for Chisinau with her parents. Up to the age of eight, the boy was educated at home by his mother, grandmother and stepfather Alexei Vasilyevich Alfimov. Maria was pitch perfect, loved and knew how to sing, knew many folk songs by heart.  Petr inherited those skills. In 1906, he was admitted to the soldier's church choir for his vocal and dancing abilities and a few months later was enlisted in the seventh National parishioners’ school in Chisinau. Thus, at the age of 17th Petr Leshchenko graduated from the general and musical schools.

Then the young man was called to active duty. Primary he served in the seventh Donskoy Cossack Regiment for a year. After graduation from Kiev infantry non-commissioned officers’ school, he served in Odessa 40th Reserve Regiment as a non-commissioned officer. Later - served as the platoon commander in Podolsk Infantry Regiment. By the end of the summer of 1917, he was shell-shocked, seriously wounded and was sent for treatment to the hospital in Chisinau. Recovery took a long time, and he left the hospital after the October Revolution. Moreover, since Bessarabia had become the part of Romania, the future singer turned out to be a Romanian citizen.

After retirement he worked in different spheres - he was a turner, held various church posts, sang in the vocal quartet, danced in the theater and sang at the Kishinev Opera House.

By the end of 1919, Petr Leshchenko switched exclusively to variety activities. He toured as a member of the dance group "Elizarov", with the balalaika ensemble "Guslyar", performed as a solo singer and as a member of guitar duet. Being in Paris, he entered the well-known ballet school directed by Trefilova. After graduating, he worked in the prestigious restaurant "Normandy" with a song-and-dance turns.

Since 1926, for two years he toured in Europe and the Middle East countries. After the tour, Petr returned to Romania and worked in the theater "Teatrul Nostra" for some time. Soon left for the Baltic States, then for Ukraine, where he performed in various restaurants. His voice became recognizable.

In 1931, the singer was acquainted with the prominent composer Oskar Stroke, who wrote popular tunes in the style of tango and foxtrot, as well as pop songs and soul romances. Following Stroke’s suggestion, Petr Leshchenko recorded his voice for the first time. Gramophone records were released with the songs "Black eyes", "Blue rhapsody", "Say why", and later - "Tatiana", "Miranda" and "Nastya-the-berry".

The success of these songs initiated a contract with the Romanian branch of the English recording company "Columbia", where Petr released more than 80 records. Other record companies - German «Parlophone Records», Romanian «Electrecord» and Latvian «Bellaccord», released his songs. Altogether, Petr Leshchenko managed to release about 180 records during his life.

Sound recording expanded Petr Leshchenko fame. He toured not only in Bessarabia, but performed in the best concert halls of Vienna, Bucharest and London as well.

During his studies at the ballet school in France Petr Leshchenko was acquainted with the Latvian Zheny Zakitt, who came to study at the same school from Riga. They officially registered their marriage the same year. The couple toured together and performed as a duet. Their son, Ikki Leshchenko was born in this union in January 1931.

During the Second World War, while on tour in Odessa, Petr was acquainted with the 19-year-old conservatory student Vera Belousova. He immediately offered his hand to her and left for Bucharest to get a divorce from Zakitt, since he was still officially married. Because of the war and mobilization threats, the wedding was postponed for a long time. Only in 1944, Leshchenko and Belousova were able to register their marriage.

The Soviet authorities kept the eye out for the cooperation with the German recording studio and tours in the Western countries. The socialistic social system, which Romania joined after the Second World War, considered the singer unreliable, impermissibly vulgar and even anti-communist. He was also accused of forcing a Soviet citizen Belousova to move to Romania, who was officially considered betrayer of the nation after the marriage with Leshchenko.

Romanian state security bodies arrested Petr Leshchenko right in the interval between the concert acts. It took place in Brasov at the end of March 1951.

For three years, he was moved from one prison to another. Leshchenko was in Jilava, Kapul Midia, Bordzhesht, and in 1954 was transferred to the prison hospital of Targu-Ocna, since he had an active gastric ulcer. Petr Leshchenko had been operated, but he never left the hospital.  The acute exacerbation of a chronic disease and the weakened by imprisonment health anticipated the death of Petr Leshchenko on July 16, 1954.