The oldest museum worker of the Crimea, honorary citizen of Yalta, and the Chekhov Prize laureate Khanylo celebrated her 85th birthday on February 9. Compatriots invariably refer to her as “the guardian angel of Chekhov’s heritage in Yalta.” She was born in 1928 in Alupka, and after the family moved to Yalta, went to study at the school continuing the tradition of Yalta Girls’ Gymnasium, of which Chekhov was once a trustee. Having graduated from the school in 1946, Khanylo started working at the Chekhov Museum the same year. It was the author’s sister, the museum’s director Maria Chekhova herself who hired Khanylo. She has stayed at the museum, never taking any other job.
“Khanylo met with the author’s widow Olga Knipper-Chekhova and the pair’s nephews during her first year at the museum,” her official biography reads. “She got closely acquainted with almost all the leading actors of the Soviet-era Moscow Art Theater, as well as the authors Samuil Marshak, Konstantin Paustovsky, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, James Aldridge, poet Pablo Neruda and many other well-known Soviet and foreign cultural figures during her years at the museum. Chekhov’s sister introduced Khanylo to the opera singer Ivan Kozlovsky in 1949, and this meeting marked the beginning of her 45-year-long friendship with the brilliant artist...” (more on this in Khanylo’s interview with Den, No. 241, December 29, 2010).
Following Chekhova’s death in 1957, the authorities decided to expand the museum to occupy the first floor rooms of Chekhov’s home. The task fell to Khanylo. She restored the dining room, the wife’s bedroom, the family members’ room and the guest room. Khanylo went to Moscow in 1967 and persuaded Knipper-Chekhova’s nephew and heir Lev Knipper to bequest to the museum all the furniture from his apartment, including the furniture items which Chekhov and Knipper-Chekhova purchased for their Moscow apartment in 1903.
Khanylo is currently serving as the head of the exposition and exhibition department. In terms of length of service, she is the oldest museum employee in the Commonwealth of Independent States, leads an active social life, and is finalizing her latest book. This frail, gray-haired likeable woman personifies conscience for those responsible for preservation of the Chekhov Home Museum in Yalta.
The Day offers most heartfelt congratulations to Ms. Khanylo and wishes her good health and long life.