I worked at the Chudesnyye I Misticheskiye Ispolniteli Tsirka (The Marvellous and Mystical Circus Performers) for around 10 years as a trapeze artist.
They called me the Malen’koye pero, which means “little feather” in Russian. I could fly through the air with almost no effort and with no fear at all.
I came from the noble family Vasilieve in Moscow. When I was 4 years old I ran away to a circus. They took me in, and by the time I was 12 years old, I learned to be at trapeze artist. At 15 I had my first perfomance. It was such a success that from then on there was no looking back. I was Malen’koye pero, and flew with grace befitting my name.
When I was twenty-five, I was at the peak of my career. People in those days were so rich, but so generous. They gave me jewels and precious stones, which I had to give to the circus ringmaster Ivan.
One day when I was up on the swing, I felt dizzy. I tried to signal to the ringmaster but felt so faint that my grip slipped.
I fell down, far down until I hit the ground with a thud. There was no net because people had so much confidence in my abilities.
For days I lay in a small white bed while the circus moved on. They soon lost their fame without me, and went bankrupt. I did not get my jewels from the ringmaster. I had no idea where my family was and with no money, Russia is hard to live in, especially during winter.
I could not get any job, and noone would do anything for an old circus performer. I began to starve.
I searched for anyone to help me, until I found my friend, the clown Volya at the Nikolaevskaya railway station (now the Leningradsky station) trying to go to Saint – Petersburg (previously Petrograd).
We both were relieved to see each other. He had a little money, and we ate some hot Beef Stroganoff. It was my first real meal in a long time.
Later, we decided to try find work in a circus. My flexibility was completely gone so I got work washing the elephants. Volya was the head clown and what we earned was enough to sustain us. I loved animals, and the elephants were calm and sweet. They were patient listeners.
One day, a man joined our circus. Neither Volya nor I saw his face, and he was nicknamed “Zamaskirovannyy ringmeyster” or “the masked ringmaster”. Rumour had it that he was very rich.
I was quite suspicious of him, and I searched his caravan one day. I found my jewels, my lovely gems that so many people had given me. I took them to my caravan gleefully.
Later, the police arrested me. They said that it was I who had stolen the gems, and did not believe that I was Malen’koye pero. I refused to appear in court and spent 10 years in jail.
I got no job after that, until one day, on the streets of Moscow, I saw Zamaskirovannyy ringmeyster. He tried to run, but I stopped him. “Vor! Chto ty khochesh’?” (Thief! What do you want?)
“What I want is an explanation. I want to know why you lied to the judge. I want to know why you stole my jewels and ran away so I could not find you. I would have shared them with you but why did you do this?”
He stared at me for a couple of seconds. “Malen’koye pero? It is you who should have jewels then. My brother was your ringmaster. He died years ago and his wish was that I find you and give them to you. You look different from what he described.”
That was true. I was no longer sleek and flexible. I was thin from lack of food, and tired. All that time in jail for nothing. I got an official apology, but nothing in the world could make up for it, not even my beautiful jewels.
I was unhappy, but I was rich. I lived the rest of my days in comfort, though sad, at a beautiful house in Moscow.
All of this just because of an accident and overconfidence. The lesson I learned is Nikogda ne bud’te slishkom samouverennymi, or never be overconfident. This one act of neglect ruined my life. After all, we only get one chance at this. Better make it good.