Neither here nor there - Lyubov Orlova

Peter Pickersgill
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She is floating aimlessly in the North Atlantic as I write these words, but things may have changed by the time you read them.

She is named for a film star, an aristocrat born in Czarist Russia in 1902, an actress famed in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s throughout Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union and proclaimed People’s Artist of the USSR in 1950.

The Soviet Union is gone now, and so is the actress Lyubov Orlova, who died in 1975. She is not forgotten though, her image can still be seen on a Russian stamp issued in 2001.

The ship, Lyubov Orlova, is gone from this province as well, adrift outside Canada’s territorial waters. She is not forgotten either, though it must be said her best days were behind her when she set sail under tow from St. John’s on her final voyage in January.

Speaking of film stars, the Marx brothers could not have choreographed a more fittingly comic departure than the one captured by CBC television as the Lyubov Orlova was towed away from the quayside. The reporter, Zack Goudie, microphone in hand, was speaking to the camera, his back to the ship moving away behind him, when he was grabbed by a bystander and pulled to safety. Just in time too, as an overlooked line from the ship, still attached to a bollard at the wharf’s edge, grew taut and snapped, whipping back ashore and slapping down onto the concrete apron where seconds earlier Zack had been standing.

It is what screenwriters refer to as foreshadowing.

More ropes were to snap apart, once she reached the open sea, two tow ropes and counting, as I write this. Likely more before this story comes to an end.

None of this would ever have happened if Danny Williams was still in office.

Before the Lyubov Orlova ever got to the critical scene in the final act of this drama, the moment when she was pulling away from the wharf with her rope still attached, the action would have stopped. Decisively. Just like the scene in the final reel of the movie Casablanca, a plane taxiing across the tarmac into the fog carrying Ingrid Bergman away, her heart strings still stretching out, still attached to Humphrey Bogart, somebody would have shouted ”Cut!”

Danny Williams.

Sunglasses on his nose, dressed in his signature sealskin coat, he would have jumped up, overturning the folding canvas chair with the word Director written across the back. He would have ripped the beret off his head, thrown it to the ground and jumped up and down on it, all the while bellowing into the megaphone clutched in his white-knuckled fist:

“&*%^$*^)(*_(&)(@*& %. Cut! Cut, I tell you! I’m expropriating this ship! And what’s more, I’m going to build a fence along the harbourfront to protect her. Forget keeping terrorists away, we have to keep safe this valuable asset that now belongs to the long -suffering people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re the owners of this ship now, and I’m not giving her up.

She’s mine! She’s ours! ... Same thing.

There will be no more giveaways. We’re going to nationalize this ship and turn her into the venue for the world’s most desirable cruise experience imaginable. We can partner with other Atlantic provinces and sell special low-price tickets to them and customers in the New England states. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will have to pay a trifle more, but hey, we are investing in our future. Quebecers will not be allowed on board. French will not be spoken. We will not sail up the St. Lawrence at any time. In order to get to the mainland, we will only cross the gulf to Nova Scotia. We will call it the Anglo-Saxon route.

The Lyubov Orlova will be such a success that we will buy more used ships named after communist film stars. We’ll have a fleet. We will ensure cruise ship security for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for generations to come. Never again when speaking of Newfoundland and Labrador cruise ships, will the words “have-not” be heard.”

If Danny Williams was still premier, the Lyubov Orlova would not be drifting aimlessly in the North Atlantic. Looking back though, drifting aimlessly might not be all that bad.


Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay. His column will return in two weeks. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: North Atlantic, Soviet Union, Czarist Russia Canada Newfoundland and Labrador New England Nova Scotia Bonavista Bay

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