Leonid Grin

Leonid Grin

Illusionist, honored artist, circus veteran
Country: Ukraine

Biography of Leonid Green - Illusionist, Honored Artist, Circus Veteran

Leonid Grin

Leonid Green, the oldest illusionist on the planet, resides in Kharkiv. His life story is worthy of an adventure novel and is astounding with its twists and turns. From a wayward orphan of the Makarenko commune and a skilled pickpocket, Leonid Green managed to become a famous magician, working with all the renowned circus artists. He learned the art of manipulation from the Kio dynasty and many celebrated illusionists of his country.

Leonid Grin

A tankman and anti-aircraft gunner, wounded three times on the front lines and decorated with numerous combat awards, Green not only survived but also conquered the world. Brezhnev and Zhukov admired him, David Copperfield was dazzled by his skills and offered him astronomical fees for collaboration, but Green chose to go and help develop the virgin lands and resolve the Chernobyl disaster. On the occasion of Victory Day, "Glavnoe" magazine unveils the life and work of our great compatriot.

Today, the 90-year-old Leonid Green, a laureate of international and all-Union competitions, is completely forgotten by most. Pushed into retirement 30 years ago, most circus workers are surprised that the renowned illusionist is still alive. Only his numerous students and fans, who have witnessed his artistry at weddings and parties where he is forced to earn a living, know that he still possesses the mastery of manipulation. The veteran of the circus peacefully lives in a one-room apartment in Saltovka and only occasionally demonstrates his extraordinary miracles. But the way he performs them would make even Harry Potter envious. Unfortunately, it is in Russia, not in his homeland, that his colleagues have remembered him on his 90th birthday. On his business card today, it says "Magician-Wizard," and his art of illusion is admired in dozens of countries where the unsurpassed magician has successfully toured.

But in the early 1920s, Leonid Green could only dream of his fantastic future. At that time, gangs of street urchins roamed the streets of Kharkiv, and suspicious characters from the new Soviet citizens were constantly seen in the trading rows. Freedom! What could be more enticing for a young boy, especially when you are an outcast at home and your stepfather constantly beats you with an iron rod? When Lene turned 8, he heard that somewhere there was Crimea, where it was warm and there was the sea. That was enough for him to steal a loaf of bread, go to the train station, and hide in the luggage compartment of the first available train carriage. Since then, his life has been in turmoil, even though the train was headed to Simferopol. For three days, apart from the stolen stale loaf of bread, he had nothing to eat. And when he was half-dead, he was taken off the train, and there was nothing left to do but treat him and send him to the Makarenko colony.

In his childhood, Lenya grew up to be a strong boy, and the nickname "Bull" stuck with him. The sharp-witted lad caught the eye of the gang leader "Korshun," who decided to use him for his dark deeds. Thanks to his dexterity and swift hands, the young boy easily slipped through windows. After a while, Green joined the gang, but no matter how many times he was caught, no one could prove anything, as Lenya always worked clean. According to the law, if you stole, you had to feed everyone. The honest company gathered in a square near the Ascension Church, in the area of the present-day Feierbakh Square. It was here that an incident occurred that changed the fate of the street urchin. During one of the fistfights, an enraged Green struck his offender, and unexpectedly, the man fell down. When the future magician tried to lift him, the man lying down began to follow his hand as if drawn by a magnet. At the age of 15, Lenya had never heard the word "hypnosis," but the gang leader ordered him to take the man to the famous professor for hypnotic sessions. There, Green caught the eye of a girl who jokingly asked him to put her to sleep. Within a moment, she fell unconscious. No one could bring her back to consciousness, and since the girl's father worked in the party committee, they tracked down the young hypnotist and forced him to "wake up" the girl. Much later, when he observed Green's work, student Anatoly Kashpirovsky began using his techniques. After these incidents, the young man was firmly convinced of his talent. He could pay with ordinary paper instead of money and behave completely independently. As a result, he was expelled from the Makarenko commune. At that time, itinerant foreign magicians often visited Kharkiv. They earned their bread by performing various tricks: piercing their ears with a needle, juggling torches, and performing various acrobatic acts. Lenya joined one of the Chinese circus groups. After each performance, he would go around the street onlookers with a tray, collecting coins. Some of this "fee" would also go to him, but the most important thing was that the young man learned many secrets from the Chinese magicians. Having mastered the skill, Green decided to try his luck in the circus. There, he was told that he should not demonstrate hypnosis yet, but he could show tricks. Despite his high mastery, he was not wanted for nearly a year at the Bureau of Attractions. They nitpicked about the meager props, the lackluster equipment, and even the criminal jargon that peppered the speech of the aspiring magician. In the end, Green was assigned the actor from the Shevchenko Theater, Porfiry Katyshevsky, to help him with his conversational skills. His mother did not want Lenya to become a circus performer, so she constantly destroyed his props. It was only when he started earning good fees for concerts that she had to accept her son's "frivolous" work. Green earned no less than 30,000 rubles per month and led the life of a social lion, often helping his friends with money. The illusionist's tumultuous life ended with a military summons. The harsh military days became another school of bravery for the talented young man. The popular magician went to defend his homeland. As a part of the 15th Tank Brigade of the 18th Army, Green participated in the liberation of Novorossiysk. He was severely wounded in the legs three times and suffered a concussion. When doctors prohibited him from being a tankman, he was transferred to the anti-aircraft troops. The Great Patriotic War ended for him in Stalingrad. Leonid returned home as a true hero with twenty combat awards. But even during the war, the magician found time to entertain his comrades, demonstrating his ability to produce coins out of thin air. Today, the 90-year-old illusionist fondly remembers his encounter with Zhukov as a wartime entertainment. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief admired the extraordinary soldier's artistry for a long time. Brezhnev, the future General Secretary, adored the tricks of his namesake and "small landowner." The future illusionist openly defied foolish orders from commanders in the army and staunchly defended his point of view. Since legends about the hypnotic talent of the magician from Kharkiv were already circulating, the authorities left him alone and even slightly feared him. Sharp-tongued Leonid risked getting into serious trouble many times, but all his "tricks" went smoothly for him. Before his eyes, several generations of Russian artists grew up. Even before the war, he was acquainted with Klavdiya Shulzhenko, repeatedly performed in concerts with Yuri Nikulin and Arkady Raikin, taught the art of manipulation to Emil Kio and later his son Igor, and raised a whole pleiad of domestic magicians. In the post-war years, the famous illusionist was super popular, but due to his stubborn character, the authorities openly disliked him. For a while, Green was tolerated, but when an opportunity arose, he was imprisoned. The reason was the illegal use of hypnosis. He earned his first prison sentence of 10 years at the end of the 1940s. During his time in the Vorukh prison, if it weren't for the magician's unique abilities, who knows how it would have ended. But thanks to his gift of hypnosis, he managed to heal the seriously ill children and relatives of the camp administration. As a result, he was released after 3.5 years. The second term, again for hypnosis, the magic wizard served in the Stalingrad prison. Ironically, he first defended the city from the fascists, lay on a hospital bed, and then whiled away his time in the "Narah" (a form of punishment) (a fate that befell millions of Soviet people at that time). The court sentenced him to a strict regime, but right in the courtroom, Green demonstrated his extraordinary skill and was released after three months.

After his early release, it was back to the circus arena and applause from fans. He toured with his performances in dozens of countries around the world, always returning unrecognized to his hometown of Kharkiv. The local authorities still refuse to acknowledge his contributions to the Motherland. Although recently, the President of the Russian Magicians Club, Vladimir Rudnev, invited him to Moscow to present him with a prestigious professional award. Fate continued to bring Green numerous surprises. He spent ten years on the virgin lands. He became an honorary citizen of Kostanay, brought home two labor medals. Then he worked as a liquidator at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and received a substantial dose of radiation. He managed to master many professions and even worked as a photojournalist in Uzbekistan. When Copperfield saw him on tour in Israel, he offered him exorbitant fees to collaborate in concerts. The great Green only smiled in response. By then, he already knew how to do everything that the famous American would later conquer the world with.

Today, Leonid Leonidovich is the oldest active manipulator on the planet. His son is also a magician-illusionist. His granddaughter is following in his footsteps and, at the age of seven, has already become a laureate of an international competition. The circus dynasty of the Greens continues, and when you see how the patriarch of the Soviet circus masterfully handles his hands, you understand that even at 90 years old, a person can achieve a lot. And it has nothing to do with tricks.

© BIOGRAPHS