Author: Huxleў
© Huxleў — almanac about philosophy, business, art and science.
5 minutes for reading

WIVES OF GENIUS: Mileva Maric, Tatiana Lappa, Olga Khoruzhynska – women who were not appreciated (Part I)

WIVES OF GENIUS: Mileva Maric, Tatiana Lappa, Olga Khoruzhynska - women who were not appreciated (Part I)
Share material
Collage: Mileva Maric / Tatiana Lappa / Olga Khoruzhynska


Women who prefer to remain a reliable rear behind their husbands rarely count on gratitude. They devote themselves to the work of a loved one, taking him for their own. Very often, these women are completely forgotten, becoming the invisible shadow of a spouse. But we know for sure – without their contribution, their great husbands would not have taken place.


Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein


Irreplaceable assistant or an ambitious scientist? In 1986, Albert Einstein’s letters to his first wife, Mileva Maric, were published, which were kept for a long time by their son Hans. It was after this publication that the scientific world began to talk about the fact that the first wife of a genius was definitely not just the keeper of the family hearth, but took an active part in writing all the main works of her husband.
Some researchers even argued that the Serbian Mileva herself was a brilliant scientist, in some ways even surpassed her husband, and certainly influenced the most famous discoveries of Einstein. But most importantly, the theory of probability, for which the physicist received the Nobel Prize, may have two authors.


WIVES OF GENIUS: Mileva Maric, Tatiana Lappa, Olga Khoruzhynska - women who were not appreciated (Part I)
Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein /


Mileva Maric studied at the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich, and after the first semester she transferred to the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of the Zurich Polytechnic Institute. She was the only girl in the faculty. Mileva had the same physical scores as Albert Einstein. But she was not destined to become an electrical engineer – female students had the right only to teach at school.

Mileva Maric was fond of physical and mathematical disciplines and psychiatry, brilliantly clicked algebraic calculations, was guided in analytical mechanics and gave private lessons in these disciplines. When she married Einstein, she began to help her husband in his first scientific works. And somehow friends of Albert Einstein, just as opportunely, remembered his statement: “The mathematical part of the work is done for me by my wife!”

Her husband did not appreciate her efforts – in 1916 he will demand a divorce in order to marry another. Mileva Maric will suffer several heart attacks. And an irritated Einstein in a letter to his friend will write that he would not be very upset if she died.


Mikhail Bulgakov and Tatiana Lappa


“I held the legs that he amputated. The first time I felt bad, then it was easier”, wrote Tatiana Lappa, the first wife of Mikhail Bulgakov, in her memoirs.

They got married just before the outbreak of the First World War. To always stay with her husband, a doctor, a student of the historical and philological department of the Higher Courses for Women had to become a sister of mercy. Tatiana completely devoted herself to serving her husband, and without hesitation wandered around the cities with him.

Once, in order not to become infected with diphtheria, Mikhail Bulgakov injected himself with a painful anti-diphtheria serum. An injection of morphine helped him to endure the pain. Very quickly the writer became addicted to morphine, without a “dose” began withdrawal. Addicted to the drug, he became dangerous – once he threw a burning primus at his wife, and somehow threatened with a revolver, forcing Tatiana to get the drug somewhere.

Lappa began selflessly nursing her husband – on the advice of her uncle, she gradually reduced the dose of morphine, diluting it with water. The portion of water became more and more, and so on until Bulgakov’s complete recovery. He would later write about this in the story Morphine.


WIVES OF GENIUS: Mileva Maric, Tatiana Lappa, Olga Khoruzhynska - women who were not appreciated (Part I)
Mikhail Bulgakov and Tatiana Lappa /


When Mikhail Bulgakov fell ill with typhus, his wife without hesitation sold her relic – a gold chain, which remained to her from her mother. All for the sake of her husband’s recovery.

Tatiana took care of all the household chores while the writer worked on the White Guard and other works. When success came to Mikhail Bulgakov and numerous fans appeared, he honestly admitted to his wife that her jealousy prevents him from meeting women. Therefore, after 11 years of marriage, it is better for them to divorce.

Tatiana Lappa was offended by Bulgakov. However, when she was told that before his death the writer repeated her name, she noted that she would definitely come if she knew about it.


Olga Khoruzhynska and Ivan Franko


When the young daughter of a member of the Kiev community Fedor Khoruzhynsky from the hetman’s clan decided to marry 29-year-old Ivan Franko, her father was against it. Olga studied at the Kharkov Institute of Noble Maidens, graduated from higher courses for women in Kiev and was a wealthy bride. Franko, on the other hand, had a reputation as a womanizer and was a dubious groom.

They say that Ivan Franko never hid that this union was more for calculation than for love. But one day he wrote to her: “What would you say if a Galician, such as me, approached you with a request: to be my wife?”

And Olga Khoruzhynska fell in love. Yes, so much that she went against the family and answered him “yes”. She was so happy that she even forgave the groom for being late to her own wedding. It turned out that he found an old verse and began to rewrite it. Friends for a long time persuaded the writer to come to his senses – after all, a young bride is waiting in the church! – but Ivan Franko was in no hurry.

Olga Khoruzhynska wanted to become a beloved wife for Franko, and he saw in her only a close friend.

His wife’s dowry, which is 500,000 gold rubles, he “in a friendly way” distributed to his affairs. For example, these funds were used to publish the magazine Life and Word, founded by Franko. Khoruzhynska’s money paid for the print runs of the book “In The Sweat of his Brow” and the collection “From The Peaks and Lowlands”.


WIVES OF GENIUS: Mileva Maric, Tatiana Lappa, Olga Khoruzhynska - women who were not appreciated (Part I)
Olga Khoruzhynska and Ivan Franko /


The young wife was completely passionate about her husband’s affairs – she wrote articles, helped to collect Ukrainian Galich folklore and even adapted and translated into Ukrainian by foreign authors. Fortunately, she was fluent in five languages.

“With my present woman, I have become friends without love, but with the doctrine that I need to marry with the Ukrainian, and then the more trained student. But in vain.”, Ivan Franko wrote as if nothing had happened in a letter to his friend, Ahatanhel Krymsky. He did not mention the good dowry of his wife as a motive for marriage.

Olga supported her husband as best she could – she taught him the French language, allocated money for the defense of his dissertation in Vienna, where Ivan Franko received his Ph.D. He dreamed of becoming the chairman of the Taras Shevchenko Scientific Society, but he did not succeed. Later, Franko spoke contemptuously about his thesis, emphasizing that these were the ambitions of his wife.

While Khoruzynska financially supported the family, saved and took care of four children, her husband bought rare editions of manuscripts at fabulous prices, dined in expensive restaurants, looked into questionable establishments and even got a mistress.

He never wrote to his wife such heartfelt poems as Olga Roshkevich, Juzefa Dzvonkovskaya,Celina Zygmuntowska. But she remained faithful to him until the end, founded a museum of Ivan Franko’s art and died with his photograph in her hand.


Read Part II

By joining the Huxleў friends club, you support philosophy, science and art
Share material

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: