Alexander Sergeevich Zazulin teaches his daughter Anya to play the accordion in the city of Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)
by Xinhua writer Zhao Jiasong
URUMQI, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The life of Alexander Sergeevich Zazulin -- blonde hair, blue eyes, high nose, white skin and an ethnic Russian in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, can be defined by accordions in almost every way.
A 1,200-square-meter museum that preserves more than 800 accordions from over 20 countries in the city of Yining is the 40 years' living and working in miniature of the 62-year-old man known far and wide for his adept skills at repairing accordions.
Most of Alexander's accordion collection are exhibited in the museum. They were originally made in Russia, China, Germany, the Czech Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
A view of the accordion museum in the city of Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)
The accordion is the soul of Russian folk songs, Alexander said. His father used to play the instrument to amuse guests and neighbors. That was when his obsession with it started.
An accordion was a luxury at that time. Alexander recalled that his father, to make ends meet, had to pawn and redeem his accordion time after time.
Influenced by his father, Alexander learned how to play and even repair an accordion. He bought his first accordion at 18, which cost him all the money he saved from fishing and doing part-time jobs for months.
Later he was engaged in border trade for a living. At first, he recycled broken accordions from across Xinjiang and brought them back home for repair. Soon he began to purchase antique ones from overseas.
"Saving these accordions and restoring their sound gives me a strong sense of achievement," he said.
Alexander Sergeevich Zazulin repairs an accordion in the city of Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)
Alexander's repair skills are unique. He seldom sent them back to their manufacturers for parts replacement. Instead, he made bellows and reeds on his own.
"No matter how badly an accordion was damaged, I can fix it," he said. Not before long accordion lovers from home and abroad began to swarm to seek his help.
In 2002, he played the accordion with Zhang Zhiqiang, a famous musician in China. And in the summer of 2004, he performed alongside an accordion master from Kazakhstan.
He also tried composing. Without much schooling and knowledge of reading music, he has written dozens of musical pieces throughout the years.
Having spent all his life dealing with the instrument, he invested all his savings in building a small museum to display his accordions a few years back. They crammed the house even onto the roof, but some still had to be kept in boxes.
Someone offered him 20 million yuan (about 2.8 million U.S. dollars) for all his accordions, but he refused, waiting for a better arrangement in life.
Alexander Sergeevich Zazulin displays his accordion collection in the city of Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)
In 2019, Yining and the province of Jiangsu in east China jointly invested over 4 million yuan in building the current museum. Alexander finally saw his dream come true.
The museum instantly became a local landmark and served as a platform to introduce the accordion to the public. And more importantly, his daughter Anya has also been drawn back to inherit his legacy.
Anya has repaired 30 accordions since this year under her father's instructions. "It would be a pity if no one inherited my father's unique skills. I didn't have much interest before, but now I get more fun doing this work," she said.
Fluent in Mandarin, 30-year-old Anya has also been peddling local specialties such as honey and wine on livestreaming platforms. Next, she plans to livestream his father's collections and performances of her own once she masters the playing skills.
Anya livestreams his father's collections in the city of Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, April 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)
"A repaired accordion will have its own soul and can continue its story and music. Once an accordion is fixed, its soul is preserved, which enables it to pass its story and music on to more people," Alexander said.
(Xinhua reporters Chen Xiaohu, Gu Yu and Zhang Zhongkai also contributed to the story.)■