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Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne

December 31, 1918 June 3, 2018
Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne
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Obituary for Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne

Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne, a descendant of one of the old Russian noble families, grew up in the Soviet Union. She was born in Yevpatoriya, Crimea, Russia on New Year’s Eve in 1918. Her father, Prince Vasily Obolensky was one of the first aviators in the Russian Imperial Air Service. He was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad after the Russian Revolution when Kyra was 7 months old. Her mother, Zinaida Feodorovna Von Haffenberg took her to St. Petersburg/Leningrad, where they lived in poverty with her grandmother and aunt under the assumed name “Petrovskaya.” All of her remaining male relatives were lost during the post-revolution Russian Civil War.

At the age of eight she won admission to a special school for musically gifted children, The Leningrad Academic Capella, and became a member of the children's singing group of The Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet. She continued her education at The Institute of Theatre Arts, becoming an actress and a concert singer.

The war with Germany interrupted her ascending career. She was drafted into the Red Army and served as a sniper during the Siege of Leningrad. During the siege, almost 1 million people died of starvation in Leningrad, including her mother and grandmother. Wounded twice, she returned to service as a field nurse, working at the front lines on the ice of Lake Ladoga and at a military hospital. She was awarded three medals and allowed to resume her true profession -- theatre.

Kyra joined The Moscow Satire Theatre and continued to appear on the concert stage as a classical singer. One of her important roles at the Satire Theatre was in a political comedy, “Mr. Perkins' Mission into the Land of the Bolsheviks” (written by a Deputy Minister of Soviet Foreign Affairs). The play dealt with the Soviet political aspirations and future reparations and the Lend-Lease. It became a “must see” for American and European diplomats.

Because Kyra spoke several foreign languages fluently, she was invited to various diplomatic receptions as a representative of the young Soviet intelligentsia. At one of these receptions she met her future American husband, Elliott Shirk. They were married in 1946 in a big church wedding, attended by the entire diplomatic corps accredited to the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Kyra left Russia as an American War Bride in 1946.

Her theatre career did not flourish in America. Her Russian accent limited her opportunities, although she continued to sing. As television was becoming popular, Kyra had a musical program, “Interlude with Kyra,” on a local ABC channel in Pennsylvania,

Her only child, Ronald, was born in 1953. After nine years of marriage, she and her husband divorced, and Kyra moved to Los Angeles, where she became a contestant on Groucho Marx’ quiz show “You Bet Your Life.” In 1955 she appeared on the show “The Big Surprise,” but failed to win the $100,000 jackpot.

Her appearance on Groucho Marx’ show resulted in an offer to write a book. Thus, her new career as a writer was born. She became a prize-winning bestselling author. Her first book, the autobiographical “Kyra,” was published in 1959. She published 14 other books including historical fiction, animal stories and young adult novels.

In 1960, she married George Wayne, MD, a psychiatrist and founder of one of the first private psychiatric hospitals in Los Angeles.

She appeared and was interviewed on many television shows and began a new career as a lecturer under the auspices of The National Platform Association, which eventually led to her becoming an enrichment lecturer for the Royal Viking Cruise Lines. Her subject matter included Russian history and culture and the Russian exploration and settlement of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Kyra was active in many cultural and civic organizations, receiving several awards and commendations. In the 1980s, she was the founder and president of the Clean Air Program (CAP), a component of the American Lung Association of Los Angeles County—intended to eradicate smog. She was president of the UCLA Medical Faculty Wives, a member of the board of ISOMATA, an international school of music and the arts, an affiliate of USC, and several other Los Angeles-based cultural organizations.

Kyra continued to write well into her 90’s, publishing her most recent work, “Against All Odds” in 2015, based upon the experiences of her mother and father before, during and after WWI and the Russian Revolution.

For the last 17 years, she lived with her son Ronald and daughter-in-law Karen in Poulsbo and Kingston, Washington on the Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle.

Kyra passed away peacefully in her home, surrounded by family and beloved pets, in Kingston, Washington on Sunday June 3, 2018 in her 99th year. She led an exciting life full of adventure, creativity and love. She was a gifted storyteller with a fascinating life story of her own.

Details of her publications and numerous photographs can be found on her website, kyrapwayne.com.

Memorial contributions can be made to https://secure.aspca.org/team/kyra-p-wayne-memorial-campaign


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