Gollar: In August 1991, Sasha went to Tokyo with two of Silaev’s assistants to prepare the prime minister’s trip there, but on 19 August at 5:00 a.m. he called us and said that there’s been a coup d’état in Moscow, and that he and the assistants are going back immediately. Some Politburo members took Gorbachev and his wife hostage, and wanted to return the communist regime. I called Tania, our secretary in Moscow, and she told me there was a lot of fear in the streets. Everybody panicked, and nobody knew what is going on really. I was also panicking because I was afraid they would not pay for the goods they had ordered, which Sasson had ordered from Hong Kong, Czechoslovakia and Istanbul, and paid in advance, before getting the Russian money.
Sasson: Thank God, I had my brothers Nissan and Ezra, who had my back and supported me, morally and ﬁnancially during these times.
Gollar: The coup d’état collapsed in two days and Gorbachev returned to power. About our money: Silaev referred us to Menatep Bank, which took over the goods and the payments. At the end, we got all the money except $280,000, and even that was paid eventually, after endless strenuous efforts on my behalf.
The person who was supposed to give us our money, asked us to meet in Rome. In Rome he told us we should go to a European bank, take forms for opening an account, and bring them to Moscow, for him to sign to open a European account. He couldn’t do it himself on European ground, because he was sure (most probably rightfully) that he was followed by the KGB when traveling. The building where we went to bring him the papers was the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the holy-of-holies of the communist party, where no stranger was allowed to set foot.
With all this political mayhem going on, we were sure the Kremlin Cup would not happen in 1991, but it did! We had a lot of sponsors this year, and with the textile business we got, we not only covered our losses from the ﬁrst year, but also came out with a little proﬁt.
After the second Kremlin Cup, we took Vainstein and his wife Lida to Israel. We had beautiful weather, and after the hectic, exhausting Kremlin Cup, we ﬁnally enjoyed a week of rest together. I really had the impression that we had a brother and a friend in Sasha. We were working together, hanging out together, and creating this beautiful monumental piece of history in Russia together.
Boris Yeltsin came out of the coup as a winner, and much stronger. Not only did the hardliner communists fail in taking over the country, but this coup actually accelerated the dissolution of the USSR: On 26 December 1991 Yeltsin announced that the USSR was dissolved, and then Silaev was dismissed. Rumor said it was because during the coup, he didn’t stay in the “White House” but went home, and Yeltsin saw this as a sign of betrayal.
On New Year’s Eve, Silaev invited us to his home. We drove all the way to his dacha — a lovely, big weekend house on the countryside, where all rich Russians now live. It was a sad but beautiful night. Clear, navy blue skies dotted by millions of stars, freezing cold, and white snow all around. I had never expected to see such beautiful scenery in Moscow. On the next day, we invited him for lunch in the hotel. After his fall, we wanted to show him our sympathy.
The preparations for the 1992 Kremlin Cup had already begun, some of the programme books were already printed, with the logo of the Soviet Union on the cover, of course. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we had to change the design on all the tournaments papers and print everything anew!