Sasson: Yuri Matkof was the general manager of the Metropol Hotel, a close friend of the mayor of Moscow, and after the Kremlin Cup, became our personal friend. When we stayed in his hotel in Moscow, we never paid — it was always his treat, so it was only natural that when he came to Zürich we would insist on paying all his expenses. And we certainly did!
In the morning, we came with my brother Nissan to the hotel and found him ﬁnishing his breakfast. Nissan insisted on paying the bill, but when it arrived, we all cleaned our glasses and rubbed our eyes: it was a few thousand Swiss Franc! Apparently, Matkof had half a kilo of caviar for breakfast. He planned on paying for it himself — he was very rich — but since Nissan insisted so much, he let us pay for it.
The caviar story was one side. But on the other hand, he had some Russian habits that looked very odd to the Swiss: On another occasion he came to the hotel lobby with a rolled newspaper, spread it on one of the tables, and behold! Wrapped in the newspaper was a sausage! Then he took a swiss-knife out of his pocket, cut the sausage and started eating it! Caviar for one breakfast and sausage wrapped in newspaper for another meal. In Russia it was normal!
On another one of his trips, he needed to buy a new wristband for his watch, and of course we insisted on buying him one. But we didn’t want to take him to one of the shops in a big shopping mall, because we were afraid he would see things in the other stores, and want to buy presents for everyone back home (which we had to insist on paying for!). So we took him to a specialist clock-shop. But alas, the owner realized what customer he’s dealing with, and told him: “This watch you’re wearing is below your status, a man like you should have a gold watch,” and showed him all the luxurious watches in the store. And we thought we were saving money by not going to the mall…
And so we paid for all of our stays in his hotel… Apparently, if you insist on paying, you will pay, and dearly!
Sasson: Once, I also took Matkof on a trip to Hamburg. There I took him to see Blankenesse, one of Hamburg’s richest, most beautiful area with magniﬁcent villas. You know what Matkof did?
Excuse my language. He took off his pants and passed water!
Not because he had bad manners as a Russian, but because he was a proud Russian. He shouted: “Take this, Germans! You lost the war, we won, now look at you with all these luxuries and look at us with nothing!”
Regarding my insistence on paying for my Russian guests, I didn’t learn my lesson after Matkof’s visit. When another high official came to visit us with his wife, we took them to a store by her request. I think it was a bag store. Of course, the minute she chose a bag of her liking, I rushed to the cash register to pay for it before my guests have a chance to. Iranian manners… The price left me puzzled, but I didn’t ﬂinch. However, that was not the only surprise. Looking at her long, detailed shopping list made me even dizzier.