center, swallows a sword with others during sword swallowing day
at Ripley's Believe it or Not in Time Square. (Zoran Milich)
Life's Calling as
the "Queen of Swords'
invite up to14 swords, some 29 inches long, past her
esophagus, but she is rarely willing to invite people
past her front door.
Self-proclaimed “Queen of Swords,” Natasha Veruschka, a
multiple Guinness World Record Holder from swallowing
swords, is quite reserved for a woman who makes a living
performing in front of hundreds of people around the
“My age is
like my phone number: unlisted,” she told
LIFE photographer Zoran Milich,
who over the past two months established a rapport with
the professional sword swallower.
time I did it, it felt like home. It made me complete,”
she says of ingesting swords.
stature, 92-pound frame and bubbly persona make it hard
to believe she’s in the profession of ingesting blades
of steel, but her glowing neon sword, which illuminates
from the inside out reveals this is not a magic act.
She may dress the part of an illusionist, in colorful
bedazzled leotards and layers makeup, but her swords are
real. Instead of wielding them against another, she
puts them inside or her. And she enjoys it.
for her profession is reflected on the walls of her New
York City townhouse, replete with awards, trinkets from
around the world, costume jewelry and of course, her
there are the Vodka bottles strewn across the floor.
But this half-Russian does not drink. The Vodka is used
as a cleaning agent for her swords.
as multidimensional as her 8-sided Chinese Sai sword,
was born in India to a British mother and a Russian
father. After her mother’s death, she was adopted by
Mennonites in the Ukraine, and then shipped across the
Atlantic to Canada, where she discovered her life’s
calling as a young child while washing dishes in
church. While cleaning a knife, she caught her
reflection and felt a sudden connection to the sharp
Milich, himself, has come a long way from Toronto,
working in former Eastern Bloc countries before the fall
of the Berlin Wall and documenting the Velvet Revolution
in Czechoslovakia. He took a brief detour in South
America before moving to NYC where he is continually
inspired by those around him. “it’s the people that make
it so interesting not just the landmarks,” he says.
the dish towel, Veruschka eventually made her way to New
York, performing with swords and belly dancing. “She is
a fine polish among all the dirt in New York City,”
Michelle Cohan, CNN