After Baba Ania passed away, mom had to figure out where I would spend the summer. Remember that all good parents had to find a way for their children to spend the summer in the countryside because nothing can be worse than a child left in the city’s polluted air for summer.
The only option she had was to send me to a dacha with my detskiy sad. That decision would make you somewhat a horrible parent because a poor child would be separated from her parent(s) for a long time, but you would make this sacrifice for your child’s health.
Unfortunately, I have exactly zero pictures from that summer. However, I have a lot of memories, so I will try to write down everything I still remember before these memories fade away.
The dacha was located in a village called Vyritsa, with a population of about 13,00 people at that time. There were lots of old dachas built at the beginning of the 20th century. I tried Yandex Vyritsa, and it comes back with many old dachas pictures, but I can’t identify ours. I would recognize it if I saw it unless it underwent a major reconstruction. In any case, the Yandex search brings me back a lot of dachas that look very much like ours; here is one as an example.
Not all the children from our detskiy sad would go to the dacha, and not all of them would go for the whole summer. I remember that about half of the kids there were the ones I knew, and others were from some different detskiy sad.
There were several entries into the building. We had a big room to play in and several bedrooms. There were no bathrooms inside, and we had to go to the outhouse. We were not allowed to go solo, and it had to be a group of us heading towards the wooden shed. There was a bucket placed in each bedroom at night, and if you needed to go to the bathroom at night, that’s what you would use. A custodian would take it out in the morning.
I do not recall whether there was running water in the house. I remember that we washed our hands and faces in the morning using a rather primitive washstand, and we had a place outside to wash the dirt off our feet before heading to bed at the end of the day. Once a week, all of us would go to the village bathhouse, and our teaches and custodians helped us wash.
The dacha was situated in a relatively big lot, where we had a playground which included the swing, a small wooden hut, a sandbox, and a seesaw. There was also a flower garden and some shrubs.
The woods surrounded the dacha, and our teaches would take us there almost daily. We would walk until we found a clearing in the woods, and then we would play there, gather the flowers and make the wreaths, and collect sticks and build tiny huts. We also like collecting the pieces of bark from the pines. We would bring them back to the dacha and polish them on the concrete to take the shapes of boats. Then you could let these boats sail in the creeks. Sometimes, we would go mushroom picking or berry picking.
There were lots of gypsies living close by, and our teachers always warned us (or rather, they would tell scary stories about gypsies). Then we would retell these stories to each other with more horrifying details. As I already mentioned, using the children’s fears was an acceptable practice of disciplining there says, so “and the gypsies will take you away” was used quite often. I remember at least once when a gypsy girl came relatively close to us when we played in the clearing in the woods, and we started to woo at her and point thingers, and we might even start to throw something in her direction. Her clothes were dirty, and we yelled at her, “dirty pants!” And another time, I remember two gypsy horseback riders passing us in the woods. We were scared: the horses looked giant for small children, and the gypsy men seemed to be so high above! They wore loose white shirts and black pants, and their hair was black and longer than we would usually see on men.
You would think that the horror stories about gypsies stealing children belong to the Middle ages or the 18th century. But those stories were told when I was growing up. Once, when my mom and I were taking a local train, we were sitting close to a gypsy family, and one girl about eight years old was almost blond. And I thought: that’s a child who was stolen from her parents!
To be continued.
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.
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