Summer 1970: Narva-Joesuu

That was my last summer before school, and that summer, I was not sent to a dacha with detsky sad, and I didn’t go to the sanatorium. Instead, it was the first of many summers I spent in Estonia, in Narva-Joesuu. When I published my old home movies, I talked about that time here. I know that my father’s side of the family spent summers there for many years before that. My great-grandfather (the father of my father’s mother, David Solomonovich Levitin died there and was buried at the local cemetery. As I mentioned earlier, I know that I spent at least some part of my very first simmer there, and I have no idea what happened later and why I never went there for seven years.

These questions didn’t bother me back then, though. For most of the summer, I was there with my great aunt Fania, whom I called granma (baba) in the absence of an actual grandma. As I mentioned earlier, my great uncle Mish and his wife Nadia rented another room in the same house. In contrast to baba Fania, uncle Misha, eight years younger than her, didn’t like being perceived as a “grandpa,” so I called him uncle. His wife Nadia was even more concerned with looking younger than she was, and I called her aunt. I know that the rest of the family just barely tolerated aunt Nadia. I do not know the actual reason, but I remember that she was criticized for exactly that: behaving as a grand dame, taking good care of herself, etc. In the pictures below, she helps me to get into the “bridge” position (remember my PE/figure skating?). Since uncle Misha was 58 at that time, she should have been fifty-something and looked outrageously good for her age (by that time’s standards).

More of me doing exercises:

I didn’t have the slightest idea that I was in another country, yet in the occupied country. We felt comfortably at home; all signs were dubbed in Russian, and although the cashiers in the stores were unmistakably Estonian, they politely talked Russian to us. The names of the streets sounded funny, and none of the adults felt wrong making fun of these names. I still remember the name of the street where we lived: Kudrukula, which provided enough opportunities for mocking, and the main street name – Vabaduse, which meant Freedom. And granted, we never bothered to pronounce the name of the town properly, the word Joesuu was too complicated, so everybody said “Ust-Narva”.

Our landlady was Russian, and there were no Estonians in her family, so once again, the question didn’t pop up.

Maria Georgievna Tikhonova, our landlady
Sшnce she лnew most of the families for many years, she was quite demanding: all the children of the renters had to help her in the garden. We weeded the carrots, destroyed caterpillars, and watered the flowers. But she also gave us the first strawberries, and there was one red currants shrubthat was designated for us. We waited for the day when she would gather us by this shrub and tell us: it’s all yours.
White, red, and black kitten Dunia – I loved her
At the beach
I was enchanted with hibiscus – that was the first time in my life I saw it
And I still love nasturtiums
Alena – our landlady’s granddaughter
Aunt Kima. Since I recently had this conversation about how our mothers/grandmothers looked for their age – she is forty-six on this picture
Baba Fania, aunt’ Kima’s mother – here, she is sixty-five

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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