Loo, September 1969

That was my second and last trip “to the South.” We rented a room from the same landlord and passed the time the same way as a year before. That meant that we spent mornings at the beach, then went inside to hide from the intense sun. We had milk and bread at home, and then went back to the beach. We had dinner in a small diner close to the beach and would go back to our room. Sometimes, we would wait to see a sunset over the sea.

Mom made friends with another mom who was vacationing with her son, named Sergey. He was approximate my age, and we played on the beach together. A couple of times, we went hiking in the mountains – the mountains started right there, behind the houses. Sergey and I loved making our way through the ferns. Also, that was the first time I saw blackberries and tried them. In Russian, blackberries a called hedgehog berries, and I asked mom whether it is true that only hedgehogs could it blackberries:)

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Sanatorium, part 3

Although most of the pictures from the sanatorium show me hanging out with boys, I mostly remember interactions with girls.

Since the purpose of our stay in the sanatorium was “to get more fresh air, we were outside a lot; almost all the time when it was not raining. When outside, we mostly played role games. We liked to pretend that the group of us was a family with many siblings. Since all the fairy tales were about girls or boys from poor families who would later become princesses or princes, we always played ” a poor family,” where everybody had to work.

As I mentioned earlier, there were two big girls in our group, Lilya was seven and Lyalya was six. Lilya just finished the first grade (she should have been close to eight then). They both, but especially Lilya, tortured us by “playing school.”

Lilya made small notebooks and actually taught a small group of younger kids to write in cursive. We hated it because our letters were coming out clumsy, and Lilya would yell at us (like teachers would do) and mark our work with bad grades. Somehow, I remember being more miserable when she yelled at us than when this would come from our teacher.

My stay at the sanatorium seemed endless, but finally, it was over, and mom and I went “to the South” again.

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.

Sanatorium, part 2

It has been several months since my last historical post. I published the last one on March 13, and it was in the making for a while. After that, the war took over, and somehow I could not return to the stories of my childhood, although I made several attempts during these months.
Here is another attempt.

***

I stayed in the sanatorium for at least two months, and I do not recall missing mom too much. Actually, I do not recall missing her when I was at dacha either. Later she told me how she was looking for excuses to visit me more often (the “parents’ days” were once a month). I think she subconsciously tried to develop in me an unhealthy attachment to her. When I was much older and stayed at the “pioneer camps,” I missed her and dreamed about the day the camp would be over.

However, in the summer of 1969, it was not the case yet. I was happy to see her when she visited, but I was not crying when she left.

On parents’ day, we had a concert for which we rehearsed for weeks.

I believe we danse and sang “Vo pole berioza stoyala…”. I am the one on the left.
Reciting a poem
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The Judgement at Nuremberg Movie

This summer, the Siskel Center is running the Judy Garland centennial retrospective, and this week, they ran The Judgement at Nuremberg. I know that “everybody saw it,” but it was not screened in the Soviet Union and somehow never ended up on my “must-see” list. I knew this movie existed, but the list of the movies I never saw is too long:).

So yesterday, I spent three hours in the middle of the warm and sunny July Saturday in the dark theater and was so impressed by the movie that it took me some time to start putting my impressions in words.

The movie appears to be highly timely these days, and the parallels with the Russian invasion of Ukraine are more than apparent.

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Europe Day

Although due to the current situation, the whole world knows what May 9 means to Russians in most countries the calendar is marked with another holiday – Europe Day.

Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historic Schuman Declaration that set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

The Schuman Declaration or Schuman Plan was a proposal by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, made on 9 May 1950. It proposed placing French and West German production of coal and steel under a single authority that would later be opened to other European countries. The ultimate goal was to pacify relations, between France and West Germany in particular, through gradual political integration, which would be achieved by creating common interests. Schuman said that “the coming together of the countries of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany…the solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

It is so sad to see today, that his hopes didn’t materialize and that the opposite happen, in the most unthinkable way! I hold a strong hope, however, that this time, the European countries won’t stop in the middle of the way and will make sure that nothing like this will ever happen again.

Vilnius Museum of Occupation

We had a list of museums we thought we wanted to visit on Saturday (our flight out was at 6-30 PM, so we had most of the day). The Museum of Occupation was something new on the list of Vilnius museums, and I saw that it was very popular. Since this museum was the furthest from our hotel, we decided to start there and see how much time we had left for other museums. 

But that museum impressed us so much that after spending 2.5 hours there, we realized we could not go anywhere else, so we spent the rest of that day walking along the streets of Old Town and talking about what we saw. 

There is no other museum like this in any of the former Soviet Republics, and I think that if such museums were open in all the Russian cities, maybe, maybe… maybe things would look differently today.

The museum is located in a former Lithuanian KGB building, and the KGB internal prison is still preserved in the basement. Exhibits on the first and second floors present the history of Lithuania’s fight for freedom from 1940 to 1991. 

After leaving the museum, Boris said: I am trying to figure out which parts we didn’t know. We knew most of the facts, but in some cases, we were not aware of the magnitude of the events, and in some, we simply never gave it enough thought, which I am now ashamed of. 

I knew about deportations in 1941, right before the start of the war, but I didn’t know that there were multiple waves of deportations after the war. The number of displaced people might not look so big until you think about the total population of Lithuania and realize that it was more than 10% of the total population.

We knew about the Forest Brothers, but I had no idea that they kept fighting until 1953! I didn’t know how well they were organized, how much support did they have in the country, and I didn’t know about their multiple unsuccessful attempts to get some support from the West. 

Knowing these facts, there is no wonder to see such overwhelming support for Ukraine everywhere in Lithuania! 

The exhibit explains how “a quiet resistance” rolled out after the Forest Brothers were defeated. And once again, it made me think about the time I visited Lithuania when I was a teen and a young adult. I am ashamed of myself now that I think about how we were coming there, the occupants, and how we were oblivious that we were seen as occupants. Also, I know many Russians who moved to Lithuania after the war and after the mass deportations, and they were completely ignorant about their role in the occupation. 

The part of the museum that talks about the labor camps was somewhat less impressive because I knew a lot about them. But the KGB prison left a completely grave impression, even though, theoretically, we knew how the suspects and the prisoners were treated. 

And one of the most impressive parts of the exhibit was the room where they presented the complete organizational chart of the Lithuanian KGB organization, with names and photographs! That’s where I thought – we should have had this for each KGB organization on the territory of the former Soviet Union! Then, maybe… 

I am not sure whether the pictures can add much, but I tried to make them informative. As for the prison, the most horrifying thing is that it is real, and not only real but also very recent.

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Igor’s Article: Ukraine World War II Legacy

I really liked it. And since I know that people do not like to click on the links – here is the full text.

To Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians, few historical events loom as large as World War II. One would be hard-pressed to find an Eastern Slav who doesn’t have some relative who fought in the war, died in a war or lost something to the war. Many Eastern European cities still have lasting scars.

I grew up in St. Petersburg, a city that survived the nearly 900-day Siege of Leningrad, where over a million people perished from bombings, disease and starvation. A ring of mass graves around the city’s former outskirts serves as a lasting reminder of the sheer scale of the toll. My grandmother on my mom’s side was only 6 when the Siege happened, and she lived through the first year before she was evacuated. 

Grandma Nina never sugarcoated the realities of the war.

“One winter day, I was playing in the yard when a young couple approached me,” she told me. I couldn’t have been older than 9. “They said, ‘Little girl, would you like some candy?’ But I knew better. There was no candy during the Siege. So I ran into my building as quickly as my little legs would carry me. And it’s a good thing I did — otherwise, I would’ve gotten eaten.”

Grandma Nina wasn’t my only connection to the war. Three of my great-grandfathers served in the military, in some capacity or another. My Belarusian grandfather and his sister (also named Nina) lived through the Nazi occupation of what is now Belarus. Even the relatives who barely saw any fighting have war-related memories. 

When I was a kid, there was a lot of emphasis on the toll the war took, how we must remember this toll because we must never allow anything like that again. But I feel like something shifted in the last 20 years, as members of my great-grandparents’ generation, and even older members of my grandparents’ generation, died of natural causes in growing numbers. 

There was less talk about pain and suffering, and more emphasis on the glorious Red Army heroically overcoming odds and triumphing over Nazis. Talking about some of the harsh realities of the war suddenly became controversial.

When I was growing up, calling someone a Nazi was about the worst thing one could do to another person. Our teachers told us to use the word carefully because “words have meanings.” But whatever restraint there was seems to have completely evaporated.

In 2014, when Russia encouraged separatists in the Donbass region and the war broke out, Russians and Ukrainians accused each other of being Nazis. It wasn’t that unusual to see social media posts and news segments where World War II veterans encouraged their grandchildren to fight against Nazi invaders. Aside from the language and national signifiers, they sounded practically identical.

Now, as the long-simmering conflict erupted into a full-fledged war, the Nazi labels flew with renewed vigor. The Russian government quickly positioned the “special operation” as “denazification” of Ukraine, and as the attacks intensified, Ukrainians were quick to call Russians Nazis. 

Of course, what’s different this time is the sheer scale and devastation of the attacks. When I saw photos of people huddled in Kyiv and Kharkiv subways to escape the bombings, I immediately thought of people hiding from Nazi bombings of Moscow. When I read about Mariupol getting encircled by the Russian army, its besieged residents huddled in the cold, it’s hard not to think about Grandma Nina talking about burning everything there was to burn in the house just to stay warm. When I see families fleeing west, I think of Grandpa Gena talking about how he was only 5 years old when his family tried, and failed, to outrun the Nazi advance.

“When the war started, my dad went off to serve, so it was just me, my mom, my older brother, Nikolay, and my younger sister Nina,” he told me. “I remember when we were trying to flee, my mom carried Nina in her arms, while I ran with her.”

I was taught to be careful about using the word “Nazi,” and I’m not going to stop now. But when one gets that kind of association … I know it makes at least some Russians pause. A couple of days ago, I saw a photo of a flier somebody put up in St. Petersburg. “A city that survived the Siege is against the war!” But so far there is also plenty of support, including from some of the people who were kids during World War II.

This war will end someday. Kyiv, which was shelled during World War II, will rise again, just like it did last time. And the scars of war will linger. 

Maybe this time, the generations to come will not so easily lose sight of the toll the war takes. 

Maybe this time, Russians won’t need a personal connection to understand the horror the war inflicts.

Summer 1969: The Sanatorium

As it often happens, after I started the daycare (detskiy sad), frequent colds started, but in addition, several times, they ended with pneumonia. Back in the 1960s, that sounded even more serious than now. A part of the reason for our trip to the Black Sea in 1968 was a belief that it should strengthen me against the frequent colds. At least that partially influenced mom’s decision.

Most likely, the situation somewhat improved, but not drastically, and the doctors recommended a sanatorium. Back then, a sanatorium mostly meant that I would stay “on fresh air” more than I would do otherwise. Also, it meant almost free boarding, which was a relief for mom. 

That summer, she sent me to the sanatorium in Solnechnoe, in Karelia. It’s not like she had a choice where I would go; pediatric clinics were getting quote, and they would decide who should go and where. 

Solnechnoe, former Finnish Kuokkala, was the most southern resort in the “Russian” part of the Baltic Seashore. This territory has a long history of changing ownership; some details can be found here. It is not like I cared back then, and I do not even think that mom cared. She mentioned that they routinely called Karelia “Finland,” so there was no confusion about this land. 

I came to Solnechnoe in mid-May, shortly after “the May holidays” – the sequence of May 1st, 2nd, and 9th, which were all days off, plus the weekends in between. In the beginning, it didn’t feel at all like summer, we wore coats outside, and the spring bulbs just started to bloom. 

I do not know why I remember this boy’s name – he is Seriozha Morev

Other than that, I didn’t see much difference between being at the dacha and in the sanatorium. The building was somewhat better, and for sure, it was somebody’s summer cottage nationalized by the state. In the picture above, you can see how close the building is to the seashore.

Can you find me? I am the one with the white bow

Our building housed the “younger group” and “the older group,” which included children from 5 to 7 and even two school-aged girls, Lilya and Laylay (the very back row on the left). Looking at the class picture, I remember most of the kids, how they looked in real life, what color their clothes were. For some reason, I do not remember the names of the kids with who I played most often but remember others My best friend was a girl who is the fourth from the left in the second row, but I don’t remember her name. And I remember that the girl on the very left of the second row was Ira Kolesnikova, but I was not that close with her. Also, I am surrounded by boys in all pictures, but I do not remember hanging out with the boys that much. I mostly remember the fights :).  

That summer, I learned to jump a rope, and there are lots of pictures where I demonstrate that skill

Looking at these pictures, I remember one funny thing: there were some rules about what we should wear in certain weather. For example, we had to wear sweaters over the dresses when the temperature was below 20C (68F). On the other side of the building, the beach was right there, but we were not allowed into the water until both the air and the water temperature reached a certain degree (I have no idea what it was). There were still days when we swam, and that was a real delight!

One of these warm days

More pictures in the next post!

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.

Spring 1969

I am six, and I am walking with my mom along the Griboedova Channel embankment in Leningrad. The weather is exactly what you expect in March – grey, foggy, a little bit over freezing. Once again, since mom and I are both on one of the pictures, my father had to take them. What was so special about this day, I can’t tell. But here I am happy and smiling.

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.

Spring 1968

I can’t tell for sure whether these pictures were taken in spring 1968 or later in the fall after we returned from Loo, but most likely in spring.

As in many other cases, they were taken during my father’s visits with me. One the first of these visits, he came close to the end of my afternoon nap time (there was no option of going to bed without changing into a nightgown, even though I didn’t sleep).

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