Hettie’s Reflections – Blog Posts

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Welcome to Hettie’s Reflections!

Hello! My name is Hettie, I was born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and I emigrated to the United States in October 1996. I live in Palatine, IL and work in Chicago.

I’ve been very active in the Russian blogosphere, and my American friends keep asking me when I am going to tell my story in English. Well, the time has come.

I am going to write my story for my granddaughter Nadia, and for all my American friends, who has been so supportive through all these years, and hope that my children, Igor, Vlad and Anna will help me through this journey.

My Russian blog used to have “a lot of everything”, because first, I just like to write a little something every day, reflecting on everything happening in the world around me, and second – because I believe that people trust me more knowing me as a person. Everything I’ve done in my life so far, and everything I am doing every day, made me – and still making me the person I am.

This being said, although this blog is intended mostly to record our family history, there will be still “a lot of everything” here. However, for those who is interested in the history solely, I will paste all the links to the Hettie’s Timeline page, which will hopefully allow to read all these entries in a chronological order.

The links to my interviews and videos (mostly professional) will be pasted on this page, and also for those who is interested what I am doing in my professional life, feel free to check out my blog The World of Data.

My blog Hettie’s Cooking is hardly a cooking blog, at least I do not update it often. However, some of my legendary recipes, like “Mom’s soup”, can be found there.

Enjoy 🙂

Eye Surgery Details

For my real-life and/or long term friend, more detail about surgery and the aftermath.

Until the week before surgery, I was sure that I am getting the multifocal lenses, which should correct every issue I have, except for maybe some minor close vision problems. Last time I was at the doctor’s office for final measurement, a surgery coordinator reassured me once again that any multifocal will correct my distant vision 100%.


I didn’t believe that statement from the very beginning. But the staff was repeating it over and over again. They were saying that I might still need readers from time to time, but that’s it.
The surgeon called me five days before saying, that “with the type of lenses I’ve chosen, he can’t give me 20/20 vision, I will remain nearsighted.

As you can imagine, I started to interrogate him about what type will do the correction, and he said – monofocal, but they won’t give you anything else, no astigmatism correction. Just go with our original plan, you will have – 2 – 2.5 left, and in three months I will do Lasic on you. I said that I do not care about Lasic; my concern is how I will function in between. He said that I could wear glasses in between. And he strongly recommends fo me to go that way, “as I would advise my relative.” And I said – OK.

Continue reading “Eye Surgery Details”

Eye Surgery – One Done

I have trouble looking at the screen, so just a very quick update. I got my left eye operated; so far it is extremely foggy, so it’s hard to tell what it turned out to be. The surgeon told me that I have something about -2.5 left, but once again, I can’t tell now.

Now I can only see with non-operated eye, for which I can wear my old contact for the next ten days.

Will have a follow-up tomorrow.

it feels worse now than when the picture was taken, but hopefully will be better tomorrow

Before My Memories: Spring 1963

As a child, I had an outstanding memory. I remember some episodes of my life even before my first birthday. And since shortly after my first birthday, I remember more or less “everything,” meaning I remember my life as a stream of events. That was in part because my parents made lots of pictures, and I was often looking at them. 

That been said, that fact that I did not remember the earlier portion of my life, used to frustrate me a lot! I did not remember being in Estonia for the first summer of my life, and the pictures looked so lovely! 

I was born on January 19, 1963, and at that time, mothers in the Soviet Union didn’t yet have the option of staying at home with their babies for the first year of their lives. There was only the so-called “decree.” The name goes back to the early years of the Soviet state when the laws were called “decrees.” The decree which proclaimed the right of the woman to take eight weeks off work before the expected date of birth and eight weeks after went into effect in December 1917. For this whole period, women were paid 100% of their salaries. Later, women were allowed to take four more weeks off, but with no pay. What will happen if they won’t return to work? They would have to quit the job, which in turn will result in “interruption of work history” on their record, and that will negatively affect their state pension in the future.

Continue reading “Before My Memories: Spring 1963”

Valentine-Style Caramel Apple

Just a couple of statements:

  • I love apples in desserts (not that much as fruits)
  • I love caramel
  • I love cinnamon
  • I love almond
  • I love chocolate, dark, milk, and white
  • I hate peanuts
  • I hate salt in caramel

This being said, you understand my challenge in the nowadays sweets industry. And it also explains my joy when I spotted that creation at the cash register in the Eurofresh Store:

I’ve commented to the cashier that the only thing missing is cinnamon, for which he replied: don’t you have some at home? Just sprinkle over it! But let me tell you – it was super delicious the way it is!

Postcards to Wisconsin

Half of Illinois (at least half of its Democratic half) is participating in the “Postcards to Wisconsin” events. I was already invited to three, but could not participate because of the times/days of the week. So when I finally got an invite for an event, which took place on Saturday, and in the middle of the day, and not so far from us, I happily RSVP’ed. Also, I decided to take Mom with me, because her penmanship is outstanding, and she could be really useful, and what’s more important – she could feel useful. Also, she has never been to our Democratic office before, and I thought it would be interesting for her to come with me and see how it all works.

It all worked pretty well. Together, we wrote twenty-five postcards, and Mom did at least a third of them. On the way back, she was asking me (one more time) about all the details of how primaries are held, and what will be next, and how the Democratic convention will choose the candidate. And since she never got any negative propaganda about these things, she liked it.

Mom is working our list

"I wish I knew" – Documentary

Yesterday, I watched a documentary, “I wish I knew.”

Widely considered China’s most important contemporary filmmaker, Jia (STILL LIFE, ASH IS PUREST WHITE) focuses on the city of Shanghai in this ambitious documentary, never before released in the US The city’s present in captured in stunningly composed widescreen images that emphasize the juxtaposition of decay and progress, often incorporating the hazy expanse of the Yangtze River. The past is explored through interviews with the survivors of such upheavals as the Civil War and the Cultural Revolution, their stories often marked by violent death and exile (the latter subject occasioning side-trips to Taiwan and Hong Kong). As in his other major documentary 24 CITY, Jia blurs the line between fact and fiction, with his muse Zhao Tao serving as a recurrent presence wandering through the city. In its latter stages, much of the film concerns China’s cinematic past, with excerpts and interviews (including Hou Hsiao-hsien) evoking the often contentious relationship between art and politics. In Mandarin with English subtitles. New DCP digital widescreen restoration. (MR)

Siskel Center website

I found this documentary to be very depressing, although Igor disagrees with me. The filmmaker’s work is outstanding, but it shows China not how we are used to seeing it. In this “mixture of decay and progress,” we are not really used to the “decay” part.

For me, there were too many allusions to the history of the Soviet Union, both in the excerpts from the propaganda movies and the specific language, the way of saying things by survivors/witnesses.

Also, I was thinking about the Soviet documentaries from the time we were not friends with China. At that time, the Soviet correspondents would search for Chinese dissidents, and film interviews with them (half-face covered by black stripe). And these dissidents were saying, how things were horrible in China: hunger, shortage of everything, no freedom of speech… how ironic!
I’ve already mentioned some other Soviet documentaries when they would interview people in England or the US during the 1970s economic crisis. The funny thing – is was all true! The workers would emotionally tell how prices are up every day and how their salaries are not matching up… You do not need to photoshop the reality, you do not even need to cut and paste the pieces of film, it’s all in the commentary on the background…

More Eye Surgery Updates

You know how I said I was freaking out about a million things regarding the surgery – one of these things is happening. Today, I got a call from the surgeon who is going to operate me. I do not know why he only looked at my numbers now, not three months ago, but what he said was that they wouldn’t be able to fix my long-distance vision 100% unless I go mono-focal, which means no astigmatism correction, and no vision depth… I was leaning that way, but the doctor was positive that that would be the best for me.

I understand that he is right long-term, but short term I will be going the way that I won’t be able to see well enough to perform my daily functions AND for a while, there will be no way for me to have any corrective devices. He said he would do Lasic on me in about three months, but I can’t stand an idea of going to another surgery. I guess it is all not so bad; I was just not prepared… and there will be way more steps in between..

The Beginning of My Story

Eventually, I will tell here all the stories of the previous generations of our family, which I can remember. But in this post, I wanted to show some pictures from the very beginning of my own life.

I already wrote about my university years and a little bit about what happened after. Now that I look at all I’ve written, I feel like I can’t continue without writing about some personal things. And I am not ready for that yet. So I decided to go back to my beginnings.


These are the first pictures of me, or rather my mom with me. The films were dated March 1963; although I find it hard to believe, there could be so sunny and dry in March in Leningrad. But – I have to believe it. At least, I look pretty much like a two to three months old should look:))

babies were kept swaddled tight
… all the time 🙂

The building was located in a very central part of Leningrad, but nevertheless, the courtyard looked lie you can see on these pictures above.
My father’s family occupied one of the apartments of this building since the late 20s (will try to check the details). The state owned the building, and the family was “assigned” to this apartment.

As I said, that is the first picture of me. At that time, there was still a belief that newborns and small babies should be kept away from the crowd and not be photographed until two or three months old. Also, visitations were limited to close family members. Not everybody owned cameras, and not everybody would take pictures of everyday life, so I am fortunate to have all these films in my possession.

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.