Hettie’s Reflections – Blog Posts


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 πŸ™‚

Traveling to Cyprus

My birthday was on Saturday, and I spent most of it in transit. Started it with a birthday breakfast of hot-smoked salmon sandwich on rye bread at the Vantaa airport and then boarded a flight to Frankfurt. That flight and the subsequent flight to Limassol were extremely uneventful, being operated by Lufthansa :).

I didn’t know that we have to cross the border going to Cyprus. Cyprus is an EU member, but not a part of the Schengen agreement. However, they acknowledge Schengen visas, so it works at least one way :).

Upon arrival, we met our driver (we had a prearranged transportation to our hotel) and got into the car. Once again, I didn’t know that Cyprus had left-side traffic, so you have to be super careful. The highway from the airport was one-way, and the reverse route was not visible. Citing my surprise that nobody asked us at the border, how long we are going to stay, Boris joked that that’s because there is no way out anyway :).

This time of the year is off-season on Cyprus, so hotels are dirt-chip, and the first two days it was raining. We won’t do much sightseeing anyway, because it falls dark right after five. But here is the view from our room πŸ™‚

I also managed to get an hour in the gym, hence I have my usual in-the-gym birthday picture:

A Short Stopover in Helsinki

Helsinki is most definitely not on the way to Cyprus – for anybody except me! This time, Boris and I agreed that I will come to Helsinki, and then we fly to Cyprus together. That was another reason I worried a little bit about the flight delay – our flight to Cyprus was at 7-20 AM the next day.

But as I said, everything got resolved. For a long time, I was suspicious about Icelandair initially, but now I like their flights – they are the shortest since they pass the Atlantic closest to the North Pole, and their connections are also quick. And now that I know they do not serve hot meals on board, I am OK with that :). Even this time, with three hours delay, I got to Helsinki at a reasonable time.
I love the new airport transit in Helsinki, especially since I installed the Helsinki Public Transit app :). Now I can buy my ticket on my phone and do not waste time at the station.

You can enter the station straight from the terminal
The trains operate every 5-10 minutes

The same ticket will be good for the train to get me home!

Delayed Flight

On Friday, my flight to Helsinki was delayed because of the snow. Funny how everybody forgets how to operate in winter when snow is expected! It was delayed just enough to make my connection impossible – I only had a little bit over an hour.
But I was amazed by how well Icelandair operated: the moment we landed in Reykjavik I received both email and text with rebooked flight; the new flight was by Finnair and less than three hours. The rest of my schedule didn’t suffer. Plus, they gave me a meal voucher, and I had a huge breakfast at the airport:

Turned out, that we were lucky: over 600 flights from ORD were canceled that night!

Cooking & Talking: the Magic of Baked Salmon

One more time -I thought I published it on Wednesday; I did not, but do not want to edit the dates now, just imagine, it’s from Wednesday :).

I have lots of things to worry about at the moment: I need to find a replacement for my leaving DBA. I need to complete the end-of-the-year reviews for my team and myself. I worry that my glasses are not ready yet, which can put my surgeries dates in jeopardy. For the next week’s conference, we were asked to shorten our presentation to 18 minutes. 

I have a lot of things to worry about, but I am not going to. Because what I am thinking at the moment is the last night’s dinner in the Open Door Shelter. 

A Baked Salmon is always a hit, along with mashed potatoes, and when I make baked salmon, I always purchase it myself and bring in to the shelter in the insulated bag. 

When I entered the kitchen, it was empty except one girl who never showed interest in cooking with me, and would always make her meal, when I was making dinner with the others. 

— Hi, what are we making today? – she asked. 

I realized that, like many others, she didn’t want to compete for my attention and approached me only when there was nobody else around. I pretended to be not surprised, and we started peeling potatoes together. Later, other young people arrived and joined us. My most favorite staff was present, which always makes my job easier. 

All the easy tasks: lay the foil in the baking sheet, cut the lemons, chop the onions, make it easier for multiple people to feel that they are included in the process. Even now, on my way to work, I am smiling recalling their yesterday’s exchanges:

— Is it ready? Shouldn’t the salmon be darker?

— Shut up, she knows what she is doing! She is a pro! 

— Can’t you wait? Do you thin I don’t want a second? But I am waiting. We need to make sure everybody got a piece, and then go for seconds!

As always, there were a couple of people who tried salmon for the first time, and as always, the fish was gone fast, with only aluminum foil left πŸ™‚

Another treat was that the girl who was in the program last year came in to lead a group activity. I was thrilled to see her. Most of the time, I have no idea how it turned for those who graduated from the program. It was a delight to learn that she is attending college and that she is giving back.

We sat and talked about the goals for the new year, about plans and hopes. And then there were hugs and goodbyes, and see you next time. 

The staff walked me downstairs and even outside. And as much as I am annoyed when my mother says she will wait till I turn around the corner, it feels different when leaving the ODS.

Dating and Getting Married While Being a Student in the Soviet Union

When thinking about the past, the most challenging thing for me is trying to remember how I felt about certain concepts, what was “a norm,” and why I believed it was, basically, about what was going on in my head. And I am talking not only about politics, or economics, or the Communist Party, or the foreign countries but about personal relationships as well.

Most of us got married early. Both girls and boys. Now I think that it was mostly because of the difficulties of renting your own space. The “expected behavior” would be something like this. You start dating. You are “official,” when you walk around, hugging each other (your right hand on his waist, his left hand hugging you over your shoulders). You go like this most of the time, inside and outside. Sometimes even during classes. You kiss in public. Then you might, or you might not try to find someplace where you could be more intimate. You do not have your apartment; you live with your parents, who themselves are trying to find a place to be intimate:). Some of your friends may have their parents temporarily away or working late; then, you can use their apartment. Many of us didn’t even have their room; I didn’t.

The is no contraception, except for the calendar method or not letting the sperm in. Even condoms are “deficit.” Abortions are legal, but you need to spend at least one night in the hospital, so your parents would know, and there is no anesthesia. For many of us, getting married was the only option to be in relationships. It’s not like there were no civil unions, but mostly among older people, mostly not the first marriage. As always, there were exceptions, but as I said, a surprising number of my friends were getting married being virgins, girls and boys alike.

There were lots of marriages at nineteen and twenty. When we graduated, most of us were twenty-one or twenty-two, and more than half of us were married, and a considerable portion of those who were married, were pregnant.

Once again, there were several reasons for that. Fist, there was a lack of contraception and a religious belief, that if you abort your first pregnancy, you may never have children. So the idea was that you have a child or two children right away, and then hope for the best or have an abortion, which was multiple. Another reason, specific for college grads, was that you had to work at the place which you were assigned to for three years after your graduation, and they could not fire you during your maternity leave. So if you didn’t like the place, you could have two children and not work at all :), and then try to get to the better place.

Originally I had a very different idea about my future life and marriage, but surprisingly I ended up with the crowd, except for I was far from being a virgin.

I married on December 22, 1984, graduated in June 1985, and Igor was born on September 28, 1985.

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.

Chicago PUG January Meetup – Great Start for 2020

I posted that on my professional blog and on LinkedIn last night. Just an hour before the meetup started, I realized that it has been three years! What a journey! I can’t even comprehend how did it happen! From “please help to spread the word” to the “third-largest in the Western Hemisphere.” In three short years! You know – that’s why I believe that when there is a will, there is a way, and there is no limit to what you can achieve.

The World of Data

It has been for three years now, that Bravinat is hosting Chicago PUG meetups. Today we’ve rung in 2020 with two excellent presentations and very productive follow-up discussions.

I want to thank one more time all the user group members who joined us today.

Looking forward to another great year ahead!

Engaged audience

Our speakers

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I Do not Want to be an Influencer :)

Livejournal sent to me a sort of “please come back” message:

That’s because I reduced my activities there in the middle of the year, and apparently the first half of the year was pretty active. I do not even know what in the world “an influencer” means. Well, I know:), but the problem is I can’t really influence people and their behavior, and that’s what was frustrating recently. I got a homophobic comment even for posting a picture of me with my kids after Mom’s birthday party…

As for the boo… what I am writing now, is a book. For those who would like to read it, but mostly for my future generation πŸ™‚

Getting Ready to Go to Cyprus

I am leaving in less than three days, and I am still only partially packed and can get a feel neither about the weather nor the dress code of the event. I have never been to Cyrpus, and at this time of the year, people do not go to Cyprus :).

I just got a long email from the conference organizers, and at the very end of that super-long email, they mention that the electric plug on Cyprus is English! I would not have an idea! In fact, I already packed my European connectors :). Good to know :).
In addition, I am staying after work today to run Chicago PUG meetup, and I am going to the shelter tomorrow night to cook dinner with the residents. And Thursday is my last day in the office before I leave, and also I need to visit Mom :). And I really want to rehearse my presentation a couple of times… Wish me luck πŸ™‚

March for Life, and a Very Small Protest

It is hard for me to write about Saturday’s events because I feel like we (pro-choice activists) lost miserably. I am going to copy the summary of the even from Igor’s Flicker album:Β 

Album description

Every year, on the second Saturday of January, pro-life groups organize March for Life in downtown Chicago. This year, one new addition was a pro-life organizations convention and an evening banquet at Congress Hotel. (You had to pay to get into the banquet, but the convention was free, but you had to register ahead of time)

This year, the pro-life groups assembled at the Daley Plaza for a rally featuring several pro-life speakers. Then, they marched toward the Congress Hotel, where they had another rally and some prayer circles out front, even as some marchers slowly but surely headed out, and some groups boarded the buses to get to… whereever it was they came from.

There are usually counter-protesters, and, this time, they assembled at the southeast corner of Dearborn/Washington. My mom, who was there earlier, mentioned that there were speakers, and a number of pro-choice activists attended. But by the time I crossed to the pro-choice side after taking the photos at the Daley Plaza, most of them were gone, and Revolutionary Communist Party members and affiliates took the position. They mostly chanted about kicking out Trump and Pence, and about no war in Iran, with only occasional pro-choice chants. When the March for Life left the plaza, the pro-choice chanting (and some pro-choice taunting) started at its earnest. While a few pro-lifers did try to talk to the Communists, and some pro-lifers clearly wanted to shout at the Communists, it didn’t get beyond shouting.

Also, there was a “patriot” group at the southwest corner of Dearborn/Washington. While RevComm shouted some anti-war slogans, members of the group shouted something along the lines of “no war in Iran, save the babies!”


So – yes. I knew about the counter-protest, but the weather was miserable, actually, let me put it very miserable. For a moment, I was not sure whether I am going to go. Still, after all, I did, and I am glad I did! 

Yes, there were speeches, and I recorded a couple, but I was really upset with the low number of pro-choice activists that showed up. The picture looked horrific, and Igor’s pictures look even scarier… I can’t understand why so many people are … just not getting it! 

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