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).

Continue reading “Spring 1968”

Loo, September 1968

I asked mom whether she remembers why we chose Loo, did she know anybody there, and how she found these landlords who rented a room for us. She does not remember, so there is no way to find out. neither how the arrangements were made, nor how much it cost.

I remember walking to the house, which will become our temporary home for a month. It must have been a five-story building, and I think we lived on the third floor. The owners rented all the rooms they had during the season. I remember that the owners slept on the couch in the living room. They had three children – two older boys and a girl around my age named Ania. Most likely, they got their apartment from the government because they had three children, but I can’t recall where all these children slept when they rented all the rooms except for the living room. Since the people were moving in and out, mom and I spent the first two nights on the huge balcony and then moved into a small room with two twin beds and a desk.

We had breakfast at home in the morning; then, we would go to the beach and stay there till noon (no sunscreen in existence). I saw these beaches from the train window; I had never seen anything like that before – they were covered with flat pebble stones instead of sand. We stayed inside for the hottest hours, and then we would go to the beach again until dinner time. Usually, we had dinner in a cafeteria by the beach and then often returned to watch a sunset.

Afternoon nap
At the beach

I was not tired of that repetitiveness – everything was new to me!. The Black sea, the beach, the mountains which started right behind a narrow strip of houses, the abundance of fruits at the market, the corn on the cob sold right at the beach from large buckets – ten kopecks an ear.
I am skeptical about the medical benefits of this trip, but it made great memories.

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.

The First Trip I Remember: September 1968

In the Soviet Union, virtually everybody had a month of vacation time a year, no matter how long you worked in a particular place. Taking vacations in parts was rarely an option. Under these circumstances, everybody wanted to take vacations during summer, but if everybody took a month of vacation in summer, it would not be easy to keep operations running. Most workplaces had a vacation schedule for a year, and there was a lot of drama around who should have a preference for summer months vacations. Priority was always given to parents because if you recall, a good parent had to do everything possible and impossible to provide an opportunity for a child to spend summer in the countryside or resort.

Granted, childless people would get summer vacation time, too, and sometimes even parents of small children had to compromise. Thus, in 1968, mom had her vacation in September. After spending summer at the dacha with my detskiy sad, I got one more month of summer – we were going to the South. That’s how people used to say these days: not to Georgia, not to Crimea, not to Krasnodarskiy region – just to the South. I recently asked mom why she chose Loo – a suburb of Sochi in the Krasnodarskiy region as our final destination. Did she know somebody there? Did somebody give her the address of our future landlords? She says she does not remember. It was not uncommon that people would come to small resort places that lived off the tourists and rent a room or just a bed on the spot.

I have more pictures from our second trip t the same place a year later and just a few from September 1968, so I will try to write down what I remember.

The train from Leningrad took three nights and two full days to reach the destination, and most of the time, we were going through Ukraine. At five, I was fascinated with a country that looked different from what I had ever seen in my life. Mom told me that the white-walled houses I saw along the railroad were called haty. Sunflowers were growing by each of these cheerful houses – I never have seen them before, and the combination of white and bright yellow instantly made me happy. I stood by the window and couldn’t have enough of the sunny sights.
We shared a sleeper compartment with another family heading South: mother, father, and daughter of approximately my age. Strangely, but I remember how this girl looked, and I remember that we were playing with dolls, and I even remember how her mom was explaining the bandaid on the girl’s chin ” That’s not us who put it in such an odd way, its a medical worker.”

We never went to the dining car, the conductor always had tea with sugar cubes, and we ate whatever rations we took from home, mostly boiled eggs and cold potatoes. The locals would come to the train at some stops and offer some homemade meals and produce, and I remember us buying hot, freshly boiled potatoes, buttery and mixed with dill, and sour cherries.

And then, on the third day, we arrived at Loo and disembarked, and the first thing I remember seeing was a giant cypress tree. I never saw anything like this before, and for the rest of my life, cypress meant warmth, resort, vacation – it meant South.

Detskiy Sad At The Dacha Part 2.

It has been two months since I posted my last historical blog. These blogs require more time and thoughts, and my life in November and December didn’t exactly have any room for extra thoughts. 

Following my New Year resolution, I will continue from where I left. My last post was about summer 1968 when I stayed at the dacha with the other kids from my detskiy sad. Although it was summer, fresh fruits were perennial “deficit.” Parents took turns to buy cherries or strawberries at the farmer’s markets and deliver them to the dacha. I asked mom recently, but she does not remember any details. It was definitely not every day, and the fruits would arrive after a nap. I remember slaying in bed and seeing somebody’s mom serving strawberries in the saucers. 

I am trying to recall how often we had “parent’s days.” Later, when I was at pioneer camps, we had parent’s days only once per three-week session. But I do not remember how it was with detskiy sad. I think mom was coming once a week. Sometimes, my father would come, too, and we would go for a walk in the woods. They always brought me some fruits and other treats. Once, my father brought me mango – they were non-existent, mango juice would come along sometimes as a rare treat. 

However, I do not remember missing my mom that much.

Sometimes, the teachers were cruel and punished us for no good reason. Sometimes, the night shift counselor would wake us up to pee into the bucket and not wet the beds (even though almost nobody did). But is was never like, “I want to go home!”

I do not think I had any unhealthy separation issues when I was a young child. As I mentioned, I had no problem adjusting to detskiy sad from the beginning. My completely unhealthy attachment to mom developed later, under her direct influence. 

I am not sure why she wanted me to be so dependent and miss her so much. Perhaps, she needed it for her self-esteem – to know that she is “in demand.” Perhaps, she does not know that there could be other relationships. Now, I feel sad when I observe that she developed the same emotional dependency on me. I try very hard not to abuse it. To my New Year resolution – I should be more emotionally invested when I interact with her. Simply to give her more. 

Detskiy Sad At The Dacha, Part 1

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.

Disciplining Of Preschoolers In The USSR

During one of the recent online conversations, I’ve realized that many disciplining techniques applied to me when I was a small child are considered completely inappropriate nowadays. And I am not talking about spanking.

In fact, the only case of spanking I remember was when my father spanked me when I wet my pants when we were walking on the street. I remember it vividly precisely because it was something out of the ordinary. 

Mom never spanked me, but she was very creative with other disciplining techniques. For example, when I was between two and three, I was afraid of her umbrella. I do not remember the origin of this fear, but I remember that I was so afraid that I would cry when it started raining outside, and she wanted to open an umbrella while holding me. 

So when I didn’t want to take a midday nap, she would put that umbrella in the corner of the room and say that she would return and open this umbrella if I didn’t sleep. 

At about the same age, I was afraid of behemoths. And in this case, I remember why. The reason was one of the Korney Chukovskiy poems about “poor girl Lialechka”. Since my home name was Lialechka, I was sure that it was about me. Then there was a scene when the wild animals wandered around the city streets, and it mentioned the entrance to the courtyard (“podvorotnia”) where she saw a frightening behemoth!. And since our house had “podvorotnia”, it was in my eyes something that could happen to me! 

My mom knew about these fears, so she told me that if I didn’t do something she wanted me to do, she would call for a behemoth in red pants! (I have no idea about where the red pants were coming from, but that’s what she used to say).

Then in detskiy sad, I remember that I was always in trouble! I honestly felt like I was punished for something every day, and I thought that life would be much happier when I finally went to school. The most frequent punishment was putting us “in the corner,” but the worst one was sending to bed in the middle of the day. I remember how my best friend Nika and I got into trouble(I don’t remember what the crime was), and we were told to start undressing. And I thought it was OK, I could do it, but Nika started to cry, and we were forgiven. I remember how we played with the dolls, and we were disciplining them the same way the teaches were disciplining us, using the same words. Many teaches yelled at us regularly, and we called them “cruel teachers.” The teachers call some of us “bad children”, and some of us “good children,” and I still remember the names! And I am pretty sure that the parents were aware of what was going on, but it was considered nothing out of the ordinary. Moreover, they could additionally punish us at home if they thought that the “crime” was worth the punchment.

Detskiy Sad: Activities

There were lots of different activities in detskiy sad. Usually, there was one educational activity in the morning. It could be painting, when we all learned to paint something very specific and in a very specific way; for example, we would be given pieces of dark blue paper, and we would learn to paint white branches of the trees covered with snow. We were never given paint to do art projects on our own; all painting was teacher-supervised to avoid ruining our clothes. Or we could make something out of clay (again, no creativity, repeat what the teacher showed). Twice a week, we had music lessons. There was a grand piano in the “big room” (I think it was the former drawing room). The music teacher played the piano, rehearsed the song’s verses, and we would sing along. That’s when I found out that I can’t sing in tune. She also taught us some dances. Tape recorders already existed but were rarities, so everything was accompanied by live music. I do not recall us having any PE classes. In the morning before breakfast, we had zariadka: morning exercises which we performed standing in a circle with the teacher showing us what to do. Many years later, I was shocked to recognize some of these exercises in my yoga class! For the older kids, there were more classes, and they would do reading, writing, and math.

After the morning activity, we would go to play outside unless the weather was really bad. There were no (or almost no) playgrounds at that time. Often, our teachers would take us to the nearby park. There were some sandboxes and some slides to go down. In winter, we would take our tiny show shovels with us and make tunnels and snow fortresses, and if the snow was moist enough, we would make snowwomen.

We would return to detskiy sad to have dinner, and then there was a nap time. For smaller children, there were bedrooms with metal-frame beds with springs. Older children had to take camp beds from a closet and set them up in the “big room.” All of us had to change into pajamas for nap time, and we had to stay in bed for two hours even if we didn’t need to nap.

After a nap, we had “poldnik,” and then one more class, and then we would get dressed in our outdoor clothes and get outside to play by close to the entrance to the detskiy sad, and that’s where the parents were picking us up.
Some parents picked their children earlier. I remember one girl was always picked up earlier by her father. I was so jealous of her! I even remember her name, although we were not close friends. Her name was Marina Efimova.
In winter, it was already completely dark by 3-30 PM, and we played outside in the snow, under the street like, and the snow was glittering.

After my mom picked me up, we stopped at the small grocery store, which was located in the basement of one of the homes near detskiy sad. It was a so-called “half-basement,” with the windows, although you had to go several steps down to enter. I am not sure why, but there were a lot of grocery stores in the older part of the city located in such half-basements.

That was pretty much all my day – after we got home, I had some supper and would go to bed right away.

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.

Detskiy Sad: What Was On The Menu

The food in detskiy sad was in many ways different from what I ate at home, probably that’s why I remember so well what was on the menu.

I disliked many foods for a long time because of the way they were prepared in detskiy sad. In some cases, it took me many years to try some dishes again and realize that they are actually quite good.

I didn’t have breakfast at home on the weekdays, and I think most kids didn’t. I do not recall whether my mom had breakfast before going to work. Our breakfast in detskiy sad was the same every day. First, some hot cereal. It could be either mannaya kasha (farina), oat porridge, hot rice cereal, or “pshenichka” – wheat porridge, or millet, always milk-based, although dry milk was often used. Then, a piece of white bread, something like a french baguette, with either a piece of butter or cheese and something called either “coffee with milk” or “cocoa.” In reality, both drinks would come from cans of condensed sweet substance, which contained some milk, a lot of sugar, and some traces of coffee or cocoa. It was dissolved in hot water and then poured into our cups.

Shortly after noon, we had lunch, which was called dinner. I know it sounds funny, but I have no idea how to explain this linguistical paradox. I can only speculate how this swap of meanings happened historically, but I know for sure that in the 19th century, and possibly until after the revolution, the Russian language didn’t have this problem. The meal at noon was called “poldnik” which means exactly that: something happening at noon. Dinner would be around 5 PM (sometimes as early as 4-30, sometimes later), and then it could be supper after 8 PM (or it could be none). I should probably research what happened with the normal order of things after the revolution. In any case, it was lunch, which was called dinner :). And it was a four-course meal. The first course was “a salad,” which meant shredded carrots or coleslaw (without dressing). Then, there was soup (called “the first course). Then an entree (“second course”). And then compote made of dried fruit (which I hated).

All soups were cooked differently from how they were cooked at home, but I especially hated the yellow pea soup, sour schi, and “rassolnik” (and I hate the latter two till now:)).

The second course would consist of some protein (a piece of fish, or a meatball, or a piece of chicken) with some carb side (pasta, rice, buckwheat, or mashed potatoes). In addition, there was almost always a piece of a sour pickle. We were required to eat everything that was on the plate, and although you could sometimes avoid the food you really-rally hated, it was always a fight. Once, I accidentally dropped this piece of pickle into my apron front pocket and didn’t realize it right away, so I ended up getting away with not eating it. I tried to do it on purpose for the next couple of days, but then I was caught:). The only dish I ended up liking in detskiy sad, that I didn’t like before, was liver. I never tried it, but then I saw my best friend devouring it, and I decided to try it, and it turned out I liked it a lot.

Funny fact: they used to make some “detskiy-sad style” versions of famous dishes, including beef stroganoff, goulash, and beefsteaks, so for a long time, I could not understand what was a big deal about them :).

After dinner, we had nap time, and after the nap time, we had “poldnik” which does not make much sense since it was not at noon but 3 PM. It often consisted of a glass of boiled milk (boiled for sanitary reasons, tasted horrible) and something random. “Random” could be a pastry or a piece of “zapekanka” (cottage cheese baked with eggs and flour) or some vinegret (salad with beets). In theory, detskiy sad had to be open till 8 PM, and the kids who stayed that late were upposed to get some supper, but I do not think it ever happened.

There was always lots of drama around food in detskiy sad because very few kids liked all of the dishes served, however, we were expected to leave happy plates and consume two half-pieces of rye bread at dinner. I think, my passion for fresh fruits and vegatables can be explained by the fact that I had almost none as a child!

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.