Santiago, Italy – a Documentary

One more of many Siskel Center offerings, Santiago, Italy is a documentary about the 1973 events in Chile, and about the chilean people who found their new home in Italy.

After many years of Soviet propaganda, and then after many years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is easy to fall into a habit of thinking that everything that we were told back then was propaganda :). It took me as a surprise to hear that Salvador Allende, indeed, was building socialism in Chile and that he indeed had the broad support of the Chilean people. And that the Communist Party of Italy was, indeed, a serious political power in the ’70s. 

Also, I saw a lot of footage of coup d’état, which I do not remember seen back in the ’70s, and I do not know why especially because I’ve seen some other pieces. It was a very strange feeling. I have already forgotten that the events of 1973 were tragic ones, and this documentary reminded me of them. People are telling about their experience, real people, they pause, they repeat themselves and start over. They are trying to find the right words to describe their feelings; they laugh and cry…

Home Movies from the 1970s, Part 3

That is the last of the three digitized movies. It covers the period from summer 1972 to winter 1973. I am nine years old at the beginning and ten at the end. In the beginning, you can see that my front teeth are broken. That was due to an accident at the carnivals when Mom and I were riding a tiny electric car and bumped into another one. At that time, there was no easy way to fix them, and they remained broken until I was nineteen or so.

That summer I was at the same place in Estonia, and I play with the same dog Neron as a year earlier. We went on a trip to see an Orthodox Convent. A cat named Dunia lived in the house where we were renting. Also, I think I’ve visited an exhibit of Rodin’s sculptures because I am trying to present them :).

In the last scenes of this movie, I am already wearing glasses. Mom and I are going cross-country skiing, and most likely, my Grandfather was filming us.

Enjoy 🙂

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.

Home Movies from the 1970s, Part 2

Here is the second movie from the 1970s. It starts in the summer of 1971 and ends in February 1972. 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, good mothers were expected to rent a summer home somewhere “on the fresh air.” Like many other leninradians, my relatives from my father’s side were renting summer houses, or more often, a couple of rooms in a home in Estonia. Saint – Petersburg (back then – Leningrad) is situated very close to the border with Estonia, and from 1940 to 1992, Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union. The Estonian city of Narva was just across the border, and there was a resort Narva-Joesuu, which was renting out almost each and single home during summer. 

We rented a room and a veranda, which served as a kitchen. My great aunt Fania would stay there pretty much all the summer. My aunt Kima, my cousin, and my Mom were there periodically; my uncle Misha and his wife Nadia were renting one more room at the same house. 

  • This movie starts with us going on a tour somewhere nearby, I do not remember where exactly. 
  • Then there is me in a costume of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, I read something about here that year. I was so fascinated with her story that I wanted to impersonate her. Most of the costume is assembled from different pieces of adult clothes and jewelry. The wooden sword was made by the younger brother of my cousin’s best friend. I know that it sounds too distant, but they both were around quite often and felt like family members. 
  • The big black dog is a Newfoundland owned by the friends of the family. He was not a purebred and was given away for free. His name was Neron, and I loved him and used each opportunity to stop by the house where he lived and play with him. 
  • “A Musketeer” episode. Traditionally in Russia, both adults and kids would dress up for Sviatki – the time between Christmas and New Year, culminating at the New Year masquerade. Since all religious holidays were forbidden in Russia, the tradition reduced to the New Year masquerades. This costume was constructed for my school New Year’s party, and I wore it at home for the actual New Year celebration. I was eight years old (almost nine) and was at the peak of my musketeers’ fascination. Everybody pitched in for this costume. My great aunt sacrificed her dark blue pure silk dress, the top was used for the jacket, and the skirt made the cloak. One of my great aunt friends lent a dark-blue velvet hat, another friend – some real antique lace collar and cuffs (all to be returned after the holidays :)). Not Brabant, but most likely old Vologda :). The baldric was made of dark blue bookbinding material (acquired by my aunt who worked in the publishing house) and decorated with the pieces of colored foil collected from the chocolate candies consumption:). The feathers on the hat came from two sources: the black one was a real ostrich feather my great aunt owned, and the white one was made of paper by my aunt – that’s when I learned how to make them, and I still can do it on the spot. I think that covers pretty much the whole costume.
  • The figure skating competition. The caption reads: getting ready for the White Olympics 1980. But that time (February 1972) I was nine, and I was taking the figure skating classes for three winters. We rarely got a chance to train inside, so it was always “weather permits.” I loved figure skating (and I still do :)). Our coach arranged for us to have a very close-to-real competition with the obligatory figures to be performed and with your own freestyle program. The competition was graded by three judges. My great aunt hand made the figure-skating dress for me. It was made of dark red wool with the giant grey snowflake on the chest and beautiful patterns on the skirt – and that’s what I wore during this competition.

Enjoy 🙂

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.

Home Movies from 1970s, Part 1

In 1971 my Mom bought a movie camera and started making home movies. We both enjoyed the process a lot. She soon acquired a magnetic board with letters, and we began to add captions to the films.

I do not remember what happened to the movie projector, but it disappeared a long time ago, and I was wondering whether I will ever be able to watch these movies again. Fortunately, nowadays, many companies can digitize your old movies, and several years ago, I sent the first two reels to convert them to mp4. I liked the result, and now that Mom brought several more back, I finally sent them to the same company, and I liked the results even more. 

Today, I am posting the first reel, which covers the time from early spring early summer 1971.

Apparently, if I spent enough time, I should be able to add captions to this movie, but I do not have time neither now, nor in the next several years, so let me just briefly mention what it is about.

The title says “Lialia’s school break.” Lialia was my nickname, and a break was a spring break in the first grade.  Everything was filmed in Saint-Petersburg (back then – Leningrad) and near suburbs.

By episode:

  1. I play with a big doll, which could “walk,” when you hold her by the hand. Her name was Walking Nina.
  2. I am walking around in the city center, close to the Church on Blood, not restored yet back then.
  3. In the Zoo
  4. In the courtyard of my home, playing “classes” on the asphalt.
  5. A canary named Solka. That was an amazing story – one cold November night, he flew inside our apartment when my aunt opened a window leaf for a minute. We tried to find out whether he was a runaway but didn’t succeed. Then we had to buy a cage and some books about canary care:).
  6. Waking at the Strelka – the edge of Vassilievski Island, then on the roof of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress, and then inside the fortress. Then I take a camera and record Mom.
  7. At Strelna, a near suburb. We are there with Mom and Grandpa Fedia, and it’s hilarious how he is trying to help me to climb on a tree, and then helps me to get off, and this all happens three times in a row.
  8. Walking along the Neva River, and then taking a trip on a small boat
  9. In the Alexandrovskiy Park, close to the St. Isaac Cathedral, and by the river again.
  10. Later in spring. Since we see balloons, it should be May 1 or May 2 – we didn’t have balloons on regular days, only for big holidays, and May Day was one of the occasions when kids got balloons. Mom is filming, and I am there together with Mom’s friend Alla and her twin daughters Sveta and Lera. They were three or four years older than me. As a prank, we attach our balloons to the teeth of one of the Griffons on the Neva embankment. 
  11. All of us are back to my house, and we play with a collie puppy in the courtyard (he is not my dog, somebody else’s).
  12. Later in spring, probably mid – May. Mom and I are in Central Recreational Park. First, everybody is casing a squirrel – they are unseen in the city. 
  13. Then – intensive rope-jumping:)
  14. We are visiting an exhibit, which is called “Made in Poland.”

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.

Understanding Our Family History

Another topic of my conversation with Anna was about an understanding of people’s motives and preception of the world around them. That’s precisely the reason I started this blog; that’s why I try to be very honest with myself about the past.

Anna told me that she read somewhere on the internet about her great-grandfather, the one who was NKVD Major General, and about his career in the 1920s. She asked me whether she understood correctly, what he was doing in Middle Asia and Azerbaijan, and I confirmed. I think that it is essential to understand what many people were both the executors and the victims of the Great Terror. That is something I am not going to hide. And as Anna put it, she wants to understand, what was going on the people’s heads, how they could justify within themselves all these actions. How could a highly educated and very intelligent person consciously participate in the “kulak’s liquidation.” I can only guess about him. But I remember what his sister-in-law, my grand aunt, was telling me about her joining the Communist Party after most of her family was prosecuted. And I am going to write about it in the future. 

Continue reading “Understanding Our Family History”

What I Thought About The Foreign Countries

To build on my previous post, I am thinking about our perception of foreigners back in the Soviet Union. It was not about “foreign countries,” it was not about “international tourism,” it was about “Abroad” as a noun, “Zagranitza” in Russian.

The word means “behind the border” or “over the border,” anything which lies outside the borders of your country. I never thought of it back then, but now it seems funny for me that this word exists in the Russian language.

Zagranitza was scary and exciting at the same time. And when I am trying to analyze my past thoughts and feelings, I have to agree that they were very inconsistent and conflicting.

Continue reading “What I Thought About The Foreign Countries”