My Best Girls Ever

I had the best time ever with all three girls:). Kira is a miracle child: she is so happy all the time and so calm! Not like she does not have bad days and bad nights, but in comparison, not only with Nadia but with any child, I know close enough. Also, she is very advanced both physically and emotionally for her four and a half months. She tries to stand up all the time you hold her. she tries to crawl and sit, and I think she will be mobile in some way by the time she will be six months old. Just you wait:).
She also has an unbelievable emotional response to others, which is also way too early. She meets people’s gaze; she is upset when either Nadia or Anna is upset, and she ever reacts emotionally at the conversations which are not directed to her. And if you talk to her directly, she would always respond with the broadest smile.

Nadia speaks more and more complex sentences. She loves telling stories, and she likes it when Anna tells stories, imaginable, or real. She is very thoughtful and very compassionate, polite, and considerable of other people’s needs.

And all this is most definitely because of her parents. I do not think I ever had such a level of patience, as Anna demonstrates. And I can tell that her patience with Nadia fosters all these positive traits. Many everyday tasks take longer than they could because she lets Nadia do things by herself, to decide for herself, to do them her way. She always accepts Nadia’s help even when it makes things going three times slower :). And I am sure that John does the same; I just saw less of him this time :).

I am so looking forward to seeing these girls growing and doing great things!

Visiting With My Girls

As Anna put it, we had three visits in one. Anna and the girls came Friday evening. The girls went more or less straight to bed, and Anna and I talked till midnight (which was probably not the best idea, but we didn’t have one on one conversations for a really long time).

It was then a long morning at my house, and then we went to the market and picked pre-ordered bread, croissants and vegetables. Afterward, we visited my mom, and she was very happy to hold Kira and chat with all of us. Then we traveled to John and Anna’s house in Milwaukee, and I stayed there till midday Tuesday. Unfortunately, my situation at work is such that I could not take any additional time off, but we were still happy to stay under one roof for a couple of days.

The weather was not cooperating. It became sharply colder on Saturday, and I was completely unprepared. I was glad that I took a warmer coat, but frankly, I could take even a warmer one. We still went for several walks, but it would be better if the weather would be different.
I already posted some pictures from the Havenwoods State Park, and here are some pictures from the neighborhood – the Halloween decorations there are very elaborate πŸ™‚

Continue reading “Visiting With My Girls”

Our First Day In The USA

Yesterday, there was a 24th anniversary of the day when Vlad, Anna, and I came to the US. In the past several months, I wrote so many posts about our last weeks in Russia and the first weeks and months in the US that I have almost nothing to add. But today, I was thinking about these first days again, and suddenly I recalled some of my feelings. 

After Val picked us up at O’Hare, he drove us to Des Plaines, where I would sign the lease for my first ever apartment. I was tired; I barely understood what was going on. In addition to Val, one more VIN.net employee was waiting for me in the leasing office. His name was Art; he was a sales rep, and he was supposed to help me understand what I was signing; apparently, Pam didn’t trust Val to explain it to me :). 

Reading the lease agreement was too much for me, even with Art’s help. I signed, and then, there were lots of motions. I had no money on me, and Pam wanted Val to pay my security deposit and one week of October rent, which was left; I was expected to pay it back later. But the leasing office could not accept cash, and there was an argument, and at the end, Art paid with his credit card, and Vlad gave him cash. 

Things were finally resolved, and we were moved to this empty apartment with two old coaches, which my other future co-workers gave away. And I remember that weird feeling, which I had going to bed that night: it was that easy?! 

I never, ever-never, had my place. I am not talking about an apartment; I never had a room, which would be mine and only mine, never in my life. The fact that I couldn’t have a place of my own in Russia was a major deciding factor in my move to the US. I was planning to work hard for two years and earn enough money to buy an apartment in Saint Petersburg. Cash buying was the only option: neither mortgages nor rental market existed in Russia at that time. 

And here I was, going to bed in a two-bedroom apartment in Des Planes, and that magic happened immediately upon arrival. It happened just because nobody here could imagine that less than a two-bedroom apartment would suffice. The problem which seemed utterly unresolvable in Russia resolved itself instantly… 

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 Last Photos In Russia

Yes, we visited later, but still – the last ones while we still lived there. It should have been still September, but in October, there was no time for pictures.

We were taking a walk at the Peter and Paul Fortress that day. The outdoor pictures were taken by Boris, and the ones inside – by my mom.

Continue reading “The Last Photos In Russia”

End of Summer 1996

There were more pictures that summer that during the previous three years :). Still by nowadays standards, very little, but I am glad to have what I have.

Judging by the weather, it should be the end of August, but when I am looking at these pictures, I keep thinking that it should be after our visas were granted. They were granted in September, and we left Saint-Petersburg on October 21. So it should be after my first visit to the consulate, when I was asked to provide more supporting documents. I described these last months here. Maybe, by that time I was already more certain that we are leaving.

Boris brought his camera, and we walked a little bit away from our apartment building in Saint-Petersburg. Same as in the previous post, lots of almost identical pictures, but I can’t decide πŸ™‚

I like these pictures :). Still, five years into new economy, we all are dressed into humanitarian aid second-hand clothes; only sandals and socks are from the stores. And yes, socks with sandals are must, even for adults πŸ™‚

The girl on the right got into the picture accidentally
Continue reading “End of Summer 1996”

Summer 1996. Lichtenberg Park

Our University Campus was built close to the old Lichtenberg Park. I know that I should check my facts and tell you exactly who from the Lichtenberg House was related to the Russian Royal family, but I will not do it now. It is not essential for my story. What is important that there was this beautiful park on the other side of the train tracks. The park was in the half-deteriorated state, and the palaces and pavilions and the church were even more so, but it was a great park for walking.

I do not remember which days the pictures were taken, but it was one of the days when Boris and I already knew that those might be the last week of my staying in Russia. If not that, I am sure I won’t convince him to take pictures with kids. Igor was most likely with my mom in the city, or possibly with his other grandma – she was taking him sometimes to another vacationing place, which Igor himself can describe better.

That’s all I can say about these pictures. Now that I look at them, I can sense a bittersweet feeling, joy, and sadness simultaneously.

Vlad is wining about something, as usual πŸ™‚

The next several pictures are almost identical, but I am going to post them anyway, because we do not have that many pictures, and I know that Vlad and Anna would like to have them all πŸ™‚

Continue reading “Summer 1996. Lichtenberg Park”

Summer 1996, Peterhoff

I have more pictures from that summer than I had for the whole previous year. It was a strange summer. Events that I described in the post How I decided to go to America happened at the very beginning of it, and then it was a long wait. I briefly mentioned in my other post, Getting ready to go to America, but there were months of uncertainty in reality. Only Boris and my mom knew that I was waiting for the papers, but I was trying to make most out of this summer with all uncertainty. 

We stayed in the University boarding house yet again, and I worked on Stylus documentation at night (My last job in Russia). In the daytime, I took kids to places almost every day. Vlad and Anna were already big enough to appreciate art. We took full advantage of that fact. It was a strange mixture of “I might not even get a visa,” “I am not going to leave forever, we will come back in two years, and I will be happy to come back,” and “I will never be back again.” In reality, none of these happened, but back then, I was frantically trying to squeeze into our days as much of the art and architecture. 

The Boarding house was relatively close to the palaces and parks of Peterhoff, Peter the Great summer residence. We often took a bus to spend a half-day there, enjoying the fountains and visiting palaces. My friend Olga, whose family lived in the same apartment building with us in Saint Petersburg, came to join us on this adventure. I think it was more than once, but I only have pictures from one of these occurrences. Here they are.

Vlad, Anna and Ania in the Upper Park of Peterhoff
Continue reading “Summer 1996, Peterhoff”

January 1, 1996

One more year, one more set of pictures taken on January 1, at the family gathering on Aunt Kima’s birthday. Once again, I do not remember who took the pictures. I am sure there were tons of pictures of everybody, but I only have pictures where my children are present.

They are dressed in the same costumes as on the photo with a children’s musical cast. Igor is a Vampire, Vlad is a Dwarf, and Anna is a Little Red Riding Hood. I am recycling my High School Graduation dress with all accessories.

Igor, Slava, Petya, Vlad
Aunt Kima with Anna, Iya and Vlad, with Igor on the left
Me with Ann on my lap and my second cousin Ania with her daughter Iya
Continue reading “January 1, 1996”

Saying Goodbye to 1995

The year 1996 was fast approaching, my last year in Russia, although I didn’t know about it back then. To be precise, the first call from Vin.NET International happened in December 1995, but they didn’t offer a job for me then, and I didn’t think there will be any followups. So I didn’t know what the New Year had for me and celebrated it’s coming.

New Year was always a big deal. As I already explained, the New Year festivities were reinstated in the early 1930s to compensate for banned Christmas and Sviatki – the week between Christmas and New Year. Since Orthodox Christmas was celebrated two weeks later than the Catholic one, on January 7, all the festivities would start right before the New Year Eve and would continue for a week or more. The “Old New Year” was celebrated on January 13, and the school winter break started on December 30 and lasted until January 10.

The New Year concerts and parties at schools were usually held on one of the last days before the winter break, and between January 2 and January 10, there were lots of events. Most of the Children’s theaters were running their New Year specials, and also, there were tons of “yolkas.” Yolka means a fir tree or a Christmas tree, but according to an old Russian tradition, Yolka also meant a party, mostly for children, with some New year-themed performance, games around a New Year Tree, and at the end, everybody gets presents. Presents were usually bags of assorted candies and chocolates and maybe a pack of waffles and a mandarin orange.

The first picture, however, was taken at Vlad’s and Anna’s detskiy sad. They had. New Year party and I took Igor to watch it with me. After the party was over, a photographer suggested that he take additional pictures of the children, whose parents would be interested in purchasing more. That’s where this picture came from.

The next one was taken in the Children’s Theater, which we frequently patronized. It was called “Skazka” – a fairy tale. They put on some New Year show, and we went there with two other families. Families meant mothers and children because it was very uncommon for fathers to participate in such activities. A mother was considered to be enough πŸ™‚

I already mentioned, kids (and sometimes adults) dressed up for New Year parties, and Igor, Vlad, and Anna are in their costumes (I have better pictures of costumes, which I will include in the next post). After the show, everybody could take pictures with the cast.

There is a Prince (Tsarevich) and a Princess (Tsarevna) on the back. Next row: a girl who’s name I can’t remember, to my shame, then Igor dressed as a Vampire, and then our friend Ania, who participated in so many activities with us. Finally in the first row: Snow girl (Snegurochka), a granddaughter of Grandfather Frost, Anna dressed as a Little Red Riding Hood, Vlad dressed as a Dwarf and Grandfather Frost himself, is his blue and white coat.

We had more pictures with the cast, but for some reason only this one survived, and I am glad I have it!

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 Rest of 1995

When I think about my life before we relocated to America, I mostly think about the last year before we left, precisely the period I am describing now. I want to describe our “life in general” during this period, rather than specific events.

Vlad and Anna attended detskiy sad – the preschool-daycare ran by the Department of Educations for only a nominal cost, which was a huge relief to my budget. They were lucky to have great teachers, and I invested my time and effort to be in good relationships with all of them, always showing them how much I appreciated their hard work. They were paid little, and their salaries were often late, as with almost everybody at that time.

In Igor’s boarding school, the building remodeling was finally over. He stayed there from Monday morning till Friday afternoon, which was also a relief for monetary and time budgets. I was a research associate at the University, which still paid close to nothing. Besides, after many thoughts and hesitations, I applied for government child disability payments for Igor. That was a small but reliable additional income, in addition to Igor having room and board for five days a week in his boarding schools. Still, more than half of my income had to come from some side gigs, which I was always searching for. I never requested child support from Igor’s father for several reasons. When we divorced, my earnings were higher than his, and I didn’t feel it fair to ask for more. I have to mention that the way the child support amount was calculated in Russia, it didn’t take into account mother’s income, it was plain 25 or 30 percent of the father’s income (I forgot the exact number, I think it was 25% for one child, 30% for two and 50% for three or more). Second, I felt that because it was my initiative to divorce him, I could not make it worse. And lastly, I told him that the only thing I want from him was to visit Igor often and never ask for money if he will keep in touch with his son. He ended up visiting way less than I would hope for, but that was my intention.

Continue reading “The Rest of 1995”