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.

Mom's Birthday Celebration

On Friday, my Mom turned 85. I started to think about how we will celebrate that day way-way in advance.

Most of the time when somebody is celebrating the 85th birthday, there are lots of friends and family members who can take part in the celebration. But Mom immigrated to the US less than two years ago. Moreover, she is extremely reluctant to develop new connections, and she firmly believes that she does not understand people around her. There are very few of my friends with whom she interacts on a more or less regular basis

I knew that an essential part would be having all grandchildren there, and because of that, everything depended on Vlad’s schedule. First, he said he will be able to do Saturday, but turned out that January 11 was going to be his first day back to work after nine days off. He suggested that we do Friday night, and I said it had to be in Palatine. After all, it turned out great, because it was easier for everybody, including Anna.

It was almost a surprise party for Mom. I told her that we would do “something” for her birthday and that she should be ready by 5-30. She did not know until the very last moment, that all of her grandchildren and her great-granddaughter will be there.

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What is Art in the Perspective of a Two-year Old

Anna and Nadia were visiting me last weekend. We asked Nadia whether she wants to see art, the dinosaurs in the Field Museum, or the whales in the Aquarium, and she said – art! So we went to the Art Institute.
Anna wanted to see Andy Warhol e

xhibit, but Nadia refused to acknowledge it as an art :). After being there for ten minutes, she started to ask, “can we see the art now?”

We went to the Ryan Educational Center to do the family project – a shadow box. Then we went to see Chagall’s “American Windows.” To our surprise, Nadia liked them a lot! She was sitting on her knees by the first window, then running to the second one and sitting there, and then moving to the third one. She spent at least ten minutes there, and would probably spend more if we would let her. So you can’t even say that an abstract art in not for toddlers. Go figure!

Family Gift – Giving

This year, we were unable to get the whole family together for Christmas gift exchange, which is not the first time in our history. And even for “all of us minus Anna” part, we had to find a day when Vlad was able to take at least a couple of hour off.

To be clear, he didn’t. I do not think he had any time off except of time to sleep for the past two months. Even that time, we met at his work. He reserved a private room in zBar, and then he ended up being on the floor for most of that time. He said – Mom, did you see how many people are there in the bar?! And I saw!

The Peninsula lobby, all decorated
The zBar private room
My Mom is tasting hot chocolate
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The Art of Gift Giving

On Sunday, our family will get together for Christmas presents exchanging. It’s not the first time we are exchanging presents on a day other than Christmas Eve (we are “the Eve family”). Due to both our family being distributed and members having demanding jobs, it happens quite often. Sometimes we get together before Christmas, sometimes – after. Sometimes on the right date :). In the course of many years, we learned that dates are not that important. What is important, though – that over the years, my children not only mastered the art of giving presents but are doing it better than I.

SInce 2011, we always recorded our Christmas gift-giving, in full or partially, and I spent the last hour going through these recordings. I will post a small fraction of them here, to give an idea, how did it look like in the past. It is looking more or less the same every year. Every year I am delighted to hear multiple “how did you know?!”

I firmly believe that Christmas presents should be special. They might be practical (like on several of these videos my children receive computers for Christmas). Still, they should be at least partially surprises, something a gift recipient does not expect to receive.

You will hear some Russian in the videos, but I hope that everything will be understandable regardless :).

Christmas 2012
Christmas 2012
Christmas 2013
Christmas 2014 we had guests from Moscow,
and also Vlad lost his voice and could not perform his Elf duties

For the record, Vlad still wear that coat from the last video!

I stopped myself from watching these old videos, because I could easily do it till tomorrow:). Now I am going to schedule this post so that it would appear tomorrow morning, and then we shall see, how our gift-giving will go in the evening.

What I Did and What I Didn't Do This Season

Many people told me that they are impressed with how much I managed to do this holiday season. Most of the time it is expressed in a rhetorical question – how I manage to find time to do “all that.” The truth is, this season I did less than I normally do. The reason why it does not seem so is that I knew ahead that won’t have time for all my usual activities, and I planned which of them I am going to reschedule or cut entirely.ย 

The moment Anna asked me: Mom, are you still enjoying your Christmas, or are you stressed out, I realized I need to watch for the latter. I can’t rush when choosing presents. I can’t rush when I wrap presents, because this is an enjoyable activity. I need to wrap carefully each and single cookie I am sending out because that’s the way I add my love to the recipe :).

And you know what? I am really happy with my season. I didn’t do any of the shows: either Welcome Yule, nor the Christmas Carol, nor the Nutcracker. And I am OK with that. I didn’t get a chance to listen to the Caroling at the Cloud Gate, not even once, and this is a little bit upsetting. But I am delighted that I had time to meet with many people who are near and dear to me. People are the most important, and for all the rest, there will be next year – this is not the last Christmas season! 

Mom and I had a subscription concert on Dec 20, it was a matinee, and it was one of the days when Iย ย could not leave work earlier. I’ve exchanged out tickets for Sunday matinee, the same show. It was great since it was Dec22, and all shopping and packing was done. I could spend time with Mom, not thinking about other things in the background. I also delivered two more boxes of cookies:), and we had lunch with my friend Lena -2 (not to be taken for Lena -1 from Michigan).

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Christmas Away From Home

Since my friend, N. told me that she chooses to spend the holidays not with her family but with people who would be alone otherwise, I was thinking about it. And the more I think, the more I realize, how right is it.
A couple of days before my departure to Helsinki I stopped by my neighbor Renate to drop off a box of my cookies and to wish her a Merry Christmas. It turned out that our other neighbor was visiting at the same time, so instead of leaving immediately, I sat down and chatted for a little bit. I told them about our family travel plans and how we all are in different places. And then I mentioned this idea about spending the holidays with somebody how can’t spend them with the family or does not have one.

And then, all of a sudden, both my neighbors started to recall similar stories. Renate mentioned her son in law spending Christmas by covering the night shift in the PAWS homeless shelter. Then my other neighbor recalled her time being a nurse and covering the Christmas shift as well, and then Renate told us that she did the same while working on reception in the senior home.

Both of them were saying how good it feels and how happy and grateful the people were. It looks like it is not so uncommon not to be with your family for Christmas, and it’s surprising people do not talk about it that much.

Next time, when I will have the circumstances similar to what I had this year, I think I know what I am going to do :).

One Very Special Present

It was a while ago when Igor introduced me to the Indiana Dunes, and since then we are trying to visit it at least once each summer. These trips are very special to both of us, which is why Igor bought this Christmas ornament for me. He bought it in summer 2018, managing to hide it from me on our way back to Chicago, delivering it safely to his home, and then five months later – to Anna’s home where we all celebrated Christmas.


This ornament made in from Indiana to Illinois, from Ilinois to Wisconsin, from Wisconsin back to Illinois – and then I dropped it on the floor in my house, and it broke!
Can you imagine how I felt? I suppose you can!


I told Igor we will fix it, I promise. So in summer 2019, when we were at the Indiana Dunes, we went to the same store and asked them whether they still have these ornaments, and they did! I purchased one because it was the thought that was important, and made sure to deliver it home safely, and now it takes it’s happy place o the tree!

About My First Christmas

Knowing that I was born in January 1963, you might think that my first Christmas was on December 25, 1953. But in fact, my first Christmas happened only in 1996, keep reading to find out why – this is going to be the longest post you ever read in my journal.

Before the October revolution of 1917, Orthodox Christianity was an official religion of the Russian Empire. The Julian Calendar which is two weeks behind the Julian Calendar, was used both in Church and in civic life. 

After the revolution, the Church was separated from the state. Several months later, by a decree of the Revolutionary government, the country was switched to the Julian calendar. Christmas was denounced, along with all religious holidays, and Christmas trees were forbidden. That situation lasted until early 1930 were when the government decided to allow some of the fun to come back. Granted, there should not be any mention of Jesus. All the festivities were reassigned to the New Year celebrations. There was no more Christmas tree; it became a New Year Tree. The Bethlehem star on top became the Red Star. The Grandfather Frost remained more or less the same:). 

Continue reading “About My First Christmas”

All is Right

It was really cold yesterday. I came back home after the Night Ministry Youth Christmas Party and felt the warmth of my home. I paused for a moment and got this definite feeling that everything is going right with my life. I sat down on the floor, which I like to do in such moments of tranquility, and listened to the inner self again. Everything was right. Nevermind, I am still behind with my Christmas cards and presents, nevermind I have a cold for several days, nevermind work. My life is right. All around.

I was thinking about all the conversations I had at the Youth party, all the laughs, and hugs. I thought about an important presentation Boris is giving the next day, and how great is it that he was invited to present. I thought about my daughter and all the big changes which are coming to her life next year, and I thought about my new hire and how happy I am with his progress even though he has been at work for just a couple of days.


i thought how right it was that I decided to bring my Mom here two years ago, and how right it is that Igor is going to New York for Christmas to brighten his friends holidays.
I smiled when I remembered email my friend Lena sent to me the other day, that she comes on Friday night after all so that we have more time for baking, and that she misses me. And then I was thinking of how she will help me with a couple of house projects for which Vlad does not have time. And then I remembered how Vlad came to visit my Mom last week, on one of his only two days off for the whole month, because he could not make it for Thanksgiving, and grandma was missing him.


My life is right. All around. And I will figure out the rest ๐Ÿ™‚