Illinois is Moving to Phase 3

The other day, on one of the NPR programs, they were explaining how the authorities decide on the order of the places being reopened. We often wonder how that order is determined, why WAL- Mart is open while a hair salon is not. They said that there is a way of calculating the impact of opening places, which takes into account several factors. They include the need (to which extent the services are essential), the possibility of infection spread, and the desire of people to have these services. Believe it or not, the big box stores stay the highest on that list, and gyms, liquor, and tobacco stores stay at the bottom! Go figure:)

As our governor said, if nothing drastically bad would happen during the next six days, we are entering stage three. The city will lag behind, possibly two-three weeks behind. And it will be still masks/gloves/distancing.

I hope we won’t need to go back!

The first thing my mom asked when I told her about that was when she can see her grandchildren. I have to say that she was very patient about that, and didn’t complain. We discussed it and decided to plan some outdoor meetings in the beginning of June.

Getting Together at a Distance

Vlad made a surprise appearance in Palatine on Saturday. I know the story – he and Anna have ordered some stuff from Vanille for me, and then Vanille went on quarantine. Then Vlad decided that he and Dylon will just come and surprise me.

I am not sitting at home all the time, even during quarantine, and when Vlad arrived unannounced, I was not at home :). So I kind of figured that all out, when he called :).

We met outside, all of us wearing masks. Vlad brought me some French pastries and a bunch of red carnations for the VE Day celebration. I gave half of them back to him so that my mom could see then when we all get on the zoom meeting. He also brought a box of macaroons and told me that he wanted to give it to my neighbor, who was driving me around all the time before and after my surgeries. She was surprised and happy :).

It was a bittersweet encounter; it’s hard not to be able to hug and kiss, and to keep the distance. I am glad that Vlad and Dylon came down here, but I can’t wait till we can meet for real.

We decided not to tell my mom that Vlad was here. I told her that Vlad sent pastries and flowers by Uber (they do such deliveries these days), and I gave her Vlad’s flowers to take home after our quiet family celebration.

The VE Day Celebration

May 9, or otherwise a Victory Day, is when the VE Day is celebrated in Russia and some other countries, including Finland. This article summarizes all the reasons why different countries celebrate on different days. 

When we first came to the US, we quickly realized how little did we know about the events of WWII outside the part of the war which took place on the territory of the Soviet Union. And we also realized how little the people around us knew about this very part of the war we identified the most. Since then, it became our family tradition to celebrate this day in a very personal way, preserving the memories of the family members who lived through these times, and not to shy away from the complexities of that part of history. 

My mom is a survivor of the Seige of Leningrad. A big part of how we are celebrating now is to let her know that her struggles are not forgotten. Since May 9 is not an official holiday in the US, we were always combining the VE Day celebration with the Mother’s Day. That year, it would be perfect, and if not for the quarantine, it would be a lovely weekend.

Since this year is also the 75th Anniversary of the VE Day, we tried our best to make it a memorable day for mom.

We chose a time when everybody could join a zoom meeting. I kept it low, so mom didn’t know all the details. I only told her a day before – I will pick you up at a quarter to five, and we will go to my place to celebrate a Victory. 

I made our traditional salads on Friday, and Igor made yet another trip to Palatine to pick up the salads and some other stuff from the trunk of my car.  

On Saturday afternoon, I started to set the table. I had “a moment” when I realized that what I thought being a can of sprats is a can of sprat pate, which meant I had to make deviled eggs in fifteen minutes. Which I did, but it was a personal record.

Everything worked great; everybody was on time; everybody had red carnations on the tables visible to mom. Anna sang mom’s favorite wartime song for her (and she called later one more time, and sang more). We drank for Victory, then for Mother’s Day and all moms, and for Anna’s new job, which she starts on Monday. Anna told mom, that thinking about her struggles during the Siege of Leningrad gives her courage and strength to navigate the current crisis. And I think that that’s the message my mom needed the most. 

A display of my maternal grandparents pictures before, during and after the WWII,
which I made a couple of years ago

Mom was very grateful for everything: that I put up this display again, that I made all the traditional food, that the sweets were so delicious, and that I got everybody together. She said that it was a bright light amidst the grim situation. 

Children of the Great Patriotic War

Author’s Note: I posted this on my personal blog yesterday, May 9, on what we Russians and people in many other Soviet countries celebrate as Victory Day, to mark the surrender of Nazi Germany and end of World War II in Europe. In European countries, it’s celebrated a day earlier, as Victory in Europe Day. For some  reason, Americans don’t mark it on either day, in spite of U.S.’ very substantial contribution to the war effort.

I wrote this post in OpenWriter, just in case my mom asked me to repost it here. Which, suffice to say, she did. I hope that, if Nadya and any of my mom’s grandkids that may come along read it, they will get something out of it, even though many people in this post aren’t related to them at all. And I hope that people who aren’t family that come across it will get something out of it as well.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Nazi Germany’s surrender. But with the shadow of COVID-19 hanging over the world, VE Day/Victory Day commemorations have been scaled back significantly in Europe and the parts of former Soviet Union that still celebrate it. (Except, God help us all, in Belarus)

In Chicago, the big banquet that would usually be held in honor of veterans, Holocaust survivors and Siege of Leningrad survivors was, of course, cancelled – though the Chicago Association of World War II Veterans and the Jewish United Fund have been congratulating them over the phone and delivering presents.

In the last decade, the number of veterans, and people old enough to remember the war first-hand has been plummeting, as more and more of them die of natural causes and illnesses. Great-Grandpa Viktor barely said two words about his service, and he’s no longer around to ask. Great-Grandpa Fyodor passed away when I was four. I have only a vague idea of what Grandma Kima’s, Grandpa Roma;s and Grandpa Slava’s lives were like during the war, and I can’t ask them now. So I decided to share some of the stories I did hear, from family members who are still around, and those who are no longer with us.

Continue reading “Children of the Great Patriotic War”

How is My Mom

Many people are asking me how my mom is doing. She is doing great, taking into account her age and other circumstances.

However, because she firmly believes that she can’t understand English, mom does not watch TV, and she does not read anything in English on the internet. At the times when things started to be bad here, and I started to realize what is coming ahead, she was clueless – in Russia, the virus “did not exist” at that time. And she was asking me why I worry so much. I was trying to explain to her that the situation is bad and getting worse, but since she didn’t receive any proof from Russia, she didn’t take it in. I remember that when I came to visit her two days later, after we had that first conversation, she started to ask me, “whether I feel better that day.”

On the one hand, I didn’t want to make her worry; on the other hand, I needed her to understand the severity of the situation and to be cautious. And then, all of a sudden, it was officially announced in Russia that the virus exists. And then she finally started to worry. Just in time, when things began to be more stable here, not better, but we’ve adjusted to the situation.

Then she started to tell me what she read about the virus on the Russian internet. Most of the time, I listen quietly to what she has read on the Russian internet and not comment, but in the situation when she can make bad choices based on what she read on the Russian internet, I had to interfere. She was very upset and told me that I think that everything is better in America :). I decided to be smarter next time, and try to let her talk as much as she needs. Then I tell her that while she lives in Illinois, she has to follow the orders of our governor, and that’s all that should matter for her.
She was still keeping telling me what she read in Russian. It was funny that she mentioned that “people create the panic,” and I told her – Mom, don’t worry, there is plenty of food in the stores, she replied: yes, Putin told that there is plenty of food! I didn’t comment on it.

Then, when Russia went into quarantine, her Russian friends started to ask her in emails: so, you are going out for the walks? Is it allowed? Won’t you be punished if you go outside? The also anxiously asked her whether there is food in the stores. As a result, about a week ago she told me: it looks like in Russia they sometimes publish wrong things about America! Same as here about Russia! I decided it was good enough 🙂

She is complaining that she has nobody to socialize with and that previously she was going out with me, and visiting my friends and so on. I am keeping telling her that she has to wait.
Yesterday, I filed her short-form tax returns for her so that she could receive a stimulus payment. She didn’t think she is eligible, but I told her she is. I think it will be great when she receives it!

My Daughter Got a New Job

Two months ago, it would sound differently! It would still be happy news to share, but nowadays it’s more than happy news.

She started to look for new opportunities during “the normal times,” and I was encouraging her to move forward – she was with the same company since she graduated from college. But at the time, when people are laid off en mass, especially the most recent hires, at the time when a new baby is coming in two months, and when they are about to move to another town – even my adventurism won’t play.

To say that I am immensely proud of her won’t be enough. Under all of the circumstances mentioned above, she got a new job; she negotiated her salary and stock options, she negotiated a higher title, and on top of all of that, she will get sixteen weeks of fully paid maternity leave.

The next two months are going to be very exciting, and the complete uncertainty about everything adds to that excitement (Not like the months after will be less exciting!)

I do not have much to add; I wish her good luck in everything she has to accomplish in the upcoming months and years:)

Operation “Easter”

Friday night, I made my meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Saturday, I colored eggs and made a plum pie. And I baked some cookies a week before. And then Saturday afternoon, I was packing :).
I packed a bag for Igor, and I also included some food items which are either hard to find where he lives, or they are just more expensive (like buckwheat). I also packed a bag for Vlad.
Several days before that, I mailed to Igor my April monthly pass, the one which I never used and which I wanted to keep for future generations :).

That’s how our “Operation Easter” went. Igor called me when he arrived at Palatine. There are barely any people on the train these days, let along on the weekends. I put the bag in my car’s trunk and drove to the station. Igor got out when I stopped at the passengers’ drop-off location, opened the trunk, and took the bags. And then he went back to the city and stopped by Vlad ti deliver a package for him.

It was all as safe as we could make it, and I feel very good knowing that the boys got their emoji eggs, and kinder surprises, and cookies, and that I was able to send them a piece of home.

This morning, I drove to my Mom to take her to celebrate Easter with me. I tried to get all the food she enjoys, and I also asked Igor and Anna to call in, which they did. It was bitter-sweet; Anna, John, and Nadia said Christos Voskres (traditional Russian Easter greeting) to Mom, and Mom told everybody that she wishes them to escape the virus.

We all are hopeful that next Easter, we all will be together!

“I Can Do It!”

I am always taking pride in “I can do it” kind of things. However, I vividly remember what happened when Anna and Vlad went away to college. And when I realized that when I see some unknown bug in the house, I can’t scream: Vlaaad!!! Get this thing out of here! And I can’t ask anybody to get into the attic to take the stuff out. That year, I had to learn to do lots of things by myself for the first time!
When Vlad came home for Thanksgiving that first year in college, he told me: Mom, I am so happy that there are still things you can’t do yourself! And I get it :). With both Boris and Vlad, there are things that I would always delegate to them.

So what happens when due to the quarantine, your family is in five different places? You have to learn to do even more things by yourself :).

Last weekend, I had two activities of that kind. First, I needed to install a handlebar extension on my blue bike. Last year, I bought this bike “just for fun” because it was blue, and I didn’t plan to equip it fully with all the necessary details. But since my white and green bike will stay inside until the end of quarantine, the blue bike became my primary means of transportation. Usually, Boris installs all the new gadgets on my bike, or I would ask Anna or Vlad. But since none of them were available, I had to manage. Boris explained to me everything I needed to do over Facetime, and I marched to the garage well-equipped. Things didn’t go quite smoothly, but I did it!

Continue reading ““I Can Do It!””

The Weekend Worries

On Friday, after I called my eye doctor, then next thought which occurred to me was thought about Igor’s moving to the new place. At the end of February, Igor received a note that the lease on his apartment id not going to be renewed. For historical accuracy, I have to mention that the level of hoarding was unacceptable by his landlord standards. We all had a couple of weeks of worries, mostly because we were wondering whether his current landlord will give him a bad reference. I offered to co-sign, and he secured one place in Rogers Park. A couple of days later, it turned out that another place approved him as well, but he already signed with this Rogers Park place.

I gave him a hard time about signing the new lease starting from March 15, because it meant paying for an extra two weeks. He was not ready to move on the 15th anyway, and Vlad told him he would help him to move on the 22nd.

Continue reading “The Weekend Worries”


It is tough for me to write about everything which is happening now. As Anna pointed correctly, the fact that Boris and I won’t see each other in person indefinitely is the worst. I didn’t even realize that that’s why all other things hurt me so badly that I am losing control over my life.

People often think that because we do not live together all the time, and only see each other every several weeks, it’s not something which should affect us so severely. However, all of the periods between our visits to each other are planned and pre-calculated. Most of the time, we know our schedule for several months ahead. And we try not to be away from each other for more than six weeks.

This time it was supposed to be longer – eight weeks. But there was not much we could do: I had my surgeries (and three and a half weeks before the first surgery to be contacts – free). And then we were going to go to New York for the conference, and there was supposed to be a week full of talks, presentations, training, meetings with different people. It was supposed to be our professional highlight of the year. Because of all that, I was OK to wait for two more weeks – we did it before.

Continue reading “***”