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.

Continue reading “Mom's Birthday Celebration”

Children's Fashions in the 1960s

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation. A young woman asked me what people wore in Russia in the 50s and 60s. She was asking whether the fashions were the same as in the US at the same time, or not. She started to google the images and asked me whether they represented reality.

And I remembered that several years ago, I wrote a blog post about the children’s clothing in the 1960s when I was a child myself. It was so different from the modern kid’s clothes that nowadays, parents will find it hard to believe. 

What a preschool girl in the 1960s would wear indoors:

  • cotton undies which would be up to the waist
  • a waist with elastic garters for stockings
  • cotton stockings
  • drawers
  • a dress
  • an apron with a pocket
  • slippers

Long hair was supposed to be braided neatly, for shorter hair pigtails would be fine, but only if they were really short, not touching the shoulders. Short haircuts were quite common as well.

Boys also wore waists with elastics and stockings; the only difference was that they wouldn’t wear dresses and drawers but instead shirts and short trousers. By my time, boys didn’t wear aprons, although it was not uncommon just ten years before. I am going to consider it gender discrimination 🙂

I hated aprons, because they would cover any pretty dress I would wear. I hated waists, because they had buttons on the back. You can imagine how long it would take to dress and undress even for a five-year-old (and you were supposed to change into your pajamas for a nap). But for the outdoors, it was even worse!

In winter you had to put on:

  1.  Woolen pants
  2. Woolen socks
  3. Valenki with galoshes over them
  4. A fur, of a faux-fur hat, tired under the chin, which you would expect. What you won’t expect that there HAD to be a cotton kerchief (for boys and girls alike). The ends would cross under the chin and tired at the back of your neck. The idea was that there is no chance of any cold air to get to your ears.
  5. A woolen cardigan.
  6. Woolen mittens attached to the elastic ribbon (the ribbon was placed inside the sleeves of your overcoat)
  7. Overcoat, made either of rabbit fur or squirrel fur or woolen cloth with a fur or faux-fur collar.
  8. A woolen scarf.
  9. Optionally – a belt to keep the overcoat closer to the body.

And in preschool, children would go to play outside twice a day!

I do not have any pictures of myself in full gear, but here are two pictures which I copied from 1962 Soviet book about children upbringing

This is a photograph of preschool children playing outside
That picture from the same book shows what I’ve described 🙂

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.

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 🙂

What was Going On with Me

Not like the whole world needs to know, but for a benefit or my friends who are following my life events here. Now, that the worst crisis is over, let me describe what was happening in my life starting from last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday was a Thanksgiving Eve, and my daughter’s family and Boris were arriving almost at the same time, and I had to be at two different places simultaneously. It ended up being not so bad, the planning was close to perfect on my side, but it was an intense day, and the previous three weeks were pretty loaded.


As my friends may remember, I am going to have cataracts surgeries soon, and in preparation, I had to switch from hard lenses to soft lenses. I wore hard contacts for most of my life (since I was 19), and since my prescription is high, I can’t wear glasses without significant vision decrement. Because of that, I do not own a pair now, which would be up to my current prescription. When I switched to the soft contacts, the doctor told me that my vision would be changing, because the eyeball would be returning to its normal shape. Because of that, she didn’t want me to order a whole box, but rather have a pair and then come back to her and see whether the prescription needs to be changed.


Since the start of the process, I’ve already changed it twice; and I was supposed to come in on Saturday morning after Thanksgiving.


Wednesday night, when I took the lenses off, I did something really stupid – since I do not have all the soft lenses process in my fingertips, I accidentally washed the good pair off! I was scared for a moment, but then I thought – fine, I still have one good lense, and one of less strength and I can manage for these two days.
It was inconvenient, but OK, I could not drive, but my daughter and my son in law were here so that they could do all the driving. Then on Friday, when I put to lenses in, it started to hurt, We went to the city, as planned, but it was getting worse. While we were watching the Wreathing of the Lions ceremony, I got a call from my eye doctor’s office. They said: you know, the doctor ordered several lenses to try, but they didn’t come. Do you still want to come in? I was crushed! I told – of cause! Maybe, she had some of the previous prescriptions left, because now I can’t see a thing! My daughter insisted we go to the nearest Walgreens. I bought the solution and tried to switch the lenses. It was still hurting, so after another half an hour of struggle in the Museum I announced I am going home. I walked to the train station, and then in Palatine Boris walked to the station to meet me, and we headed home together.

Continue reading “What was Going On with Me”

Taking Selfies

Yesterday, I came across a question in one of the blogs I follow: why people are posting selfies and how you react to somebody posting lots of selfies. 

I can tell you how I reacted: I immediately remembered that I took several selfies in our office gym after I was done with my personal training. Now, why I made these selfies in the first place? 

I like to post my selfies in the gym not because I want people to admire me (eeem… for this as well :)) but mostly to demonstrate that even way after 50, you can be fit and active. I am fifty-six now, and I had very serious back surgery less than two years ago. I still have some limitations, and most likely, I will never be the same person as I used to be, but it does not mean that I should “accept my age.” Actually, thirty-five years ago, I was in the worse shape :).

This morning our office gym was empty; it looks like half of the people started their vacations earlier. So I was able to take these pictures without disturbing others.

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.

What Your Card Can Tell About You

Chicago has some public transport, which makes it better than many other US cities that don’t. Chicago Transit (CTA) has several different types of transit cards.
I have the one which perfectly fits my public transit usage pattern: it is linked to my credit card and automatically loads additional funds in a $25 increment when money is running low. One of the best things about it is that several people can use this card on one trip – I just need to tap it for each person who rides with me. It’s always the easiest way when it comes to giving tours to the out of town visitors.

I often think about my CTA card like a perfect sample of my life, if you look at where does this card go with me, and who uses it with me. Within just one week, it was used to get on the train the Great Magnus, my friend who was taking CTA for the first time in her life, and a homeless man, for whom I tapped one more time 🙂

For the Love of Dresses

I bought this dress four years ago (if not earlier) in Helsinki. It was a new fashion back then, and as it always happens with the trendy European clothing, you can’t be sure whether they will ever become fashionable in the US.


This one never did, which made it timeless, and now I can’t even tell why I didn’t wear it for the past three years. At some point, it felt too short, or that there is no proper occasion… I don’t even know! I wore it last Monday when I was taking my friend to Vlad’s bar, and I was like: OMG, I love this dress so much, it’s a perfect fit!


Here for me to remember to wear it more often 🙂