1996: My Last Job In Russia

My life in 1996, as it started, was pretty much the same as in 1995. Being a research associate at the University paid very little, and I always searched for additional gigs. One interesting thing in 1996 was that Urbansoft moved to one of Boris’s research lab rooms. John ran out of money (I am not even sure whether he had any investors by that time), and I forgot whether Boris was the first to come up with this idea of it was John, but the idea was the following. Boris and John signed the contract to the effect that Boris’ lab will perform some research for Urbansoft, and Urbansoft will pay for this research, but in reality, it was rent. It’s just that the University was not allowed to lease its space to anybody. It was all the sequence of really awkward situations: John didn’t know that Boris and I were in relationships and that Vlad and Anna were his children. And then he realized that Boris knew all this story about the key and me being fired. So there was a lot of awkwardness!

For several years, however, it was a good collaboration. 

As for me, I still needed some other work on the side. The Smolny thing was over. The bank gig was over. 

I do not remember what I was doing in winter, but it was Stylus, Prompt Corporation by spring. The first Russian Automated Multi-language Translator. Looking back, I have a lot of respect for their leadership. They were trying hard to build a healthy business model. At times, when working for any private company was considered a risky business, they would not hire part-timers. They insisted that if somebody wanted to work for them, they should focus on Prompt one hundred percent. 

It sounds trivial, except that in post-Soviet Russia, it was almost revolutionary. They were paying five bucks to anybody who would find a bug in their product, no matter QA or not. They catered lunch for the whole office every day, and that was unthinkable. 

In terms of full-time employment, they made an exception for me. I had to write documentation for Stylus, yes, documentation again! Once again, I do not remember who invited me there, but apparently, they knew “that I could write.” I brought with me some excerpts from the HighDoc documentation, and it was found to be acceptable. We negotiated the price and delivery schedule, and I started.

The documentation had to be in the RTF format. Once again, when summer arrived, and I had to go to the University boarding house, I was left with my primitive laptop with MS-DOS and Norton text editor and 8K RAM. 

I had some pieces of documentation which I already completed in WordPad. I used them as examples and pieced together the next parts, putting all the markups in manually. Once a week, when I went back to the city, I copied these files to my desktop and tried to correct them if they ended up being non-readable. 

On the second time, something went wrong with my desktop. I can’t remember what exactly, but it was the whole sequence of unfortunate events, and I ended up not bringing the next portion of documentation. I can’t even remember whether only some of the new parts suffered or could not put together anything. In any case, I came to the Prompt office and told my supervisor what had happened. He told me that he was sorry and understood that there were circumstances beyond my control, but since I didn’t deliver what I was supposed to deliver, there would be no pay. I do not remember how I lived for the next two weeks, and where I managed to find money, but I remember my feelings walking down Liteynyi Prospect: what I am going to do?! I can’t say anything in my defense; I didn’t turn in my work, but how will we survive

I worked for Prompt almost until the very last day in Russia. I told them that I am leaving when my work visa was granted. They were mad because their previous technical writer left for America several months before that (and that’s why they hired me). But there was nothing they could do. That was my last contract job in Russia.

As for my position with the University, I didn’t have the courage to quit. After all, I was still in the “I may come back” mode. But since Igor was a special needs child, I had a right by law to go on unpaid leave “to take care of the child” until his 16th birthday. Then theoretically, I could return on any day and get my position back. 

Now, I need to san a hundred pictures from our last summer, because somehow that last summer is very well documented 🙂

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.

Matter Does Not Disappear!

At the beginning of April, when all the world was in the lockdown, and I thought that Boris and I would never see each other again, I mailed him a parcel. I put in it several small items that he purchased on Amazon for the upcoming biking season and which he was planning to pick up during his March trip, which did not happen. Also, I put some cookies that I baked for Easter and some vitamins, which I meant to give him to take home. And I mailed it, expecting it to travel slowly.
Well, it was sitting hear in Chicago for a while, it moved from one facility to another, and finally, it left O’Hare on May 5. And then I lost a trace of it.

I asked Boris to contact the Finnish postal service, but he didn’t feel like doing it :). He re-ordered some of the things which got lost, and I brought them with me at the end of July. And then, a week after I left, he received a notice from the Finnish customs. It turned out that somebody swapped the street number and the apartment number (I wrote it correctly on the envelope, so it might get messed up in the system). They actually wanted Boris to pick it put at the customs, but since they were trying to contact somebody else all that time, the parcel was marked as not claimed, and the day Boris got the note, the parcel was sent back to me.

I got it today. As expected, the cookies were gone bad, and I guess all the bike parts are still good :).
I am glad that “matter does not disappear,” it would be worse if the package would never be found, but still…

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”

***

Each time I read any of my children’s posts on any social media, I feel … not proud, because “proud” means that it’s somehow related to you, inspired by you… and I do not think I did something in this regard.

I am simply happy that my children are so active in promoting their ideas, time permits or not :). I am happy that they are such good citizen, that they never go numb, that they care, and that they would never hesitate to speak openly about their position.

I think they are so much better than me in all these things, and I did not do anything!!! I do not know how they turned up to be who they are!

BIking Accident

I just saw that I forgot to hit “publish” on my yesterdays’ post. Now there will be multiple in one day:), because I am still going to publish that one.

So, for the last two hours, I am trying to write down what has happened to me today. It’s embarrassing, but here is it: I had a really bad bike accident this morning. And it was not even the long ride. It was my shortest biking routine, the one I do these days after the strength workouts – just to add some cardio. It’s less than 30 min ride. 

I am still not sure what exactly happened. I was going downhill, probably faster than I should have, but the hill was not that steep. There were some small branches from the Monday storm on the ground; they didn’t look dangerous; I rode over similar small branches a lot in the past several days, they were everywhere. And the next moment, I felt that I am going down. I tried to brake and tried to put my feet down on th ground, but I could not fight gravity. 

My next thought was that my whole face is smashed, so I was delighted to find out that I had only a couple of cuts on the face.

Unfortunately, I wore glasses. These days, when my vision is tons better than before, I usually put the contacts in after the shower, and do my exercises in glasses. But this morning, for some reason, I was intensely thinking: maybe, I should put the contacts in before my bike ride. And I didn’t.

If I would, my new glasses won’t break. And I won’t have an extra puncture of my skin close to my right eye. 

There was a lot of blood, and also my bike chain got off, so I had to stop the blood at least a little bit, and fix the bike, and then get home. I did it all, and I am very proud of myself. 

The injuries bother me, however. First, I thought that I hit my right shoulder but turned out it was just a massive scratch of the skin. And the same goes for all other parts of my body. The cuts are not deep, but they are everywhere – hip, leg, knee, hands, elbows, fingers. Annoying like I do not know what. 

I so-so-so hope it will heal soon!!!

Smolny in 1995, Part 2. How I Didn’t Meet Putin

Boris’ part in this Smolny project was installing the software Dr. Conrad was trying to sell. And my part was, as usual, writing the user’s manual. In this case, it was more like a persuasive essay. I had to present a use case and show how this software will make the life of the City clerks easier.

I remember how I was inventing the names and ages of people and their addresses. But the most memorable were the letters I was scanning. Scanning was a very new thing then, at least in Russia, even the copying machines were rare. And I was given a whole bunch of real people’s paper letters to Smolny. And I read them while scanning. I can’t recall any particular case or any particular problem from these letters, but the overall impression was desperate. You could hear people crying, searching for words that would be convincing enough, pleading for help, from necessary surgery to pensions being delayed, to broken heating pipes. I could not help but think how the City clerks can read such letters and put them aside. I knew that all these letters were not processed yet, and some of them were dated two-three months before the day I was reading them.

Continue reading “Smolny in 1995, Part 2. How I Didn’t Meet Putin”

More Optimistic Eyes Update

On Wednesday, I went to the two-weeks checkup after my retina surgery. My left eye is now better than before the surgery and is some aspects even better than the right one. However, the horizontal lines are still wavy, and there are some blank spots in the middle. I told the surgeon that I do not want to do the right eye, because I won’t be able to last with my left eye only for a week. He agreed to wait till October to decide whether I will do the second one. I am most likely not going to come back because I have lots of issues with that office.

Since my eye doctor is still not open, I decided to go to the LensCrafters in the city, who made my last glasses. Their location works perfectly for me, and I had an excellent impression of their office in general when they replaced a lense in my glasses.

I scheduled an appointment with them for Thursday, which is now my in-office day. I spent there two and a half hours and I felt extremely guilty missing time at work, but the results are very promising. The doctor fitted me with bifocal glasses, and also I tried bifocal lenses for the first time. He gave me a week to get to adjust to them. That’s a new experience, and I am excited to be almost a normal person. I could not see so well for a long time; I can’t even recall since when.

Hopefully, this all will work out!

June 1995. Our Trip to Poland. Part 1

Since I am writing my story partially backward, I didn’t write yet how we got to know the Dowgerts family from Pruszcz Gdansky- a small town close to Gdansk. For now, I will say that Boris and I met Dowgerts several years before, and we stayed at their place when we visited Poland in the summer of 1990. Since the www and the internet, in general, were barely emerging, it wasn’t easy to keep track of each other’s lives. The only thing I knew in May 1995 was that they will meet us and will drive us to their vacation home on the Baltic shore. I tried to get an idea of whether there will be warm enough there in mid-June, and they said – yes, it should be fine.
The airfare was expensive, and I decided to take a train to Gdansk. I believe the length of the journey was about 30 hours. The train was leaving in the late morning and arriving in Gdansk at about 6 PM the next day.
The night before our departure Vlad got a high fever, upset stomach, and nausea. And …. I decided we are still going! Yes, I made sure his temperature went down by the time we had to leave, and not just dow, but down without him taking any fever-reducing drugs. He was pretty weak and laid down for most of the first day of travel, but he was fine when we arrived to Gdansk. However, before arrival, there was a night…

I know that what I am going to tell now will sound extremely judgmental, maybe racist, so I will try very hard to stick to the facts.

We were traveling in the sleeping car. The car was almost empty; only one more compartment except ours was occupied. And the car crew was Polish.

Yes, I understand that it is not about nationality; it is about the social norms in a particular society. And I love the Polish part of me, and I love Poland deeply, but by that time I’ve interacted with Poles, male and female, long enough to know about what was considered an appropriate “manly” behavior.
The compartments in the sleeping cars were quite weird from my perspective. In the Soviet sleeping car, each compartment would host four people, two on the bottom bunks, and two on the tops. Here, the were three bunks on one side and none on the other. There were belts to prevent a person who was sleeping on the top from falling. I think that Igor was sleeping on the second bunk, and it would be logical if I would climb on the very top. But I was on the bottom bunk.

And then one of the porters knocked at the door. He said something to the effect that he forgot to give me some toiletries, which he had to provide for the sleeper passengers. I opened the door. He smelled heavily with the cheap perfume. He locked the door and threw his body over me.

I have no idea what he was thinking:). I have two hypotheses. One- that he was sure that I would succumb to his charms, and that no woman can stand them. At least that’s what I could deduce from the fact that he started to kiss me, saying in Polish, that he wants my lips. My other hypothesis is that he thought I would not risk waking up the kids because I would not want to scare them and keep quiet.
Well, it was true – I didn’t want to scare the kids. But, that was not the first rape attempt in my life, and I knew how to stand for myself!

I was turning spinning my head so that he won’t get my lips, I was pushing him away with both hands, and I was (very quietly) screaming at him to get in the hell out of here! He was still trying to talk me into I am not even sure what, saying, “please let me” in Polish, but I kept spinning and keeping whispering-yelling, and I think he finally realized that I would start screaming loudly if he persists. He retreated.

In the morning, he was very official, as if nothing happened. Do I have to say that I didn’t say a word to anybody? Neither to him nor the Dowgerts when they met us at the train station. I think that I told Boris only several weeks after we’ve returned. And you know why? First, because I believed it’s a part of women’s life. Women are getting raped. Because if you are good looking, men would want to rape you. That was a given. And because – yea, because “it was all my fault.” Because I wore a short skirt. Because I was so vivacious and so visibly excited about going to Poland. Because I knew, “how Polish men are,” and still talked friendly with them during the day.

That’s how our two-week trip to Poland started 🙂

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.

Today Was a Good Day :)

There are two possible reasons why I am not blogging on any given day. One – I am upset/depressed/sick/unhappy. Another – I am very busy. 

Yesterday and today – it’s the second one. I am mad at some people (and at some circumstances), and I am all fired up to fix the problems other people created. 

Last week, after the surgery, I could barely see the screen, and did very little, both for my work and for our book. And today, since my gas bubble diminished significantly, I feel that my mind is sharp again. It’s funny because my visual impairment should not affect my thinking abilities, but that’s how I feel. 

I just finished a three-days worth chunk of work in three hours. I wanted to do this work at the time when nobody would interrupt me. And now I feel great and not tired a bit. 

I am mad at the people whose irresponsible behavior led to such a drastic increase in the number of cases in the country. I am less upset than I thought I would be, even though the EU banned US travelers precisely because of them. Yesterday, I felt helpless, and I thought that everything in the world is against me. I do not feel like this anymore 🙂

Eyes Progress

I should have said, “one eye progress.” 🙂

Anyway, now I can see that the level od the fluid is going down. Last night, I re-read all the information about that surgery, which I read before, and I realized that I saw it all, I just didn’t understand what they meant. They talked a lot about “a gas bubble, ” but I didn’t understand what it means. I could not imagine that it was like having this ish tank in your eye :). And I imagined a very different picture when they would say, “your vision will be blurry at first, but it will go away in several days.”

Now I understand that I won’t be able to drive or bike until this bubble would go away entirely because while even a part of it is there, I still have blind spots. 

It’s hard to say, with what speed it will progress, but I hope it will be gone within a week. 

As for the travel ban, the only thing we can do is wait and see. Boris still does not believe me about “next year,” he still thinks that the ban is political and that something will happen by August. As of today, there are only these many hours-long connections in London, which I do not want him to experience. Especially when Finland is effectively virus-free. So no changes in the observable future.