Spring 1968

I can’t tell for sure whether these pictures were taken in spring 1968 or later in the fall after we returned from Loo, but most likely in spring.

As in many other cases, they were taken during my father’s visits with me. One the first of these visits, he came close to the end of my afternoon nap time (there was no option of going to bed without changing into a nightgown, even though I didn’t sleep).

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How Crazy A Birthday Can Go

Almost like the year 2021, my birthday turned more eventful than I would like it. I only slept for 3.5 hours the night before because I needed to finish a report (I had to present it to the customer at 10 AM the following day). A coworker told me that he would help me to process the raw data (the program which should be doing it ended with unexplained errors), and then he didn’t. After I realized that I wouldn’t get any help and I would need to process the data manually, I could not get to the task right away. I had two medical appointments to which I had to take my mom, and then I had Chicago PUG. So I started at 8:30 PM, worked till 1 AM, slept until 4:30, and then continued.

On top of it, it turned out that I had a COVID contact over the weekend, and then I had an unexpected day of fatigue on Monday, which under the circumstances could be interpreted as COVID. So it was home testing, frantic talks with Boris about whether I should exchange my ticket, looking for a testing site nearby (and I had zero time for all of that – see the previous paragraph).

I had a great meeting with a client, went to COVID test, got a negative result, shared with Boris, and then instead of going to sleep, when to the EuroAsia restaurant with Igor and Mom to celebrate my birthday.

The only thing I can think of now is sleeping, and wishing that not the whole year will be like that!

Detskiy Sad At The Dacha Part 2.

It has been two months since I posted my last historical blog. These blogs require more time and thoughts, and my life in November and December didn’t exactly have any room for extra thoughts. 

Following my New Year resolution, I will continue from where I left. My last post was about summer 1968 when I stayed at the dacha with the other kids from my detskiy sad. Although it was summer, fresh fruits were perennial “deficit.” Parents took turns to buy cherries or strawberries at the farmer’s markets and deliver them to the dacha. I asked mom recently, but she does not remember any details. It was definitely not every day, and the fruits would arrive after a nap. I remember slaying in bed and seeing somebody’s mom serving strawberries in the saucers. 

I am trying to recall how often we had “parent’s days.” Later, when I was at pioneer camps, we had parent’s days only once per three-week session. But I do not remember how it was with detskiy sad. I think mom was coming once a week. Sometimes, my father would come, too, and we would go for a walk in the woods. They always brought me some fruits and other treats. Once, my father brought me mango – they were non-existent, mango juice would come along sometimes as a rare treat. 

However, I do not remember missing my mom that much.

Sometimes, the teachers were cruel and punished us for no good reason. Sometimes, the night shift counselor would wake us up to pee into the bucket and not wet the beds (even though almost nobody did). But is was never like, “I want to go home!”

I do not think I had any unhealthy separation issues when I was a young child. As I mentioned, I had no problem adjusting to detskiy sad from the beginning. My completely unhealthy attachment to mom developed later, under her direct influence. 

I am not sure why she wanted me to be so dependent and miss her so much. Perhaps, she needed it for her self-esteem – to know that she is “in demand.” Perhaps, she does not know that there could be other relationships. Now, I feel sad when I observe that she developed the same emotional dependency on me. I try very hard not to abuse it. To my New Year resolution – I should be more emotionally invested when I interact with her. Simply to give her more. 

More Home Movies

I just received the digitized versions of two more home movies. I will need to write in more detail about their contents, but I short: they were filmed by my mom in summer 1975 when we went on a railway cruise through Ukraine.

I will need to spend some time identifying all the places. The trip started in Kyiv, continued in Lviv, then there is should be some footage from different places in the Carpathian mountains, Chernovcy, and Odessa.

The quality of the footage is really bad, there was something stuck to the camera lense, but it is what it is.

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.

Detskiy Sad At The Dacha, Part 1

After Baba Ania passed away, mom had to figure out where I would spend the summer. Remember that all good parents had to find a way for their children to spend the summer in the countryside because nothing can be worse than a child left in the city’s polluted air for summer.

The only option she had was to send me to a dacha with my detskiy sad. That decision would make you somewhat a horrible parent because a poor child would be separated from her parent(s) for a long time, but you would make this sacrifice for your child’s health.

Unfortunately, I have exactly zero pictures from that summer. However, I have a lot of memories, so I will try to write down everything I still remember before these memories fade away.

The dacha was located in a village called Vyritsa, with a population of about 13,00 people at that time. There were lots of old dachas built at the beginning of the 20th century. I tried Yandex Vyritsa, and it comes back with many old dachas pictures, but I can’t identify ours. I would recognize it if I saw it unless it underwent a major reconstruction. In any case, the Yandex search brings me back a lot of dachas that look very much like ours; here is one as an example.

Not all the children from our detskiy sad would go to the dacha, and not all of them would go for the whole summer. I remember that about half of the kids there were the ones I knew, and others were from some different detskiy sad.

There were several entries into the building. We had a big room to play in and several bedrooms. There were no bathrooms inside, and we had to go to the outhouse. We were not allowed to go solo, and it had to be a group of us heading towards the wooden shed. There was a bucket placed in each bedroom at night, and if you needed to go to the bathroom at night, that’s what you would use. A custodian would take it out in the morning.

I do not recall whether there was running water in the house. I remember that we washed our hands and faces in the morning using a rather primitive washstand, and we had a place outside to wash the dirt off our feet before heading to bed at the end of the day. Once a week, all of us would go to the village bathhouse, and our teaches and custodians helped us wash.

The dacha was situated in a relatively big lot, where we had a playground which included the swing, a small wooden hut, a sandbox, and a seesaw. There was also a flower garden and some shrubs.

The woods surrounded the dacha, and our teaches would take us there almost daily. We would walk until we found a clearing in the woods, and then we would play there, gather the flowers and make the wreaths, and collect sticks and build tiny huts. We also like collecting the pieces of bark from the pines. We would bring them back to the dacha and polish them on the concrete to take the shapes of boats. Then you could let these boats sail in the creeks. Sometimes, we would go mushroom picking or berry picking.

There were lots of gypsies living close by, and our teachers always warned us (or rather, they would tell scary stories about gypsies). Then we would retell these stories to each other with more horrifying details. As I already mentioned, using the children’s fears was an acceptable practice of disciplining there says, so “and the gypsies will take you away” was used quite often. I remember at least once when a gypsy girl came relatively close to us when we played in the clearing in the woods, and we started to woo at her and point thingers, and we might even start to throw something in her direction. Her clothes were dirty, and we yelled at her, “dirty pants!” And another time, I remember two gypsy horseback riders passing us in the woods. We were scared: the horses looked giant for small children, and the gypsy men seemed to be so high above! They wore loose white shirts and black pants, and their hair was black and longer than we would usually see on men.

You would think that the horror stories about gypsies stealing children belong to the Middle ages or the 18th century. But those stories were told when I was growing up. Once, when my mom and I were taking a local train, we were sitting close to a gypsy family, and one girl about eight years old was almost blond. And I thought: that’s a child who was stolen from her parents!

To be continued.

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.

1967: Daycare In The Soviet Union

I briefly mentioned the situation with preschool and daycare in the Soviet Union when describing the daycare my own children attended. Although it was during the post-Soviet times, the daycare being on the more conservative side of the society in general, preserved most of the Soviet-time features.

However, the daycare – Detskiy Sad – which I attended was a classic example of how it looked during the Soviet period of history, so I am writing about it from both historical and personal perspectives.

In the Soviet Union, there was no private daycare. All the daycare, including the infant care, was supervised by the Ministry of Education. In the early days of the Soviet Union (and even before the Soviet Union, in Soviet Russia), working women were given a relatively short parental leave. Yasli – daycare for infants and toddlers – was expected to take children as young as six weeks old. I am not sure whether any groups for the children that young survived by my time, but I know some people close to my age who started to attend yasli when they were eight or nine months old. Children from three and up to seven years old attended detskiy sad (the words mean Kindergarten in Russian). Children were divided into groups according to their age and would start school when they were seven.

The group for children six years and up was called a “preparatory group,” and it was essentially the K grade in the US nowadays.

I do not have statistical data on what percentage of children stayed at home with nannies until what age, but I started to attend detskiy sad relatively late: it was October 1967, so I was four and a half.

My detskiy sad was named “Druzhnie rebiata” – “Friendly Children.” It was located in one of the old buildings in Kolomna – an old historic district of Saint-Petersburg (Leningrad at that time). It was pretty close to the house we lived in, and we walked there. Now thinking about it, it should not have taken more than 10 minutes to walk there, but it probably took longer since I didn’t walk very fast.

The building was somebodies’ private residence before the Revolution, and I still remember the floor plan. Each group occupied its separate room. I think that initially, each room was a bedroom.

I vividly remember my first day in detskiy sad. I wore a sailor suit (a skirt and a top with the sailor’s collar), traditionally a festive outfit for children even before the Revolution. It was made of fine light grey woolen fabric, and the stripes on the skirt and on the collar were red and blue. I had to wear an apron over it – that was a requirement in detskiy sad, and I was very upset that my pretty outfit was not showing.

The first thing I was when entering the room was a large toy chariot. It was secured on the floor, and there was a seat with attached pedals, and in front of this chariot was a toy half-house with two moving legs. You pedal, and the horse legs are moving. I never saw anything like this, and I was fascinated.

Another thing that was new for me a caught my attention right away was a “mosaic.” It was a round piece of plastic with tiny holes and a set of multicolored hexagon-shaped pegs, which you could tuck into these wholes and make beautiful patterns. I didn’t have anything like this at home, and I loved it. I think I had very few (if any) of the board games at home, and I enjoyed them a lot in my detskiy sad.

Another funny thing from my first day at detskiy sad. After the afternoon nap, we were asked to sit at the desks. In front of each child, there was a small wooden board with a piece of colored clay on it. Since many new foods were introduced to me on that day, I thought that a piece of clay was also something eatable:).

It turned out that we were going to learn how to make a cup out of clay. Back then, doing arts for your own pleasure and enjoyment and learning certain techniques were very clearly separated even in preschool education. We were learning how to make a cup. I still remember all the steps! We knead the clay; then you separate it into two pieces, one for a cup and another for a saucer. You roll the first part into a ball. Then you make a deepening and keep pressing until it will start to look like a cup. Then you roll a ball from the other part of the clay and then flatten it until it resembles a saucer.

All was new and exciting, and I liked my first day at detskiy sad a lot!

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.

Pictures With My Father: Summer 1967

Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He would be ninety-three if he were alive.
I drafted this post two weeks ago but was putting it off. I thought that I would be finally able to write more about all the complexity of our relationships, but it looks like I am not ready yet. So let this post be yet another set of pictures from summer 1967.

I posted about that summer before. I spent it in Sosnovaya Polyana with my grandparents. My mom was going to work in the city every day and would return late in the evening. My father was showing up from time to time.

Looking at these pictures, I remember that he was trying to make it special. He called that pine at the edge of the forest “a magic pine.” I forgot how exactly he was trying to convince me of its magic powers, but it could supposedly grant some of my wishes. He referred to the “magic pine” long after, and I still remember how it looked and felt, and I remember visiting it years after.

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.

Summertime in 1967

Looking at the pictures of my granddaughters taken by their multiple living relatives, I can’t stop comparing the summer Nadia has now with my summer of 1967 when I was the same age.
Yes, once again – no pictures for the whole year. Apparently, nobody thought that something interesting is going on in my life and people’s life in general.

My mom worked. My father was mostly out of the picture. Nanny Katia watched me and took me on the Neva River and to the Bobrinsky Garden. My aunt and great aunt read books to me, and in summer, I was again at Sosnovaya Polyana, my last summer with Baba Ania. Mom says that Baba Ania already had a stroke earlier that year, and the left side of her body already didn’t function properly, so she had to manage with one hand. But I remember nothing of it. When my mom or my father come, there were pictures.

On my grandparents bed – the only real bed in the apartment

I was obsessed with Indians. A children’s comic books series, Cheerful Pictures featured a group of diverse characters, including the Indian Chief Va-a-tu-re. He was the best, and I loved all about him. There was no way for me to replicate his costume, but mom helped me decorate myself with small tree branches, flowers, and leaves and make my silhouette resemble the one of Va-a-tu-re

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July 1966

It has been several months since I last wrote a historical post. I moved and got settled, so there are no more excuses. I am going to continue from where I stopped back in March – summer 1966.

It is summer again, and I live in Sosnovaya Polyana with Baba Ania and Deda Fedia. And once again, most of the pictures are taken by my father. It might be that it was the only time that summer he visited.

My parents were already divorced by then, but I do not remember that something changed drastically in my life. My father was on and off by that time; the late-night fights continued, though less frequently.
I am assuming that it was my father who bought me a bike. A bike had training wheels, and I never learned to ride a regular bike when I was a child. Believe it or not, I only learned to ride a bike in the US after both Vlad and Anna learned it.

But here I am, happy on my four-wheel bike :).

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1965-1966: Discovering Myself

It was one thing that since 1965 I remember my life as a sequence of events. Another thing that happened during the same year was my realization of myself being a person: one of many and unique because this person was me.

Strangely, I was ashamed of these thoughts and never told my mom about them. Also, these thoughts made my head spinning, quite literally. I felt lightheaded when I thought about that for a too long time, and that’s why I was trying to divert my thoughts in some other direction. 

That’s how it would go. It happened most of the time when I was outside, taking a walk with Nanny Katia, and saw other children walking with their parents or nannies. I thought: that’s me, and I have all these thoughts in my head, and now I speak to myself, and also I can see everything and everybody around me. That’s my “inside”, and all my thoughts and impressions and “inside.” But at the same time, on my walk, I meet other children. 

And for me, they are just “other children.” But for each of them, they carry their own worlds inside, and they look at me and see “me” as one of many other children. For each of them, they are the most important thing in the whole world. I imagined how each of these children had their thoughts and had their “I”‘s, and at that moment, my head would start to spin. I would start to repeat in my head: Who “I” am? What it means – “I”? What is “I’? What makes “I”? How come that I have the whole world inside me, and the whole world exists as long as I can see it and touch it? 

I remember that I thought that all these thoughts are wrong, and I should not think them :). And I was trying not to think them, and I never told anybody about them.

Now I am wondering whether all children have such thoughts when they start to form their “I” and distantiate it from the outer world. When they realize when they have their thoughts and that the world exists as long as they can see, feel and touch it.

…. And you know what? Fifty-six years later, it still feels like a miracle: the fact that “I” exist, snd that everything happens with “me.” And I am a participant and an observant at the same time.