Summer 1963

The first summer of my life. Since I remember myself from a very early age, and since I liked looking at my pictures even when I was a very small child (and that’s why, perhaps, I still remember it so well!), I could not believe I didn’t remember that summer! It felt unfair that I was in Estonia, looking at these beautiful flowers, and all of it was gone from my memories!

My aunt Kima is holding me here; I am six months old
Continue reading “Summer 1963”

Eye Surgery Details – Part Two

Once again, way too many details, mostly for my real-life friends.

I forgot to mention that right after the surgery, I was allowed to put my right contact lens in, so after I came home, I was able to put the old lens on. After three weeks of glasses, it felt great. The left eye was still foggy, and also there were random dark “bloody” spots floating around, but for those, I knew they would go away.


I also knew that my operated eye might still change, but not significantly. So when I woke up Wednesday morning and took my eye shield off, I knew right away that that was not -2 or -2.5
My appointment was st 8-45 AM, and again in a distant location. Vlad came to me in the morning and drove me there.

When the doctor’s assistant was trying to measure my vision, I told her that I see nothing on the screen, no matter how big it is, that the screen and the wall are blurry. So She stepped closer and measured the max distance fro which I could see things clearly.

After a while, the surgeon came in, and I told him it must be -6 or so. He checked it, and it turned to be -4. I said: doctor, let’s discuss what can be done now. He started again about Lasic, and I told him: forget about Lasic for a moment, I need to understand how I am going to function in the next four weeks.

Continue reading “Eye Surgery Details – Part Two”

Eye Surgery Details

For my real-life and/or long term friend, more detail about surgery and the aftermath.

Until the week before surgery, I was sure that I am getting the multifocal lenses, which should correct every issue I have, except for maybe some minor close vision problems. Last time I was at the doctor’s office for final measurement, a surgery coordinator reassured me once again that any multifocal will correct my distant vision 100%.


I didn’t believe that statement from the very beginning. But the staff was repeating it over and over again. They were saying that I might still need readers from time to time, but that’s it.
The surgeon called me five days before saying, that “with the type of lenses I’ve chosen, he can’t give me 20/20 vision, I will remain nearsighted.

As you can imagine, I started to interrogate him about what type will do the correction, and he said – monofocal, but they won’t give you anything else, no astigmatism correction. Just go with our original plan, you will have – 2 – 2.5 left, and in three months I will do Lasic on you. I said that I do not care about Lasic; my concern is how I will function in between. He said that I could wear glasses in between. And he strongly recommends fo me to go that way, “as I would advise my relative.” And I said – OK.

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Eye Surgery – One Done

I have trouble looking at the screen, so just a very quick update. I got my left eye operated; so far it is extremely foggy, so it’s hard to tell what it turned out to be. The surgeon told me that I have something about -2.5 left, but once again, I can’t tell now.

Now I can only see with non-operated eye, for which I can wear my old contact for the next ten days.

Will have a follow-up tomorrow.

it feels worse now than when the picture was taken, but hopefully will be better tomorrow

Before My Memories: Spring 1963

As a child, I had an outstanding memory. I remember some episodes of my life even before my first birthday. And since shortly after my first birthday, I remember more or less “everything,” meaning I remember my life as a stream of events. That was in part because my parents made lots of pictures, and I was often looking at them. 

That been said, that fact that I did not remember the earlier portion of my life, used to frustrate me a lot! I did not remember being in Estonia for the first summer of my life, and the pictures looked so lovely! 

I was born on January 19, 1963, and at that time, mothers in the Soviet Union didn’t yet have the option of staying at home with their babies for the first year of their lives. There was only the so-called “decree.” The name goes back to the early years of the Soviet state when the laws were called “decrees.” The decree which proclaimed the right of the woman to take eight weeks off work before the expected date of birth and eight weeks after went into effect in December 1917. For this whole period, women were paid 100% of their salaries. Later, women were allowed to take four more weeks off, but with no pay. What will happen if they won’t return to work? They would have to quit the job, which in turn will result in “interruption of work history” on their record, and that will negatively affect their state pension in the future.

Continue reading “Before My Memories: Spring 1963”

The Beginning of My Story

Eventually, I will tell here all the stories of the previous generations of our family, which I can remember. But in this post, I wanted to show some pictures from the very beginning of my own life.

I already wrote about my university years and a little bit about what happened after. Now that I look at all I’ve written, I feel like I can’t continue without writing about some personal things. And I am not ready for that yet. So I decided to go back to my beginnings.


These are the first pictures of me, or rather my mom with me. The films were dated March 1963; although I find it hard to believe, there could be so sunny and dry in March in Leningrad. But – I have to believe it. At least, I look pretty much like a two to three months old should look:))

babies were kept swaddled tight
… all the time 🙂

The building was located in a very central part of Leningrad, but nevertheless, the courtyard looked lie you can see on these pictures above.
My father’s family occupied one of the apartments of this building since the late 20s (will try to check the details). The state owned the building, and the family was “assigned” to this apartment.

As I said, that is the first picture of me. At that time, there was still a belief that newborns and small babies should be kept away from the crowd and not be photographed until two or three months old. Also, visitations were limited to close family members. Not everybody owned cameras, and not everybody would take pictures of everyday life, so I am fortunate to have all these films in my possession.

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.

Eye Surgery Update

That’s for my real-life friends. I went to do the eye measurements today. Today there were no delays, and also, I was not dilated, but still, it took a lot of time.

I confirmed which type of lenses I want, signed tons of papers, and received tons of instructions. I already read them three times, including two pages of possible complications (which are always scary!)

The good part is that they told me that after my first surgery I could wear a contact lens on the second eye, except for the last three days before surgery. So I am going to be one-eyed for only three days. Also, I can’t get any water in the operated eye for a week (have to go with my hair unwashed?!), can’t do heavy exercises for a week after each surgery, and also I have to do eyedrops.

Let me tell you – this is something! There are three kinds of drops, and you need to put the into an operated eye before and after each surgery and somehow not to mess up! Once a day, twice a day, do not touch an operated eye, but make sure the drop stays in …

Ohm and also – not only the surgery is not covered by insurance, but even the eye drops are not covered either! The total cost of these three microscopic bottles will come to over $600.

The better part: they offer zero percent interest credit for 20 months. There will be some fees, but I am going to take it – just in case.

To summarize: I am still freaking out, and each and all of my children have told me I should not do it silently. And I will be freaking out until all is done. But I am more informed now:)

Psychology Studies and Women’s Issues in the Soviet Union

Last week, I was interviewed for a project, and one of the questions they asked me was whether I consider myself a feminist and whether I was always that way. And I had to admit that it was not always the case. I started to tell them how I thought about women’s issues when I was still in college, and then remembered that I wanted to write a post about it for quite a while. Here it comes.

During our eighth semester at the University, we had a psychology class. At that time, psychology was all but a forbidden subject in the Soviet Union. There were close to zero books on psychology and close to zero number of specialists. And for all of us, having a psychology class felt a little bit like taking a peek behind the Iron Curtain.
We adored our professor. In our often-not-heated department building, she always came to her lectures in a light-blue suit, somehow not getting frozen to death. She changed into dress shoes before coming to class, while everybody else was walking around in the winter boots. Her lectures were captivating. But the highlights of this class were two lectures on family psychology.

These lectures were not in the curriculum, but professor G. understood that all these young people, married at twenty, were desperate for any information about how to stay together and not to get divorced before graduation.
So she had these two lectures — one for boys and one for girls. I only heard rumors about what she was talking about at the “boys” lecture, but I know what she told the girls. In fact, I attended this lecture twice: the first time a year prematurely, skipping one of my classes, and sneaking in with my older friends.
That’s what she told us. All men say they want smart wives. But what they do not say is that it means “but not smarter than me, of cause!” Thereby, girls, she would continue, when your husband comes home, put your books away immediately, put on a pretty apron, and head to the kitchen!

You don’t believe she could say this? She could, and she did! And even more surprisingly, we all thought: oh, that’s so clever! She is so right! If we want to keep our husbands/boyfriends – that’s what we should do!
She also told us: if you want to have a strong man by you, you need to be a delicate woman! You should be unable to carry anything heavy so that he won’t have any choice but to help you. You should be afraid to enter a dark hallway. You should always how, how helpless you are without his support. There was no question that a wife should always be ready to answer her husband’s sexual needs, and should always say that that’s the best she ever had. And once again, we all thought that this is incredibly smart, and never thought that all she was saying was quite discriminatory toward women.

Why did I think it was alright, I do not know.

I was always taking pride in being able to compete professionally “at men’s level.” When I learned that people were saying I am the smartest female in our class, I thought it was OK. When I was officially ranked five in my class, and officially ranked “the second female,” I also thought it was OK. I knew that in order to compete with men for a position I have to be not just better, but ten times better than men with whom I was competing,

And why I thought it was perfectly fine, I do not know…

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.

Saying Goodbyes at the ODS

Yesterday, a big group of youth from the Open Door Shelter was “graduating.” It is always a happy moment when somebody can start a new chapter in their life.


Sometimes an individual leave the program by just not coming back one evening. And it’s not much you can do. This individual was just not ready for a change yet. It’s different when somebody is leaving because they are being transitioned to the long-term program or if somebody got a housing option. It is very happy. They can have their place; they can start the new page in their lives. But it’s also sad because almost always you won’t see this person agai

Two years ago, one young woman told me: I am very thankful for the program, but I am so happy that I am getting out of here! And I understand that. Almost always the young people won’t reach back, because they want to go ahead with their lives.

I had several in-depth conversations yesterday, which I am not going to share because they were very personal. I am touched and honored that these young people trust me enough to share their thoughts and desires. I hope that they all will do great.

That was a wonderful group of residents, and I will miss then the same as many others. Next week, there will be all new people, how do not know who is Ms. Henrietta, and who never tried Mom’s Soup, baked salmon, and chicken strips. Who hasn’t been to the Art Institute or the skating rink with me. And once again, there will be months of work to build trust. Good thing – I know that things can work out, and I am not afraid of starting all over

I Just Have to Say (a Rant)

Last year was a year of big and small changes, which I was mostly happy about. I am not talking about changes in my views, preceptions or any professional achievement; those were all changes in my everyday life. I changed my hairdresser, my nail spa, and my dentist, and also my tax preparer. The latter one was by personal recommendation, and I was very much satisfied with the outcome. 

Last year, I visited the tax preparer office in person. It was about 25 min drive one way, and we talked for about 30 min. And that was it. 

This year, since nothing except numbers have changed, I was hoping I can send him all my supporting documentation. Instead, I got a very thick envelope in the mail (it arrived when I was in Cyprus), and it contained a questionnaire I needed to fill, even if this is not the first time they are doing my taxes. I already spent two hours on it, and I am not done yet! I will be lucky if I will be able to mail it by Saturday. Honestly, I feel like I’ve already prepared my tax returns by myself 🙂