Daycare Pictures

Two pictures taken at Vlad’s and Anna’s daycare (aka Kindergarten)

Anna and Vlad are first from the left in the first row, and their later best friend Kolya is a second from right in the upper row. Vlad and Anna just turned three, Kolya is almost a year older. Interestingly, I remember all of the kids, their characters, but I do not remember any other names.

Vlad and Anna are dressed in “humanitarian aid,” and Anna wears shorts which was not common for the girls at that time. Almost everybody else wear the clothes from the stores, as nice as their parents could get. The boys wear button-downs and dark shorts, which was a standard, and most of the girls wear dresses and tights.

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.

Soviet Special Ed Schools: What was Wrong

After I posted about Igor’s school, I kept thinking about what I considered wrong about that school. As in every other school, there were some good teachers and some bad teachers. The classes were small; the kid’s needs were addressed. Still, there was something fundamentally wrong in how we, the parents, the children, and the teachers were thinking about it. 

On the one hand, it was considered shameful to admit that your child is attending a school “for special needs, whatever these needs would be. A parent would be reluctant to say what kind of school is their child attending. On the other hand, the staff was constantly promoting the idea that these kids are so lucky because “in a regular school,” nobody would take care of them, and they won’t be able to learn. I remember teachers disciplining students saying that if they don’t behave, they will be sent to “a regular school.”

The students felt simultaneously deprived and lucky, being continually reminding them that “the government provides,” pumping up the sense of entitlement. Also, they had limited contact with the outer world, which would be a case in any boarding school, multiplied by their vision disabilities. 

And back then, I didn’t know how wrong it was, and I acted, and though, and felt like all other parents of children with disabilities (except some brave souls, but I was not one of them). I am just happy that the world started to open for me, and that little by little, I started to realize that things could be different. 

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.

Igor at the Boarding School: 1992-1994

Since I am writing my historical posts in random order, not following the chronological sequence of events, I didn’t write anything about Igor’s childhood. Not trying to squeeze in one paragraph all his first seven-year of life, I will mention here that when Vlad and Anna were born, he was about to turn six and was attending a kindergarten. I already mentioned that the Soviet and later Russian educational system was very different from the American. At Igor’s time, children would start school when they were seven or were going to turn seven in September (some exceptions were allowed). The school would go from the first to the tenth grade, and all educational establishments for children younger than seven were called Kindergartens. In the Soviet Union and during the early years of Russia, there was no private daycare, and all kindergartens were parts of the state educational system. Inside a kindergarten, groups for children under three were called “nursery groups,” three-year olds were attending “junior groups,” four-year-olds – “middle groups,” five-year-olds – ” senior groups,” and six-year-olds – “preparatory groups.” The latter would be an equivalent of the US kindergarten.

Igor had a vision disability, and inclusion was unheard of in the Soviet Union. Starting from the age of two, he attended a specialized kindergarten for children with visual disabilities. I had no choice there, and I was fortunate that one of those kindergartens was situated just seven minutes walk away from our home. We were even luckier that this kindergarten had two groups for children with severe vision disabilities, and when Igor was four, he started to attend one of those groups. That was a real blessing – since there was no inclusion nobody would address his specific needs otherwise.
Next year, he had to start school. Once again, since there was no inclusion, he had to go to one of two boarding schools for children with visual disabilities. Luckily for us, that school was undergoing some repairs- remodeling, and the dorms were closed. That meant that for the time being, all students had to go home for the night.

Continue reading “Igor at the Boarding School: 1992-1994”

Summer 1994: Some Pictures

I was telling about the University boarding house here, and for the next four summers, we would follow the same routine – staying there for two three-week sessions. It was all the same no hot water and tons of cockroaches situation, but since my living conditions in the city did not improve, it still worked great for me. 

After I was fired from Urbansoft, I never had a stable source of income. The University paid close to nothing, and all the gigs were just gigs, but I was always ready for some extra work – more work meant more money. Thereby, even though I had four weeks of paid vacation in the University (and in any case attendance was optional), I had to take extra work whenever an opportunity would present itself.

The gigs tend to appear at a most inconvenient time, such as when I was about to go to the University boarding house, or when I just moved there. It would mean I have no time to relax, and that I have to craft a way to work without any equipment. 

Fortunately for me, half a dozen teenage girls who stayed in the same boarding house loved Vlad and Anna and didn’t mind being a collective babysitter. Most of the gigs I had at that time involved technical writing. I had decent English, good enough to write User Guides, Helps, and How-to manuals. At one point, Boris was contracting for an Italian entrepreneur Dr. Conrad (I have no idea what kind of a Doctor he was). They were developing an HTML-editing tool called HighDoc, and I wrote all documentation for it. 

There was a verbal-agreed pay for each portion of that work, and Dr. Conrad would bring payments in cash (in US dollars) when he came to Russia. He always tried to delay payments as long as possible, and I had these cinema-featured Italian arguments with him, yelling and pleading. And not just me, all people who worked for him did the same. The last project I did with him was so interesting that it requires a separate blog post. But now we were in summer 1994, and Vlad and Anna were two months shy of being three, and Igor was almost nine. 

I still didn’t own a camera and didn’t take any pictures. Only when Boris came with his camera, we would get some. So all the pictures below show one day when we went for a long “hike” to the Old Peterhoff park. 

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So, twenty-five year ago we all wore socks with sandals :). Oh, and by the way, that blouse was timeless. It traveled with me to the US, and I only retired it a couple years ago! It was dark purple, with tiny buttons, and I loved it.
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Anna was always the first to climb a tree
Continue reading “Summer 1994: Some Pictures”

1993: New Daycare

After more than two months break, I am resuming my historical posts. My granddaughter Nadia finally internalized the idea that there were times when her mother was a little girl, and that I am her mother’s mother. Thereby she started to ask lots of questions about what her mother was doing at her age. And since Nadia is almost three, I need to cover the missing period. That being said, welcome back to 1993.

As I mentioned in this post, our first daycare closed in January 1993. All the kids were transferred to another daycare, which was also subsidized by one of the industrial giants of the city. There was no Antie Galya there, but the teachers were reasonably good, and one of the teachers was great, and also she happened to live in the same building with us. That came handy because the new daycare was further away from our house, and to get there, I had to take a bus with two toddlers, and no double stroller. That teacher would occasionally help me to get the kids to the nursery, and sometimes, when only one child was sick, she would take another one to the daycare. 

Anna and Vlad were about to turn two in summer, which meant they could attend the “older nursery group,” and one of them was pretty close to our house. That type of daycare was called Kindergarten (Detsky Sad in Russian), and they would take children from two to six or seven, depending on when the child was starting grade school. Theoretically, they all were supposed to have “junior nursery,” but most of the mothers were opting to stay at home with smaller children. Because of the combined reduction in supply and demand, it was challenging to place a child under two to any daycare, but after two, it was much easier. 

Anna and Vlad started to attend their “Kindergarten Number 24” in September 1993 and continued until we left for America. 

Below is their first official picture, taken October 1993. Colored photos were unusual and expensive, and I only purchased two copies. And I do not have any more pictures till the next summer.

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.

My Ups and Downs at Urbansoft

At the end of December, John went back to the US for Christmas. I was still working at that “it’s great!” project and on my makeshift database. And I came up with something cool. Something I was very proud of. 

I did most of that work at home because it was time around the holidays. Although I did have a modem, that was before the times you could email a bulk attachment, so usually, I would compress my code with tar command and copy a .tar file to the diskette, and take this diskette to the office. 

The next day John should have to be back, and I was anticipating my triumph. At about 9 PM, when kids were already long asleep, I started to make my final .tar file. 

Nowadays, even some of the younger IT people might not know what the tar command does, yet along those of my readers who are not programmers. The fact is that the tar command has positional parameters, the first one is the name of the file, which is the destination of compression, and the rest of the file names are the files which you are compressing. My project consisted of one huge file with the actual code, and two smaller files with some addition. So I am typing this tar command and hit enter. And the next thing I realize is that I’ve omitted the destination filename! You figured out what had happened – the actual file with the code was used as a destination to compress two smaller files, and thus my code was deleted! 

Yea. Its was bare Linux in 1992. No Time Machine. No UNDO. It was gone. And it was 9 PM of the day before I wanted to show my progress. And it was a week’s work. 

I was going to have a sleepless night.

I found a several days old version of that code and started debugging all over again. It was easier the second time because as soon as I saw a bug, I could remember how I fixed it. But still – that was quite a work. By 3 AM, I was done, and I was still able to bring this code to the office the next day and still had my moment of triumph. But since then, I am very diligent in saving my work. And these days, when anybody is embarrassed with a mistake they made, I am always like – that’s fine, you can’t even imagine how many mistakes I’ve made!

Working at UrbanSoft: Winter 1992-93

Now it is time to say a few words about John Roseman, a person who had an enormous impact on my life.

He was from New York and had an MS in Computer Science from Columbia. Now, recalling what he was saying at that time, he must have been from the old money family. He was very democratic and eager to participate in the creation of the new capitalist society in the new Russia. However, this was not a charity, he had some investors, and was looking for ways to make a profit, if not in Russia, then taking some US contracts. Tall and skinny, in his mid-40s, he moved differently, gestured differently, smiled, and was very visibly a creature of a different world.

Sometimes, especially in our Russian eyes he looked naive, and we almost openly laughed at him when he was writing letters to the office of the Mayor of Saint Petersburg, in his broken Russian, suggesting to instill parking fees, parking by the subway stations, development of the city bicycle system and other similar improvements. But the longer I live in the US, and the longer I live in general, the less I find it funny.

Living in Russia in the early 1990s was hard, even for us. The food situation was a little bit better, but as for the rest, we didn’t even know what we were lacking. John was shipping containers of everything from New York. Not just computers and printers, but the printing paper, labels and even the packs of cheap ball pens, and we could not believe he is actually buying them “for the office,” that we can take them when needed and use.

Continue reading “Working at UrbanSoft: Winter 1992-93”

Winter 1992-1993: a Second Job

You might ask – why I needed a second job? As I’ve mentioned earlier, the pay in the University was close to nothing and often paid months later than it was due. The next question would be – if that was the case, then why I would stay at this job? Why I won’t find another job instead of looking for a second one? Oddly enough, the job in the University was the only one I could consider “a real job,” the others were “ways to make money.”

This presumption goes back to the Soviet Union. At that time you were supposed to have only one job, less some rare exception. Also, since there can’t be unemployment in the socialist state, you should have always been employed. Also, it was extremely undesirable to change jobs; you would always need a solid, respectable reason to leave your job. Our employment history was a physical object. It was called “a Labor Booklet.” When you start a new job, an HR person would ask for your Labor Booklet and would put a record, indicating your place of employment, your position and title, and the date you started. You could not start any new position anywhere without presenting your Labor Booklet, which would have a record of when and for what reason your previous employment was terminated.

Continue reading “Winter 1992-1993: a Second Job”

Parenting During the Economic Collapse

Another follow-up for my visit with my daughter. I’ve realized that I ran pretty fast through the first months of Vlad’s and Anna’s life, focusing more on what was happening with the country. I didn’t write much about our everyday lives, and how it was – raising baby twins amid the economic collapse. 

There were many aspects of parenting, where I would make decisions in the survival mode, not because I liked a certain approach better, but because that was the only option. I do not have a lot of pictures from that time. I didn’t own a camera, and taking pictures was not an everyday activity. Boris would occasionally bring his camera with him, and then we would have a photo session. 

Continue reading “Parenting During the Economic Collapse”

Fall 1992: Finding a Stable Daycare

In fall 1992, I had two problems to address: finding a second job and enrolling Vlad and Anna into daycare. I’ve already mentioned it briefly in previous posts, but I will elaborate more here. The daycare situation was really weird. Since the very early days of the USSR, it was proclaimed that women are liberated from the house slavery and can in enslaved at work. During 1920-30, women were encouraged to bring their babies to daycare at a very early age. Technically speaking the “nurseries” which would take children starting from 3 months of age existed even at my time. But you would be considered a horrible mother if you would send your child to a nursery. Since women were allowed to stay home until a child reaches the age of 18 months, the groups which would take smaller children have been closing right and left.

I found one nursery which still had a group for toddlers from 12 to 24 months, just one for the whole Gavan, the part of the city where we lived. This nursery was partially subsidized by one of the largest shipbuilding plants in the town, so I guess that was the reason.

Continue reading “Fall 1992: Finding a Stable Daycare”