My mother’s birthday.

Preliminary note: I was born in Odessa, a beautiful Ukrainian city on the shore of Black Sea. In several days I will be 80 years old.

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“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”.

Edmund Burke

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It was one of the happiest days of my life. My beautiful mother became 27  years old. My father returned from a business trip to Moscow and gave me a terrific birthday present – a German two-wheels bicycle with wide tires. 

It was my first two-wheels bicycle but it took only several minutes to learn how to ride it. Then my friends Vladimir and Peter brought their bicycles and we went outside to ride around the block.

There was a gorgeous summer day, the day of summer solstice. Almost no clouds and a light breeze from the sea. Adults were busy preparing for the birthday party and we enjoyed our freedom very much.

All of a sudden we heard a loud music. Pedestrians came closer to loudspeakers (there were several of them on each block). Soon music stopped and somebody started a speech. We continued to ride around our block. Then there was silence.

A man came to us and said: “Boys, immediately go to your parents! A war started! Germans invaded our country!”

When I came home women were crying. Soon all of my uncles came to congratulate my mother and to give her their presents. Three of them were already in uniform. They kissed everyone and left. Then other men (relatives and friends) came to say goodbye.

It was a very sad birthday party. There were only women, old men and children. Nobody knew what would happen with us and if we would see our men again.

I went to sleep early and I did not know that at night bombs were falling on our wonderful city and people were dying.

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The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union against Hitler’s Germany and its european allies lasted almost four years (June 22, 1941 – May 9, 1945). Nazi’s Germany was defeated but the USSR lost more than 26 mln people and the whole population went through terrible sufferings.

You can read about it and see some pictures HERE.

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In her “Remembering Rotterdam Blitz” post (http://indahs.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/rotterdam-blitz/Indah Susanti wrote: ” No wars have real winners, no citizens would enjoy living when their freedom and their identity being scrapped. The truth is people suffered most during the wars. It is a tragedy to be avoided”.

I am glad that she and some other bloggers remember history!

 

Rimantas Dichavicius.

Rimantas Dichavicius is a photographer and an artist.

He is a born romantic. It is a romantic touch that helped him to publish an album, glorifying feminine beauty. The album ”Flowers of Flowers” was presented at the International Book Fair in Moscow in 1987.

Rimantas Dichavicius recalls: “There was censorship. This topic has been banned…Adherents of strict morals did not attack me. Just had a surprise – not up to criticism. ”

Foreign experts wondered how such high level of skill emerged in the country where the photos in the genre of “nude” have been banned for 70 years?

Rimantas Dichavicius never thought about that. He just did poetic, upscale photos elusive beauty.

Read about Rimantas Dichavicius and see his photos HERE.

 

WE LIVE MANY LIVES.

It is trying time for people who lived both in Ukraine and Russia. I am one of these people. That’s why I decided to reblog this post today.

An artist and a sculptor Georgy Kurasov.

There were always many talented people in Russia.

They appeared despite wars, revolutions, mass repressions, famines, terrible conditions of living.

Georgy Kurasov is one of them. Please read about his life and see his art below.

ART OF KURASOV

Nadia and Peter.

Seven years we lived in a communal apartment in a big house near historic Arbat in

Moscow (Russia).

There were six tiny rooms and four families in the apartment.

Nadia and Peter lived in the smallest room.

Nadia was a beautiful young woman. She was a cashier in the food store.

Peter was a tall strong handsome man with very good manners. He was a taxi driver.

Both of them were easy-going young people. Both were always ready to help their neighbours.

We loved this young couple. 

However, one day of each month everything changed.

When Peter and other drivers got their monthly salaries they drank vodka

and came home very late.

Peter always silently entered the apartment and went to his room..

In the middle of the night there was usually a commotion in Nadia and Peter’s room. It seemed like some heavy objects were falling and breaking up.

Then Nadia knocked at our door and asked: “Please let me in! Peter is going to kill me!”

We let her in and closed the door. In couple of minutes Peter usually softly knocked on our door and politely asked: “Please don’t protect Nadia! She is cheating on me! Please let  her out and I’ll kill her!”

I always answered: “Peter, don’t awake our kids! Go to sleep and settle everything with Nadia in the morning!”

Usually in half an hour Peter was asleep and Nadia went to their room.

Next morning Peter usually went to all neighbors in the apartment to apologize. Then Nadia and Peter took all broken furniture and other things out. They usually spend a week looking for a new furniture, TV and dishes.

By the end of the week Nadia usually invited all neighbours to see their new things and proudly said: “You know, Peter is a terrific husband! He loves me very much! He threatened to kill me many times but he never did it!”

“Oh, those Americans!” (part 2).

Click below to read the first part of this story.

“Oh, those Americans!” (part 1)

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We were very upset. Nobody of us wanted our teachers punished due to actions of any boy from our school. We loved and respected Boris and Nasir. Every day showed all of us that they cared and did everything possible to help us.

Nikolai, who was on the Uzbekistan’s boxing team, expressed common opinion. He said: “There will be no more cheating!”

Several days passed. On the ninth day three boys picked more than 40 kg and proudly shared their prizes with their classes. We found that butter was not edible and pita was too small to satisfy 20 or more hungry guys. Still we hoped that more boys will pick 40 kg next day.

However, night brought bad surprise. Temperature dropped substantially and it became very cold in our large room. We slept on the thin mattresses on the floor and had only thin blankets to defend us from cold. It became windy outside and there were many holes in the floor and walls of the building.

So during the night we suffered from cold. It was even worse on our way to fields. We did not have warm clothing and the closest field with unpicked cotton was already about two miles away. Many guys took their blankets with them and it helped a bit on the way to the field but nobody could keep blankets on when picking cotton. So we suffered from cold until sun was high above our heads and then we continued to suffer from reflections of sun rays from cotton bushes.

However, we worked and did not complain. Our teachers worked and suffered even more than we as they slept very little caring for sick boys at nights. We knew that there were only several days left before coming home and this knowledge lifted our spirits.

Two more days passed. Then several boys complained that they had severe abdominal pain. Greg was one of them. He told us that it was very painful for him even to touch his abdomen. He and some other boys also had fever and they vomited. Two boys said to teachers that they had frequent and painful urination.

Many of us caught cold and started to cough. The only medicine from all problems was hot tea but everyone suspected that together with bad food it could be also a reason of stomach problems.

Nasir asked the local healer to check boys with severe abdominal pain and the old man said that it was possible that Greg had appendicitis and needed an operation as soon as possible.

In the morning of the last day Greg and six other sick guys stayed in the room helping each other. All others went to work in high spirit. We were proud that we were able to overcome all difficulties and picked a lot of cotton. We also thought what a pleasure it would be tomorrow to meet our families, to take shower, to eat decent food and to relax a couple of days before going to school.

At about 3.00 pm we heard a very strange noise. All of us stopped working and turned to see what it was. A dark dot appeared in the sky. Then it grew and it became clear that it was a plane. Soon it was near and then it landed on the road close to us. A pilot climbed down from the plane and started walking towards us.

Boris and Nasir told us to continue working and went to meet the pilot. They spoke with him several minutes and then they came back. We could see that they were very upset.

Nasir told us to stop work and to come closer as they had important news for us. Then Boris told us that government of Uzbekistan decided that all boys and girls from Tashkent must continue to pick cotton two more weeks. The pilot also said that our parents bought for us food and sent it and our warm clothing with him.

Teachers also told us that they convinced the pilot to take with him to the city three very sick boys (he could not take more). They told us to walk back to our building and then they flew with the pilot.

On the way back from the field some guys were very angry. One said: “We volunteered to go to pick cotton for only two weeks. What right did government have to force us to stay here two more weeks?”. Another guy wondered why we did not get good food from the beginning and why the government did not provide food this time. He added: “We are not getting money for our work. Why should our parents pay for our food?”

Yuri said to me: “I hope Greg will get necessary treatment today and will be in good shape when we return to the city.”

When we reached our building the plane was gone and Greg and two other boys were gone too. There were food and clothing in the room.

We continued to work. Temperature continued to drop and we suffered from cold very much. Some guys and our teacher Boris had bad dry cough, more guys had stomach problems. We counted days and worked. Finally, thirteen days passed. We were very tired but satisfied with results of our work.

Before going to work on the last day teachers told us to prepare our things for departure. They asked sick boys to clean the room and to gather all mattresses in the corner of the room.

We worked this day with great enthusiasm. However, at about 3.00 pm we heard that a plane was coming again. It landed, the pilot climbed out and stayed near plane. Boris and Nasir went to him. All of us stopped working. We felt that something was very bad.

Teachers talked with the pilot and then called us to join them. They told us that Greg was dead. They also told us that Stalin ordered all boys and girls from Tashkent’s schools to pick cotton two more weeks.

Yuri and I could not believe these news. Greg, our closest friend for six years, was dead. He was dead only because our leaders did not care about us. We were only fourteen years old but we understood the simple truth: Stalin was our leader but he was not our friend.

In two weeks boys and girls from Tashkent’s schools returned from the Hungry Steppes. However, four girls and one boy died very soon. Nothing was in newspapers or on the radio about it but people knew everything. When we heard this terrible news Yuri told me: “You know our teachers. They love us and they teach us to love others. If Stalin is a teacher he is a teacher of death”.

We did not believe propaganda from that time. We did not believe that Americans wanted to conquer the world. We also found out that in 1947 International Harvester produced a mechanical cotton picker. We did not want to compete with Americans, to compete with machines.

However, three more years we picked cotton until middle of October. Nobody asked us to volunteer. Our government decided everything for us.

Oh, those Americans!

“Oh, those Americans!” (part 1).

It was a very unusual start of the school year on September 1, 1948. Teachers told all students of 7-10 grades to go to the center of the schoolyard to listen to the speech of a colonel from the Tashkent garrison.

The colonel told us that our Motherland needed our help. He explained that Americans wanted to conquer the world and we needed to grow our economy very fast to become mightier country than America. He said: “We need to overrun America!”.

Then he explained that a part of the Hungry Steppes was recently irrigated and produced very good crop of cotton. Motherland needed our help in picking cotton by hands. The colonel added: “It will not take more than two weeks. The weather is terrific so there is no need to take warm clothing. You will get good meals so don’t take any food. Now go home and prepare to board a train at nine tomorrow morning”.

We were very excited. It was such an interesting adventure and a terrific opportunity to serve our country. Yuri said to Greg and me: “We’ll show those Americans how Soviet patriots work!”

Next day boys, girls and some teachers from Tashkent’s schools went by train and then by trucks to designated places in the Hungry Steppes. We settled in a wooden building which had one very large room with a wooden floor. Each class chose a part of the room and then we got tiny pillows and very thin mattresses and blankets.

Then each of us got a piece of black bread, mashed potatoes and a cup of tea. Bread looked and tasted like clay, mashed potatoes had very unpleasant taste and tea was very black without milk or sugar but with a lot of leaves in it.

After the long trip all of us (178 boys and two teachers) were very hungry and tired but nobody liked the food. We were very happy that our parents practically forced us to take a lot of food with us. Boys of each class shared food from home and drank tea. Very soon after it all of us fell asleep.

At five o’clock in the morning there were loud sounds of gong. Our teachers Boris and Nasir told us to get up fast, wash our faces and hands with water from a large barrel and prepare to go to a field. Nasir (he was our teacher of Uzbek language and he communicated with locals) explained to us that there was a pond near the building but water in it was not good for drinking or washing faces or hands. Locals boiled it and placed in large wooden barrels.

At 6.00 am we formed a column and with songs went to the nearest cotton field. At the field a local man gave each of us a special apron for placing cotton in it and a large sack. The upper part of the apron was around the neck and the lower part was around torso. Both hands were free to pick cotton and to put it in an apron.

Nasir told us that only women picked cotton in Uzbekistan and that majority of them did it with one hand. However, some were able to pick cotton with two hands and they earned more money.

He explained that after an apron is full the cotton placed in a sack. After a sack is full each of us should bring it to a mobile weighing station and a local man will write a name and how much was in the sack. At the end of the day anyone who will be able to pick 40 kg of cotton will get a teaspoon of butter, a teaspoon of sugar and a small pita.

Nasir showed us how to pick cotton and put it in an apron and where was the weighing station. He assigned a furrow to each of us and explained that we should pick cotton from both sides of the furrow until we reach the end of it. Then he’ll assign a new furrow.

cottonbush

Before we started to work a truck brought our breakfast. It was a copy of the previous day supper. We were so hungry that ate everything and added a bit from food that our parents gave to us.

Half an hour later we started to work. It was a gorgeous sunny day. The cotton field was beautiful. The air was fresh. The feel of ripe cotton was very nice and we enjoyed picking it from bushes. Greg, Yuri and I tried to pick cotton with both hands. We knew that nobody will get money but thoughts about butter, sugar and pita inspired us.

Actually, all boys were in a very high spirit and worked very fast.

Our teachers told us not be in a hurry, that two weeks of work was a marathon and not a sprint. However, we loved competition and we loved pita even more.

Several hours passed and everyone slowed down. The sun was high in the sky and it was very hot. All of us were thirsty. None of us had dark glasses and it was painful to look at the white cotton under sun. Sun was beating down mercilessly on our practically unprotected heads and bodies.

Our teachers Boris and Nasir directed our work and helped to pick cotton those boys who stayed behind others.

At 1.00 pm a truck brought our lunch. Each of us got a piece of bread, a bowl of potato soup, mashed potatoes and tea. Nasir talked with a local leader and the man explained that nobody expected that somebody from Tashkent will come to the area. They had very limited supplies of food and nothing was coming. There was only a lot of rotten potatoes and they used it for soup and mashed potatoes.

There were several trees near the road to the field and we were able to eat lunch and relax a bit in their shadows. An hour passed very fast and then we started pick cotton again.

Temperature continued to rise and those of us who were in hats without visors, in sleeveless shirts or in shirts from thin materials suffered very much.

By 5.00  pm we were absolutely exhausted. There was no pita in sight. The best result in picking cotton had a guy from the tenth grade who managed to use both hands. But he picked only 23 kg.

Teachers stopped our work and we went back to our building. We could not sing as we were very thirsty and tired. Happily, there was cool in our large room and there was a lot of cold and hot water in barrels.

At 6.00 we had the same supper as the first day but this time we ate everything and added some food we brought from home. However, many boys did not feel well. Some had high temperature and headache, almost everyone had painful red areas of skin. There were no doctors or nurses for many miles around so Nasir went to locals to find out how to prevent heat strokes and cure painful skin areas.

In the meantime Boris who was a war veteran told us about his war experience. He stressed that usually first days are the most difficult days and that we had only 13 more days before going home.

Nasir brought a very big jar with some substance made from goat milk. Local healer assured him that it was very effective in relieving skin redness, rash and pain. We immediately started gently apply this substance to painful skin areas helping each other.

Nasir also told us that Uzbek women picked cotton in dresses and shawls from thick materials that protected them from the sun. He added that he asked the local leader to give us several shawls just to try if our boys would be able to wear them during work.

In half an hour almost everyone was sleeping. However, our teachers stayed awake. They were doing whatever they could to help boys who had high temperature and headache. I am not sure if they slept even several hours during that night.

Next morning the local leader arrived with several shawls and many old newspapers. Boris gave shawls to boys who had the most painful red areas of skin. He said that all others should use whatever clothing they had to protect themselves. He also showed how to prepare a hat from a newspaper and told us that each of us must make such hat and wear it.

Teachers told boys who had headache or were dizzy to stay in the room and to help peel potatoes, clean the room and boil water.

Then we went to the field again. The morning was cool and we laughed that we were looking as pirates.

The second day was a copy of the first but we were better protected from the sun and we already knew what we were doing. At the end of the day all of us still got extra areas of painful red skin and we suffered from daily heat but our results were better. One guy from the eighth grade who used both hands picked 31 kg. On the way from the field everyone was talking that it is possible that next day somebody will pick 40 kg and will get butter, sugar and pita.

Next morning more boys stayed behind and everyone who worked in the field suffered very much from heat. All of us also suffered from reflection of sun rays from white cotton. However, there was nothing we could do and we worked diligently  till the end of the day.

All of us were pleasantly surprised when we heard that 6 boys picked slightly over 40 kg. However, immediately after supper our teachers told us to gather in the middle of the room. We saw that they were very upset.

Boris told us that when one Uzbek started to empty our sacks in the area where cotton was kept before pressing it into huge 200 kg bales he found that there were heavy pieces of dried land in several sacks and yellow wet cotton in several others. Somebody peed on the cotton to make it heavier.

Boris told us that he never expected that anyone of us would be so stupid, unpatriotic and dishonorable. He also explained that such actions were criminal and could be punished by 10 or more years in jail. Than he added that the local guy warned him that if the same thing happens again he would have to report it to the local KGB representative and our teachers Nasir and Boris would be severely punished.