My first birthday (true story).

This story inspired by the photo of NATALIA MAKS‘ below (used with her blessing).

PHOTO BY NATALIA MAKS

PHOTO BY NATALIA MAKS

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I was born in Odessa, a wonderful Ukrainian city on the shore of the Black Sea.

In May of 1935 my family celebrated my first birthday. At that time my father was 23 years old and my mother was two years younger.

My father was a very strong man. He could easily bend horseshoes. He was also a terrific swimmer.

His younger two brothers and three sisters and my mother’s younger brother were very good swimmers too. During summers they often volunteered as lifeguards.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and everyone was in the huge yard of our apartment house. Several tables were set in a circle. My large deep bath tub was placed in the center of the circle and I was enjoying life playing with rubber toys.

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Everyone else was not playing. There were good speeches, strong drinks and abundance of food. My 40 years old Grandma was taking care of everything on the tables and often went to our apartment with somebody else to bring more food and drinks.

At one moment several sparrows came to see what was going on. I turned to watch them, lost my balance and went under the water. Then I tried to sit up but without success.

My parents and some other members of the family saw that I was drowning but they could not move. They were paralyzed!

Fortunately, at that moment my Grandma returned from the apartment and immediately picked me up. She checked that I was still alive and well. Then she looked at my parents, uncles and aunts and said just one word: “Lifeguards!”

 

 

 

No worries or one night in Crimea.

In June of 1959 after meeting for 19 hours during 1,5 month my wife and I decided to marry. Then it was time for a honeymoon.

We could not afford a long one as we were very busy. She was designing a new machine for creating chemical fibers. I was working on my dissertation. Both of us had no savings.

Our parents and friends raised some funds for a two weeks honeymoon and recommended us to go to The Workers’ Corner (now Professor’s Corner) in Alushta (a city in Crimea).

All of them said: “It’s a wonderful place! Black Sea, wonderful beach, road up the mountain, beautiful Mount Castel! You’ll be happy there!”

My wife asked: “Where will we live?”

“No worries! All locals rent their apartments and live in shacks during summer. You’ll find something.”

ALUSHTA AND MOUNT CASTEL

ALUSHTA AND MOUNT CASTEL

We came to The Workers’ Corner and went up the road with a heavy suitcase. It was very, very hot but it did not upset us that much as a sight of other couples who were climbing the road with heavy suitcases ahead of us.

We asked everyone if there is anything we can rent but there was nothing. We continued along the road and were happy to see that two couples found something and disappeared. Two other couples turned around and came to us. They said that there was no more houses up the road and they started to walk down the road.

My wife and I decided to rest in a shadow of a tree and think quietly what to do next. Several minutes passed. All of a sudden an old woman appeared from nowhere. She asked us if we were looking for something to rent. We hopefully confirmed.

Then she said: “I have a shack on the mountain not far from here. It has a bed, a small table and one chair. You’ll be very comfortable there. Nobody will bother you”.

My wife asked: “Do you have water, electricity, radio in the shack?”

“No, but the apartment house where I live has public restrooms. It’s only five minutes walk from the shack. As I understand you are on honeymoon here. What for do you need electricity and radio?”

My wife decided to take the shack. Then the woman said: “You know there is only one small problem. There is a young couple from Moscow now there. They are leaving at 6 am tomorrow. So you’ll have to spend one night in my son’s bed.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, no worries! My son loves girls. He made a large wooden bed between two trees up on the mountain and he has a good netting curtains from mosquitoes there. Sometimes he sleeps in the bed, sometimes he sleeps somewhere else.”

“Will you be able to tell him that this night his bed is busy?”

“Yes. But first let me change the bed and show you everything. Than you can relax, enjoy fresh air and surrounding beauty. In the morning just move to the shack and enjoy your honeymoon.”

We carefully looked at everything trying to remember how to find the bed, the shack and the house. Then we changed and went down the road to find some food.

When we returned to the bed we were very, very tired. But we were extremely happy together on the mountain under trees. The bed was wide and comfortable and mosquitoes curtains were very good. The night was gorgeous and we made the best of it. Then we fell asleep.

A terrible scream awakened me. Almost immediately another scream followed and then something large and heavy was running between trees away from us.

I hugged my wife. She said: “Somebody sat on me. I awakened and screamed.”

“Did you scream twice?”

“No, whoever sat on me was very frightened too and screamed even louder than me”.

In the morning we met our landlord and she explained that her son was so drunk that he did not understand that his bed rented for one night.

“You know, when he sat on your wife he decided that one of his girls wants to force him to marry her. He was so frightened that he ran away, fell down and hurt his leg.”