Kazan, Russia: What??!!

Trip Start Aug 06, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2009

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Flag of Russian Federation  ,
Monday, September 15, 2008

So I have told everyone about my babushka. She is Tatar and not Russian so she has a bit of an Asian look to her. She is a bit odd but loveable. (I know I keep saying it, but honestly when I hear other people experiences with their babushka's I feel truly blessed) Last night she was looking for some knitting needles because she makes her own winter socks and also darns all other socks. (Maybe that is why I can't find any socks in this blasted place.) and she comes across this picture of her mom, who is swimming in water and I ask her," where?" She said that it was at the Volga and that started a whole conversation on her family. She brought out photo album after photo album of her family, most of whom were military men, but what really blew my mind was that she had pictures from before the 1917 revolution that looked like they were shot yesterday. Oh man, I was so mad at myself because I wanted to understand everything so badly. She talked of her uncles and cousins, many that work in the States and a few that are big name professors in St. Petersburg. She has so much diversity in her family that it really is so different then anything you can imagine: Tatars and Russians and all of that descention is reflected in their eyes and skin tones.
She seemed to have a decent upbringing. At least the pictures showed a life of vacations and lots of friends and family. I can understand her longing for those days. I think she might have been lucky because of all the association that she had with military, apparently many of her relatives were highly ranked. As she continued to flip from picture to picture I couldn't help but wonder about her life and how many stories she could tell. I was awed and my skin wouldn't stop tingling. THIS is why I love Russia. This amazing history and background that every individual has and all the stories that they can tell. The only interest that I have in the language is to be able to access all this knowledge.
Her mother interested me quite a bit because there were several pictures of her as a child and continued throughout her life. The first picture was of her maybe 8 or 9 years old. She was dressed in costume, apparently it was her about to act in a play. There were many pictures of her in many different costumes. It was obviously something that she loved dearly because it continued for a long period in her life and in every picture her face was one of contentment and happiness, but all of a sudden there was huge gap in that progression and she was suddenly a grown woman. The dramatic spark was gone from her eyes and she had moved on to become a nurse. A nurse! Could there be more of a difference in vocation then an actress and a nurse? My heart did a flip as I watched this firey woman, who had a flare for the dramatic, resign herself to a life of expectation and I watched through her pictures, the happiness slowly disappear. I then realized that I had witnessed the worst disappointment of her life and that would be that she couldn't continue her desire, which was to act and it broke my heart.
Babushka then brought out this box that was obviously very old. It was a tin box that had paint chipping off and beginning to rust. She very carefully opened it and inside were letters. Each letter folded the exact same way, which was a triangle, and it was apparent that post office sent letters that were folded that way because the stamp was on the outside of this paper. Odd, no envelopes. Each letter was older than the last. Many were from the 1940's and the one's that weren't folded in a triangle had the creases that gave the impression that had at one point in time been folded that way. Very carefully she handled these letters and she said that they were very important to her. The writing was very faded so they were very difficult to read and frankly I didn't want to try. They were way to precious to her for me to destroy. I wish that I could explain to you the feeling that I had in this moment the sensation of holding in your hand letters that were written in such an important time in Russian history. Most men were entrenched in war and the war was on their soil and in their homeland and women were picking up the slack because of their absence. That is why I say "what?!" because my mind can't fully wrap itself around it. Actually seeing things that I have read about since I was 9 years old. The war did exist, men and women did sacrifice, purges did happen and every single life here was affected by it all.
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