Memories of growing up in post-Soviet Russia.

I feel like these memories will fade as much as with age, but also with my own generation. Unfortunately, the westernization of all the world has reached Russia a short decade after the perestroika of 1991. When I’m struck by those memories, i would rather put them out there and commemorate them somehow for the fear that one day it’ll be a thing of the past that when I’m ninety, I will be saying to my grandchildren “back when i was your age…”

I miss walking down the street of a small town (about 100.000) on the weekend (market days) and trying raw cow milk from every seller . First off, one never left to go to the market without an egg carrier shell and their own metal canister or glass jug for the milk. Once you sample the one you liked, they’d simply pour off as much as you wanted (in half liter increments). Once in a while, a milk truck would come into the yard and you’d hear the neighbors yelling at each other to come get the milk before it’s too late.

Noone questioned the sanitary standards, pasteurization process or fat content. There was a certain thrill in the unknowing if you’d get sick or not-but here’s the kicker, noone got sick! At least, noone in my immediate surroundings. We’d eat fruit off the ground, competing with birds and worms alike for our share, dusting off the dirt and showing apricot after apricot in our mouths. We’d eat anything that looks remotely edible, not because we were starving, but for the sheer thrill of it, to smell, to touch, to taste… we’d seek out all the best mulberry, pear, apple and other fruit bearing trees in our community and share those secrets as top-rated information among ourselves.

We’d swim anywhere we could descend and get out of the water, even if it meant scrambling up a clay-rich steep hill. We played without adult supervision since we were at least 8 years old. We’d go with our relatives to the Sunday market to sell off the surplus, learning the real value of the currency. We’d observe natural cycles by playing outside and helping out with garden chores. We’d learned about our water needs by living on a well property, leading me to inquire even then where our drinking water comes from. When we’d get the notice that public water will be shut off for maintenance during the hottest days of August for, often enough, over 2 days, we took it in stride. We’d be grateful for the fact that we have lakes and rivers to cool off in, and a working fridge to have a cool watermelon.

I grew up pretty much lactoterian simply because there was no meat, or safe meat available. When we’d have duck soup, occasionally at the farm, I didn’t question it. I understood that it was a part of the cycle, and who was I to dictate how things should run. But overall we were happy with fried potatoes and humongous bowls of salads, with homemade bread.

Looking back on all this, I am so immensely grateful for having grown up the way I did. 





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