• DIARY

    100 Midnights in Paris

    Russia, 2000: It was a sleepy March morning in my third-grade class. We dragged ourselves to school in the dark in our bulky winter coats. Classes began at 8.05 – no exceptions, including on Saturdays. Russian school is known for a hardcore curriculum – Dostoyevsky is read by 14-year-olds; excerpts from classical literature at an even earlier age. We were yawning uncontrollably when our teacher, Lyudmila Ivanovna – barely keeping awake herself – requested that we open our literature books. Always the start of an adventure into another time and culture: a glimpse of immortality through the eyes of children, fresh from the realm of immortality itself. Those literary ‘excursions’…

  • DIARY

    MY NEAR-DEATH PARTY

    When I was living in Russia, I was diagnosed with a heart problem, demanding complex surgery. The path to the bus-stop from the hospital led through an old cemetery. Twilight crept over the graves. A light snow was falling.  My mother stopped, my hand firmly clutched in hers. I was 10 years old, reading her thoughts and swearing to myself not to burst into tears. Later that night, I heard her crying behind the closed door to my parents’ bedroom and made another promise to myself: the surgery would not happen. I didn’t care how. It just would not happen. Two months later, I came in for another test to…

  • DIARY

    A Lesson In Greatness

    Prior leaving to Canada, my parents decided to take the 10-year-old me to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Visiting St. Petersburg – the city of my maternal ancestors – I got a fever after sailing down the river Neva. I didn’t notice that fever, especially not in the Hermitage – where my heart quickened from the thrill of the artwork, and the vast majesty of halls, gilded and marbled to imperial perfection. I was a sponge of impressions, absorbing millennia in their quintessence. A worker at the museum observed to my parents that she had never seen a child studying the Roman and Greek sculpture so intently. It was both an…

  • DIARY

    Two Debuts

    My mother went into labor on a night of a new moon in April 1990. Then-president Mikhail Gorbachev was making a speech at the “Palace of Youth” – a recreation centre – a block away from the hospital. When I was born there were 30 or more medical students watching my “debut to the word.” I was born before an audience and to the sound of applause. Now, I must live up to that. When I was 8 years old, I made my official debut on stage at that same Palace of Youth, this time in April 1998. On the same stage where Gorbachev was giving his speech in 1990…

  • STORIES

    Short Story: The White Spider

    A foreword on Fate:   Do I believe in signs and predictions? Yes and no. I believe in the power of interpretation and the even greater power of purposeful determination. Should fate be predetermined, we edit it with our choices. As a writer, I confirm that an edit may imply a total rewrite. I have no trust in dubious research or invalid information. To me, fate is the union of collective free will. Between two people it forms a relationship; between several – a family; between all people – humanity. No bond exists without purpose. There is only one enduring relationship – civilization- from which none is disconnected.  No one’s…

  • DIARY

    Does Human Nature Change?

    Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by Russia in 1918, following the Revolution. The Julian/Old Style calendar is 13 weeks behind the Gregorian. For this reason Russian Christmas is celebrated later than in the Catholic tradition, moved forward by 13 days to accommodate the Gregorian calendar reform. On January 7th, 2001, I was taken to see the “Story of the Nativity” for children under 15. The actors were running late, and “Jesus” walked out on stage with a red ball, to entertain the young audience. He started throwing the ball into the audience, and the children threw it back. “Whoever catches that ball will be blessed…

  • DIARY,  ESSAYS

    A Peculiar Speed Dating/e

    One of my acquaintances went to Speed Dating. She had met 20 or so men within the limit of two hours. Those men could have been “anyone,” and she ended up getting six numbers. “Amazing people,” she commented. “Physically?” I wondered. “Emotionally too!” she assured me. “I doubt it…” I shrugged. The idea that you could sample a personality – and a compatible one at that – through so brief an interaction, got me thinking, “What if Speed Dating had a night where men or women from history would get a few minutes’ acquaintance with you? How many fanatics, ruthless mass killers, and dictators would you recognize in those couple…

  • DIARY

    The Unexpected Effect of Silver Water

    I would get sick every few months in Russia. I enjoyed walking barefoot, eating icicles too much and doing everything I could to avoid school…Having earned an epic case of sinuses one vicious winter, my sneezes caught the attention of a kind lady doctor who lived downstairs. She came to the rescue with what she called a “traditional treatment”. But I refused to be rescued when she showed me the medicine. Two long silver sticks, reminding of sharp knitting needles. The cotton swabs on their ends glistened with odd-smelling moisture. Those were about to impale my nose and dab the sinus glands with what the Russian country-folk called `silver water`.…

  • ESSAYS

    The Wake Up Call to Fall Asleep

    The ongoing lack of sleep and the shortage of time for accomplishing tasks are globally reprised complaints. 72.2% of high school students, over 50% of college and university students, and 36% of adults in Toronto have reported sleep deficiency in 2018. However, numerous studies suggest that an excess of sleep may be equally harmful with side-effects of depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Sleep deficiency is defined by less than 6 hours of sleep; an excess of sleep – by 9 hours and more. Certain studies imply that each person’s need for sleep must be determined individually, while preschoolers are recommended to average 10 to 13 hours per night. The so-called…

  • ESSAYS

    Italian Rhapsodies

    Many readers have enjoyed humorous descriptions of 18th century Moscow and St. Petersburg by one Italian adventurer who charmed the Russian nobility with his smooth manners. The acclaimed memoir, “The History of My Life”, is rich with witticisms and psychological observation. It had been translated into Russian in 1861 with a foreword by the editor who was none other than Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). The author is Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), who had travelled to Russia in 1764 in search of love and opportunities. Having proposed a reform of the Julian calendar to the Gregorian to Catherine the Great in 1765, Casanova lost patience with the White Nights in St. Petersburg, which…