• 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…

  • ESSAYS

    Russia and Italy: A Musical Collaboration

    The world’s first opera, “Dafne,” premiered in 1600 at the Florentine court of the illustrious Medici. The Roman Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) was the composer. His second opera, “Euridice,” survived to our day and may be heard on YouTube. “Dafne” had been lost to time. While opera developed and thrived in Italy, music in Russia was mostly liturgical. The first opera performed in Russia was the comical “Calandro” by the Bolognese Giovanni Alberto Ristori (1692-1753) in 1731 when the exuberant August II of Poland had sent his Italian opera troupe to Anna Ivanovna of Russia for her coronation. Autocratic and imposing Empress Anna (1698-1740) detested boredom and welcomed the musicians to…

  • ESSAYS

    The Architects of the “Third Rome” and the “Venice of the North”.

    For centuries, Italy and Russia have led a cultural dialogue which few countries could match in mutual sympathy. Thus, a series of articles shall explore the historical and modern ties which Italy and Russia share, tributing Italians whose names are gratefully preserved in Russian memory, and honouring  the Russians whose works were inspired by Italy.    In 2016, Russian TV had shown one of the most successful historical dramas of the decade, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of Russia. The heroine is Sofia Paleologa –the last Byzantine princess– who had become the wife of Ivan III. Raised in Rome, Sofia brought an extensive Italian entourage to Moscow. The TV…

  • DIARY

    Footsteps in Time

    From a letter to a friend this summer. Some memories of the Caucasian Mountains, South of Russia. Going to my friend’s, I had to climb a hill. The scent of lilacs followed me like a veil, with fragrances of late May permeating the air. I remembered myself being nine, visiting my paternal grandparents, and exploring the hills and mountain passes in the Caucasian Mountains, near Krasnodar and the Black Sea…How hot were the summers there, how lustrous the days! My ancestors on my father side – Russian nobility of Cossack descent – used to ride horses in the Caucasian mountains on military missions for the Kuban Cossack Host in the 1800s (one…

  • DIARY

    School 69

    Neither of my parents were in Russia on August 31st, 1997. They were then visiting Canada, which would become my second home. I was watching Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and told my grandmother that I would like to fall asleep and not wake up tomorrow – my very first day in school. I ate a red apple, hoping it was poisoned…I woke up to find it snowing on the first of September (!). A friend of the family, Larissa, came to escort me to school with my brother, Boris, and our grandmother. My parents left me glossy boots to make my way to school for the first…

  • DIARY

    Dare Devils

    The riskiest daredevils I’ve known in my life were 3rd graders in Russia, running beneath the icicles. Naturally, I was among them. The icicles were huge and sharp, trembling from the children’s laughter… I used to call them “ice-bouquets from winter’s garden.” They seemed to drip with glassy dew when the lazy sun appeared for a few minutes per day. But they also reminded of fangs, sprouting from the eaves of an 80 year old building, which was ironically named the Teplopunct (the Heating Centre)…As we grew a little older, my classmates and I decided to save the next generation from the errors of our own. Making snowballs we shot…

  • DIARY

    The Russian French Braid

    Russia, 1998: Our home-class in Ekaterinburg had a paragon of beauty, impossible to duplicate. Her name was Allochka, doe-eyed, with a waist-long braid. This braid done in a French manner was the envy of the third grade, and its platinum blonde color – glossing in the winter sun – wasn’t the cause. It was because Allochka’s braid was so tight and it had no holes between the crisscrossed locks. The fact that Allochka’s eyes seemed to crawl up to her forehead from the tightness of the braid only added to the envy, and universal awe. “It’s the hairstyle of a Princess,” said some. “It is the hairstyle of an alien,”…

  • DIARY

    My first marriage proposal

    I received my first marriage-proposal much sooner than one for my first date (accepting neither). It was during my summer break near Sochi, Russia when I was eight. I was playing in my grandparents’ garden – always perfumed with fresh-growing fruit, lush with Isabella grapes, and garish with flowers. Picking strawberries, I heard someone ask, “Can I have some?” It was a boy peeking through the fence. I recognized him as my Georgian neighbour. I gave him some strawberries. Seeing ten or so bushes of the vibrant berry in my grandparents’ garden, he must have deemed them as a fitting dowry. “Marry me,” he said out of the blue. I tried to…