• 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…

  • DIARY

    ПРИБЫТИЕ

        Я уехала из России в день рожденья бабушки. “Лучший подарок для нее, если ты не будешь плакать,” просила мама. Меня предупредили заранее, что в Канаде столько высоток, что блеск только одной звезды не меркнет от искусственного света – Путеводной. Небоскрёбы меня не пугали, потому как все 11 лет детства довелось провести в старейшей высотке Екатеринбурга. Целых 8 этажей, включая подвал, кишащий призракaми сталинских репрессий и сумрачным духом тревоги. “Видела решётку, Настя, что закрывает вход в подвал? Это решётка в подземелье. Там кости и дверь прямо в преисподнюю,” шептали подруги. Но ни полуночные бредни, ни убийства в соседних дворах во время лихих 90-тых, ни стаи бездомных собак, круживших под…

  • DIARY

    POLARIS

      I left Russia on my grandmother’s birthday. “The best gift will be if you don’t cry,” my mother advised. I was warned in advance that Canada has so many skyscrapers that the glow of only one star does not fade from the artificial light – the Polaris, nicknamed in Russian “The star of the travellers”. Skyscrapers could not intimidate me, as my first 11 years of childhood went by in the oldest skyscraper of Ekaterinburg. Eight floors, including the basement, swarming with phantoms of the Stalinist repressions and an obscure sense of alarm. “Have you seen the bars, Nastya (*short for Anastasia), guarding the entrance to the basement? It’s…

  • DIARY

    The Firebird

    In Russian folklore, The Firebird can see the future. The capture of the Firebird may be a blessing or a curse… There were three 19th century houses, a block away from my own, which once belonged to the merchant Agafourov.   The first of these boasted an intricate wooden design; another – an oriental style with luminous, stained-glass windows; and the third one was low, with yellow shutters and a squeaking ancient gate, inviting you into the past. A sculpture of a Firebird was rumoured to splash gold rays from its wings in one of those houses. But one day it had flown away in the bag of a robber. In…