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Den första gången som jag har sett Kostia hålla en bebis.
La unua fojo, kiam mi vidis kiel Kostio penas infanon.
The first time I’ve ever seen Kostia hold a baby.
Я первый раз видела, как Костя держит ребёнок.


Подарок Косте.
En present till Kostia.
Donaco por Kostio.
A present for Kostia.


Костя пригласил меня на ужин в Международный женский день.
Kostio invitis min al vespermanĝo je internacia tago de inoj.
Kostia bjöd mig på middag på Kvinnodagen.
Kostia took me out to dinner on International Women’s Day.

Here are a few photos from Tjejmilen weekend:

On the train to Stockholm. This lady was like something out of a children’s book, and actually she quite resembled a triplet from “The Triplets of Belleville“. The man on the left was her equally eccentric-looking husband.

Me, before Tjejmilen, grimacing

Kostia and “the Russian fil”, fil being a cousin of yogurt. They don’t seem to sell kefir in Falun so Kostia was excited to find it in Stockholm.

Here is a photo from last weekend:

We were invited to a party and instructed to bring a pie, a savory one, not a dessert one, so I looked in my Russian cookbook and made a kulebyaka, which is basically a big pirozhok. This one has meat inside. That’s supposed to be a hedgehog on the side. The decoration leaves something to be desired but hey, it was my first attempt.

Kostia’s grandma died yesterday. She’d been bedridden the last couple of months and when Kostia saw her a few weeks ago she was barely conscious and probably didn’t recognize him. Here‘s what Kostia wrote about her on his LiveJournal:

Babushka Valya died yesterday. Valentina Fyodorovna Baranskaya.

She was born in 1922 in the village of Krapivno, in what is currently the Gdov district [in the Pskov region in northwest Russia].

The Polish surname is from her grandfather. He moved to the village in the beginning of the century, apparently. Made the bricks for the local church. Babushka was so proud of her grandpa and her surname that she didn’t take her husband’s name. For this her husband, that is, my grandpa, to the end of his days called her that: Baranskaya.

To my shame, I only once managed to record her reminiscences. Here and here [in Russian, obviously] she talks about her brother, the war, her husband, the kolkhoz, and Stalin.

One of the last photos, taken just before she became bedridden:

They had a carnival in our ghetto and the parade went past our door.

I baked some gourmet pizzas. The one has caramelized onion, spinach, and mushrooms, the other has this beet pasta sauce. I love the stuff but am bored of pasta, so that’s why I started investigating pizza dough.

We went to Uppsala for midsommar, the Scandinavian solstice festival. There was folk music and dancing around maypoles at Old Uppsala

I liked this fountain in Uppsala proper

The Linneaus botanical garden

On the night of the solstice I made Kostia and Dima go for a walk at 1:00 a.m. If you know me, you know that it took a supreme effort to stay awake and leave the house at that hour, but it was worth it. Here you can see the transition from dusk to dawn at 1:30 a.m.

That’s Dima

Finally, today was an historic day because Kostia cooked something from a recipe. We have several cookbooks in German that we inherited from Claudia when she moved away. Kostia wanted to keep the cookbooks, but since I don’t know German I told him he had to use them or else we had to give them away. So, he finally got around to it and made a very tasty zucchini frittata.

Yesterday I made poor Kostia watch the film “White Nights” which, as you may know, is not an adaptation of the Dostoyevsky short story, but rather one of the most absurd screenplays in the history of cinema. In a nutshell, a Soviet ballet star who has defected to the US (Mikhail Baryshnikov) is on a plane which crash-lands in the Soviet Union, and the evil Soviets try to keep him there, making an American tap dancer who has defected to the Soviet Union (Gregory Hines) be his guard and companion.

I wanted to watch it because it made a big impression on me 20 years ago. It was one of those movies that got steady rotation on HBO for awhile and then disappeared from our lives, and I think it contributed to my fascination with the Soviet Union, and my decision to study Russian in junior high school.

It’s always funny to watch a film that you thought was cool when you were a kid, knowing it’s going to be really bad. But now that I’ve spent time in both St. Petersburg and Helsinki it was neat to be able to identify which shots were stock footage of Leningrad and which were actually Helsinki, where they shot the film. They did a pretty good job of making things look real and Russian, except that Baryshnikov’s apartment was way too fancy even for a Soviet ballet star of the time. The non-Russian actors had obviously been well-coached on their Russian – although they spoke with accents, their intonation was solid and it was possible to understand what they were saying (unlike, say, Sean Connery in “The Hunt For Red October” who had obviously just interpreted the transliteration in his script for himself. Nobody coaches the Sean Connery, I guess).

Also, the dancing was amazing. I can appreciate that now in a way that I couldn’t when I was 11 years old and tap dancing seemed to be the lamest thing on earth.

But the plot was still ridiculous, and the soundtrack… whose idea was that soundtrack? I managed to amuse Kostia by singing along to “Say You, Say Me”, though. Why does the brain retain lyrics to terrible 80s songs and not, say, the ability to do calculus? Sigh.

OK, so I’m American, Kostia’s Russian, and we live in Sweden. This pretty much guarantees that we both use three languages in one way or another every day. That’s not terribly impressive in multilingual Europe, but by monolingual American standards it’s pretty nerdy. Not nerdy enough for Kostia, though, who received a German-Italian/Italian-German dictionary from Amazon today. German and Italian are his third and fifth languages, respectively. He’s also awaiting a Hebrew self-study textbook.

It’s been a pretty mild winter, and I’ve already thought it was over a few times, but we got a cold snap for Easter and the first official days of spring. It was cold enough to re-freeze some of the lakes that had already thawed.

We went for a walk this afternoon and saw all these footprints in the snow on Lake Varpan leading to a very appealing little island.


We decided it was our big chance to walk across the lake and explore the island, so we ignored our initial fears and stepped onto the ice.


We reached the island without incident. We saw an ice fishing hole and even some bicycle tracks in the snow. The island was very nice, except for the unexpected campsite that was littered with trash.


Kostia ventured to Land’s End.


Easter self-portrait.


Kostia’s not planning to go to the Russian embassy in Stockholm to vote this weekend. Nor is anyone else I know planning to vote. Not because they’re all apathetic, not even because the outcome of the election is already decided. Since the choices are a racist, a communist, Son of Putin and a fake-opposition puppet of Putin, “none of the above” is no longer an option, and write-ins were never an option, there is simply no way for a thinking person to express him/herself in this election.

(All you Nader-haters, take note. Never forget that democracy is first and foremost about having choices.)

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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