And so, It was in 1976 that I was born into one of the households living in the 9-y micro-district of Teplii Stan, on the tenth of July to be precise, and of course, I don’t remember anything of that day, but can only rely on what I was told by my family. Apparently I was born right in the centre of Moscow, in the birth-centre on the New Arbat Eve, called ‘Roddom Grauermana’ where several famous Russian people were born. Andrey Mironov, the actor, loved by the whole nation, was born there in 1941, as well as the renown poet, Bulat Okudghava, in 1924. The birth house was popular among the elite. It was right at the central street, situated in a beautiful building, where rooms were spacious and medical care was better than anywhere else. One needed good connections to end up there, and those, born in Roddom Grauermana’, usually belonged to some sort of upper class, albeit under the socialism, classes didn’t exist. But of course, some lived better than others, and connections, or what is known in the Russian language as ‘blat’ (a word that really has no direct translation in English, but can be understood as nepotism) was extremely prevalent during the whole existence of the Soviet Union, and still is, although judging from the readings of the Russian literature, ‘blat’ is just a part of the Russian psyche. Gogol wrote extensively about it, but so did Tolstoy and other prominent classical Russian writers.
It happened that I was born into a more or less elite family, by the standards of that time. The family was very intellectual as a whole. My grand-dad, who during the second world war, was a sapper, attached to special forces, received several medals, including Order of the Red Star, and upon his return from the war, became a renowned and extremely popular professor of geology at the People’s Friendship University, situated not far from the ‘Jugo-Zapadnaya’ underground station. Due to his position he received a three-room apartment in one of the new buildings at the 9-y micro-district of Teplii Stan, and the whole family, consisting of the grand-dad, grand-mum, their daughter and her husband, moved for a while there, before my mum and my dad received their own apartment, in the same block of flats, but their apartment was only two rooms, and situated right on the sixteenth floor. I remember that once I started to have some conscious memories, every time I would end up on the balcony, the view would take my breath away. It was so high, and so impressive, because one could see for a while almost the whole of 9-y micro-district of Teplii Stan, before other, similar buildings were built all around, but it still gave the illusion of some space, even if it totally lacked in any cosiness. The apartment was awful, and remained so, until it was sold in the middle of the nineties to someone else, with some difficulties. It had always the atmosphere that it was chased by the spirits, or some similar, mystical creatures. Strange insects would appear, or weird noises at night with irregular intervals. Families ending up in this apartment, had arguments, and tough time.
My parents, however, ended up relatively well in the beginning, because, most of the time they stayed at my grand-dad place. There, it was always cosy, and always warm. My grand-mum, who worked only part-time as an administrator at one of the theatre companies, retired relatively early, because my grand-dad, as a geologist, would often be sent away on a project to different places, such as Afghanistan or China, where they would sometimes stay up to two years at a time. She loved cooking, and the house always had the delicious smell of some stew or a pie in preparation. Because my grand-dad was very popular among his students, lots of them, mostly the PhD students, would often come to the house, for a dinner or a drink. They all came from different countries, friendly to the Soviet Union’s ideology, and it was always full of laughter, deep philosophical discussions, and delicious food. My mum and my dad, also ended up working at the same university, albeit at different faculties, would mostly live in their own apartment when I was born, but the main life and activity remained in the house of my grand-parents. It was where that everyone stayed, and my memories of the apartment of my parents don’t come to me until I was seven years old. All glimpses of family time together go back to the house of my grand-dad, Sergei, a truly remarkable man, who was adored by everyone who had the chance to meet him. He was extremely kind, and extremely intelligent. His work was his passion and it was something that he would pass to my mum, an adored child, who was born rather late (my grand-mum was thirty-four when she gave birth), and who chose mathematics as her field, and soon was working on her PhD, right when I was born.
When I was one, my grand-parents had to go to Kabul for a year at least, on one of the geology missions of my grand-dad, my mum was still working on her PhD, my dad was busy building his career as a lecturer in chemistry, and therefore, a nanny had to be hired to look after me. However, my other grand-mum, the mum of my dad, who was at that time in Moscow on a visit, offered to look after me, and after lengthy discussions, and uncertainty in taking such a drastic decision, it was decided at the end that it could be a good idea, and I was taken for two years to the Eastern Ukraine, to a small place near the town called Krasnadon, to be raised and looked after by my other grand-parents. It was where that I would end up spending also all my summers when I returned to Moscow, alternating between Krasnadon and a Cossack farm of my grand-parents, thirty minutes’ drive from Krasnadon, but which was situated in Russia (not that borders counted then), and thus, my upbringing was marked by being a born Moscovite from an elite family, but with love and longing for a quiet countryside at a beautiful farm and Ukraine, where people were friendlier, where life was simpler, and where everything tasted better and fresher.