Sunday, August 21, 2011

Twenty Years and a Day

Lions by Flasher T
Lions, a photo by Flasher T on Flickr.

I'm a bit late, I suppose... still, I've got my own memories. In August of 1991, I wasn't there - but I was close. I'd just finished kindergarten and was about to start school; I was terribly jealous of my sister, who'd been outside the country already, and I'd never been anywhere further than our allotment. So at the end of the summer, my mother promised to take me on a trip.

We were supposed to go to a seaside resort off in the Soviet south, along with my mother's friend and her daughter, with whom we were good friends. But that got canceled at the last minut because of a cholera outbreak, so instead, Mom and I and my sister would spend the last week of August with Mom's cousin and her family, in Leningrad.

I only remember a few things. I remember sitting at home during the day, before the evening train to Leningrad, watching TV; it was Aktuaalne Kaamera, the news show, and next to the anchor's shoulder was a cartoonish green tank on a red background. (In retrospect I'm impressed that the Estonian provincial news had access to some kind of CGI technology, however rudimentary.) I remember arriving at the Leningrad train station in the evening sun, taking the subway to where our cousins lived, and seeing that there had just been heavy rain; that was when the sheer size of the city became apparent - different parts of it had different weather. I remember the grownups kicking myself, my sister and our second cousin (both of them in their mid-teens, me still only seven) out on the street with some cinema money so they could watch the news on TV; we went and saw Maria Mirabella, a Czechoslovakian (I think?) semi-animated, semi-live action movie. I remember my mother bribing me with having my picture taken in knight's armor so I wouldn't make too much of a fuss about taking the train back on Sunday afternoon; I was severely outraged at the notion of missing the Rescue Rangers on TV.

Later on, I remember my mother talking about how she was unsure we would even manage to get back across the border. When we left, it was still the Soviet Union; when we got back, it was an independent Republic of Estonia.

I went back to St. Petersburg again, the second and so far last time I've been to Russia, exactly twelve years later - to the day. That was the first time I'd ever told a girl I loved her. But that's a whole different story...

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