Magazine article Russian Life

Aunties: The Seven Summers of Alevtina and Ludmila

Magazine article Russian Life

Aunties: The Seven Summers of Alevtina and Ludmila

Article excerpt

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In World War II, my grandfather Alexey was a sapper in the Russian Army on the Karelian Front. Fairly early in the war he was wounded, losing sight in one eye, most of his hearing, and the use of one of his hands. Because of these injuries, he was able to return home to his wife and two daughters. My grandparents had three more children after the war, the youngest of whom is my father.

In 1952, Alexei began to lose the vision in his remaining eye. To help the family get along better, he decided to return home to the place where he grew up. He found an unoccupied hill in Alekhovshchina, a village north of St. Petersburg, close to his brothers, sisters, and cousins. He took his house apart, log by log, a Roman numeral carved onto each one, floated it down the Oyat River to its present location, and reconstructed it.

More than sixty years later, the house is still occupied by my aunts from April to September.

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My parents and I left for the United States in 1992, when I was twelve years old. I was afraid that I would never see the house or my grandfather again.... When I was finally able to return, it was as though nothing in the village had changed. The air still smelled of pinecones and the tablecloth on the dinner table was the same one I remembered from childhood.

For me, a city girl, time in the village was both exciting and difficult. As I got older, I was very bored at times, so I began to read, descending from my room only to eat at strictly appointed meal hours --tea at 11:30, supper at 7:00--be late and go hungry. …

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