Today we have a very special treat. I have asked my dear and beautiful friend, Ilze, to write down some memories of hers of what it was like for her to grow up in the former Soviet Union. She has done a beautiful job, I devoured her story and smiled all the way through. Enjoy!
When Agnese invited me to write a guest post for her blog on the subject “How was it to grow up in former USSR” my first thaught was: “it was good.”
Seriously. It wasn't any different as growing up in Alaska, Rio or Samoa. Because if your parents love you and are decent people and there's no war in your country -- it's always good. And I had all of that – loving decent parents and a country who was in a cold war with the West, but cold war did not qualified as a real war so – sorry to dissapoint you but growing up in former USSR was good. Despite those terrible sandals Agnese already mentioned in the one of posts on the subject. I had those sandals in white and red, but not in beautiful red. The colour was more like brown/red. Perfect colour for a little girl, right? Don't you just envy us?
But to me there were issues way more important than ugly coloured sandals.
Firls of all, I wanted a little sister just as much as Lisa Simpson wants a pony. No luck here, but I don't think I could blame comunists on this one.
And .. bananas. My second issue. Actually, there was no issue, as there were no bananas. See, all the fruit you could get were seasonal. And 99 % local. (I know it sounds hip and cool and very trendy now, with all those eco friendly fresh veggies from a local farmers market but back then... I was not thrilled, -- let's put it in this way.)
Summer was a blast – all kinds of berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, plums in the autum as well as apples and pears, apples and pears also during winter, but in springtime we started to look forward to the first cucumbers (yes, if you are a little kid in USSR, cucumbers and tomatoes are worth mentioning.) Sometimes during the winter we could get some oranges or tangerines, but only sometimes. Very rearly, actually. Like a few sad tangerines for New Years.
But there was one fruit you could mostly see in pictures. Bananas. There were years without a single banana. I'm not joking. And I loved bananas more than all the cucumbers and apples, and pears and plums and berries in the world put togethere.
Bananas was a really big deal. Really big. It was such a big deal, that there were a soviet cartoon called “Three bananas”. If I remmember the plot correctly, evil dragon was guarding those three bananas and brave young dude went in a fight with evil dragon in order to rescue bananas who indeed had some sort of a magical power...
But sometimes real miracles happend and once I did get a banana. A single banana, but I was happy. That's the word. Happy. As it was a real event, I decided not to eat it (I could have done that in a few seconds) but to keep it for a while (I was a kid with a strong willpower. But only regarding bananas.) I knew that bananas and sun are a match made in heaven. So, I hanged my banana on the kitchen window, so it could get as much sun as it wanted. In the aftenoon I'd hang my banana in my room's window, because, that was were the sun was the best in the aftenoons. I think my banana was making the trip back and forth from kitchen to my room for about a week. After that I was very short on willpower and decided that enough is enough and ... ate my sunbathed banana. I ate it slowly, really savouring every single bite of it.
Some time later a miracle happened again, and I got about five or six bananas. Bananas (insert a happy face here)! Green bananas (insert a not so happy face here)... So, I had to wait.
I don't know where this idea came from, but there was a myth that bananas got yellow much more faster if you wrap them up in a newspaper and keep in some dark place. I've got newspappers, I've got dark places... unfortunaltely, this time willpower had left me. I took real care of those underriped bananas, I cared for them almost as much as other kids care for little chickens, but I could not see any change in a colur. A week passed by, few more days. Bananas still were green as grass. I started slowly, I tried just a half of the green banana. Not so tasty. But it was still a banana. So, long story short – I ate four green bananas (not all at once of course), and only one became a little yellow. Emphasis on “a little”.
My last story would qualifay me as a agent for FBI, if only they would have an appropriate depratment on investigating fruits.
See, one day me and my best friend had enough of playing doll hauses and all that girly stuff, so we went for a walk around our neibourghood. And there it was. Lying on the concrete. A banana peel. And a few steps further – another one! Do you have any idea what it means? Yes, that there are bananas somewhere in the city! Some shop is selling bananas!!! Oh my God, we should hurry up and find that store!!! So at first, we went to the store which was on the same street we found those peels. Actually, there were no shop on that street, so we went for nearest shop. Zero! We went to the next shop. Zero. So, we searched all the shops in our neghbourhood. Nothing.We went to the two shops outside our neighborhood (we were allowed to walk only in our neighbourhood, so we could get into a much trouble for being brave and courious, and determined.) No luck there as well. Up to this day we don't know where these banana peels came from, but the idea that there are a bananas in our city was inspiring in itself, because it ment that there is a tiny possibility that they may sell bananas again some other day.
Of course, it did not happened “some other day”.
You know whats weird? Now I can get a bananas whenever I want as much I want. Of course, that's not wierd. What is weird, that I'd choose strawberries over bananas now.
Local strawberries in the season.