“You never see bad days in a photo album, but it is these days that get us from one happy snapshot to the next.”
This week I am participating in Jim`s Magnificent Monday with the theme Vintage. If you would like to participate in the event, please leave your link in the linky section over there or here in the comment section and we can all have a look. Let`s see how many vintage posts we can link in.
When I visited Russia in 2008 I learned something very important. No matter what culture, religion or colour we are or what language we speak, we all have one thing in common: the love to page through old photo albums.
After lunch one afternoon we sat down in the lounge of my Mother-in-law, Valentina. The conversation drifted to World War II, when she was a teenage girl. I didn`t understand a word of Russian and Andrey had to translate everything. She took out a small photo album and handed it to us. For a moment my thoughts drifted back to days when I used to visit my beloved grandmother and the times when we would page through the photo albums. I missed her more than ever.
I knew very little about the struggles of the people in Russia. In fact, even after 4 years I still don`t understand what they have been through as a nation over the years. Sometimes I could see the sadness and struggle in the eyes of older people. World War II in particular hit them very hard and many, many Russians died at the hand of Hitler. I still get the shivers when I think about it, because memories of my visit to Dachau Concentration camp is still fresh in my mind.
Here I was, sitting in the lounge of a woman who have seen it first hand. She did not hesitate and told us that she grew up in a town called Voronezh. German soldiers occupied the town during the War. The soldiers would come to the house and milk the cows and take the chickens. This left her Mom without food for the little ones. Until one day, when she finally had enough! She went to the Chief in charge and told him what happened and that she doesn`t have food for her children. I sat there mesmerized and Andrey`s mom was smiling. Imagine going to an Army Officer – the enemy. I held my breath..what happened? He told his soldiers to still milk the cows and take the chickens but every time they take milk they had to bring some food for the children: flour.
I was amazed. She told us about taking shelter in the basement when the bombs would fall from the sky. How the German soldiers loved her little brother, because he had blonde hair and big blue eyes. Sometimes they had to hide all the young girls when drunk soldiers were loose. My heart went out to her.
After the war she left Voronezh for Kaliningrad. She loved travelling and if it wasn`t for her advanced age she would still be travelling. She took great pride in showing us the photos of her youth. She was a beautiful young woman and I can see the pride in my husband`s eyes when he looks at the black and white photos of his beloved Mom.
She continued to tell us how everybody tried to rebuilt their lives after the war. Cities were in ruins and people were sifting through the rubble to try and rebuilt what was. Life would never be the same again. It was during this time that she met Andrey`s father. They married and she`s been living in Kaliningrad ever since.
She hasn`t been back to Voronezh for many reasons.
We listened to friendships that she`s built over the years and places where she had worked. She`s been through the Soviet era, seen communism fall and now she is adjusting to a life where capitalism is a very new and frightening concept for many older Russians. Not once did I see a single regret in her eyes. She lives life to the fullest. For her and many older Russians the most important thing in life is and has always been: family and friends.
I closed the album and gave it back to her. She told us to keep it. She doesn`t need the photos, it is all stored in a special place in her memory and heart.
Some months ago I took the photos and copied them. Yesterday I turned it into a collage for this post. I really like it. It is something different and special. I hope that next time she will tell us the story again…only this time I would like to record it, something I never did when my grandmother was still alive.