moscow

Meeting My Best Friend

gymnasticsFrom November until March, Moscow was cold, snowy and brown, the color of trees devoid of leaves and left with empty branches. But spring always came suddenly to Moscow. One day in early March, the sun melted the top layer of ice and snow, shone in the puddles, and turned the streets to mud and slush. It was still coat and hats weather, but Muscovites could sense the approach of the spring. Spring brought smiles, brighter days, revival of nature, and new ideas to Muscovites.

That particular year the new idea that the bright March weather brought to my mother involved me and sports. She had seen me trip over the rope I was supposed to skip, crawl around the ice-skating rink, and hit myself with a badminton racket. She was determined to improve my athletic ability. I was not thrilled.

Unfortunately, a youth gymnastics club was only a block away from our apartment. The club was on the second floor of a tall building stuck between the neighborhood grocery store and the district library.

“You need to be better coordinated and more graceful,” my mother said as she opened the heavy squeaky door. “You are seven, so it’s definitely not too early to start.”

We climbed up a short flight of stairs to the second floor and stopped in front of a door. A small sign hammered to the door read, “Eagle Athletics for Children.” We walked inside.

After exchanging brief greetings with a stern-looking woman in round glasses, her graying hair pinned up in a bun, my mother asked about gymnastics class availability. I held my breath, hoping that other aspiring gymnasts had already taken all the spaces.

“We just opened a new Tuesday/Thursday class for girls aged six and seven. Plenty of spaces in that one,” she said.

My heart sank.

My mother quickly filled an application, paid, and thanked the lady. As soon as we walked outside, I felt an invisible force pulling my body back to the club. What was it? Was it my mother’s convincing arguments? My own hidden desire to improve myself? Nothing like that. It was just my scarf that got stuck in the door-jamb and jerked me back. Nearly escaping strangulation, I freed the scarf. We kept walking.

“Adjust your scarf. Your first class is on Tuesday. Babushka will take you,” my mother said.

My grandmother, Babushka, lived just a few blocks away from us and always volunteered to watch me when my parents were busy. I loved spending time with her – she baked delicious apple pies and always let me win at board games. But I still was not looking forward to gymnastics, not even if Babushka took me.

The first few classes were not too bad: we did a few stretches, ran around, and twirled colorful silk ribbons in the air. Our instructor, Tatiana Ivanovna, was a retired gymnast. She was a nice older lady who did not ask too much of us. And I was grateful for that.

Soon, Babushka and I got into a routine. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we walked down the street to my gymnastics class. Babushka was enthusiastic about my new endeavor. “All girls should be elegant and graceful; gymnastics is good for you,” she often said.

Then, one Thursday, a sudden feeling of dread overcame me when I walked into the large bright room and did not see our instructor.

“Tatiana Ivanovna is away this week. I’ll be your instructor for the next three classes,” a young woman with short dark hair said. A professional gymnast, she was probably in her twenties but was as small and thin as a teenager. She smiled at the class and sat down on her black mat.

I plopped on mine and glanced at a skinny red-haired girl next to me. Sitting flat on the floor, she stretched forward, put her hands over her feet and bent her head down. Were her bones made of rubber?

“You’re flexible, stretch more,” the instructor said to me.

“Uh-huh,” I said and touched my hands to my knees. Something inside me cracked and popped.

“Excellent job, girls!” The instructor smiled. “Let’s do hand-stands now. Please line up.”

Hand-stands? She must be kidding. Surely, a human body is intended to stand on feet, not hands. What if my head slips and I break my neck? What if my wrists give way? What if…? I had to escape this nightmare, and quick. I wiped my sweaty palms on my freshly-washed leotard.

My heart racing, I searched around the room. There was no place to hide. The room was bright and open. One wall had large windows overlooking the street. Radiators were hidden in niches under the windows. The remaining three walls had large mirrors and ballet bars. The other girls lined up to do hand-stands. I sought refuge. I noticed that one radiator niche, in the far corner of the room, was empty. Perfect.

As soon as the instructor turned her back to me, I leaped for my secret hiding spot. When I crawled inside, I heard breathing. A dark-haired girl sat crouched in the corner, her knees pulled up to her chest, her eyes wide open.

“I am too scared to do the hand-stand,” she whispered and moved over.

I crawled inside and crouched next to her.

“My name is Julia. Who are you?”

“I am Julia, too.”

We giggled.

“Where do you live?”

“Building nine on Khlebny Street.”

“Me too! What apartment number? I am in twenty-nine, on the fourth floor.”

“Twenty-eight, on the third floor,” she said. “Do you think they are done?”

I peeked out. Most girls were doing stretches on the ballet bar. One girl was doing a hand-stand. Looking straight down at her, the instructor held the girl’s feet high up in the air.

“Oi, oi, oi,” Julia said. “Scary.”

“She’s the last one,” I whispered. “It’s safe to come out now.”

Julia and I crawled out of the radiator niche. When the instructor turned away to adjust a girl’s ponytail, we dashed to the opposite wall and took our places at the ballet bars.

“Good job with the hand-stands, everyone!” the instructor said.

I winked at Julia. She bit her lip to avoid laughing and stretched on the ballet bars with everyone else. The dreaded hand-stands were safely in the past, and a new friendship was in the future.

***

Thanks for reading! This story comes from my book Twelve Months of the Soviet Childhood.

 

Author’s Note: 

The Soviet Union prided itself on its achievements in sports during the Olympic Games and other international competition. Athletic accomplishments of the Soviet Union were regarded as highly as scientific discoveries and space exploration.

Soviet athletes trained hard. Their accomplishments were used to gain prestige for the country, and to show the world the high standards of athletic preparation in the Soviet Union as well as promote the Soviet way of life. The Soviet style in gymnastics combined athletic performance with artistic ballet-style expressive movements.

To coordinate physical education programs, an organization called the Voluntary Sports Societies was created, with the goal to provide access to athletic facilities and sports to everyone in the USSR. Youth athletic clubs were an important part of that program.

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Categories: friendship, gymnastics, humor, moscow, Russia, Russian culture, school, spring | Leave a comment

A mystery set in Russia

My mystery novel “In the Crosshairs” is featured on the FKBooks blog today for only 99c. Please take a look at the blog post. Perhaps, you find my book interesting enough to read :). Here’s the link:“In the Crosshairs” on FKBooks blog

crosshairs

Categories: detective stories, moscow, mystery, Russian culture, Russian historical fiction | 1 Comment

Seven Sisters

An aerial view of Moscow, with one of Stalin’s “seven sisters” (skyscrapers) in the center.
21-most-beautiful-places-photographed-by-drones-where-overflight-is-illegal-today-118
Photo credit: http://www.technocrazed.com/21-most-beautiful-places-photographed-by-drones-where-overflight-is-illegal-today

Categories: architecture, moscow, photography, Russia, Stalin | Leave a comment

February in Moscow

It’s almost February, and I would like to share a childhood story with you about February in Moscow and my amazing Uncle Gena. The story comes from my book Twelve Months of the Soviet Childhood. You can read the story below the image. I hope you like it!
twelve

February: Sunshine above the Clouds

Moscow has long, cold winters with temperatures of below 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter lasts from early November to late March. Snow covers the ground for three to five months each year.

Summers start in mid-May and last till early September. Summer temperatures vary widely. A typical temperature is around 73 degrees Fahrenheit, but heat waves can raise the temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a week at a time. Often, sunny summer days are followed by endless rains and cold spells. Moscow gets an average of 1500 hours of sunshine annually, and an average of 100 rainy days per year.

The highest summer temperature on record, 100.8 °F, was on July 29, 2010. The lowest recorded temperature was −44.0 °F in January 1940.

***

Soon, the excitement and the festive mood that the holidays always brought were over. Colorful lights were gone from the streets of Moscow until next year. My parents and I put away the tree and all the ornaments, and our apartment suddenly became empty. Winter break was over, but there was still no end in sight for the long and dreary Moscow winter. The days were still short and dim, and the nights cold and snowy.

One dreary Sunday morning, I sat in my room looking at the street below. It was covered with snow brown from the sand and the salt sprinkled by the janitors. Thick grey clouds shrouded the sky. Once again, there was not even a hint of sunshine. The outside did not look inviting at all, so I tried to think of things to do inside. My best friend Julia was visiting her grandparents for the weekend, and even my books, dolls, and toys seemed dull on that winter morning. My parents were busy with a home improvement project in the kitchen. I was bored.

Then, the doorbell rang, and I heard my mom talking to Uncle Gena. Immediately, my mood changed. Uncle Gena always found fun things to do, even in the gloomy winter weather. I ran to the hallway to greet him.

“A new exhibit just opened by the university, but your parents are too busy to go.” Uncle Gena waved towards the kitchen. “Want to come?”

Without even asking what the exhibit was, I pulled on an extra sweater, put on heavy boots, my coat, hat, and mittens. I had complete trust in Uncle Gena. He had never suggested anything boring. I was excited and did not mind the dark winter day anymore.

Outside, my mood changed. Cold wind made snow twirl up in the air and get under my collar. It melted on my neck and made me shiver. The road was slippery, and it took us a long time to get to the metro. Despite Uncle Gena’s attempts to cheer me up, I felt miserable. I wished it were summer.

Getting inside the metro was a relief. It was warm and dry, and no snow was in sight. But after a short ride, we had to get out again. Luckily, the exhibit that Uncle Gena was taking me to was right across the street. “Colorful Tropical Fish from Southern Seas” a sign above a one-storied building announced. We followed the narrow path between high snow drifts to the building.

It was a different world inside. Pictures of palm trees and white sandy beaches covered the walls. Bright and warm overhead lights shone from above. A large aquarium occupied the middle of the room. Blue, yellow, and purple fish swam in slow circles around green seaweed and pink corals. Sea horses gracefully floated by the walls of the aquarium. I gently put my finger on the glass. A purple fish with yellow stripes glided right by my hand. The bright colors reminded me of butterflies and flowers at our summer cottage, my beloved dacha. I thought of the summer that was just a few months away and smiled.

“Do you want to have a cup of tea in the café upstairs?” Uncle Gena asked after we had looked at all the fish.

“Can we come back here afterwards?”

“Agreed.”

We climbed up the steep stairs to the small café and took a table by the window. The exhibit building stood on the top of a hill, and all of Moscow was below us. I saw bundled-up people hurrying along snow-covered streets. Did they even know that there was this amazing tropical exhibit, right in the middle of the Moscow winter?

The golden domes of old Kremlin churches were right below us. They seemed to sparkle in the light.

“Look up!” Uncle Gena said.

Above us, the clouds had parted, and the bright rays of the sun played on the domes making them feel warm and inviting.

“The sun is finally shining!” I said.

“The sun is always shining, especially above the clouds,” Uncle Gena said. “You just need to get high enough to see it.”

For the rest of February, when the grey and cold weather descended on Moscow, I kept reminding myself of Uncle Gena’s words. And they made the winter go by faster.

Categories: February, moscow, Russia, Russian culture, winter | 5 Comments

More ice sculptures

As I searched around for more ice scupltures, I discovered that there’s a whole museum of ice sculptures in Moscow. Here are a couple of images from the museum:

Photo credit: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/russian-ice-sculpture-gallery.html

Categories: fairy tales, ice sculpture, moscow, Russia, winter | 7 Comments

Moscow in 1930s

More amazing vintage photos. Pictures of Christ the Savior cathedral give me chills. Hard to imagine this beauty was destroyed…

vintage everyday

The Kremlin from the Bolshoi Kamenny Most

The Kremlin from the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Most

The Kremlin from the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Most

The Mosvkoretskaya street and the Vasilevsky spusk from the Moskvoretsky bridge

Kremlin, Granovitaya Palace

Kremlin, the Blagoveschensky (Annunciation) cathedra

The Great Ivan bell tower

The Red Square

The GUM supermarket

Resurrection or Iversky gate (destroyed in 1931)

Sverdlov (Theatre) square

Teatralny proezd towards the Lubyanka

The CUM supermarket

The Second Moscow Art Theatre (then Central Children’s Theatre)

TORGSIN, the “foreign currency” shop for foreigners (1931-36)

Ohotny Ryad street

The Soviet square

Agitation poster for the five years plan on the Soviet square

Soviet square, Lenin Institute

Strastnaya square (where the giant lion was sleeping)

Tversky square, with the still standing New Triumphal Gate

The Christ Savior cathedral, blown up in 1931

The Christ Savior cathedral

The Novodevichi monastery

The Pyatnitsa street with the Paraskeva Pyatnitsa church (destroyed in 1935)

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Categories: moscow, Russia, Russian churches, Russian culture | 4 Comments

A Russian Mystery

My latest mystery, In the Crosshairs, is featured on this cool blog. I’m pretty happy today :): In the Crosshairs

crosshairs

Categories: detective stories, moscow, mystery, Russian culture, Russian historical fiction | 3 Comments

Discovering Russian Tales

What a great post about some of the best Russian fairy-tales! Great illustrations and beautiful editions.

Purls of Endearment

Photo above: “Tsarevich Ivan, The Firebird and The Grey Wolf” – Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

I remember when I was a kid, my dad used to buy us books on his salary day. My mom was getting upset with him because instead of buying food or something we needed for the day-to-day life he was spending money on books. We read because we wanted to learn. We considered reading part of anybody’s personal education.

The word went around fast when someone found a good book. We were borrowing books from each other and then discussed them. I actually had my own small library in my room. I learned how to be very selective about the titles I was collecting. I still collect books.

I was in 7th grade when one of my classmates brought to school a beautifully illustrated book with Russian folk tales. It was written in French. Our French teacher…

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Categories: fairy tales, moscow, Russia, Russian culture | Leave a comment

Winter in Moscow

Christ the Saviour Cathedral is my favorite place in Moscow. The original cathedral was built in honor of Russia’s 1812 victory over Napoleon but destroyed on Stalin’s orders in 1931, then re-built in 1995-2000.

Photo credit: @rus_tatianachrist-the-saviour-cathedral

Categories: Christmas, church, moscow, Russia, Russian culture, winter | Leave a comment

Russian calendar hacks

Happy Old New Year! You think it’s an oxymoron? Yes, it is, just like a lot of things in Russia. If you’ve been following the news, you probably think that Russians spend all their time spying and hacking into stuff. But that’s not true. Not all their time. We have plenty of time left for partying. One such holiday is tonight — it’s New Year’s Eve. The date is based on the old Julian calendar that the Russian Orthodox Church uses to mark its holidays. Russia switched to Gregorian calendar in 1918, but why give up the second opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve, right?

To celebrate the day, I’d like to share a childhood story with you. No politics, no hacks, and no spies in this story, just a look into a kid’s life in Russia. This story comes from a book I self-published a few years ago:

twelve

Here’s the link to the book in case you’re curious: Twelve Months of a Soviet Childhood

January: A New Year’s Party at the Kremlin

The idea of decorating a pine tree was brought to Russia from Germany in 1817 by Czarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, the wife of Czar Nicholas I. The practice became widely popular because the czar invited thousands of people in St. Petersburg to visit the Winter Palace, the official residence of the czar, during the celebration.

After the 1917 Socialist Revolution, all religious celebrations, including Christmas, were banned by the new Communist Government. In 1937, the Soviet government revived winter festivities, but in a secular form. Pagan and Christian images were combined and altered, and a new holiday was created – the New Year’s Eve. Soon, New Year’s trees were decorated in homes and offices all over Russia.

In 1992, religious traditions were officially allowed and even encouraged. But the New Year’s festivities continued. Russian Christmas, according to the old Julian calendar used by the Russian Orthodox Church, falls on the seventh of January. Thus, the seventh of January is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus by attending a church service and having a festive dinner at home. New Year’s Eve is still a major holiday, with a decorated tree and gifts from Father Frost, the secular version of Santa Claus, and his granddaughter the Snow Maiden.

***

The glossy and rare ticket was on the kitchen table in front of me, the golden words “Kremlin’s New Year’s Party” sparkling on its shiny paper. It was winter break, and I couldn’t wait to go to this party – one of many offered during the school vacation. Early January in Moscow was a great time for kids – the holiday decorations at home and around Moscow were still up, winter break was in full swing, and many New Year’s parties for kids were happening in concert halls, theaters, and parks. I couldn’t believe I was going to the Kremlin’s New Year’s Party – the tickets were hard to come by. How did my parents manage to get them? I was excited and happy. The only detail that dampened my festive mood was that I had to go with Dmitry, my annoying older cousin.

“Do I have to go with him? He doesn’t even like girls,” I said. “And he definitely doesn’t like third-graders.”

“It’s a big place, and it’ll be nice to go with someone you know. He’ll be good to you,” my mother said and put my black shiny shoes in a bag. “When you get inside, make sure to change into these and leave your boots with your jacket in the coat-check room.”

I had been to New Year’s parties before, but never at the Kremlin. At the other parties, I loved watching the lighting of the New Year’s tree, going to live theatre performances, and meeting Father Frost with his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden. Getting a gift of sweets packaged in a sturdy plastic container shaped as a snowflake, a snowman, or a star, at the end of such parties, was a nice touch as well.

The Kremlin New Year’s party was scheduled to start at ten in the morning. Just after nine, my mother and I left our downtown Moscow apartment and took a brisk fifteen-minute walk to the Kremlin.

The morning was cold, snowy and yellow, like the sand sprinkled on the roads. We hurried past brown trees left with empty branches by the Russian winter, onto the street, and through the underpass on New Arbat Street leading up to the Kremlin. Hazy rays of winter sun played on the windows of the New Arbat skyscrapers. I loved looking at these skyscrapers, especially on holidays when their facades lit up with the words “USSR” on state holidays, or “1 May” for May Day, or “9 May” for Victory Day in World War II. On New Year’s night, just a few days ago, we watched as the numbers 1979 on these buildings were replaced with 1980 at the stroke of midnight.

Pulling my scarf tighter to stop the falling snow from getting inside my collar, I kept walking next to my mother. Soon, the red walls of the Kremlin and the four gate towers were in front of us.

“The ticket says to enter through Kutafia Tower,” mother said. The long line of shivering children with adults clearly indicated our destination – the barrel-shaped white tower with red ornamental bricks along the top. As we walked inside the tower, the only intact watch tower outside of the Kremlin left from the 1516 construction, I felt grateful for the heavy fortified walls that provided a shield from the piercing January wind.

The security officer glanced at the ticket and waved us through. We walked along the stone bridge towards another tower, the red brick Trinity tower of elaborate multi-tiered architecture of the turn of the fifteenth century. We stopped in front of the entrance to the glass and marble State Kremlin Palace, my destination and the first building on the other side of the Trinity Tower. With its modern design, the State Kremlin Palace looked like an alien spaceship that landed amidst ancient red brick Kremlin towers.

I looked around for my cousin.

“They have to transfer twice in the metro to get here. They’ll be here soon,” my mother said.

The square in front of the Palace was filled with parents giving their kids final instructions on proper behavior before sending them inside.

“Freezing out here?” a voice said. I turned around. My cousin and his father came up to us. “You kids have fun. Behave!”

“Like going to these silly shows is ever fun,” Dmitry muttered as soon as we said goodbye to our parents. We walked through the double-doors into the warmth of the building. The Palace was enormous, with many escalators, staircases, and hallways.

“The coat-check room is down the escalator,” a woman wearing a light blue jacket embroidered with a small emblem of the Kremlin told us. “To your right.”

“Thank you.” I turned right.

“I just hate it when people tell me what to do,” Dmitry muttered.

“She’s just trying to help,” I said and pulled him towards the escalator.

“She probably hates kids,” Dmitry said. “Who would want to have her job anyway?”

“There’s nothing wrong with her job. Plus, she probably gets to see all the shows she wants,” I said. “And that’s really wonderful.”

Dmitry opened his mouth to argue, no doubt, but we were already on the underground level and had to get off the escalator. We followed the other kids to the coat-check room. I felt freer and lighter after I got rid of the coat, the hat, the mittens, the scarf, and the big winter boots.

“Up that way,” the coat-check lady told us. “All the way to the big mirror. Escalator on your left.”

“There are hidden cameras behind that mirror,” Dmitry whispered when we got to the escalator. “To watch for stuff. And I don’t like when people watch me. Or control me. I like to be independent.”

That was typical Dmitry, always looking for the weirdest and strangest explanations of simple stuff. How did he come up with these ideas?

I looked at him in disbelief. “What do you think these imaginary cameras are watching? Kids putting their shoes on? Let’s go upstairs,” I said. “Can you smell the pine tree?”

Soon, we were in a brightly lit hall with shiny marble floors and sparkling chandeliers. A pine tree reached to the vaulted glass ceiling. Kids stood around the tree, gazing at the colorful ornaments and shimmering tinsel garlands. Two clowns, a short fat one and a tall skinny one, stood next to a girl in a pink dress. The tall clown bowed to her, pulled a candy bar out of her ear, and handed it to her. The short clown erupted in wild laughter and rolled on the floor.

Three jugglers, looking high up at the ceiling, threw and caught small blue balls. First just one ball, then two, then three…

“Look! Six balls in the air at once!” I said.

“It’s good. But I bet I could do it if I practiced.” Dmitry made an indifferent face and turned to the window.

Suddenly, the hall lights twinkled and dimmed. The clowns and jugglers stepped aside. The room was quiet with anticipation.

Clad in a sparkling silver robe, carrying a sack full of gifts on his back, Father Frost slowly walked into the room, banging his staff on the marble floor. “Happy New Year! Happy New Year! New Year brings new happiness,” he boomed. The Snow Maiden, his granddaughter who always accompanied him to New Year’s parties, was next to him. She was dressed in a silver jacket, shimmering blue skirt, and white boots. Her long blond hair was braided. The top of her head was decorated with a sparkling silver crown.

“Dear kids, we had a difficult journey across the snow and ice of the North Pole to get to your party. Let’s wish each other a Happy New Year,” the Snow Maiden said.

“Be good this year, obey your parents and always do your homework,” Father Frost said.

“Like I’m going to listen to some old guy,” Dmitry said.

“Old guy?” I could not believe what he was saying. “It’s Father Frost! How can you talk about him that way? And he’s right. Nothing wrong with doing homework and being good.”

Dmitry scoffed at me. “I’ll do what I want to do.”

I turned away from Dmitry and towards Father Frost and the Snow Maiden.

“But dear kids, something is not right with this party.” The Snow Maiden walked around the hall, a worried expression on her face. “Do you know what?”

Dmitry poked me in the ribs with his sharp elbow. “It’s the same thing every year. No lights on the tree. Now, they’ll make us yell for the lights to come on.”

“Can’t you just have fun?” I said and stepped away from Dmitry and closer to the Snow Maiden. “I love seeing the lights twinkle on the tree.”

“The tree is sad,” the Snow Maiden started, “because its lights are not on. Repeat after me, ‘One-two-three, light up the tree!’”

After the first round of chanting, the lights did not come on. After a few more tries, when the chanting was judged by Father Frost to be loud enough, the tree lit up, and the party was officially started.

We were ushered into the concert hall to watch a play about the Old Year, a character who looked like Father Time, who presented the Baby New Year with his “walking stick.” Soon after, the Baby New Year was kidnapped by evil spirits dressed in all black who wanted to stay in the past and did not want to welcome the New Year. Eventually, the baby New Year was freed and the evil forces were captured.

“My favorite part now,” Dmitry said. “Candy.”

We walked out of the concert hall and into the lobby where long tables along all the walls were stacked with miniature Kremlin Trinity Towers filled with candy. Palace employees were giving them out as the kids came up to them. Dmitry and I walked to one of the tables and exchanged our tickets for two plastic towers that smelled like chocolate.

Back in our coats, hats, and scarves, we left the Palace and, escorted by the Kremlin security officers, exited into the Cathedral Square where the six thousand eagerly awaiting parents formed an enormous circle along the walls of the square. “Walk inside the circle until you see your parents,” a security officer told us. The parents yelled out their kids’ names, waved hats and scarves in the air to attract the kids’ attention; it was a slightly odd yet practical system for picking up children.

Plastic Trinity Tower clutched in my gloved hands, I walked inside the circle. In the crowd of moving kids, I lost sight of Dmitry. I walked a little more, then heard my mother’s voice, “Julia! Julia!” I ran out of the circle towards her. She was standing next to Dmitry’s father at the far end of the square.

“Good party?” my mother asked. “Where’s Dmitry?”

I turned around but couldn’t see my cousin. The palace square was filled with yelling parents and circling kids. “He was with me the whole time,” I said peering into the crowd. With many kids and parents gone now, the three of us moved closer to the center of the shrinking circle of kids. In a matter of minutes, all the kids were reunited with their parents. The quiet and empty square seemed even colder now.

“Where is he?” Dmitry’s dad was clearly agitated and worried. “Maybe, he stayed inside the building?”

The three of us walked back to the Cathedral Square exit – the doors were now closed, the lobby lights off. We came closer to the glass walls of the Palace and peered into its darkness. We could not see anyone inside.

“Let’s go back to the main entrance,” mother said. “Maybe, he got out there?”

The main entrance looked even darker. No kids or parents were around, just a security guard dressed in a thick winter coat, ear flaps down on his fur hat. He came up to us. “Is there a problem?” he asked, thick white vapor coming out of his mouth.

“I don’t see my son,” Dmitry’s father said. “The kids were at the party together…” He pointed to me.

“Maybe, his mother or grandmother picked him up?” the security guard said. “Did he go home with a friend?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Dmitry’s father shifted from foot to foot.

The security guard took a radio out of his pocket and called over to the Palace, “Masha? Any kids left inside? No? You sure?” He put his radio back in. “No, nobody inside. You have any numbers to call?”

“Yes, yes, I do,” Dmitry’s father said.

“Don’t worry, tovarish, no kids have ever been lost at the Kremlin,” the security guard said. “Let’s go inside.”

He led us to a side entrance. A small desk with three phones on it was right inside the door. “Here,” the guard moved one of the phones towards us. “You can call from here.”

Dmitry’s father dialed his home number, then our home number, then a couple of other numbers. No answer anywhere.

“Leave his description with me and a phone number where I can reach you,” the security guard said.

“Leave our number, too,” mother said. “Let’s go to our apartment and wait for him. It’s much closer to the Kremlin.”

Slowly, our mood somber, we walked back to our apartment. Snow was falling down in thick white flakes from the darkened sky. Cars and buses, dirty from the snow and sand, sped by.

“Where did he go?” Dmitry’s father said. “That kid is always trouble. Just doesn’t want to follow rules.” He sighed. “I hope he’s okay.”

We walked down New Arbat Street, then turned into the small street leading up to our apartment building. Soon, we were inside. I pushed the elevator button.

When we got out of the elevator, our apartment door was open. “I saw you out of the window,” my father said. “Dmitry just called. He’s at home. He said he doesn’t like being treated like an old suitcase on a baggage carousel. So, he ran to the metro and went home by himself. How was the party?”

Dmitry’s father sighed with relief, then shook his head. “I’m glad he’s okay.” Then, he reached into his pocket and took out a white envelope with blue snowflakes. “Here are two tickets to a party at the Cinematographers’ Club tomorrow.” He handed the envelope to me. “Take a friend. The old suitcase is grounded.”

Feeling a little bad for Dmitry, I thanked his father and took the tickets. Maybe now, Dmitry would learn to take the words of Father Frost about behaving well more seriously.

Categories: Christmas, moscow, Russian culture, winter | 7 Comments

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