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Anatolie, Galina and Ludmila

Anatolie, Galina and Ludmila

 

Before our 6th grade graduation, we had a lovely Spiritual Exercise, except I was the only non Roman Catholic (I am Orthodox, not Roman church). After the service, Father Ignacio de Loyola gave us a beautiful talk and told us that if we had a problem, we should write it on a piece of paper and put it in the box. I need help, for him to explain me that, because my Church does not believe that the Pope of Rome is our representative here on earth; the other girls called him “Su Santidad” and said I would go to hell. Well, in my Church there are no living Saints!
After all the girls went to bed, I was summoned to Mother Superior’s Office. I had never been there before. It was a large wood-paneled room. Father Ignacio who was from the missions of Ahmedabad in India, walked towards me and greeted me in my language, saying “God be merciful!” After we repeat that blessing 3 times, we talked. I just loved him; he made so much sense and radiated kindness, and gentleness, besides being handsome! In fact, all the girls were whispering about him at the church and in the hall, disrespecting the silence of our Spiritual exercises. He was very nice to me and helped me understand the differences in all religions.
Saying goodbye to the school was sad, but there was so much that I wanted to do now that I was growing up. What would I be? I didn’t understand that I was not educated to do anything, except pray, read and get married someday.

My sister was invited to an opening of the first great hotel on the Island, a Sheraton at Porlamar beach just a new steps from where we lived. Anatoly had come to the worksite to operate heavy machinery and make good money, but actually he came to visit us, especially mama; he brought her a beautiful diamond. Papa was there too, so the whole family was together, even Valery who Galina was in the process of divorcing.

Fedor was taking a bathtub washing himself, when he called mama in to wash his back. I went to bring soap and to my horror saw that he had a concealed knife under his armpit. I felt it was a dangerous situation and screamed for Gala, but then mama went in unaware and started washing his back. Just as he was about to pull the knife from under his arm, we rushed in and took the knife away from him. He smelled heavily of the alcohol, and had accidentally scarred my wrist when we grabbed the knife out of his hands.

This was just days before the grand opening of the Sheraton, but luckily papa left almost immediately, embarrassed by his behavior, so we all had time to cool off before the big event.
I did not yet realize that alcohol is a devil that makes people do crazy, bad things; for me it was just more Hollywood drama at my door. When the happy day arrived, mamachka did not want to go, but Anatoly was dressed to kill in a black tuxedo suit, I never seen him dress up like this, and Galina was in a black velvet dress with a tiny tiny waist. I was in a pale rose encaje dress, with white shoes and gloves! Wheee!
I felt like a Hollywood star, we sat with the cream of the cream, big shots from the Island and from Caracas all came for this great event.
Of course, Isla Margarita was really only a fisherman’s Island, laid back and peaceful, so this was the first real ball, with the pool and garden all lit up with special dancing lights, and the palm trees seeming to sway with the rhythm of the bossanova music- slow music but with a romantic, sexy beat that matched the gentle waves of the Caribbean. I saw the reflection of the moon glittering on the water, and felt the breeze caressing my body.  I‘m afraid I can’t do justice to the scene with my descriptions: I felt so so good and happy, just to breathe and be alive in this magic moment that I wanted to last forever. (As I’m writing I felt again for a second that incredible moment!).
I went everywhere in the hotel after dinner, while my brother and Galina were sitting drinking their fancy drinks in all different colors, (of course my brother was always drinking vodka mixes).                          Walking around, I found the elevator. I’d never been in one, so of course I went in to try it and pressed all the buttons. Then I saw strong white hands with long fingers, stopping the doors that were almost closed, and in walked a handsome slender blond man. I looked up at his beautiful blue eyes staring at me, fascinating and paralyzing me; he was so tall and good looking! He asked in English, in a velvety voice, “What floor are you going to, young lady?”  Since I did not understand a word at the time, I looked up into those big eyes and then read the name on his lapel tag: “Juan Carlos Blake.”  Seeing me tremble, he just smiled, looked at the elevator controls and did not say a word. He smelled so good, and at that moment my dream of the Hollywood movies seemed complete. I wished that moment would last forever: stop the world and let me off, I have arrived!

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At the school

I am 14 years in 5 grade

Sometimes we had movies at school, and I began to get ideas of love and romance. I especially remember a very famous Spanish actor, Jorge Mistral, who had a deep sexy voice and a build like Victor Mature. Years later I actually met him, and years after that I learned he had killed himself because he could not live with what drugs and alcohol were doing to him.

On my free days I would spend time with mother at her work, and it was there I met the richest woman on the island, Anna, a beauty from Argentinian society who had married a wealthy Lebanese man named Abuhamad. He was fat and unattractive, but rich- he owned all of the fishermen’s’ concessions, and owned all the pearl divers. These men would dive almost naked into the sea and bring up oysters; we lived almost next door to the fishermen’s’ colony and they would let me open some oysters and keep any pearl I might find. So I had lots of pearls, but I had no idea of their value- they were just toys to me!

One day two priests came to visit the wealthy Anna at her house, while her husband was away in Lebanon.  I was visiting with her two little boys (playing house or “doctor and nurse” as the game was called). I loved playing hostess, making sandwiches and babysitting the boys, but I loved going the beach even more. The younger priest followed me into the waves, dragged me under the water and kissed me where no one could see. It felt nice and I liked it, but I got out of the water and ran back to the kids. I took them back to the house, where Anna was playing piano and singing a popular song, “Aquellos Ojos Verdes,” (Those Green Eyes) he had green eyes…. I still love that song and think of that first kiss, not as something bad or immoral, but as a sweet and gentle experience. Later I would get many more kisses, of course, but none as mysterious, beautiful, and exciting as that first kiss underwater from Father Heredia.

I loved my time at the boarding school living in the dorm. One day Dr. Rossi, an Italian skin specialist, and we girls all talked about how handsome he was. Not far from our island in paradise was a leper colony, and they had this beautiful doctor checking us (naked!) for any signs of leprosy on our skin. They would weigh us and measure our height in the next room. This time, however, Dr. Rossi did not make me get naked all the way. Instead, he asked me to follow him into the next room, and next thing I knew I was against the wall with him kissing me! I melted in his arms, and now I thought to myself, “Wheee,  I’m in love with two men!” i, that kiss  seemed like an eternity of passionate kissing, he gently let me loose and asked me where I had learned to kiss. Thinking fast, I replied, “In the movies,” and did not mention the priest.

One holiday vacation we all went to the handsome Dr. Enrico Rossi’s house, where he lived with a beautiful mulatta girlfriend with green eyes, long black azabache hair… I was struck by her appearance but I knew this was not for me; I might dream of the doctor and the priest, but I knew that life would not stop here I have things to do. Life is so so very young.
They were drinking, serving up exciting cocktails,  scotch, vodka, wine, and without hesitating I had one  and another I think I test them all, not the beer, somehow I thought it was  a vulgar  drink, that was only for street man and fishermen, they drink beer. This was pure and unadulterated fun, I thought; I didn’t feel anything special from the effect of the alcohol. I busy enjoying their company too notes the effect and nobody said anything about a teenager drinking.

My sister Gala had friends Arturo and Marlye, the one who brought me books and taught me to love reading and writing poems. Nobody in my home wanted to hear about my poetry, of course,  so I would go to the beach, which had a had a pier, where I would read poetry by myself, and then with tear throw the paper to see so the waves will take them away, where the mermaids  will read than. I dream……….
We left Marley’s house in Arturo’s car and went to the other side of the island, where we could swim in the open sea, which was warm even at night with the full moon. I remember the glistening of lights, they were like the tiny Christmas lights, all over our bodies, who what a show! They move as we swim on our skins, (murcielagas del mar they were called).
Our pearl island was indescribably magical, a setting better than any Hollywood film……….
My young life seemed full of excitement, adventure, mystery and romance!

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Barra de tumbar cocos

Barra de tumbar cocos. That is how they called Ludmila, because she was tallest one. She is at the left first on the line.

Life seemed so simple and peaceful back then; anyone who went through the war would say that. But everything in my life has had a short term from beginning to end. Now mama decided that was time for me to have a little education; she did not know I would read every magazine I put my hands on, studying  etiquette, fashion and good manners and reading every sign in the street. I did my own education and since my sister was pregnant again, I had to be good company to her. Her blue blood husband could teach me good manners, I thought, and in those days that was the most important thing for a girl: good breeding so she could marry well. The perfect mate for a European man was one with good manners; that was more desirable than beauty7!   (The world has changed indeed.). So off I went to finishing school!

Next thing I knew, they were putting me on a plane; I wasn’t afraid, just sad to leave my mama. I was worried about how father would treat her with me gone. When my papa drank, he was very scary and hurtful to all of us. I would just hid, and sometimes I would drag mama by the arm and take her to a closet or bedroom; anything not to hear his madness. Even so, I couldn’t help but wonder what my new family would be like.

Soon the excitement took over, to be away from home, and go to a peaceful house with Galina, Valery and Vera and the coming baby; I was to discover that this family was worse in some ways than the one I was coming from. So away I went to Porlamar, La Isla Margarita!  That ‘s what it said on the plane:I am about to fly and become airborne. Mamochka dear tried to calm me down, telling me about her first experience on a plane long ago in Russia when Fedor Ivanovich and Mama were just married and had already Gala and Tola. They all went to a little airport and rented a plane for an hour just to feel how it is to be up in the air!,
With that story, she put me in my seat and said “go with God Ludochka!”  How sweet my diminutive name sounded, I loved it). “ See you soon don’t worry, and be a good girl and as always let me be proud of you my dear Ludochka” But I wasn’t worried; we had lived in so many place, never really owning any property or putting roots down anywhere. With not having anything came no responsibilities either! We all lived for the day– making plans for the future was a luxury for the rich.
My  sisters big belly was almost ready, but she and her very tall husband Valery were there at the gate, waiting at the door on the landing strip next to the plane. Porlamar was the largest port of the island at that time, but everybody knew each other and there were no customs to go through or other formalities,  because they were all friends. Somehow that gave me a wrong idea of my own superiority, so that I never had any patience for police officers, soldiers or any authority figures.

Their house was like something in the movies, a very strange two story villa with a tower and beachfront! I just loved it, and soon my sister gave birth to the most beautiful little girl, so very gentle and sweet.  I would walk to school every day at “Nuestra Senora de la Consolacion”, where they gave me a uniform and put on shows and a little boina for my head. But first I had to
get in the turquoise water that it look so like a painting, and now I am touching it and walking on that white sand every chance I could get. After school I would do my homework and then maybe if Valery decided that I deserved it, I could go with them to a movie on Friday night, or maybe to a matinee Sunday to see the original Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, with his fabulous yell as he swung through the branches in the jungle.  Also the movie of  Fantasma or Superman, it was all I could do to behave all week so I could go to the movies.

But behaving perfectly never came easy to me. Valery was very critical of my posture, telling me to sit with my back straight and head up or I would get demerits. After 3 corrections, it was no movies for me!  When I ate dinner, if my little pinky was pointing it up, it was a no no it had to be under  showing only the fingers to are using the knife and fork ext. Then  he would hit it with his fork or knife or whatever he had in his hand; that kind of table manners was”low people’s manners, peasant-like.” And that slap on the wrist was nothing; the punishments grew more severe and more painful. He would pour rows of rock salt on the floor, put me on my knees and tell me that if I moved I was in big trouble. First it was five minutes, then when I could do that, he made it ten minutes– That really was uncomfortable to say the least!

However,  this Sunday I would not be punished! No,because the whole school was marching in the procession of the “Virgen de la Consolacion’  from the city Cathedral,  wearing  our best most elegant uniforms for the first time! That was  going to be great!

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