Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Childhood Dreams’ Category

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!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Visiting with my sister Galina and her baby, Vera.

We ended up in the outskirts of Caracas, in a home of a family with whom we’d been friends since Austria, by the name of Isbarenko. There were two sisters and a brother; the old man and my father had a good time together drinking and singing, and the old man played the accordion. The lady of the house was a typical Russian matuchka, a country farm woman. Theirs was a happy home, but somehow they were different from us; the girls and the boy were older and they didn’t exactly want a younger girl like me hanging around them.

They rented a piece of land not far from their home and were farming tomatoes. I loved those vegetables, the sun and open space, so I went with them to help with the crop. But Anatoly went back to the gold and diamond mines, and Galina went back to her husband on the Isle of Pearls, as it is known in Spanish (La Isla de Las Perlas, Margarita), so I felt very alone and insecure.

We were broke, so father sold the truck and dismissed the chauffeur, and we finally rented a small one-room place with a bathroom and kitchen. Father turned the countertop and refrigerator into a butcher shop in the morning, at night we slept in the floor in the same room. Poor Father could only drink down his disappointments in life, and the alcohol was beginning to take its toll on him. Somehow he found animals to buy, a place to slaughter them, and meat to sell. Mama would work hard right next to Papa, and I would walk for miles down the highway to a store that sold the spices we needed to make the homemade kielbasa sausages. When I think back on how I watched a great strong man like my father turn into a beat-up, broken old man, my heart still aches and a painful feeling comes over me.

The Isbarenko girls were not too far away from our new home, so once in a while I went with them to the movies, I suppose when they felt sorry for me and would tolerate my presence. Their reluctance to hang out with me didn’t stop me from having fun, because I was always happy with very little. Some Sundays we would all go down to the river, but it had a big rushing current and since I did not swim, I just hung on to a tree branch and dangled my legs in.

The days ran on and on; I was growing up—in fact, I looked older and more developed than I really was. One day, I heard the Isbarenko girls were going dancing the weekend after Easter. I wanted desperately to go along, so I begged Papa to let me go. Mama had nothing to say against it, so we girls went to a night club and I got my first glimpse of another world. How incredibly fantastic it was to me–twinkling lights, music playing, people laughing and dancing and drinking. Everyone was so happy and gay; I don’t remember what we ordered to drink, but it made me happy to just be there. Then the band was playing “Siboney”! Oh what a romantic sound, moving just like the waves and wind by the sea. We were sitting across from a table with five guys and, naturally, the flirting started. One of them, a tall, handsome young man, asked me to dance, and it felt so natural to me–I just melted away in his arms!

Soon they were all making plans to meet up at the beach the next day, and I just knew I had to go too! The girls had brought me home and dropped me off on time, so father had no objection–after all it was just the beach. The next morning we all left at 9 am, and on the way we were singing and talking about the night before. I was dreaming about seeing that same young man (who was really much older than me) as I walked alone down the beach and played with the waves and water, but the group of guys from the night before, including the handsome prince who had danced with me, never showed up.

That was probably my first disappointment from trusting a man, but the real lesson of love’s disillusionment only came much later in life.

Read Full Post »

Loading the truck at the ranch, me with my little niece, Vera

Somewhere back in Austria, I had heard a song that went “Oh my Augustin, everything is lost and gone.” Father started laughing when he heard me singing this song as we packed the big red truck with all our belongings at 2 in the morning, getting ready to go back to Caracas. We were leaving, or escaping, the ranch, and I was a little sad to say goodbye to my pretty river, my beehives, the mangoes, the orange trees –it was goodbye to all our dreams.

But now where where were we going? It really did not make much difference to me, since I was curious and happy to have new things to see and do in the capital. I don’t remember if I mourned the fact that I would no longer get to see my little old lady friend on her ranch, to help her pass the time and drink her coffee (a luxury we did not have in our home).

On the road, we passed many beautiful places and stopped for refreshments when the heat of the day came; I tasted my first Pepsi cola, and found it delicious: it wasn’t like the chicha drink of the Andes, but the bubbles tickled my nose. I was so excited and eager to have another soda at the next roadside stand (maybe this time it would be a different flavor!) that I jumped out of the truck, fell, and landed on the empty broken soda bottles the chauffeur had put aside for the deposit. I almost poked my eye out, and still carry the scar!

A few more miles down the road, the next stand had a sign that said “Pinas,” and when we approached the fruit stand, we saw a fruit my mama called Ananas–as it was called in Europe–bunches of bananas hanging all around the stand . How sweet and delicious were all these exotic, tropical fruit scents–eating the fresh bananas and pineapples was like eating a piece of heaven. There was so much for my eyes to see and my soul to take in, and my heart rejoiced at all the wondrous things God had made- this was probably the first time I felt real gratitude.

Our travels always brought many adventures with new stories to tell, but first we had to climb over the mountains, where it quickly became very cold.  Down inside the truck cabin were Mama, Gala, Vera , and Fedor Ivanovich, Anatoly and I were on top along with our belongings. Under the pretext of keeping me warm, father hugged me tight so I wouldn’t feel cold, and said jokingly, “Let me suffer!” My father was not a demonstrative man, but I knew that he, too, was warmed by the embrace and did care for me and all of us. This was the only time I ever remembered feeling the embrace of fatherly love, an emotion that he so rarely showed any of us. This warm feeling stays in my memory to this day.

Finally we started to come down from the mountains into the big city of Caracas. I really think that was when I fell in love with the city lights, they just fascinated me with so many different brilliant colors and shapes. I thought it was fantastically gorgeous the way the lights of the big city were spread out below us –the city that seemed even larger than I had remembered it. My eyes were wide open and tears were running down my cheeks-I don’t know if they were tears of joy or just from the wind blowing against my face, but for the first time in my life, I felt truly happy , content, and satisfied. I wished that time would just stand still for us.  But of course, it never does.

Read Full Post »

My sister Galina on the far left, frolicking in "our" river.

The river on our land was like one from a familiar scene you sometimes see in the movies, with a tree leaning over the bank from which I used to swing from the branches and fall into the water. Since I was busy helping at home, I did not go to school, and my free time was spent playing. We were all excitedly waiting for the weekly bus from Caracas, which would be bringing my sister Gala and her new daughter for a holiday visit. On the expected day, Mama waited outside while I splished and splashed in the river. Suddenly, I heard the bus horn. I hurriedly slipped into my panties and ran as fast as I could. At that age, I had no shame about nudity and anyway, all the local kids were naked in the hot summer weather, due either to the heat or that perhaps some of them did not have clothes. Mother had made dresses for me, of course, but I wore them or I didn’t, it made no difference to me.

I rushed up wet and almost naked to embrace my sister and her new baby, named Vera, which in Russian means “fate.” Fate was already in my mother’s arms, while Papa was all smiles and Anatoly stood there, shy but polite. Then Papa went out of the house, and I put some clothes on to get ready for dinner. I was amazed at all the good food Mama had prepared for the homecoming feast, many delicious roast chickens…but then a thought occurred to me and I became suspicious. I went running down to the little coop I had lovingly tended and, as I feared, my chickens were gone. I went over to the beehives to hide my tears and let go of my pain. I never even said anything to Mama, but when Vera was in my arms and I walked around the house, I made sure to inform her that she was responsible for the death of my pet chickens..She was just a baby and didn’t understand what I said, but I felt better. Of course, I got over it and life goes on. It seemed like only a few days, but Galina and her baby stayed a couple of months before returning to their home in Porlamar.

The end of the year came and our tomatoes were gigantic and deep pink, so Papa said, “This Monday we’ll start picking them!” By now it was Christmas weekend, and we were all asleep in the house. I went to the big windows and sat down to look up at the stars; across the road was a big hacienda, where the owners of our little ranch lived. I spoke to Santa and told him it was okay, I understood that I would not get any presents for the Catholic Christmas; I would have to wait for the Orthodox Christmas, which came later on the old calendar.

The next morning I went down the road as always to see my old lady friend and wish her well. I had nothing to give her, just a flower or two from Mama’s garden, but passing by the gate of the owners’ hacienda I saw their children playing with all kinds of new Christmas toys. Papa and Mama forbade me to disturb the owners, so I just went closer and peeked in, saying to myself, “One day….”

Monday came and very early, we all went down to the tomato field–Papa, mama, and Anatoly, while I went to wake up the chauffeur and his wife, who were to help us pick tomatoes. When I approached the sleeping pair, the man sat up, grabbed my arm and tried to kiss me on the mouth! I broke away from him in disgust and went running back, not saying a word because we needed his help picking the tomatoes. Still, I could not help but spit out the taste for a long while, as we crossed the grove of oranges and mangoes, which were long since harvested and sold. As we passed the beehive, I saw a little snake cross the flower path and screamed to Anatoly, “Kill it!” But nobody made a fuss about the snake- we were on our way to make a fortune with our tomato crop—they were like gold to us!

“My God!” my mother cried out. Papa also yelled in anger!, for the flimsy pole and wire fences had been knocked down, and a huge herd of cows was walking through our field and eating all our tomatoes! We all went crazy and tears ran down our cheeks. Our dreams of a rich harvest, a gold mine, were all gone–kaput!

Read Full Post »

My brother Anatoly was a fully-grown man when I was still a child. He helped our father in Maracay.

On the road again, like a band of gypsies! Our next home, Maracay, was a small colonial city with wide streets and lots of parks with statues of heroes of the revolution at the battle of Carabobo. We drove through the city, so clean and free compared to others, and traveled about twenty minutes down a dirt road to a large ranch with orange groves, mango trees and lots of land ready for planting. Papa’s plan was to put us to work as ranchers or farmers!

Anatoly arrived a few days later, but by now my sister was married to a pure blooded Russian exile who carried his German aristocratic name and title with pride. Anatoly was put to work on a big tractor tilling the soil, mama was down in the rows with me pulling weeds, but there was still not enough money for my schoolbooks. I would have to walk to school, until one day a good looking young man came by the ranch to talk to papa and offered to give me a ride to school.

I remember bouncing along down the road in his big 8 wheel truck, and that night dreaming of being his wife and living with this wealthy young man in a big hacienda with lots of servants and many children! I was growing into a woman, and for the first time I felt something for a man, different from my feelings for my brother or schoolmates. He was tall, with a gentle and seductive voice, strong and sweet and protective, and perhaps he did not even notice I was staring at him strangely. This was my first girlish crush on a man, and I had no idea what I was feeling.

Well, we had a name for  a foolish child–a “mocosa,” meaning “A snot-nosed kid who needs to dry its eyes and grow up!” Of course, I never saw that young man again, but by the next day I had forgotten all about him: My sister was coming to visit us with her newborn baby, so we had to get the house ready to accommodate them!

Our strange house in Maracay

The house was very big and strange to me: one room ran into the next, and out of the kitchen there was a brick path leading to a flower garden and an outhouse. Mama planted flowers along the pathway, and papa and Tola made me a little fence corral for my chickens. An old woman they called a witch had given me a bunch of chicks; she lived in a cardboard box house down the road, and I thought she was so sweet that I didn’t want her to be lonesome, so I visited her every day.

She would make me coffee, a royal treat for a young lady, and I spent long hours down there, helping her get clean water from the river, washing her only two teacups, listening to the roosters crow and the hens cluck. After I was gone too long, my poor overworked mother would come looking for me- I didn’t realize that to her, I had gone missing from chores, wandering the countryside and maybe getting into trouble.

At school I played baseball, since my legs had grown very fast and I could hit a home run like the boys. At the school festival, a boy sang a hit song from America, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons, and what do you get, Another day older and deeper in debt!” I did not understood the words but I would dance to it; I had never seen the record and only heard a tape, but I loved the melody and the rhythm and most of all that deep voice, the baritone that I loved so much, (even those I heard in the church choir), singing so meaningfully, “St. Peter don’t you call me, cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.”  I invented my own meaning of these words, since no one around me spoke English–I simply felt it, and it wasn’t until I began to understand English that I knew what the song meant.  Another English-language song that affected me deeply was one I heard  for the first time many years later, when I was in Los Angeles.  I wondered if Willie Nelson had written “On the Road Again” about us, as my family and I had lived such unsettled lives, traveling through the world like vagabonds.  This was to become one of my favorite songs.

Father brought home some beehives and began teaching me how to care for them. I thought the bees were so beautiful, the way they buzzed and talked to each other, with the big queen getting all the honey and the worker bees slaving away. Papa explained that we had to separate and get rid of the drones that did not produce honey: “Ludachka you just sit here and get as many you can and I will bring you a present from my next business trip, is that understood?” “Da, papa, da!” (“Yes, Papa!)
The strange thing was the bees never stung or bothered me, although if anyone else came to the hives they had to wear a mask and gloves.

Now we had honey, mangoes and oranges to sell. Father and his driver would ride into town and sell at the market, and at home we were growing tomatoes in the long summer. Anatoly would dig open a little hole, prepare the soil, and I would follow behind him and plant a little tomato seedling that Mama had grown in boxes in the house. At the end of the day, Tola would open the pump that carried water from the river into the irrigation channels, so our baby tomatoes would be watered from the bottom and not the top.

I was so young, and I thought I had all the time in the world!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »