Subtleties of staying in touch with family

My eyesight is failing, so when I talk to my two older boys on weekends on WhatsApp, I take my glasses off and bring the phone closer to my eyes. It’s hard otherwise to take in every detail of their faces on the screen, each in the size of a postmark.

We would talk, and my sons — the eldest a college student and my middle son a graduate student — would say how they’d been, what was new in their lives, and what was old but troubling still. …


but does it matter?

Image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay

For reference, I look like the turquoise figurine in a white fur hat above, and this story was inspired by Lindsey Moore’s post.

When I was in university, a professor called my name, I stood up, but he looked through me, expecting to see someone with a more common Russian appearance. It took interference from my classmates for the professor to put my name and my face together. Back home in Siberia, a Native Sakha having a Christianized name was nothing out of the ordinary. My polytheistic ancestors had no objection to adding one more God into the pantheon in…


Moral lessons, Leo Tolstoy and Russian education

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No parent of a primary school student in Russia would question why Leo Tolstoy’s fables remain a constant school curriculum feature. Starting from Soviet times, those fables were the material from which the younger generation got its moral lessons. While the Russian President and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church are holding hands and smiling at each other in front of cameras, Russian education marches to its own drumbeat.

A pacifist with strong moral beliefs, Count Leo Tolstoy had a difficult relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. The highest Orthodox governing body even pronounced him no longer “a member…


The greatest Russian poet lost in translation to English

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The verse by Russian poet Pushkin I wanted to use in my article seemed quite unsophisticated. Or so I thought. Russian literature is widely known worldwide, so as a rule, it’s easy to find an adequate English translation of any Russian author. This time I googled Pushkin’s phrase I knew in Russian and found the “Elegy” it was from. It had two stanzas and was about the sorrow Pushkin felt for his past and present. The second stanza began with Pushkin saying that he didn’t want to die.

Here is my supposed quote in Russian: “Над вымыслом слезами обольюсь.” Translated…


Take a compliment and don’t ask

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My husband likes food. And sales. Sometimes these passions come together and wreak havoc. One time he brought home a chunk of cheese of unknown origin. It tasted bad by itself, got even bitter when grated. Put in the oven, it didn’t melt but become a rubbery lump. I don’t remember how we got rid of it because it stresses me to throw away food.

Another time my husband found a bag of rice costing one-third of the regular price. The rice in the plastic bag looked long and brownish, the one you would use when making pilaf. I ripped…


My five-year-old son told me

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Some days children remind you that you knew the truth when you were little but lost your way over time.

One weekend morning several years ago, my half-awake five-year-old son in his superman pajamas came to my bedroom and slammed onto the bed. He lay there for a minute, pretending to sleep. When he opened his eyes, he was still in a foul mood.

“Did you sleep well?” I asked.

“I don’t like growing up,” he said angrily, tugging at the neckline of his pajama’s top as if it was constricting.

I was surprised. The…


The hidden beauty and the violence of the mixed martial arts

The back of the head of a man tying the red karate headband
The back of the head of a man tying the red karate headband
Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

The canvass was so slippery with blood that fighters had trouble staying upright. It forced the veteran referee Marc Goddard to wave off the match. Nicholas Dalby and Ross Houston, both looking like extras in a horror film, embraced.

“Is that why you watch MMA?” my husband averted his eyes from the screen of my laptop.

I swallowed hard but didn’t answer, ashamed of my obsession with my favorite sport. The scene seemed abhorrent even to a man from Dagestan, the republic famous for its athletes’ prowess in martial…


What a delivery guy told me

Photo by Eugenia Clara on Unsplash

Disclaimer: first of all, this happened quite a while ago, and the pizza chain in question might’ve made drastic improvements. And secondly, it’s not a bright idea to take the words of a stranger to heart. Here we go.

A middle-aged, unshaved delivery guy put his shoulder bag through the closing gap and squeezed into the elevator.

“Which floor you’re going to?” he asked me with a thick Slavic accent.

“Twentieth,” I said reluctantly, regretting that I couldn’t lie, as the lit button on the panel would clearly expose me.

The man looked like the type you should avoid in…


Why it’s hard to be around writers.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

As the legend goes, a long-standing friend has forbidden his house to Leo Tolstoy. The incident happened after he saw Tolstoy staring intently at his dying wife, trying to register every agonizing detail.

Before I started to write, I’d thought about Tolstoy as an insensitive pig. Now, I’m much more forgiving. How are the writers supposed to get precious information about human beings? The ornithologists collect their data observing the birds. The writers unashamedly stare at people, preferably at the height of the emotional turmoil.

My husband once called me the mean Thumbelina…

Nadya Semenova

The world is a storyteller; let’s find out what those stories are!

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