Each summer, she spent three months at her grandparents’ place in Pskov – a city nearby the Estonian border, as she used to think of it. Her grandparents lived in an apartment, but also had a summer cottage – dacha – a small house with three rooms and a kitchen surrounded by a standard sized garden with apple trees and berry bushes, vegetables and flowers. Most of the time, dacha was a boring place to be at because she typically spent time on her own without a friend to play with. So, every time at dacha, she could not wait to get back to the city to finally play with her fun friends. Dacha was a place where one dumped old stuff from the city apartment: furniture, books, and clothes. Discovering, trying on and playing with old clothes was something that she did to pass time while anxiously waiting for the compulsory dacha stay to be over – she would open an old, squeaky wardrobe in the bedroom and pull out dresses, grandad’s old suits, hats and bags. These clothes smelled of damp and old textile.
One of the dacha neighbors was Zoya Ivanovna – a primary school teacher who worked in the same school as the girl’s grandmother. Zoya was in her 50s – a big red-haired woman always in a cheerful mood and laughing a lot. She didn’t have children of her own, but occasionally, a distant relative would come to visit her – perhaps a niece - with her daughter of about the same age as the girl. The girls became friends and found each other’s company fun and exciting. It seemed that both shared interest in exploring places and coming up with new games.
One time when the girls met at the dacha, they created a new game: they would try on old clothes – from the wardrobe and from the other girl’s dacha storage. They would decide whom they wanted to be: singers, actors or actresses or maybe book or film characters. They would dress accordingly, often mixing clothes in unexpected and fun ways. Then, they would run to the girl’s friend’s “aunt” Zoya shouting “Now, look at us, who do you think we are?”. Zoya would give them a big smile with her large mouth with fat lips, and warm, kind eyes. She would then put down her gardening tools and pay full attention to the girls. After a pause, she would shout: “Well, now, wait a minute, you are Alla Pugacheva, aren’t you?”.