Fragmented recollections

Her unorganized childhood ended when she went to school at the age of seven. First thing she remembers about her early childhood is how her granny was drying dough chopping boards, which were used for washing her still born baby brother’s body and how taking him wrapped to the hill as part of the ceremony. She wondered why on earth they wash the dead body in a thing which they used for making bread before. Next thing she remembers was that another baby brother was born the following year and he was brought home in a Volga car by the friend of her dad because her dad was still serving in the Soviet Army. Next thing she remembers is when her dad came back from the army in a soldier’s uniform. Her granny gave him a big hug, while making a comment to her brother in the cradle: Look, your father is back! She didn’t feel attached to this guy in uniform since he probably left for the army when she was one and she didn’t remember him at all. She doesn’t remember her attachment to her mom either because maternity leaves back then were only three months long, so her mother had to leave her with her granny and returned to her teaching job in the primary school. Lack of bottle milk then meant her granny was walking around the village and asking nursing moms to feed her together with their kids.... and she also had cows’ milk and still very prone to allergies. 

Before the age of seven no one bothered about her health and safety. So she was climbing high trees and sliding down from very high rocks. Then she went to school and found it very boring. Teachers were very strict. She remembers organized walks to the canteen and back. She didn’t speak Russian very well then. The school was mixed. She found it stressful that big kids were shouting in Russian and she was just standing in the middle closing her eyes and ears. Every morning started with physical exercise, the whole school would do it, including teachers. Toilets were far away and outside and children were not always allowed to go, so she wouldn’t drink too much water in the morning to avoid a trip to the bathroom. Primary school was on the ground floor so it was easier to go out. School corridors and the toilet would always smell of chlorine and she hated the smell... She would sometimes cover her nose with her apron, which would smell like soap. She remembers school linkeikas (gatherings) where news would be shared and some students shamed. Lineikas were a platform to share which class collected more metal, paper or grass. Before lineikas, the class teacher would check if they were wearing their Oktyabrenok badges or pioneer ties correctly.

Every morning in their class there was politinformazia - political information - where a classmate in charge was supposed to find a story from a newspaper showing how decadent the West was. She still depicts clearly in her mind a story about the capitalist West where homeless are sleeping in cardboard boxes. She also remembers when Brezhnev died, she was only seven and their class teacher made them stand up and cry... She didn’t feel like crying but she knew how cruel she was to kids who didn’t listen so she pretended to cry. Their Russian language teacher was of Kyrgyz ethnicity, however, she thought of herself as Russian. So she was always bossy and called children ‘stupid sheep,’ to which she the girl always wondered, ‘if they Kyrgyz are sheep, how come she being Kyrgyz is not a sheep?’ She was against any bourgeoisie demonstrations. For example, a little girl came wearing a bracelet, so that girl was slapped and her wrist with a bracelet was banged against the desk several times... The girl hates bracelets now! She doesn't wear them. Anyway, it feels like she’s sharing mostly her childhood traumas at school.

Once she was in the pioneer camp Artek, they had to write letters to Ronald Reagan about not bombing the Soviet Union. And they all put their letters inside the bottle and threw them in the sea… A magazine whose name she can’t recall used to depict the US as Uncle Sam. That is also where she read an article about the Vietnam war.... She was horrified, she was about 10... What she read was that Americans were doing experiments against locals, plus throwing local enemies tied up to the sea from the helicopters and putting them into cells that looked like ovens. Basically the whole information was about torture. The article said that humans swell and pop inside those ovens. So once she put a fly inside an oven and saw it popping and she was really scared. For a while she used to have nightmares about military people chasing her. And this is her growing up in Soviet Kyrgyz Republic.