how it all began…..

A lot of people ask me why I chose to study in Russia – “Are you part Russian?” I am often asked. Well, no. I don’t have an ounce of Russian blood in my body – at least, not that I know of. But I did have a small history with Russia – in fact, it was the first international trip I ever made, back in 1999. You see, my father first traveled to Russia in 1991 – he arrived in Moscow on August 18th, just in time for the coup which brought an end to the Soviet Union. My dad arrived in the Soviet Union and got to see it the iron curtain fall.

That trip he made turned into more trips in later years. One family he met – in Seltso, Russia – had a little girl named Luba. She developed an interest in studying English, and so my father told her that when she was 15, if she wanted to come and live with our family in the States as an exchange student (so she coud help improve her English), we would be happy to have her live with us.

So, in 1999, Luba came to live with us and I traveled to Seltso (which is outside of Bryansk) in August, 1999 and stayed with her family for two weeks prior to her coming to live with my family in the US. At the time, I confess, I did not have much of an interest in Russian culture – in 1999, Russia was much poorer, having suffered a huge financial collapse in 1998. I was too accustomed to the modern conveniences of American life that at the time, I don’t think I could have seen myself living there in the future. Strangely enough, the things I didn’t get about Russia then, are the things I love now – the culture, the tough nature of the Russian people, the “backwardness” of daily life (which is only backward to a Westerner), the old Soviet era apartment buildings – these are all things I grew to understand more, appreciate and find interesting.

In 2010 when I was looking into Master’s Programs, I decided to see if there was a Russian Studies program IN Russia, as it made the most sense to me. That’s when I stumbled across the European University at Saint Petersburg and their programs for international students – it was a perfect fit for me and ended up being the course I chose.

So that’s how it all began. Which brings me to this past summer when I finally got to see Luba again, after almost 12 years, and was able to meet her new family for the first time. We made a stop in Bryansk on our way back to Saint Petersburg from Kiev.  Unfortunately, I do not have many photos from our trip to Bryansk and Seltso, as we were only visiting there for two days and were very busy throughout that time. But this will give everyone a tiny glimpse at our time with Luba and her family this past June. And hopefully we will see them again in the near future. Luba and her husband (Pasha) currently live in Bryansk, where Luba runs her own English language school. And she now has three beautiful children – she was pregnant with her third while we were there in June.

In the photos near the bottom, you will notice what was once a Young Pioneers Camp from the Soviet Union. Some of Luba’s family members (I believe it was family) bought the campground (in Bryansk Region) years ago and run a camp for youths there every summer. I found the campgrounds really interesting and the surrounding countryside was very beautiful.

Sean and I with Luba and her brothers and extended family.

Sean and I (in the middle) with Luba (on my left) and her siblings and extended family.

a young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery in Bryanks, Russia.

a young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery in Bryansk, Russia.

walking outside the Svensky Monastery; Bryansk.

walking outside the Svensky Monastery; Bryansk.

the exterior of the monastery.

the exterior of the monastery.

a building inside the monastery walls.

a building inside the monastery walls.

wish I had had my wide lens on for this one - whoops!

wish I had had my wide lens on for this one – whoops!

another young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery.

another young woman painting outside the Svensky Monastery.

quintessential Russian window.

a quintessential Russian window.

Sean and I with Luba's family in Seltso, Russia.

Sean and I with Luba (far right) and her parents and some of her siblings; in Seltso, Russia.

in Seltso, Russia.

in Seltso, Russia.

Luba's parents' church in Seltso, Russia.

Luba’s parents’ church in Seltso, Russia.

the kitty, sitting outside the church in Seltso.

the kitty, sitting outside the church in Seltso – I love the way it’s looking at me 🙂

Seltso, Russia.

Luba’s parents’ neighborhood in Seltso, Russia.

the pond at the old Young Pioneers camp that Luba's family bought.

the pond at the old Young Pioneers Camp.

an old Soviet statue at the camp grounds.

an old Soviet statue at the camp grounds.

the camp.

at the camp grounds.

a stray dog with her puppy who lived at the camp grounds - they were both so adorable, I wanted to take them home with me.

a stray dog with her puppy who lived at the camp grounds – they were both so adorable, I wanted to take them home with me.

a statue from Soviet times of two children playing - at the camp grounds.

a statue from Soviet times of two children playing – at the camp grounds.

another old Soviet statue at the camp.

another old Soviet statue at the camp.

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an old mural painted on the wall of one of the buildings at the camp.

some gypsies we saw as we were leaving Seltso.

some gypsies we saw as we were leaving Seltso.

13 thoughts on “how it all began…..

  1. Wonderful story. I have a similar one, but in regards to Thailand. We went there when I was 16, and I didn’t connect w/ it at all but I moved here in 2009. Time has a funny way of moving around, doesn’t it. Thanks for the share, beautiful pics.

    • Thanks for your comment and sharing Lani! It is funny how time changes us 🙂 Are you still in Thailand? I’ve always wanted to go there – one day I will! I love Thai food and have friends who’ve been there and loved it.

  2. your photos make me want to travel to russia, i am happy to see the culture, people, lifestyle and just the day to day of locales. i wish i could travel there and just immerse in the Russian culture.

  3. It`s great to see two worlds collide, and Russia is just such a lovely mixture of East and West and a little bit of something- other. Uniquely Russian. And the Roma wagon, I`ve only ever seen the people use modern trailers. It’s great you got such a wonderful opportunity, I hope you had fun!

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