Family, birthplace, circumstances.

I was born right in the center of a large city Donetsk, Ukraine, on the river Kalmius.

This beautiful city, which was full of roses and interesting buildings, is now largely destroyed by war.

About my birth city.

Ethnically, I am a mixed Slavic-German (~3/8 Ukrainian, ~3/8 Russian, ~1/4 German), with possible Swedish or other smaller parts. None of it matters much to me, but my ethnicity is "written" all over my face - high wide cheekbones, blue eyes, straight middle-blond hair, and stuff like that - and I am asked about it often.

My parents had me in their student years: my mother was 22, right before she finished her university degree in financial planning, and my father was 26, as a post-graduate student in physics.

I was the only child for both my mother and father. My mom did not like children, my dad did not care for them much either. They  had other aspirations in life.

My mother was a ballerina in her youth. She was not happy with the perspective to retire early with nothing. She built a career in financial management instead, after getting a degree in finance. Now she is a CFO at a medical council of ~100 consulting doctors.

She had an infectious laughter, and was always fashionably dressed up in public. I rarely saw her without makeup. She worked long hours, building her career, and valued social status and financial independence the most.

About my mom.

My father was a brilliant child who finished schools with highest honors. He became a scientist (theoretical physicist), then worked as a professor of physics, taught scientific worldview, and published a couple off books on a narrower subject.

He swam really well and played volleyball.

He wore formal suits, trench coats, and elegant hats (Fedoras). He used taxi for transportation. He loved strong coffee, cigarettes, and food. He read a lot, and gathered a huge library of good books.

About my dad.

My grandmother on my mother's side was a Siberian Russian. She was very pretty and managed to have three kids from different guys. She loved men, her grandson, and persimmons. She worked all her life, mainly as a hotel manager, and was driven by pride.

About my mom's mother.

The father of my mom was German, he emigrated to the United States after leaving Europe for good in early 1950-s. My grandmother lost the contact with him for a long time after sending him the last photograph of herself with my mother as a little girl, I've seen a copy of it. She refused to talked about him, probably because of pain and caution. I know the story primarily from my aunt, my mother's 10-year older sister.

He had another son in USA. I arrived here too late to meet either of them.

About my mom's father.

My father's mother and father married against the will of my granddad's wealthy family. They never received any support or recognition from them, but lived a long life together.

About my paternal grandparents.

My dad's mom drove to her work in a store on a bicycle. She raised three kids. She was rather petite, wore simple but colorful, rather tight, knee-long dresses, and had a wavy brown hair.

About my dad's mother.

He was a thin and muscular guy who survived five years of war, built his own house, broke with his family of origin to marry his wife, with whom he had raised three children.

About my dad's father.

Once in their childhood, my mom had badly beaten an older boy for hurting her kid brother.

Four months after I was born, my maternal uncle was killed in the army under undisclosed circumstances. He was 18, and I never met him. My grandma's long dark hair turned almost white then.

He look gorgeous on photographs, and I was told he was a kind soul. I had his antique post-stamp collection.

My uncle was killed in the military.

The closest person to a brother (I called him just that) was my male cousin, who was 10 years older than me.

His father was a very tall and almost excessively masculine Greek guy, who was killed in a restaurant knife fight when my cousin was a young boy. His stepfather was a calmer Jewish guy, whom he never really accepted as a father figure. 

Growing up, my cousin was not interested in academic achievements, belonged to a privileged bad-boys crowd both in school and college, but liked to build model military boats. His mom, my aunt, made good money, so he had awesome clothes and the newest gadgets. 

He had such a huge sex appeal that girls would not leave him along since his teens. Never again I had witnessed as an insider such a mass interest by young females to a guy: from giggling and crying on the phone to almost stocking and offering all possible favors. These early experiences gave him an impression that most girls were sluts, so he made a point to marry a beautiful virgin. His wedding was enormous. After they had a daughter, his wife left him, taking their 4-year old girl with her to Italy.

After becoming first successful and then disastrous entrepreneur, my handsome cousin drunk himself to death in his early forties. On his way down, he brought lots of grief to his mom and our grandmother, who probably overcompensated in accommodating him. They were also partially ruined financially, paying his dangerous debts. Even my mom overused her resources to bail him out of trouble with semi-criminal businesses when, for instance, he lost a wagon with goods or crashed his car. She was also the one who tried to keep him alive in the end. Technically, he died from a flu.

About my male cousin on the mother's side.