Family, birthplace, circumstances.
I was born right in the center of Donetsk, Ukraine, on the river Kalmius.
This beautiful city, which was full of roses and interesting buildings, is now largely destroyed by war.
Ethnically, I am a mixed Slavic-German (~3/8 Ukrainian, ~3/8 Russian, ~1/4 German), with possible Swedish or other smaller parts. It does not matter much to me, but my ethnicity is "written" all over my face (high wide cheekbones and stuff like that), and I am asked about it very often.
Most of my Ukrainian "blood" comes from my father, and most Russian (~1/4th out of 3/8th) - from my mother. Later in my life this insignificant fact played a role in a deep politics-based conflict between me and one of my parents.
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 not planned: their passionate affair was mostly sexual in nature. They married when my mother was four months pregnant. Neither side of the family liked their choices. Later, both of my parents told me that my existence destroyed their lives.
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 were too young and had other aspirations.
My mother was a ballerina in her youth, but was not happy not getting leading parts, and also with the perspective to retire early with nothing. She built a career in financial management instead. Now she is a financial director at a medical council of ~100 consulting doctors.
She worked all the time and valued social status and financial independence the most.
My mom had an infectious laughter, and was always fashionably dressed up in public. I rarely saw her without makeup.
When she would tell a plot of a movie, she would fantasize plenty of details and add surprising explanations, so that nobody could realize at first that they watches this film already.
My father was a brilliant child who finished schools with highest honors. He became a physicist, later a professor of physics, and taught scientific worldview. 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.
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.
Her mom, my great-grandmother who was born into a peasant's family, was forced to marry a very rich trader in Siberia - Voropaev. Soon after the wedding though, she escaped with some Polish guy (who looked scary on one picture of them I saw), already being pregnant with my grandma. Voropaev, my great-grandfather, was later executed by Bolsheviks, and his wealth was expropriated.
All of my grandmother's siblings, seven brothers, were killed in World War II, fighting Nazis.
By the end of the war, during the hunger times in evacuation, she had frozen her legs badly while trying to find some food for her first baby on the winter fields, illegally gathering seeds from the ground. She had pain in her legs till the rest of her life.
She wore only dresses, had very long hair, and most of her life was married to a war veteran.
At her place in the center of Donetsk, I spent most of my school Summers, three months each year. She did not take females very seriously, was a bit suspicious about me being the daughter of that "clever guy," but she called me "my golden girl" (девочка моя золотая) sometimes.
In her 80s she managed the construction of her three-story house, planted an orchard, and died at 87 from a heart attack, after loosing her second child. She left me her property, and never learnt that it would be lost in the undeclared war with Russia. She hated wars.
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.
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.
My grandfather came back from war alive, after serving on Katyusha multiple rocket launchers.
They built their house with their own hands from clay, and had planted a big garden, a beautiful orchard, and even had a potato field. They made sure all their three children earn university degrees - they became a physicist, a medical doctor, and an engineer.
They both died in one year: my grandfather died within a few month after his wife, in seemingly good health.
My dad's mom drove to her work in a store on a bicycle. She raised three kids. She was rather petite, wore simple dresses, and had wavy brown hair.
The most exciting for me fact about my grandfather on my father's side is that he could forge complexly shaped cylindrical metal water vessels with precise volume needed, without detailed calculations.
Maybe that's why I was good in stereometry and technical drawing in school.
Under his guidance, I new letters at 2, and I could read by 4. We also played chess since I was 7-8.
He was always working on some new projects, getting variety of gigs in addition to his job at a production plant.
- Part time, he was a blacksmith.
- He played music on his accordion at events.
- He worked on his own garden.
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.
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.