Category Archives: True Story

Summer impressions

You might not have noticed but I was away for two weeks with my family. We visited my parents- and my grandparents-in-law in Germany. We all had a wonderful time.

It makes me smile as I see reactions on most people’s faces when I mention my parents-in-law. It is amazing how the prejudices against in-laws are ingrained into the cultures we grew up in. All those fairy tales and jokes about the awful mother-in-law.

I love seeing how the faces relax when I tell them how much I like my in-laws and that my mother-in-law is one of my best friends.

My family and I try to spend Christmas every year with my parents-in-law as well as the whole of my husband’s family. And we love spending our summer holidays with them. Every time we spend time with them we tank energy and good mood.

Also this summer we had very colourful and wonderful holidays including three celebrations on my Mom’s-in-law birthday.

Here are some impressions from our vacation.

We …

  • hiked on a motor-cross test track close to were my in-laws live:


  • enjoyed my grandparents’-in-law garden, some of us awake and aware of the blooming and ripening beauties:




  • some of us asleep:


  • inspected damages after a summer storm:



  • made selfies:


  • enjoyed the world and ourselves from the top of a rock called Grandfather:




  • went for a walk:




  • enjoyed natural and human creations:



IMG_0447 (2)

IMG_0445 (2)

IMG_0441 (2)

  • verified quality of Mama’s writing:


  • and finally unpacked our bags today:


Two strangers, two smiles, two unforgettable memories

Algiers Airport,

Summer 1981

One bench. Many people. Among them two mothers and two girls. Mothers speak different languages. Each girl can understand the language of her own mother. Not of the other.

One girl is me. The other is blond with big blue eyes.

She looks at me. She shrugs. And smiles.

I smile back.

She shows me what she has in her hands. It’s a small toy.

I look down at my hands and see small unused stickers of animals with moving eyes. I show them to her.

We exchange the objects in our hands. We examine them and make playful movements with them. We exchange glances. We smile.

An announcement. My mother stands up and gathers our bags.

Another announcement. My friend’s mother stands up and gathers their bags.

The blue-eyed girl and I give back our toys to each other.

We smile. We wave. We go away.

I still remember you and your smile, my dear friend of several minutes.

Copenhagen Airport,

Spring 2009

I walk through the busy hall. Small, colorful shops at my left. I pass a stall with soft drinks and snacks at my right.

Someone looks at me.

I raise my head and see a woman with dark long hair in red sari.

A friend or a relative of hers in green sari is busy searching for money in her bag.

The woman in red looks at me. And smiles.

I am confused. I feel my forehead unfolding and corners of my mouth widen into a smile.

I walk by. Still smiling.

The woman in red sari accompanies me the whole day. I see her eyes and her smile, every time she appears in my thoughts.

She still appears time to time in most unexpected moments. And then I smile.


Two strangers. Two smiles. Two unforgettable memories. They warm my heart through the years. Every time they appear. And they always appear when my smile makes other people smile.

Picture: My sweet little stranger I discover every day. “Mama, make a picture of me, when I look the other way.”


Follow your heart’s wish, however small; someday it might save your life

When we talk of a heart’s desire, we often talk of big dreams and wishes. Here is a story, how a small desire of heart can turn to have a significant influence on one’s life. My sister taught me this lesson and I hold this story dearly to my heart.

It was the time when I was beginning my PhD course at the Academy of Sciences of Moldova. Svetlana was already done with hers for several years and giving lectures in economy to students at two Universities in Chisinau, the state one and the private one. Before starting at the private University, where she led a department, she worked also as an executive director of an economical association in Moldova. Ever since Soviet Union collapsed and Moldova has proclaimed itself independent, my sister had at least two full time jobs at the same time, which was the main income in our family.

The state salaries and grants were small and paid sporadically. So, while being a PhD student at a state organization, I had to have an additional job, too. After helping out in a marketing study, I had several jobs as English teacher for beginners at various places like hotels and economical organizations with number of people reaching as many as thirty. I was also giving individual lessons to those members of my groups, who wished and needed to learn more. I had a really good time. In fact, my sister helped me also here. She helped me getting the marketing job and my first English course I taught.

My sister, my niece, my mother and I lived together at that time. Since both Svetlana and I were working from early morning to pretty late in the evenings, we often had only nights to prepare for our lectures and lessons.

And this was one of the very best times in my early adult life. We worked together at the kitchen table, made tea and bread with butter for short breaks. And we laughed a lot stifling our giggles. Sometimes our mother would wake up and hush us so that we don’t wake my niece Mihaela, who was a baby at that time. My mother joked that she doubted our efficiency when she caught us laughing and suggested that we went to bed and got some sleep. But we always had good arguments why we still needed to be awake and have breaks with tea, bread and butter. And laughs.

Actually our laughs were often connected to what we were doing. I’ve learned a lot from my sister during those nights. Especially, how to find and see joy and lightness in seemingly hard tasks.

It was early time of Moldovan radio stations, which played only music. “Wonderful World” from the band “Black” was a big hit. Svetlana and I were huge fans and four of us, including our mother and my niece, would stop any talk or activity when this song has been aired. And we would listen until it finished. And as it ended we expressed longing for the next time.

One day a friend of mine recorded this very song on a tape for me.

On the evening of that day, my sister and I were again late home and just in time to give my niece a bath and put her to bed.

Svetlana and I worked at the kitchen table after that for a while.

At some point, my sister suggested going to the living room and listen to the tape on our big music center, which my father bought before he died.

We didn’t have headphones back then, and the small table recorder, we had also from my father, didn’t allow fine tuning of the volume so that we could listen to it quietly in the middle of the night.

After some doubt and fear on my side that we could wake up my niece and Mom, and even our neighbors, through the “paper-thin” walls, I agreed.

My sister was always the driving force in her and our daring adventures. Here is a small account of some of her adventures and the counterpart on my side.

Svetlana was using her school bag as a sleigh. That led to the need for a new bag every spring in the least. I changed my first schoolbag for another in the seventh or eighth grade only because it was too small and looked too childish. But it was as good as new because I was always careful, or rather afraid, not to scratch or damage it somehow.

In winter as an adult in her late twenties, mind you, Svetlana used to skate on her high-heeled boots on the slippery sidewalks, while I made small steps in my flat boots being afraid to fall down. Sometimes my sister would catch my arm and say: “Hold me!” and skate further, so that I would have to run beside her and make sure that none of us fell down. And if it happened, if one of us fell, she always had a good laugh, while I was confirmed in my fears and was more careful the following time.

So, also with the song “Wonderful Life” from “Black”, my sister was the driving force.

We went to the living room, took our work with us and listened to the song many times, rewinding again and again to listen to it from the beginning.

About twenty minutes after moving to the living room, there was a terrible crash sound of breaking glass in the kitchen. It was like someone has thrown a big stone into our window, which was rather unlikely in the middle of the night and the flat being on the fourth floor.

Our mother woke up and came with quick steps to us worried what happened. Together, we switched on the light in the kitchen and the bulb was still hanging above the kitchen table. When we looked down, the table and the kitchen floor were full of small glass pieces from the shattered lampshade. It somehow loosened from its holding and fell. We were shocked seeing the damage, especially when we realized that less than half an hour before this happened Svetlana and I were sitting with our heads right underneath it.

Since then we often tell the tale how a song saved us from serious injuries. But actually it was Svetlana’s drive and her listening to her heart’s desire, however small, that saved us.

Pictures: Me and my sister as children. And a calendar sheet from May 4, 1964 saying: “at 18:15 our Svetlana was born”. My father made this note and one for me in his calendar and kept these two little pieces of paper in his notebook up to the day he died.

16 25

Happy birthday week and month, my dear, sweet sister Svetlana!
You are the best sister one could wish for!

What is it about being understood?

My father made once the following note:


Translated it says:

“What is happiness?
What does it mean to be happy?
Happiness it is when you are understood!”

I don’t know, whether this was said by someone else or whether these were his own words. But one way or another, this note reveals what my father thought about meaning of happiness.

In connection to the novel I write about my father, I read, re-read and research books and material that bring me closer to the world he lived in, when he was looking for his family.

He and my mother gave us a wonderful family and I feel closer to them when I do the research and try to “time travel” into the early sixties and before that, and imagine the streets he walked, the books he read and the radio programs he listened to.

We listened a lot to the radio when I was small. To the music and different radio programs. I will always remember, as when I was with my mother and my father in Algeria, I eagerly waited and then listened excitedly to a greeting from my sister transmitted in a radio show from Moscow, where my sister stayed at a boarding school.

One radio program my father listened to, when he was young, was “Find a Person” hosted by the radio station “Mayak” (meaning Lighthouse). This program was moderated by the famous Russian children poet Agniya Barto, who used to work at an orphanage during 1960s.

She wrote a book with the same title, “Find a Person”. This book is based on the experiences she made during the World War II, in her work at the orphanage, as a poet and during the work on the radio program. My father gave this book to my sister as a gift.

I read this book as a teenager, and today, I discover it anew. In contrast to the first read, I don’t read the book at once. I read one story at a time, savor the story by reminiscing it and by thinking about all those families, who were separated during the World War II and who could find each other thanks to this program.

My father, encouraged by my mother, also wrote to Agniya Barto and her colleagues at the radio. The radio program and my father’s search are prominently featured in the book, I am writing.

One of the stories in the book “Find a Person” is about being understood.

Along with other writers and poets, Agniya Barto was invited to participate at a literary festival taking place in the capital of the former Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, today Armenia.

During this trip to Erevan, Agniya Barto was asked to give a speech at a train station. This speech was going to be transmitted on the radio. She had only one night for preparations and when they arrived, she discovered that she had to perform in front of hundreds of people.

After the speech, she asked Alexander Fadeev, who asked her to do the speech, whether he thought that the audience liked what she said. She hoped they did, because they clapped and cheered when she finished.

The answer was surprising and rather shocking for her. Alexander Fadeev said: “They did like it a lot, but they probably didn’t understand a thing. Because most of them don’t speak any Russian!”

With hurt feelings, Agniya asked Alexander why he didn’t warn her about this before the speech.

With a hearty laugh, he said: “Because, if you wouldn’t believe in having been understood, then you wouldn’t be able to speak from the heart.”

Wow, what a beautiful amendment to my father’s note!

All we need to do to be happy is to believe, be present and do whatever we do by putting our whole heart and soul into it. And by this, we can inspire others and make them happy, whether they understand our language or not.

The way to understanding goes through our hearts.

Every year on April the 12th

I love languages. I think they are like various sides of a diamond, all letting very special light and glitter to shine through them. But I always wondered what my favorite was. My father was in love with French. My mother is devoted to our mother tongue, Romanian. My sister, my niece and I grew up with Romanian and Russian. Nowadays, I poke my nose in about thirteen languages, of which in five I can understand and be understood.

A few weeks ago, I finally admitted to myself: English is my favorite. My wish to write in it makes it pretty obvious. And I guess, one of the reasons for the love of it was my English teacher. Valentin Ignatievich Jeleapov was my all times favorite teacher. He was a good friend of my father and after my father died, he became a father figure to me.

He used to give me his salami sandwiches. He engaged me into the work on our school museum. I gave guided tours in this museum. It was my first school of speech. I spent a lot of afternoons at school after the lessons and remember fondly those days.

The teachers in Soviet schools didn’t have much possibility to improvise, because the school program and material were prescribed. The text books were not very exciting. Foreign languages were not an exception. Most of us thought we wouldn’t have a chance to use them.

Only after finishing school and after Perestroika years, I learned how much passion Valentin Ignatievich had for English. I started teaching English to adult beginners, and upon advice from my mother, I brought him all the material I gathered and received at the University and from English friends I was lucky to make in Moldova during my years of study.

But there was one special “English” lesson we had with Valentin Ignatievich, and which I will never forget. It happened every year on April 12. It was done in Russian. We were not asked to read our assignments during those 45 minutes, although we were always told to prepare diligently, also for April 12.

On that day, Valentin Ignatievich told us how he and his fellow students experienced the day when Yuri Gagarin went to space as the first human being. He told us how his professors called off all of the courses and seminars, and how hundreds of students were extremely quiet listening to the report on the radio of the Gagarin’s flight and his landing. He shared with us the emotions he and his friends were living through on that historic day.

I loved those English lessons on April 12. I asked my sister, who is eight years elder than me and who learned her English with Valentin Ignatievich, too. She reported of the same experience. My friends from other classes said the same. This was an unofficial tradition at our school. And it was way out of program and rules.

In the seven years of learning English with Valentin Ignatievich, two times a week, I had several occasions, on which an English lesson for me and my school friends fell on April 12. And I was always glad to experience it again and again.

Valentin Ignatievich told us the same story every time, but the way he told it to us was always new. New sparkle, new detail came every time. I will never forget those special lessons. Every year, on April 12, I remember them with a smile. That is why I write this post. And that is why I created a scene in the novel I write about my father, inspired by my teacher’s story.

I was also glad to learn and experience two other things, occasions, connected to April 12. My mother told me that my father, if he would ever have a son, wanted to name him Yuri, after Yuri Gagarin. And my PhD exam was on April 12, 1999. When I learned that my exam was put on this particular day, I knew that everything would be all right. I was still nervous. But the memory of my father, of my English teacher, and the fact that I defended it in English, made this day very special, festive and unforgettable.

Picture: my father at his PhD defense in 1971. One year before I was born.

papa PhD 1