Well, I was struggling with writing the last scenes of the script in verses of Hamlet, a modern tragicomedy for teenagers based on William Shakespeare’s idea of Hamlet. The idea of avoiding, substituting the scene of death had been twirling in my mind all night through…till the morning…
I was used to waking up with the smell of coffee made by my husband who usually woke up a bit earlier than us in order to get the car ready for the day trip (the car was parked outside and it was a snowy winter). Instead, me and my daughter woke up in fierce silence only to find her father/my husband dead. The time froze…
Let me skip the period of grief and searching for solutions. In fact, with my late husband’s position we belonged to the middle class (doctors in Ukraine are paid more or less the same as teachers but the prestige is still on their side). While, after his sudden death I had no time to cry. There were two kids looking at me with belief that we could handle it somehow. So I had extra of teaching hours at school and tutor classes every evening at home. Though, I realized it would never be enough that way for three of us, and I decided to rebel the circumstances, and move…investing our last little savings into renting accommodation in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, the city of my university youth, our dates with Artur and hope for the future.
With a lot of effort and luck I found some job in one of the downtown language schools in Kyiv. Must admit I used to have a few years of English Interpreter experience in Lviv (commuting) and similar work before Zoriana’s birth. Actually, it was Artur who was a money maker in our family spending longer hours at work and I had to give up other options but the school.
My son supported the idea of me and his 12-year old sister moving. While grandmothers and friends tried to talk me out of taking Zoriana with me. Even my brother from Moscow kept saying that a little girl from a small town like Zoriana wouldn’t be able to adapt to a big city life. However, looking into my kid’s innocent and begging not to leave her with granny eyes, I decided to grab my younger child with me.
So limited in our costs, frustrated with renting prices in Kyiv itself, I could afford a room with shared kitchen in a nice cottage house in the suburb of the capital. With all the ups and downs happening later in our family of two starting everything from scratch in a new place, my lovely and brave girl’s character has been built.
On the one hand, there were pretty well-off families driving fancy cars in most houses of the cottage town we were renting accommodation in. On the other hand, every morning we had to commute to the city in overcrowded buses stopping at our bus stop already full. They often even didn’t care to stop as there was no room what’s so ever for new passengers, I mean it. Moreover, there was a 15-minute passage to walk to the bus stop along the road without lights. You see, there was a forest on the one side of the road and the plant wall on the other. Consequently, there could have been the sunlight or starlight, only. Imagine the morning after 6am or evening the same time in fall/winter season. Romantic, eh? Oh yeah, and the passing cars’ flashlights from time to time. Those were people who lived further in the same cottage town. By the way, they often kindly stopped to give a lift in cold winter days. It was okay when we were together but I didn’t let Zoriana get into stranger’s car when she was walking back from school alone. I guess you understand why. And, yes, indeed, she had to come back home alone, like a Red Riding Hood from a fairy-tale. Thanks God, He protected her from a Big Bad Wolf. Her route included a 15-minute walk to Arsenalna Underground Station, 30-minute ride by underground, 20-30 minutes waiting for a bus, taking a crowded bus home, and finally, a 15-minute walk to the house. Later she had to organize her dinner (we usually had something cooked for a few days) and do her homework. I would come back home much later.
Luckily, we found a solution: to catch an earlier 6.20 bus which was collecting the night shift workers from the plant nearby and taking them back to Kyiv every morning. It was considerably “empty”. And yes, I got up at 5am and Zoriana at 5.20 or so. The early bird catches the worm elsewhere in the world, while in Ukraine the early bird must live far away from work/or school.
And what about Zoriana’s school? There was an option to go to a quite area school nearby (still it would require taking a bus) or to enroll her to a downtown public high school reasoning it with my first work place location. I assume you can guess our choice. Why? We didn’t come to live in the suburb forever, it made no sense. I knew the circumstances would sooner or later change. Despite early wake up, my girl really liked the school. Remember her class mistress’s surprise when she learned that Zoriana’s into reading, good at languages and chess (due to her father’s coaching she took the second place in Kamianka-Buzka District Chess Competition at the age of 10). “It is so rare nowadays”, she said.
The same year she represented the High School №90 and was second best in English Language Olympiad, Pecherskyi District, Kyiv. Soon my 8th grade kid made a few good friends, gained respect from teachers and classmates.
I won’t go into details of my work but I had to change a few places until I found something better and more or less stable. Besides, after a year living in the suburb, we managed to rent a better accommodation not far from the center of the city. With this change, it took much less to get to school and work. Our financial situation improved but we still had to plan our expenses carefully.
One day Zoriana announced that her classmates had promoted her together with some other classmate, Roman, to take part in School Miss&Mister Contest. They would have to show their intelligence, perform, dance, etc. She asked me for advice whether she could make it, as all the other girls backed off. I didn’t hesitate a moment offering my support and training as well. The problem was to get that glamorous look and learn dancing waltz. Nevertheless, Zoriana was very persistent to fight her dance problem. They danced at school, we danced at home. Besides, we practiced Romeo and Juliet’s dialogue in English for her talent show. The ball dress? We borrowed it from her cousin by post. Shoes? Good we had bought a fancy Italian pair on summer sale before. And she did it! She got the title of Miss Drama and soon after that became even more popular taking part in all after-school activities during the following year. What’s more, she was a candidate for the School President for the next year.
However, appetite comes with eating. After successfully passing 9th grade exams at High School N90, in order to prepare for university better, Zoriana went through examination process again and was enrolled to a prestigious lyceum, Law class. “Congratulations!”, I thought until we faced all the truth about the school mostly oriented for the youth from high-income families, for example politicians. You see, they had never declared their fees before the entrance campaign because it would have been illegal. They call it charity. However, as soon as they take your child’s documents, you have to donate a big lump of money. I guess most parents saw no way out and “donated” the specific sum they WERE TOLD by the school office worker in private. When I was told to pay that lump, I mentioned that it hadn’t been written anywhere and I would consider their request till the next day and probably we would get back to the old good school, etc. They definitely didn’t expect the answer like that and got worried. I might tell someone and damage their reputation. That’s why the next day I was approached by some active parent committee member trying to persuade us to stay with much less donation for somehow reasonable things, which I actually excepted.
Cool! We are in or what? What can I say now? There were advantages and disadvantages of spending the following year studying there. Not all of the peers were on the same page with my daughter. Although, there were some nice and intelligent classmates to make friends with. Yes, I had to pay some extra school fees, to provide for the fancy uniform and there was a dictator school master, Chemistry teacher in her mid-sixties, who made the life of the staff, many students and their parent, including Zoriana and me, pretty hard.