When Natalya remembers Russia, she thinks of lilac trees. Visions of large round-headed, deciduous trees, and clusters of flowers in various shades of colour: lilac, white, violet, purple, pink, blue and magenta, bunch together in showy pyramid-shaped clusters, which droop and sag, with the weight of densely packed blooms. She see’s dark damp terrain, and log fires. Her mother, busy in the kitchen of their dacha, stirring the Sauerkraut, the sour almost vinegary smell drifting through their home, and lingers in the air and clings to their clothes. Fermented bottles of white and yellow sauerkraut line the kitchen cupboards. She can hear her sister reciting Shakespeare in a loud dramatic voice, holding the book in one hand, and placing her other hand to her forehead,
‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.’
From the time Larissa and Natalya could read, they immersed themself in every book available. Books beyond their age, books which would make even the most considered reader blush. Natalya’s mother and the girl’s oldest sister Emelia would listen to Larissa and Natalya recite for hours on those mornings they spent together, when their papa was away working. And, being dedicated performers, they readily obliged.
Later in the day. Larrisa and Natalya would sit side by side at the table, eating pickled mushrooms, which they had handpicked in the woods in fall, while mama would read the newspaper to them. Larissa would scoff the mushrooms one after the other, vaguely listening to their mama. Natalya would listen with interest of news of war.
Larissa and Natalya would dance, perform, read, and play outdoors, their life though simple, was blissful. Their home was every bit their mothers, with dark rich colours of black and moron, embroidered cushions, and lace and silk, smells of homemade cooking and hard covered novels displayed on ceiling high bookcases. Summer was the most blissful time in Natalya’s life because she was free of the cold, dark Leningrad streets.
On the rare occasion their father joined them at their summer house, they would sit together on the veranda. Natalya would watch him take deep breaths. The air a thick haze of fog and sombre clouds and a relentless rain had kept the family indoors for weeks. It was the first day of blue skies and they took to the warmth of the sunshine, not venturing inside until the last morsel of sun hit the roof of the dacha, and began to descend.