St. Petersburg, Part III

Part I!
Part II!

Since Tim served in St. Petersburg, we were able to meet up with a family that he dearly loved from his mission.  They are originally from Armenia, and they have six children.

Even for Americans, that's a big number nowadays--but for Russians, that number is insane. If you have more than one or two kids, that's crazy.

We went over to their home on Monday night for FHE, and it was so fun.  They have such a beautiful family. They lived simply, but you could tell their home was filled with love and happiness.

Two of the kids, the oldest and youngest, weren't in the shot. One was napping, one was out partying. I'll let you guess which was which. :)

A neat story about this family: for a while, they were really struggling financially and ended up practically homeless.  At one point, they were living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment for all 8 of them. They had a lot of faith that things would work out, but they didn't know how.

Out of the blue, the Russian government contacted them and basically said that they are going to give them an apartment, completely free, because they had so many children.  It was part of a government program to reward larger families, since they were worried that there were too few children being born. So, they ended up with a very large (even by American standards) apartment that they were able to comfortably situate their family in. He is now one of the counselors in the Stake Presidency in St. Petersburg.

The next day, Tim invited the two oldest girls to come with us to the Akhmatova and Dostoevsky museums.  We had such a great time with them! They both spoke a little english, and of course Tim spoke a lot of Russian, so we managed just fine.

We had a great time at the Dostoevsky museum (well, mostly Tim did...because let's face it, the rest of us have probably never even read Dostoevsky). The cool thing about the museum is that it is actually Dostoevsky's St. Petersburg apartment, preserved exactly as it was when Dostoevsky lived there. It is always so cool to me how much history there is here in Russia.

I mean, sure, there's lots of history in the US, too...but seeing as how our entire nation is only about 230 years old, and Russians have been existing for about a thousand years before that, there's just a lot more over here.

This is Dostoevsky's hat. He was quite a dapper dresser, they say.

This is Dostoevsky's death mask.

This is Dostoevsky's study, where he wrote most of his works.

This is the nursery. Rocking horse = WANT.

Aaaaaand that's pretty much all you need to know about Dostoevsky, unless you really really like his stuff. In which case, you should come to Russia and see the apartment and museum in person!

"Anna Ahkmatova Museum, Fountain House"

Tim was waaaaay more excited about the Akhmatova museum.  She is one of Russia's great poets, and she lived right around the fall of Tsarism, in the 20's.  The museum was the same setup as the Dostoevsky, meaning they preserved her apartment as a museum.

The cool thing is, it was a communal apartment they sent her to after communism took over, and it was actually in a building that used to be a palace.  She shared her apartment with several other families during her stay there. She was basically "imprisoned" there by the state, while her son was arrested and kept in prison for years and years.

She would go to the prison every day and wait in line for hours on end, just to ask the guards if he was still alive.  Usually, they didn't tell her.  She wrote one of her most famous poems, Requiem, about that experience.  Here's what she had to say about why she wrote it:
During the frightening years of the Yezhov terror, I
spent seventeen months waiting in prison queues inLeningrad. One day, somehow, someone 'picked me out'.On that occasion there was a woman standing behind me,her lips blue with cold, who, of course, had never inher life heard my name. Jolted out of the torporcharacteristic of all of us, she said into my ear(everyone whispered there) - 'Could one ever describethis?' And I answered - 'I can.' It was then thatsomething like a smile slid across what had previouslybeen just a face.[The 1st of April in the year 1957. Leningrad]
Can you even imagine being in that situation? Needless to say, she had been through a lot.

Once we got to the museum, though, we found out the entire apartment was closed for renovations to prepare for a famous anniversary next fall.  Soooo sad.  Tim was so looking forward to that!  They did have a small art gallery open, though, that had a lot of images of Akhmatova.

And they had some beautiful lithographs!

We found out that they do prints of the artwork for $3 a piece, so we bought like 6 of our favorite ones.  We got these two above, plus, of course, some others.  I can't wait to show you the rest when we get them up in our house!

Apparently this is a reference to a work by Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, in which he kills an old babushka. I don't know why it was at the Akhmatova museum, though...but I am such a sucker for cutouts.

The sweetest.

After we left the museum, we took the girls out to eat at a little cafe. Aren't they cute?

Also, we're cute too.

We said goodbye to them after our late lunch, and then Tim and I just spent the rest of the time wandering around the beautiful streets of St. Petersburg.

And also, we found this: 

Yes, that is a girl wearing a full set of butterfly wings.

Don't ask why. We will never know.

I think this is Pushkin...but I can't remember.

Then it was off to the train station!

санктьпетербург = Sanct-Peterburg

 Remember what I told you about Russian hospitality? Sasha and Marina drove ANOTHER hour to the train station to meet us and say goodbye, and they brought us more gifts and food for the train.  They stayed with us and we talked for about twenty minutes until our train was about to leave.

I will miss them so much.  They feel like another set of parents to me.

They wait outside until you are no longer in sight before they leave. 

Goodbye to St. Petersburg, until we come back! Who's coming with us next time? Hmmmm?