Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Siberian Family

Tanya went home to Siberia for her brother Sasha's funeral. I would loved to have gone with her but had neither time nor money. She brought back pictures and greetings so that will have to do till next year.

Luda is Tanya's younger sister. Several years younger. And married to Valerie Antonov, driver of a big coal truck in an open pit mine and currently trucking coal 400 km through the mountains where there is no railroad. when the snow and avalanches let him. Luda is secretary at the hospital in Belii Yar (White Ravine) where they live. About 20 minutes from downtown Abakan in Khakasia, Siberia, Russian Federation.
They have been in love since Grade 8. Luda wanted to go to Moscow to University but Valerie couldn't part with her for that long so she stayed. She is a sweetheart. Valerie says half the men in Belii Yar are waiting for him to die. I tell Valerie that if I wasn't already married to her sister, I'd get in line too.
They live in a duplex log house with electricity and telephone. Period. There is a well in the yard and an outhouse out back. Heat is coal fired. Not unusual for the far side of the Ural mountains. Though both have worked steady for years there is never quite enough money to put in plumbing or gas. IF gas were available which it is not.

Valerie and I hit it off immediately that we first set eyes on each other. I was his brother-in-law long before I had even asked the question of Tanya. He is a typical Siberian with hands like hams and an immense capacity for vodka, to his detrement at times.

They have a 22 year old son named Slavic and a 7 year old daughter named Ksenia. Papa Franskevich lives there too. Ksenia is in Grade 1 (equivalent to our Grade 2) and a brilliant student. She has that impish but determined look that reminds me of pictures of her Tautya Tanya at the same age. Slavic is unable to live independently but works in the yard and runs errands. Tanya's Mama died 8 years ago and Papa has not smiled much since. He is a good man and I love him dearly.
Sasha's daughter Lena, husband Dymr and little Ulianna have adopted Luda and Valerie as parents and grandparents, which is good as Lena needs a Mama and Ulianna needs a Babushka.


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