Both of my parents grew up in the Soviet Union. I have always been fascinated with their stories from childhood. Some of them seem unworldly, like something you would watch in a science fiction movie about a dystopian society. Some of them however, I’ve found some kind of semblance of similarity. I didn’t grow up in a war zone, or a military town, or a communist nation. But I find certain parts of myself – certain traits or memories, in their stories anyway. This is my father’s recollection.
“Now it’s Papa. When I was born in 1961 it was kind of different era and we were free range kids. And I was born in the south of Russia with a small town named Kapustin Yar, it’s literally translates as a “Cabbage Ditch.” It was kind of one of the horrible times when we had the Cold War with America, Khennebin (?) crisis and everything, and Kapustin Yar was a military site where my father was a military engineer designing and testing ballistic missiles. But we were kids at that time, and we didn’t know much, so we had a happy life in this small town. It was very hot in summer, very cold in winter. The area was very flat, like in Kansas or something. It was very beautiful in the springtime, where we had a lot of tulips in the steppes. And I was about seven years old, seven—eight—years old, and we had a very best friend, Andrei. We were playing around and we found one of the bullet casings. It was beautiful and gold, and like all boys we wanted to be at some point in military, so we were trying to find out more. So after some conversation with all the kids we found there was like some kind of military range where soliders do training and shootings, AK-47, and we kind of decided to go there and collect bunch of, like, bullet casings.
I thought like we were gonna be you know kid—get rich in kid’s terms. Very valuable items. We planned a long, because it was pretty far away, about like ten miles from our hometown, and because town was in the military it was surrounded by barbed wire, but we knew some ins and outs. So we went outside unnoticed and decided to go in directions to this military range. On the way there, we found some kind of obstacles, like for example, we saw for example wild dogs running around in the steppes. We were afraid they can get us, and because it’s steppe there’s no place to hide, we found some kind of like, pipe going through, I don’t remember exactly what it was, maybe some kind of water or some kind of gasoline or oil – so we climbed onto this pipe and waited for about couple hours til those dogs went away. So finally we arrived in the place, it was like kind of big hill and we were hearing some shootings on the other side of the hill, so we decided to wait a little bit longer until shooting stopped. So then it stops, and we start climbing—not climbing, like, like crawling closer—actually, as I found out later, there was like a change in ranks. So one troops went outside and then new troops coming in.
And luckily, one of the military officers found us, noticed us, and ordered everyone to stop. We were trying to run away, but soldiers caught us and we were placed into some temporary kind of place and they tried to find out who we are. So we told about our parents and they called our parents and it was worst—very very big mess. And it’s the first time my father, um, used his like belt to give me some, you know. Beatings, I would say. But what I remember from this enterprise, that kids are very resourceful and they can get anything they want if they make their mind into something. But sometimes the goal is, not very necessary, lofty goals. So you have to be careful. So, that’s—that’s the story. “