We have a lively and descriptive account from Sophie, a student from Holland Park School, about her Grandma’s experiences in Russia.
Meet my Grandma! Her name is Margarita and she was born in 1941, which was the year Russia became involved in World War two. A few years later after my Grandma was born, her family had to be evacuated, because of bombing, from Gorky city to the Kirov region (Russia), however her father fought in the war and died a few months after he came home as a result of his injuries. These times were characterised by hunger and so my Grandma, just like many other children, used to go to fields to pick/gather wheat in order to have something to eat.
In those years there was not much entertainment, so life, for some children, seemed monotonous, but perhaps this is the reason why my Grandma’s generation was so well educated – they read loads of books instead of staring into a screen of a phone! They did not even have any toys! My Grandmother’s only toy was her handmade doll she kept for quite a long time; she can still vividly remember it.
I asked my Grandmother to tell me about her school years and the first response was that schools then were completely different from the schools today, especially her school compared to my “futuristic school” ( Holland Park School). The teachers, as many of them came to teach the students after fighting or participating in the war, used to always talk about the war and sometimes even instead of the subject they were supposed to teach. “Maybe because they were so interested to tell the pupils about their experience, or perhaps, after the tedious tiresome and restless years of fighting, they forgot the subjects, “ was my Grandmother’s guess.
Nevertheless, my Grandma loved school just as much as reading and she still remembers the first book she ever read by herself, she said “it was an amazing feeling, as though you have achieved something otherworldly!”, the book is quite meaningful and special to her, even after all those years that passed. My Grandma’s favourite subjects at school were history (she was very interested in the subject) she read many historic books; and literature – this is undoubtedly because my Grandma loved reading as well as writing essays. Also, in the 1940’s at schools there was an opportunity of going to free afterschool clubs, which she explored ; avidly she participated in art club, knitting and gymnastics. Gymnastics became part of her life and she was awarded with the ‘First Junior Level’ in Gymnastics’ , due to this she was allowed to sometimes lead parts of PE lessons and was in fact the model student ( at this point in my interview, I saw a slight spark of pride in her eyes).
Not only was my lovely Grandma an exemplary student in PE, she learned with eager and was always ready to take in more information. The system at her school was based on marks and my Grandmother, unsurprisingly, always had the top marks and received certificates as awards. Furthermore, for the most well behaved – outstanding students, a trip was organised to go to the most popular students’ place on the shore of the Black Sea and “ it can easily be considered the best trip of my childhood!”
Through this interview, my Grandma has taught me that life is never monotonous or melancholy – we ourselves create our lives and how we want to spend every precious minute of our lives depends on us!