Presented by: Rimma Zelfand
2013 CERS Women’s Breakfast
Many of you know that I grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia. Not many of you know that for the first 10 years of my life my family and I lived in a four room apartment that we shared with three other families. Many people live in similar conditions in Russia: four rooms shared by 14 people. One kitchen with four tables, one sink, and one stove with four burners – one per family and a schedule to use the oven. One bathroom, one toilet – this detail alone created some interesting dynamics.
And now, for our room – everything we owned was there. There was the coat hanger, the refrigerator, the piano. I slept in the reclining armchair next to the television, which was next to a large wall unit where we kept our dishes and our linens. My parents’ bed was next to it, and maybe that is why I am an only child. In the middle of the room there was a big round table. When I slept in my reclined arm chair, my legs were under the table. We took our meals at that table, I did my homework there, and my mother, a teacher, corrected students’ papers.
Let’s face it. I grew up in a less than perfect place. Our living arrangement created many stressful situations: 14 people with different personalities in one apartment, lack of privacy, a cramped room, and one bathroom – you get the picture. And yet when I look back, I remember a happy childhood. I remember being loved and cherished by my parents. I remember feeling safe and nurtured, both intellectually and emotionally. I remember feeling happy.
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