Twenty-Five Pages of You

These twenty-five pages were not written by me. They were written by my grandmother in the year 2000, right after she turned seventy-one. Her diary found its way to me a month and a half after she had passed away, at the end of July, on my birthday, in 2019. The best birthday gift a loving granddaughter could wish for. After I read the scanned pages out loud to my husband Chris in the car on the way to my birthday party, I thought for a few days about whether my grandmother would want it to be translated and shared with the world and came to the definitive conclusion that yes - she absolutely would. I have not edited anything in my grandmother's memoirs and tried to translate every word, as literally as I could. This is a pretty raw, unabridged glimpse into Russian life during and right after WWII as seen by a young teenage girl. Some of the details about the events during the war are quite intense and might upset you or stay with you for some time. I did not - could not - cut them out though, since, well, this is not my story, and I had to preserve it all. This is also by no means meant as an attack against certain nations. I have friends from all over the world, and, if anything, I hope that this story will help us bring more peace into our world.

The journal stops very abruptly - I guess my nan got tired of writing or got distracted by whatever she had to tend to back then, in 2000. I wish she had kept on writing. These twenty-five pages is all I have, and I so wish I had more. This goes to show how important it is for all of us to share our story. Whether you write, or sing, or draw, or dance - no matter how you express yourself - please do so. Because after all is said and done, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will want to know more about you and how your life truly was. They will be looking for that innate connection, for that invisible thread through time and space that will help them attain a better grasp on their current reality and on the bigger picture that mystifies us all. So, please, my darling readers - don't go to your deathbed with your music still in you. Share your story so that your soul can continue to shine and dance even when you are gone.

And now - are you ready for a journey back in time? Then buckle your seat belts and let's go!

June 21, 2000

Shall we start then?

My name is Nina Kulapina. I was born on May 9, 1929. Back then no one knew that soon our people will be faced with horrible times, and that they would end when I turn sixteen. From that time on, I would always celebrate this day with tears in my eyes.


I spent my childhood years in a small town not far away from Moscow, Naro-Fominsk. My mother and father were wonderful people. They lived together for 10 years, and during that time, my mom gave birth to 5 children. Only two are alive today - my middle brother Nikolai and I, the other three of my siblings died when they were still little. My dad died fighting in the Finnish War (reference to The Winter War) in 1939, and we were left alone. When I think back on my childhood years, I remember a beautiful little hat with cherries all around the rim, pretty outfits that our parents loved buying for us. Unfortunately, I don't remember my mom and dad when they were young, and only thanks to the stories told to me by my aunt Masha, I know that my dad was a wonderful person.

Nina, December 28, 1932

My mom would also tell me stories about dad and her, and I know that they loved each other very much. Their life together flew by in an instant - 10 years, it's not much time at all.

My mom became a widow when she was 32 years old. She did her utmost best at raising us, and her sister Dusya was helping her as much as she could during these difficult times.

My mom, dad, grandmother, aunts and my brother Nikolai

Before the war, I finished 4 grades in school, I was an A student, I joined the Pioneers (reference to the Young Pioneers), and was a very active child. I attended all kinds of after-school clubs, but most of all, I loved to sing. I used to sing at school evening performances, they were called "Pioneer gatherings" then. I had a natural singing voice, and I didn't even need a teacher. I had a great ear for music, and my ability to memorize melodies was amazing. At 12 years of age, I was able to sing a lot of opera arias, just like Frosya Burlakova from Come Tomorrow, Please... (a reference to the popular 1963 Soviet comedy). I also knew a lot of