When Snowdrifts Were Tall

When I think about my early childhood I recall my grandparents' home in the Ukraine.

Even though my parents had already lived six years in Voronezh, Russia, my mother decided before my birth to move back to her parents' house in the last months of her pregnancy. I was born in the Ukraine, which causes some troubles for me now with the separation of these two former USSR republics.

I spent more than two years at the very beginning  of my life there, a full year when I was five and each summer holiday up to the age of 14. Therefore a lot of my childhood memoirs are connected with the Ukraine.

My grandparents lived on the edge of Cherkassy, the regional capital but not such a big city then (only about 250,000 inhabitants in those days). It wasn't a place of a big industry but a nice, cosy and green town, more like a big village spread  alongside a reservoir on the great Ukrainian river Dnieper.  The reservoir above Kremenchug dam was very long and so wide that you could hardly see the opposite bank, except in the very clear weather. I started to love water and swimming as soon as I could crawl and walk.

There were very few tall buildings and blocks of flats even in the centre of the town; it consists of  mainly private houses and bungalows with full of fruit trees gardens. The Ukraine was the only country where I have seen fruit  trees growing in the streets and alongside the roads without belonging to someone. You could meet apple, pear and apricot trees in the central streets of the town. The main street Shevchenko Prospect (named after the greatest Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko) had been made like a boulevard with a green area in the middle (big trees, benches and a pedestrian pavement).

My grandparents lived in a semi-detached bungalow with a big garden on three sides. There were about 16 fruit trees (apple trees, cherry trees, apricots, plums, pears and a walnut tree) mainly behind the bungalow; vegetables were growing between them. In front of the bungalow  was a grass meadow with sheds for implements, chickens and rabbits and a few decorative trees - a lime tree, a rowan tree, a bird-cherry tree and bushes of three different kinds of lilac. Certainly, it was the spring and the summer when all these plants were growing and blossoming.

However, one of my brightest childhood recollections is from the winter time in this place. I was probably about five and a half years old. It was a winter day, one of those after a snowstorm falling for a day and a night. It was a classical picture: "Under the blue sky like a splendid carpet the snow lies shining in the sun"(A. S. Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet of the nineteenth century).

I spent that day in the front garden. I remember myself playing with my next-door friend, dressed in boots, fur coats, gloves and hats. We made roads between the snowdrifts; they were so tall, they seemed to be of my height or even above. Then we started to dig big holes into these snow-hills. Did we imagine ourselves to be foxes or bears? It was a great fun. We climbed the snow-hills, dug inside them and fought with snowballs. We came back home like two Snowgirls (like in folk tales) covered  from head to foot. My granny was not happy about melted snow puddles on the floor.

I don't remember such big snowdrifts and deep snow in recent years. Perhaps, the climate has become warmer, or am I taller and grown up?

Elena Worsfold