Dacha (A Russian Suburban House)

I’ve lost my parents.

I live in the US, they live in Russia, we Skype about once a week and exchange e-mails in between.

This time for a whole week, however, there were no messages or any other contact from my parents – strange! There were no responses to my e-mails either – REALLY strange! Not like them at all! I know there are two of them and I like to let other people (including my family members) live their lives the way they choose to, but even I began having worrisome thoughts, so I called Mom’s cell phone. She answered.

– I’ve lost my parents! Are you guys OK? Would you like to do Skype?
– Dinulya, we’re at dacha!!
– You mean today?
– No! For a week already!
– For a week?? You’ve never lived at dacha before! You don’t go back home any longer??
– The cat had made us go back before, but now, since his passing, we’ve just been staying here every night! It is SO BEAUTIFUL here! We watch the sunrise and sunset every day, listen to the birds, I play with my flowers and Dad takes care of the trees and works in the house… It is SO LOVELY!!!…
– When are you going to be home?
– I don’t know when…

One day while changing in my room after coming home from school, I overheard this conversation between my parents in the kitchen. Mom was serving dinner to Dad when he said:

– Today at work they offered all of us a free piece of land.
– A piece of land??? – Not something that my mother had expected to hear.
– Yes, a small lot of land in the suburbs, right outside of town. I think we should get it.
– Why on earth would we need a lot of land??? Are you a farmer? I am not either! What would we do with that lot of land???
– I don’t know, but everyone’s getting one. It’s free, and we could be right next to all our friends.
– So what?? We don’t need any land – free or not!! How would you explain it to our mothers? They’ll say that if we wanted to work on land, we shouldn’t have moved from our farming town!
– I don’t know why, but I think we should get it. You know we could always plant potatoes there…
– You are crazy!!!

This conversation took place almost twenty years ago when I was still living in Russia with my parents and went to middle school. The Soviet Union had just collapsed and the land that used to belong to the government didn’t have anyone to take care of it. For the first time, Russian citizenships received the right to own property and land. The land that used to be taken care of through state collective farming was being divided into tiny lots (0.15 acres in my town) and was being offered to whole city organizations for free.

My father ended up getting one tiny piece of land like that, but it sat for several years before anything began to happen. Then we planted potatoes there. It was funny actually. My parents didn’t know what the big fat white worms were that quite often were dug out while making wholes for potatoes, and being huge lovers of animals and plants and respecting life in its every form, they let them be. Mom actually told everyone to dig them back into soil so that those worms didn’t get hurt from being disturbed and exposed to the sun. Well, that year we didn’t get to harvest any potatoes because it turned out they were those worms’ most favorite food!

That sparked my parents’ interest. They began watching gardening shows, buying farming books and subscribing to gardeners’ magazines. We planted potatoes the following year again and this time there was a big harvest. The year after, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers and carrots joined the feast…

Then all kinds of beans, bell peppers, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, melons as well as strawberries and mint for tea…

Then our relatives came and helped Dad build a small two-story house…

Dad also planted lots of fruit trees and Mom began planting flowers… Lots of them… Hundreds of them… And the first pond with water lilies was created…

Then some of their friends moved to another city and sold them their lot. Wow! More land to play with. In less than one season it was also full of flowers, whose Russian and Latin names Mom knew by heart. Now there were thousands of them!!! In addition to tons of fruit and vegetables… So many of them that every year my parents share them with all their friends…

Dacha has become their little sanctuary. Their meditation and escape. Their delight and joy. It carried them through various challenges in life. Every time they go there, they both find peace. And now they’ve begun living there, too!

This is one of the examples of a lesson that I’ve learned in life: You really never know where anything will take you. When something shows up, don’t automatically say “no” to it just because it’s new, different or unfamiliar. Give it a try! You might end up watching sunrises and sunsets and listening to birds sing with the person you love in the most beautiful place that you’ve never even dreamed about…



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