Katherine the Savage

on today's agenda, aka 'so i dont forget', we will speak about

1. my family and my religion and my time in ukraine
2. hybrids

okay, family. i got this. religion, i got this.
so for the past 4 days or so, i spent a lot of time with my family. not my american family that lives, at most, like 40 minutes away, this was the family i havent seen in months/years/ever. actually, most of the people i have never met before were not really family but they heard about my birth and ever since they have been praying for me and thinking/asking about me. i love them, they might as well be family. so i guess we'll start where all good stories begin, at the beginning. this will be hard.

its funny how things happen so fast. and its funny how so many things happen at the same time. do you ever wake up in the morning and think "okay, someone, somewhere is dying right now and someone somewhere is being born and someone somewhere is on a vacation and someone somewhere is crying"? i do that all the time. well, after many years of vacations and good fortune, my turn came. saturday, may 8th, my dedushka (grandfather) died in ukraine. it was planned to be a lazy saturday including a slow shower and possible shopping. at 1, the phone rang and we (my mom and I) didn't know who was on the caller id so we let it go to message. after listening to the message, which sounded funny and like my aunt not to mention: in russian, i called my mom and we listened to it together. my dedushka had passed away moments earlier. my mom called my dad, who was out, which was a terrible thing to do, having to repeat that his father had died because the only words he could stutter were "what???". we were on a plane that same night. its difficult to write this but i want to remember as much as i can and i want to get it out. ukrainian and russian and i guess all eastern european funerals are nothing like here. here, we build up death as sort of an outcast. we dont see it as part of life, as part of a circle. we have funeral homes and wakes and big lavish dinners. there, it was shocking. when i arrived to my grandparent's (now, my babushka's) home (a cute little 3 room apartment owned by a monastary/seminary that does not have a bathroom or running water (my babushka loves it, its a 1 minute walk to the monastary and only across the street from a park and stores and supermarkets and everything) my grandfather was lying on some wooden boards in clothes that he picked out, two religious shrouds, icons, crosses and superstitious items (blessed flowers, a covered up mirror, a glass of water with bread so the soul can eat, old world myths that all ). His coffin was finished but its some tradition to wait until the day of the burial. there were two seminarian guys who were reading 24/7 (litterally) and there was bustle in the kitchen. My babushka was being very brave and stolid and told us not to worry and feel sad. We stayed there as long as possible with people and family members. All had memories of me and of dedushka and it was really nice, even if I couldn't understand a word they were saying. It was all in their eyes. We returned to our hotel, which was in the monastary. Side Note: the monastary is wonderful. its not glum and dark like in all the movies, at least not Russian Orthodox ones. The cupolas are gold leaf and there are magnificent stained glass windows and even a little chapel made out of it and there is a church donated to the land from Tsar Nicholas II. And this is where, and Michelle knows about my dilemma with this, this is the place where the sky finally matches the landscape. She calls me crazy but here the beautiful sky does not fit in with the malls and nail salons and quick cheks.The insides are breath-taking. every scene from the bible, the creed in navy blue and gold wrapping the church and there are even relics of saints. its always packed and the men's choir was fantastic. the time we were there, it was the last day before ascention which is when Jesus goes back up into heaven 40 days after He has risen so the men's choir was singing all my favorite songs because Easter is my favorite time of year. I cried several times. everyone was really nice. there are rough male guards in army get-up there that are strict and we had to buy fake skirts to put over our pants after the plane ride but after we saw the guards (the one with beautiful blue eyes especially) a few times, they/he remembered us and it was good to have someone see you and nod in another country (thats not a family member). So the next day was my grandfather's funeral. it was extremely bittersweet. so many family members had come together in such short notice. My aunt and cousins and my babushka's sisters were all there and while we were laughing and talking, we remembered that we came together for a totally different reason. The funeral was nice. we said our goodbyes and it was beautiful. first my babushka stepped up, she who had been so calm broke down and hugged my dedushka for the last time. then my aunt and father went up. my dad asked for my dedushka's forgiveness and kissed him goodbye. my aunt fixed his hair and was not embaressed to sob. then as if the entire group knew, they all waited for the grandchildren. Yulka, the first born, bold and fire-y, Gleb, the only boy, quiet and passive and myself, the youngest. we each had our place - no one competed. then, my mother and the rest of the mourners. my dedushka was carried by foot by 6 seminarians, a priest lead the way along with a small male choir and then we all followed. we were quiet and listened to the choir and stopped along the way to hear the Gospel read and something amazing happened. something that I had only heard about. we litterally walked in the streets and the cars that needed to use that road infront or behind us all stopped. they turned off their engines and some even got out and blessed themselves. cyclists stopped and took off their hats. children stopped playing and ran to watch us. they all stopped and looked at the ground and when we had passed they all resumed what they were doing. but for those moments they grieved too. it was heart wrenching. i threw some dirt on my grandfather's grave like we were supposed to and walked back with Gleb - who I most relate to (we're both really content being quiet and peaceful and we both let Yulka do all the talking, we like to listen) - to the house and then we all laughed over the crazy day. I can't believe my dedushka is dead. and that is what is so sad. so many things i should have said to him. so many times i should have seen him. but we lived on different continents. my entire family is scattered. USA, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, and then who knows where all the others live! the next day we ate and shopped and visited my dedushka and best of all, went to church. we even ran into one of the singers of the choir (the who looked like a cat with his moustache and scars) who came up to us and was like "Christ is Risen" (which is what you say for 40 days after easter as a hello/goodbye). i liked him. and the day after that the goodbyes were tough. i miss my family so much, i felt so much love there. not that i dont feel it here, but i've been here so long and around the same family that i often forget that i have so much out of the states, and when i see them, its the love of people trying to fit in many memories. my cousins made me laugh and made me feel better when they saw i had been crying. i held onto my babushka like i would never see her again. because i didnt know when i would. she told me i was a good girl. i wish i stayed longer, but i was too afraid that i had too many absences only to find that it was all excused. i was so worried. the time in ukraine had stopped. it was like i never left ukraine, those 6 years before. it was like i hadn't just been there 3 days but my entire life. i had experienced so many emotions that everything was a dream. and when we were driving back to home, it was like i was never in the ukraine. it was like nothing happened even though so much had happened. i cried as i walked back through the monastary gates as i realized that i would not be spending the day here tomorrow. its funny. the first night i spent in ukraine, when i was like ... 12ish, i cried the entire night. i was touring my grandparents garden in the night (who knows, they were proud of it and i couldnt say no) and i cried because i hated it so much. i wanted to go home so badly. this time, the last night i was there, as i walked on the cobble stone and past the beggers and past the gaurds i cried. i cried because i wanted to stay. i had a terrible reason for being there but i never wanted to leave.

which segways into my next point, i am homeless. a hybrid of two worlds. poetic, i know. i dont know where i want to live for my life. and now that im moving down south to try it out down there, i may be adding another on my list. after that, id love to be in russia studying music and then after that i want to do my masters in new york city. but id love to live over on the west coast, specifically oregon or washington, somewhere green.

so yes, i hope this mess of a blog makes up for the like ... weeks since i posted.


  1. wowwww. that's all i have to say.

  2. Anonymous5/27/2010

    OH the sky.... hah.

    reading through your experience kind of reminded me of Everything Is Illuminated. Just the whole surreal, bittersweet feeling of it all!