Archives for February 2011

Sochi Symbol Crossbreed

In spite of the fact that Russians have selected 3 symbols for the 2014 Olympics, some were unhappy with the voting results, so they decided to combine them! So here is what you get when you mix a Snow Leopard, a Bunny, and a Polar Bear!

Top 5 Russian Cartoons with English Subtitles Worth Watching

Having Lived in NYC, I have often come across bilingual families. I have worked for two out of many, and came to a conclusion, that it is extremely hard for the Russian speaking parent or parents to teach their child to speak Russian (or any other language it may be). One of my friends who is in such a situation (she is Russian, her husband is American) has recently shared this story:

I went to a Russian grocery store in Soap Lake today (That’s in Washington by the way). When we came out of the store Annika (her 5 year old) sighed with relief and said, “Now that we are outta here I can speak English again?” And when someone asked: “Doesn’t she like speaking Russian?” My friend replied: “Unfortunately, she speaks it less and less. I continue speaking in Russian and they (she has another child – a younger boy, probably around 3) understand everything, but they choose to answer in English. Now I am not saying that these cartoons will help your child speak fluent Russian, and make him/her WANT to speak it. But they are a fun pass time (even though there are a lot of parents out there who don’t let their children watch TV, I grew up watching Spokoinyi Nochi, Malyshi/Good Night, Kids every night, and a cartoon in the AM before I left for pre-school and grew up normal! Also get your husband or wife involved too, especially if they aren’t native Russian-speakers. It will definitely help the child see that both parents are into spending time with him/her, even if one of them doesn’t fully understand what exactly is going on.

I also think that this Top 5 will be helpful for Russian Language Learners, because cartoon language is simpler, the characters often speak slower. There was a blog post that I have recently come across that explains one of the cartoons I have chosen to be in my Top 5, which explains Rusism (Russian language peculiarities) that you can check out, the post is called “I Want to Live in Prostokvashino”

Top 5 Russian Cartoons to Watch (on YouTube with English Subtitles)

1. Three from Prostokvashino (Troe is Prostokvashino).

A funny cartoon about a boy named Dyadya Fyodor, who meets a talking cat Matroskin, with a very philosophical view on life, and later moves to a village house where they also meet a talking dog Sharik. The population of the village moved into a new apartment building across the lake, so there were a lot of empty houses. The boy and his new friends have quickly chosen one to occupy, and so the adventures begin. There is a sequel to this cartoon, called Zima v Prostokvashino/Winter in Prostokvashino (unfortunately this one doesn’t have the subtitles, or maybe I didn’t look hard enough! And the third part of the “Saga” is called Vacation in Prostokvashino/Kanikyly v Prostokvashino (I will be posting a link to that! These cartoons are based on a book by Eduard Uspenskii, called “Uncle Fyodor, the Dog, and the Cat”

2. Vinny Puh/Winnie-the-Pooh. Now to all of you used to a yellow Winnie-the-Pooh, please! Bears are brown! Take your child to the Zoo, show them the bear, and then the cartoon. Then show them the American cartoon. Your child will tell you that Bears can’t be yellow! The Russian Winnie-the-Pooh has 3 episodes, and he speaks with a voice of a famous Soviet actor – Evgenii Leonov

Now when you watch this video, make sure you open the description, because there are no subtitles on the screen, which got me a little confused at first. But as the narrator and characters speak, the phrases are automatically shown in bold! Pretty neat, don’t you think?

This next video is called Winnie-the-Pooh goes visiting, I personally would’ve called it something like “Winnie-the-Pooh Pigs Out” taking into consideration that his best friend is a Pig, that’s a fun wordplay right there!

The last cartoon about Winnie (that’s what he goes by here in Russia) is called “Winnie-the-Pooh’s Busy Day”

3. My next pick is a cartoon about Karlson. It’s based on the book by Astrid Lindgren (a Swedish author, whose books are extremely popular in Russia). Karlson is a funny looking little man, who has a propeller attached to his back, with a button to turn it on in the front. He must have been a victim of some evil experiment, and got combined with a fan, but we’ll never know for sure. He has a little house on the roof, and has an EXTREMELY sweet tooth! This is where his resemblance with Winnie-the-Pooh comes in! The first cartoon is called Junior and Karlson (again the translation I wouldn’t go with, why not call it Karlson and Kid, then you can have the K&K going on, but oh well) and here is the video

There is another episode called “Karlson Returns” (Just like the Terminator said – I will be back, so will Karlson!) But unfortunately the video with the english subtitles is up no more, sorry my dear readers 🙁

4. The Bremen Musicians/Bremenskie Mysikanty. My personal childhood favorite. I used to have a record with the story (we call it Audio-Books now and they come on CDs) and loved listening to it. I think if I hear it again once, I will be able to tell it to you by heart! Oh the wonders of the human memory. This story is based on a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm. The video again doesn’t have subtitles, so you will have to click on the transcript underneath!

5. My last choice goes to a cartoon based on the Ukrainian Folk Tale called “There Once was a Dog”/Jil-Byl Pyos.

Make sure to also check out Smeshariki, my new favorite. I used to watch episode after episode, and could never get enough! There is an English version of Smeshariki, called Gogoriki, but I believe the creators wanted to make a separate English version, which I think wasn’t that successful. There are no English subtitles, that’s why it didn’t make the cut!

And of course there are the Russian fairytales! This link is for Alenkyi Tsvetochek/Red Flower – the analog of Beauty and the Beast. Again no English subtitles, but the animation is so unique and painting like, it will capture your attention! I strongly believe that Disney has nothing as good as this! A great “picture book” of Russian Medieval Life!

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Symbols Extravaganza

Sochi won the Winter Olympics bid back in 2007. I remember exactly where I was when I found out. We had a staff bonding day at Prairie Woods Environmental Centre and one of the guys came up to me and said:

– Zhenya, they chose that Russian place for the 2014 Olympics, S – something.

Now the Olympics are coming up and for the past several months Russians have been voting on the Symbols. Last night the country has finally cast their votes and we all find out what the new Symbol looked like. Now there is a Russian way of doing everything – to turn it into a 3 hour long TV special hosted by this guy!

You take one scruffy looking host, one room full of Russian celebrities, a stage, a big screen and a projector to create the illusion of the little cartoonies being interviewed on stage. (Not really sure what it looks like from the audience, but it looks pretty good on the screen!) and voila, here is a recipe of a lame, I mean successful TV special!

Now as any good Russian show this one included singing and dancing. After every Symbol’s presentation, some pop star and the Symbol sang and danced together. Quiet a concert let me tell you!

The first Symbol was our Grandfather Frost (aka Russian Santa Claus). The Symbol of our New Year. The producers made a cartoon about him, how back

in the day he used to reply to all letters by mail, and then at one point started getting requests for PS3 and iPods, and he had no idea what they were, so he went on line and is now a very tech savvy New Years symbol. (I was also chatting with Sam on Skype throughout the whole show, so I will be sharing some of our comments on here, hope you find them as funny as we did!) I def had to make a comment to Sam about how our Grandfather Frost has Internet and Santa doesn’t, and Internet is better than elves. Sam of course argued that elves can build the Internet. The story with Mr.Frost is the following though, if he had been chosen as the symbol of the Olympics, Russia would’ve had to give up the copyright, and since he is the New Year’s Symbol, people of Russia decided not to nominate him. Well one nominee less, let’s move on to the next one.

The Robin (Snegir’) is the smartest of all birds, he lives in the woods in a little house with a Lark, but when Snegir’ is there the Lark is gone, and vice versa. That Robin has a magic whistle that he blows and creates stadiums and gyms. Pretty neat thing to have if you are a construction worker, I think! The presentation ended up with a song by a Russian pop band of 15 years called Ivanushki International with Snegir’ himself being a part of the band and turning it into a quartet and not a trio anymore. My Russian friend Masha once saw a singer from this band at Filene’s Basement or Loehmann’s in NYC. He was drunk in the middle of the day – there it is, pop culture in it’s finest!

The next Symbol nominee was the Polar Bear.

The cartoon about him told us the sad story of when he was a cub, and how he jumped off his iceberg where he lived with his Mother Bear, and landed on a smaller iceberg, where the Russian Arctic Scientists and Researchers found him, took him on board of their ship, and taught him all sorts of things! So now he lives in an igloo with a code door and a big observatory. So I guess he is a romantic at heart, and likes to watch the stars. He is kind of on a chubby side, so I am not really sure how can he be an Olympic Games Symbol, but oh well. One of the things that I liked about these Symbol nominees was that they were mostly created by children! That was cute!

The Sun or Solnyshko (which is a nick name for a loved one, similar to calling someone My Sunshine) was the next nominee.

I just want to make sure you are all aware that it is the female version of the Sun, that was sent to Earth for I am not exactly sure what reason. I guess my Russian is becoming not good enough. Now Solnyshko does a lot of useful things. She rises and sets, paints the clouds different colors, and sings songs about herself. So she is pretty much useless, as we all can understand!


Our next nominee was a duet the Snowflake girl and the Ray of Light boy.






Their names are Dan and Dana (very “Russian” names if you ask me!), and even though they came from different planets (which I think is a little Star Treky) they look alike! Can you all see a resemblance? It’s there, trust me… Oh forget it who cares. Now this duo landed in an Eskimo village up north somewhere in the frozen tundra, and the Eskimo children accepted them as their own. They immediately built them a rink and a bobsleigh track, so that the two could practice. The big question is – If I go to a remote Eskimo village will I get them to build stuff for me, or should I go for the Robin’s magic whistle? These two have been chosen as the symbols of the Special Olympics!

Our next nominee was the Bunny (alright, I admit every time I think of bunnies, Playboy comes to mind, and that TV show – Girls Next Door).

She is cute, I know, nothing like the Playboy Bunnies! She is also like Flash, super fast and productive! Her nick name is Strelka, the Arrow. The Bunny, like other nominees is good at all sorts of winter sports, she also helps her mom run the Lodge in the woods. Bunny’s business owner heritage has probably helped her find a way into the list of nominees, because everyone knows that bunnies are afraid of everything. It even says so in a song about the Christmas tree – The coward bunny was jumping under the tree! Hopefully the Bunny won’t be shy, but won’t overdo it, you know, like those Girls Next Door!

You all know that in Russia bears are walking down the streets, just like the humans, NOT. But the committee felt like they could allow another bear into the list of the nominees, so please welcome – the Brown Bear!

This character has built a pre-school for forest animals’ babies, but the parents won’t let them go there. It must be some restraining order or child molester story. Eventually though the Brown Bear earns the respect of everyone in the forest, including the Old Wolf, whose face we never get to see! They really had to go all James Bond with this one, didn’t they? Now it’s the Brown Bear’s mission to become the Symbol of the Olympics. This brings back a deja vu feeling to all people over 35 out there, because the Brown Bear was the Symbol of the Olympics back in 1980. I didn’t like him, he raps, and Russians don’t know how to rap!

Barsik is the next nominee, he is a Snow Leopard who snowboards!

Barsik is a cat’s name that was popular back in the day, before the naming of cats became a sophisticated matter (see Andrew Lloyd Weber’s – The Naming of Cats). This creature lives on a mountain, more like a cliff, and keeps watch over the land. I guess that makes him an undercover KGB agent! I believe this particular character also performed some ballet. I really like Snow Leopard more as a Mac OS, but it’s just me!

Dolphin Phil (another Russian name, ahem!) is our next nominee, also known as the Dolphin on Skis!

He was chosen by the Socians (people who live in Sochi), and his story will bring tears to your eyes, just like Free Willie did. The Dolphin was born in a Moscow aquarium, and his trainer noticed how he would always look outside the window at the snow that was falling on the ground. Then Phil (Dr.Phil does come to mind!) was transferred to Sochi aquarium and from there his trainer set him free, and he became friends with all the dolphins of the sea, and started training them, organizing sports events, and being the referee. Dolphins are cute, but please don’t put them on skis!

We are down to our last nominee. The Matryoshkas (Nesting Dolls, that originated in China). Please don’t call them bowling pins!

Alright, you can call them bowling pins, they totally look like it. But honestly, if these were chosen to be the symbol of the Olympics, Russia could totally pull it off. These Matryoshkas are all guys who are into different winter sports! Too bad they didn’t get picked. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.



The votes were cast, and the host started the countdown.

The brown bear was in 8th place

Matryoshka’s in 7th

Solnyshko in 6th

Then the robin

4th place went the dolphin on skis

And the top 3 became Olympic Symbols, so the Polar Bear, Barsik the Snow Leopard and the Bunny (oh it’s so lame was my first comment to Sam on Skype!)

So World, here they are the Symbols of the Olympic Games in Sochi!

PS. These two were also nominated, but didn’t get enough votes to be in the finals. But a pair of mittens and a frog with hypothermia really have got nothing to do with the Olympics!

Russian Movies Worth Watching

My dear friend Brianna has recently visited Russia. One of the destinations was St. Petersburg, the place she has never visited before. And of course I wanted to hear all about it. Russian museum was something she was fascinated by the most. We all know that The Hermitage, like Louvre, like The Met (It’s about time we Met – will always be one of my favorite advertising slogans of all times. And the classy Upper East Siders who give you their buttons upon exiting the museum, so that you can go in for free, even though it’s donations only) contain art collections from all over the world. But the Russian Museum is all about Russian art. So Bri had no idea what to expect. I went to the Russian Museum 6 years ago, and the painting that impressed me the most was “Sadko” by Repin.

The painting is based on the famous Russian epic folk tale, which you can read if you follow this link! (all in English too, for those of you lovers of Russian art and culture!) Now imagine my surprise when Brianna said that this was her favorite painting too. I told her that there was also a movie made back in the day, and that it can be found on YouTube with English subtitles. So after this happened I decided to do some research on what movies are available for those of you interested in learning more about Russian culture (Russian and Soviet both) and the language as well.

Here is my top 5 Russian Movies Worth Watching (with links):

1. Sadko – gives a good idea about Ancient Russia – architecture, entertainment culture, clothing, music, singing, dancing! If you love fairytales this will also be a good alternative toThe Little Mermaid.

2. Mission “Y” and other adventures of Shurik/Operaciya “Y” ili drygie Priklucheniya Shurika – a great movie that includes 3 episodes from the life of a Student of a Polytechnical University and all the shenanigans he gets himself into. Needless to say it has some of the best Soviet actors and depicts USSR of the 60s!

3.  The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy your Bath (The translation on the original CD)/ Ironiya Syd’by ili s Legkim parom – This is not a movie anymore, it is a New Year’s tradition here in Russia. The story of one man’s New Year mishaps has made it into everyone’s home, and even a modern sequel, with both old and new actors. The movie makes fun of the ordinary (lifestyle, similarity, lack of options and choices in the 80’s, from wallpaper, to the apartment building design, and even names of the streets) , tells us a love story, and also warns the young ones that you will end up on the plane to a different city if you keep drinking vodka like the Russians.

4. Office Romance/Slyjebnyi Roman – a love story between a clerk and his man-like female boss, who undergoes a makeover at one point. The boss’s secretary is a die hard 70’s fashionista, who will do anything to get a rare pair of new suede boots! Made in the late 70’s this love comedy will definitely become one of your favorites!

5. Now last but not the least is The Master and Margarita – based on the famous novel by Bulgakov. Shows Russia and Russian life of the 1920’s, and tells the unbelievable, mystical, weird love story that has captured the hearts of many.

Now, I hope you all realize that these movies are broken down into several YouTube episodes, so make sure you click on the right ones after watching the first one! Good luck to you all in your journey to learning more about Russia!

PS. I will definitely write a post about cartoons, because this world is yet to come up with something as good as Russian Cartoons!

This is what cancer is like

I am not the one with cancer, my grandmother is. She’s had it since 1997. I was 11 in 1997, just started going to church. I was in 5th grade. I loved Sunday School, I knew all Bible Stories.

My grandmother has never been that much of a supporter for me. She’s always criticized me, I was never good enough. I was put down on a daily basis.

Before my parents split up my dad’s mom was my favorite Grandma, but after the divorce my grandmother started rubbing it in my face – the divorce, and the fact that the Grandma I loved didn’t care about me anymore. Imagine how I felt.

She was pissed when I started going to church – PISSED. Sometimes she would yell at me, for no apparent reason. I kept going. I was raised at that church and I am extremely grateful and thankful to all the people who contributed to my life.

When I was getting C’s at school I was looked down upon, I had to do better, and if I didn’t know something, the question was always the same – Who is going to know?

I remember when I was born grandmother said she won’t help my mom watch me, though a lot of grandparents do that in Russia (it’s a cultural thing). She worked till the age of 75.

Two years ago was when we found out she had cancer. I was living in New Jersey then. All my trips to the US were my getaway. Of course she was always hysterical when it was time for me to leave, or go get a visa, or do anything US related.

Now she can’t walk, she is dying from stage 4 cancer, and I am wiping her ass, cooking her meals, washing her blood and shit stained sheets, watching her pick her nose, giving her shots, changing her diapers.

Today my grandpa went to the bank, two random boys walked him home, one of them tried hitting on me. He is what I refer to as Russian Bydlo (русское быдло). FML

Our first date

Since it’s Valentine’s Day today, I decided to blog about our first date. Something that happened over 3 1/2 years ago in Minneapolis.

We went walking around the city after he picked me up from my friends’ house. I remember the excitement, the thrill, because what i was about to experience was the best date of my life, with a man I am getting married to in less than 5 months. So to all of you who are still single – first date makes an everlasting impression.

We didn’t do anything special, went to the river front, passed by the library, and the building that changes colors. Took pictures by the river, it was too dark and all you can see are our faces and a thin string of lights in the background.

We walked through the skyline, and I was absolutely amazed at the beauty of the city from the “glass tubes” that I’ve never seen before.

We passed a street musician, who was playing the saxophone, something that my fiance can play as well, and we stood listening to his music for a while. There were sirens in the background, and it felt almost like a movie!

Then he took me home, 99 red balloons was playing on the radio.

The first date of a relationship of a lifetime!