Teacher with problem

I liked my dad: he was a kind man though I didn’t seen him much in my childhood: he was constantly at work. He was working for the government, being busy all the time. So I missed lots of things that every boy would’ve dreamt of such as going to sports events, hiking, etc. Basically, he was absent almost each Saturday and sometimes, though rare, on Sundays, too. 

Dnepr River
Dnepr River

But there were bright moments, too. Back in 1983 we went together on a vacation to the Ukraine, spending about two weeks at a local resort by the Dnepr river. It was wonderful: we’d spend our evenings watching TV – I remember the San Remo music festival with all those Italian pop stars being so popular in the USSR.  

He was a good and gentle man, a bit old-fashioned, his professional devotion showing me what can be achieved by hard work by a guy from a Russian village. We’d also argue countless times over politics: he was supporting the Soviet regime, dying out in the early 90s, I, of course, was totally opposing it. Yep, he grew up during the best time of the Soviet Union, I grew up in the 80s when the country started to collapse and that’s a huge difference. 

I can’t remember a thing that he had taught me that was wrong. He was a very positive person by nature. I’ve never seen him drinking too much, for instance. 

Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

But there’s one thing he’d shown me by his life: he was almost always absent and I felt like I was growing up without a father. I missed lots of going outs with him that other boys didn’t. This was a bad lesson from him.

Now, being a father myself, I understand this lesson and will do my best to be there with my own kids.

What did my father teach me that’s wrong?

Not a lot; on the contrary, as someone who had his country invaded by the Nazis, he showed me a positive work ethic that stayed with me right up to retirement. Despite having to start again, living in a foreign country to that of his birth, I think he missed three days’ work in his entire career; damn that appendix removal, it could have been a clean sweep! That he and mum successfully brought up three boys with the start they had was nothing short of miraculous. I have never forgotten this.

However, it came with some crap, none of which was really mattered too much. For some reason, he taught me that it was dangerous to drink water after consuming cucumber. Even more bizarrely, I wasn’t allowed to have a cold drink after coming in sweating following a football match. Again, it was bad for me….in fact, cold drinks with hot food was very much frowned upon in our house. I’ve just spoken to my big brother Henry to check that my memory was correct, and he confirmed it all. He reckons the theory was that a cold drink would cause hot food to congeal in the stomach.

cucumber with water

Too many eggs were not good for young boys, and sitting too close to the television would seriously affect your eyesight. I wonder whether that last one is still used today?

He also threatened me that if I missed church, I would go to hell. Actually, that wasn’t really him, but his bloody religion.

All in all, there is nothing important over which I was misdirected. I hope my kids think the same of me in times to come.

Roger Bara

What did my father teach me that’s wrong?

In many ways, we are a reflection of the times in which we live. Is it right to feed innocent people to lions? Today that would be felony murder but the Romans would consider it great entertainment. A lovely afternoon down at the Coliseum with the kids. 

Turns out that morals are rather elastic and subject to change. I have on leather shoes right now. Perhaps someday I’ll be judged a barbarian for wearing dead animal skins on my feet. Maybe a hundred years from now people will wonder if the house stunk of rotting animal flesh.

Of course, no reason to look out one-hundred years to see how morals have changed. One of my earliest memories as a child was my Mother singing a sweet nursery rhyme to me: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, catch a nigger by the toe… If he hollers, let him go. 

Yes really, one of my earliest childhood memories. I would guess I was maybe four and I had no idea what I was actually hearing.

I also remember as a child the family had a blue station wagon with wood-grained plastic sticker paneling. Once we went to an Orange processing plant (this was in Florida) to buy directly from the place. It was a metal building with no sides, a roof with equipment and long, green slides; the oranges seemed to know where they were going. Maybe ten people worked there.

George Wallace bumper sticker

The manager looked at the back of our car and happened to see a bumper sticker that said WALLACE. George Wallace, the racist Governor of Alabama was running for president. My parents got a free crate of Oranges.

From all this, you would assume that my Father was a racist; no, I don’t think so. I can’t recall him ever talking about hating anybody because of their skin color. Yeah, that sounds weird to me too but perhaps it is more about being in a certain place and time than having hatred for others.

Maybe I should give you an example; I mentioned George Wallace a minute ago. He died a civil rights activist. Later in life he became a crusader for equality and I was always impressed that black folks embraced him. 1950’s he was one guy and by the 1980’s he grew into someone different. 

I read that about one in ten couples are of mixed ethnicity in the US today. If that’s true, then in a single lifetime, mine, the nation went from racist nursery rhymes to interracial dating. I’m quite sure my Father would have been appalled by the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m equally sure he would have been appalled by the Trumpsters killing a Police Officer in the Capitol, while waving Blue Lives Matter flags. Hey, don’t ask me.

Photograph of Dean Lewis