Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Father ~ November 30, 1933 - December 9, 2018

"For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home." 
-Christina Rossetti

My father Pavel passed away peacefully on Sunday, December 9th 2018 after a long and well-lived life.

My father was an artist, a craftsman, an engineer and a poet. His creativity was unending and even when the strokes he suffered took his language and his words, he continued to create with his hands until, that too, was taken from him.

There are so many things I can say about him as a father, an artist, a grandfather and a man but I think the most important is that he would give you the shirt off his back without a second thought.

Even now, after his passing, people are sharing stories of how and what he gave, especially the amazing wooden vases and flowers that he made in his basement workshop. If my father liked you, you got a vase and that's just how it was. He would give them away as gifts to nearly everyone who crossed his path and they are still cherished in many homes.

There is so, so much more that I can write about: his early life in Russia, his survival through WWII and the Siege of Leningrad and his childhood. I can write about how he was a dissident, a political refugee, a stranger in this land. I can write about how he lived here, became a citizen and made this his home but how his heart belonged to Russia. I can write about his motorcycle, the camping trips we would take by the Black Sea before we emigrated and the two suitcases my parents were able to bring when we left; one with clothes and one with family photos and books.

I can write about the poetry readings he took me too, the bedtime stories he used to make up every night about a character named "stupid" and his friends. I can write about the workshop he created in our home and learning to use the lathes, drills and saws to help with his art.

I can write about the Saturday mornings spent at craft fairs as we grew up, about bringing him to my high school history classes and translating for him as he spoke about what he experienced during the war, the random road trips and the vodka he flavored by hand.

I can write about his poetry, his travels, his hopes and dreams, his fears and his demons. His sense of humor and the practical jokes he played, his love for his family, the stories he used to tell and the Russian war songs he would listen to, the poems he wrote and read and the travels he took.

I could write and write and write and never fully be able to express who he truly was and what he was like so I will share the one story that truly encompasses who my father was to me.

In Russia, my father was an engineer and was expected to look the part including decent clothing but, at that time, his shoes were falling apart to the point where they were barely wearable. He and my mother scraped by with two kids (the younger two had not been born yet) and my mother finally got together enough money to buy him a pair of decent shoes. She insisted that he had to get them and so he finally went out to do that.

Two hours later he returned and walked into the apartment with a horribly guilty look on his face holding a wooden rocking horse behind his back.

My mother, shocked, asked "what is this?" and his reply was that it was for the kids. That we saw it when we passed a toy store days earlier and that we really wanted it.

Yes, my father spent his last few dollars on a wooden rocking horse for his children and continued to wear shoes that were falling apart.

That is who my father was and that is one of the many, many things he left with us. I know I inherited so much of who he was and the gifts that he had and I will always be grateful for that.

May his memory forever be eternal!


  1. such a poignant post. Aleks. Your love shines through! Your dad sounds like an amazing man. I am thinking of you.