Irina’s Korean Grandmother

I’d like to tell a story about a woman I’ve never seen. She was a usual person, one of millions in the world, but she is unusual for me. She is my grandma. All I know about her is from my father’s memoirs.  

She was born in the Far East and was deported to Kazakhstan in 1937 like thousands of her age. I know almost nothing about her childhood, just general and several unrelated facts. I think her young years were not so happy, because of starvation, a new, unfriendly place and the World War II. Her father had been executed before the deportation. Her mother was very overbearing and had three daughters (one of them is my grandma) from two husbands. My great grandma’s second husband was a teacher, a Principal of a local secondary school in Kazakhstan and had magnetic eyes of yellow color that was strange for Asians, so lots of people still remember him. And those are the scarce facts I’ve heard.            

During student life grandma met my grandpa, they studied in Kryzylorda Training College together. That time she was a future Russian Language and Literature teacher and my grandpa was a future teacher of Mathematics and Physics. After graduation they got an order to go to Kalpe village in Almaty District, near to my grandma’s parents.

Here their married life started. All the time after College my grandparents worked for a secondary school in the village teaching Russian language, Literature, Mathematics and Physics accordingly. They had three sons; my father is the middle son. Every summer they took a field and grew onions for additional profit. It was a traditional business for many Korean families (for plenty of families the onion growing was a main business and it brought much more money than teaching or other work). As my grandma was the only woman in the family she had to do or at least to manage all the related routines at home from cooking to farming and combine all these with her professional activity. An interesting fact that takes place in this story is that my grandpa had chronic stomach and intestinal tract aches, so he never took part in home activities. Besides, he went to Caucasus and other Soviet health resorts every summer, while his wife and sons repaired the house.

I wonder how my grandma dealt with so many things, but still there are lots of her students who remember her as a brilliant teacher. And their words affirm books, greeting cards, photos with thankful notes. One surprising fact which my father told me is that grandma while being in a hospital learned by heart a poem “Yevgeniy Onegin” by Pushkin! It is unbelievable! She collected a big home library including rare books and editions and made many-many other things we still use at home.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 48 because of cancer. It is pity, but my father even doesn’t remember her date of birthday because they never celebrated it or may be because a birthday was changed every solar year (grandparents used to celebrate birthdays according to lunar calendar). Two years later after the death my grandpa got married again. But last summer he said: “I’ve never met and I will never meet a woman similar to her. She was a real wife and woman”. And I think he was right.        

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