My childhood and school, 1963 – 1981

I was born in November 1963 in a town called Inhulets in Ukraine, USSR. Inhulets was, at the same time, a part of Kryvyi Rih, a large city called ‘industrial pearl of Ukraine’, the city of ore and metal (Kryvyi Rih at night above. If you are interested to read more about this city, and even listen to its hymn, please click HERE ). There were so many mines and open stone-pits in the region, that in winter the snow had a reddish colour, and even some radiation was present. Of course, not everywhere, but only at areas closest to the stone-pits. However, the city was quite rich, people had jobs, and newly built blocks of flats were appearing like mushrooms after the rain.

My father, Michal, was driving a huge tipper truck called BelAZ, working at one of those stone-pits. Those trucks were so huge that the tyres were as high as a tall man. Father’s earnings were very good, as the job was dangerous, and it was shift work, including night shifts. My mother, Eugenia, was receiving disability allowance. She had a visual impairment, following an accident at a construction site where she worked as a painter (a hose burst, and a substance got into her eyes). She also had four spine discs damaged due to heavy lifting at work. I also had a brother, Vadik, who was about 4 years younger than me.

I wouldn’t say our family was poor, we just lived a very modest life, having only essential things at home, which was a one bedroom flat. My mother was in a queue for a bigger flat, but any she was offered she declined as they didn’t meet her expectations. The factory was actively building houses (by houses I mean blocks of flats), so she wanted to wait for a perfect home. Just on a side note, in USSR, there was no homelessness, and no unemployment. Just the opposite, people had to either be employed, or in a full time education; jobs were widely available, and all education was free. As there were so many big factories that owned houses, and built new ones, people could be allocated a flat after 3 years of working there. Also, those factories held so-called ‘pioneer camps’ for children at the seaside (Black or Azov sea), and me and my brother were going there for a month, every year, during summer holidays.

My father didn’t really spend time with me and my brother. After his shift at work, he always headed to a chest club, and spent nearly all spare time with his colleagues, playing chest, carts, or domino. He never took us out for a walk, and we even rarely saw him at home. When I was 14, my father left us, and went to live with another, younger, woman. My mother never remarried, she wasn’t very sociable, and didn’t even want to look for someone else. She was quite strict with us children, but at the same time she was funny. She once pointed out that some people had short legs, but others had long legs. I never noticed that until she told me; I then looked at myself and realised I had long legs, haha.

My high school years weren’t very exciting. I disliked school, mainly because I was very shy, afraid of people, unsociable, and was always laughed at and bullied due to belonging to a low social group. But I wasn’t the last in the class if grades were concerned. I was quite good at maths, languages, literature, and geography. But my favourite subject was music, as I was the best. Actually, I was attending the music academy at the same time, learning to play accordion and piano, and I was one of the leading pupils there. As I was doing so well in music, my mother agreed that I had to pursue music further.