A story of happy love that crossed the borders.
Nelly was a skinny pale-headed girl with green eyes. Only her slightly cheekbones and slightly slanted eyes seemed a bit foreign to this purely Slavic appearance. "Must be some grand grand mother of hers was hurt by Tatars", joked a doctor in a hospital when Nelly hit her leg.
She was born and brought up in Altai, and after the high school attended a construction college. Distant places attract young people, and when Nelly had to choose where to go for on-site practice, she picked up a place most remote of all: city called Temirtau in Kazakhstan. And as it turned out, what she chose was not just a city but her destiny.
"How did you meet with your husband?", I'm asking Nelly Alexandrovna. A white-haired woman stops going through a bunch of old photos and begins her story.
"My story must be the story of love and youth. When you're twenty, you fall into life without thinking much. Then you meet Him, he's the most beautiful, the cleverest, the best one. And you’re ready to go to the edge of the world with him, not just to Bulgaria." She smiles and goes on: "I met him in Temirtau, where he worked on a metal producing factory construction site, with a team of young guys from Bulgaria. Then I met him again at a field… remember they used to send us all to gather the crops? You can't escape your destiny. He was dark-skinned, with black eyes, and me, in contrast, whitish, how could we resist each other!"
When her practice period in Kazakhstan was finished, Nelly returned to Barnaul, Altai, to finish the degree. Ivan (this was the guy's name) sent her letters, and then came to meet her and acquaint with her parents. In December 1959 they married.
Nelly was the only child, and her mother wanted the young couple to live together with her for a while. The young husband was allowed to stay in the USSR for another year. Ivan got a job at an institute in Barnaul, and after a year a young international couple had a baby girl. Ivan's visa expired, and on the 20th of May, 1961 Nelly with a small daughter went to Bulgaria.
"Forty two years have passed, and it feels like yesterday", Nelly Aleksandrovna goes on, looking at a picture of Ivan (he holds their little daughter, his black eyes shining): "Bulgaria showed a great hospitality to us. At first we lived in a small town at North-East of the country. I was just 22 and couldn't speak a single word in Bulgarian. Only with a help and friendliness of the people here I was able to perfect my skills within a year. Everyone helped me. You know, at those times attitude to Russians was excellent. They were brought up with such: everyone remembered how Russians helped against Tatars, in a war with fascists…"
"Of course, everything was foreign to me: language, people, customs. But I knew I had to understand and accept this life. I also had to work, and work hard to be respected. But my main aim was to learn language. When you live in other country, you have to understand what people talk about around you, to know their traditions, the whole their way of life. Even though we are Slavic both, and spiritually close, we aren't the same. A different kitchen, different customs. If you need communication, know their rules. Here you mentioned depression of newcomers. The best cure from such depression was to learn Bulgarian language and study Bulgarian customs. To try to live their life, understand and accept it. Then the depression would go, friends will appear, communication too."
I ask her with a surprise whether she has really never quarreled with husband during 40 years. She smiles and shakes her head, in a Russian manner. "No. We loved each other very much, and respected. We were even closer due to the same profession and that we both loved reading. It happened we didn't buy some food, but a book instead. Certainly, we have different interests, but it was never an obstacle. For example, I love theater, music, opera, but Ivan doesn't. But he was always buying me a ticket, and waited in a nearby cafй, while I was alone at the show."
"We loved and still love each other very much, even if for the young it's strange to hear. And our life has flown by in an instant. Like a sparkle, just noticed – here go children, grandchildren. We have three of them".
"How about your children, grandchildren: do they count themselves Russians?", I ask. She replies: "Hard to say. They were brought up here in Bulgaria. But they studied in a Russian school, know the language. Now we live alone with my husband. We don't get bored together, we have our memories, our happy life. And children with grandchildren visit us"