Saturday, October 31, 2009

Russian way of Life:10 (Russian names and Visiting Friends)

First time as a guest in a typical Russian home, but in a German building built during Kaliningrad's Konisberg's era. I was happy like a child.

Victoria's kicthen. Victoria is very established as an account and speaks English. Her husband Dimitry works in the military as a programmer, it is better for him to remain out of the picture.

We had black tea, Chinese tea, green, cake and home-made jam. They have a garden outside the flat, that keeps them busy during the summer. Victoria is teasingly trying to feed me with the pride of her family -- home-made cherry jam.

Victoria's childhood toys sitting on the chair in the living room. Their pet cat who just gave birth to two kittens sleeps soundly in a box underneath.

What a kitchen! I love it. But the table is too small for Chinese families.

When visiting Russian friends, one should never go empty handed as in other countries. Hence a cake with cream and dessicated coconut is perfect.

Little corner at the fridge, how I like the bronze stand!

The dining table with different teapots for different tastes.

Every corner seems to be well-decorated with flowers and plants, this is the room of Victoria's mother.

The Russian words mean everything will be fine. It is a gift from their friends.

I was very excited when I was invited to a Russian couple's home. They are Dimitry and Victoria, or Dima and Vika for short. All Russian names have its short form, for instance Sasha for Alexander, Kostya for Konstantin, Volodya for Vladimir, "Sereozha" (how it sounds in English) for Sergey and Katya for Ekaterina and so on. They use the short form among family and friends, if you refuse to use that name, you might appear distant and unfriendly.

One of the distinctive feature of Russian names is that of the middle name, or the father's name, or patronymic. For example, a daughter of Alexander will have a middle or patronymic called Alexandrovna. It is constructed by adding the ending "ovna" to the father's first name. While for the son of Alexander, he will be known as Alexandrovich where "ovich" is added.

Not only the middle name indicates the gender, the last name or surname also strictly follows the rule!

For example, a full Russian name for a girl is Nataliya Alexandrovna Ivanova. If she has a brother in the family, his name could be Boris Alexandrovich Ivanov.

The Russian language is very rich in different forms of personal names, which express all kinds of emotions. A person can be called differently at home, at work, by unfamiliar people and his friends. It is said that Maria has more than twenty forms in Russian.

Among even closer ones, the names could get even more affectionate by adding –en’ka, -echka, -ochka, -ushka and others. For example, Ekaterina could morphed from short name, Katerina, Katya to cuter pet forms like Katechka, Katusha or Katenka.

Let me give you an example. I have known my friend Boris for two years, and I never knew all Boris-s in Russia are called Borya, one among the many variations. So I still address him as Boris, and it appears really strange to Russian people not to call your friend using the personal form. And now I could recall when he first introduced his wife and son to me, he put their short forms in the brackets, but he never told me his short name. However I insist to address him as Boris and I think it sounds nicer than Borya. If it sounds distant, so be it. :)

Ever since I came here, I get to know more Russian people, I was told of their personal names immediately when I was introduced as a friend, hence I call Victoria, as Vika, and Dimitry, as Dima, and Vladimir, as Volodya.

When Vika was showing me her photo albums of her family and friends, I learned more about Russian short forms, for instance her best friend Lubov (which means Love) is affectionately called "Luba", which sounds similar to my Russian teacher's Ludmila's short form, as "Luda". And we must strictly follow that!! Of course, I already know that I would never call my teacher Luda, but only by her first name and her father's name!

As a guest, I was served tea, home-made jam and the pears that they grew in the garden. The cake was surprisingly delicious, much the same as the one I get from "Love Confectionery" in Singapore, which was situated at Queenstown Town Center. However, the proud and expressionless owner only bake very limited quantity everyday, and more often than not, I would be disappointed as they were already snapped up by neighbouring residents. I used to quip when I got back into my sister's car, and said, Love (Confectionery) has no love today! The soft chiffon cake covered by dessicated coconut reminds me of cakes from the good old days, honestly baked with simple sugar, flour, eggs and white fresh butter cream, no fanfare, no artificial colours, no nonsense.

I tried my best to speak with them in Russian, and Vika tried to speak to me in both languages when our topics moved further beyond my scope of vocabulary. The couple used to live for seven years in Murmansk before they moved back to Kaliningrad, and solid friendships were built during that time. Friends from as far as Murmansk would come to visit them in Kaliningrad. She also told me about her aunt and cousins in Germany, and many stories from their lives in both Murmansk and Kaliningrad.

Victoria's mother live with them and she was extremely nice and was curious about my parents back home. I answered her in Russian, gaver her an account of my family and my ever-getting-richer (in terms of vocalulary) "mission statement" of why I came to Russia. She refused to take picture with me as she was already in pyjamas, but we were amused by her non-negotiable insistence.

Dima and Vika have been married for a good sixteen years. They have four godchildren, among them are her nieces and friends' children. She said she loves children and told me a Russian saying: Children are the flowers of our lives. When her mother heard that, she said in Russian to Vika: Yes, yes! You will always be my little flower! And they happily kissed each other, and hugged! And I hugged the two of them and we had a good, hearty laugh! It was a pleasant surprise that three of us were all born in the month of November.

Leaving their flat around midnight, I was deeply thankful of such a wonderful time. Vika said she must bring me to Dima's parents's home at the seaside one day. And hopefully we will meet really soon!


  1. Hi!
    You live in fine family and have nice friends from Russia!

    Greeting from Latvia!

  2. My name is Razin Ivanovich :)

    Glad to see u having a good time there!