WIPpet Wednesday—Happy Birthday

These are some pictures of the little flower garden in front of the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library. It’s a respectably working-class neighborhood, around the lower Western Avenue/upper Madison Avenue area of Albany, and right across the street from a police station. I often walked over there after school in sixth grade, during my sophomore year, and when I was in summer school for chemistry after sophomore year.






I’ll also be discussing this in my next RSW post, but I finished my chapter-by-chapter notes for my fourth Russian historical and have begun putting together the file with stuff like the table of contents, cast list, glossary, etc. There are no scenes in the USSR in this particular volume, but I still call it a Russian historical because of the origins of the majority of the characters. I can’t wait to finally start it in November!

Given the era (1948–52) and some chapters/scenes in Japan, I’d like to use bomb-inspired titles for Parts I and II. What do you think of Fission and Fallout, Hypocenter and Epicenter, Bright Light and Black Rain, or Pika (Flash) and Don (Boom)? (Pika-don is what the Japanese call the A-bomb.) The Epilogue is tentatively titled “Red Canna Flowers,” after the beautiful flowers which miraculously sprouted amid the rubble of Hiroshima, only 10 days after the bombing.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of people write about this early postwar era, making this a rather underused historical setting. My main storylines will be Lyuba and Ivan’s long-deferred dream of going to university, the struggles of not exactly conforming in this conformity-loving era, the challenge of being a woman pursuing higher education, the spectre of McCarthyism, the love stories of Lyuba and Ivan’s two younger sons, and the unhealed wounds that come with being a polio survivor.


WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 17 lines, for 12 + 2015. This is at Aleksey’s 18th birthday dinner, 12 August 1922, before his nephew Savva’s fatal injury put a premature end to the party.

Pelmeni are like Russian pierogivarenye is a type of thick dessert jam; vatrushki are cheese pastries; pirozhki are baked, stuffed buns; and syrniki are fried quark pancakes.


The palace cooks had prepared a feast of sturgeon, pheasant, quail, goose and duck eggs, mutton, French onion soup, pelmeni stuffed with mushrooms and served with sour cream, salads aplenty, stuffed peppers, broiled salmon encrusted with pistachios and orange slices, pirozhki stuffed with minced beef and rice, syrniki served with strawberry varenye, caviar, venison stew, roast goose, tomato cream soup, and vatrushki.  Until he’d been orphaned, Aleksey’s name day in October had always been celebrated more grandly than his birthday in August, but Mikhail felt it important to show the world how modern the monarchy was by putting equal emphasis on birthdays, not just the religious days.  After four years as Regent, he didn’t seem likely to suddenly ease up and grant the constitutional monarchy he’d once wanted, but this was still a form of progress.

“I can’t believe you’re really going to the Sorbonne,” his fifteen-year-old cousin Prince Vasiliy said. “If I were you, I’d be really eager to become Tsar as soon as possible.  It’s your Divine right, something you’re supposed to look forward to getting.”


Prince Vasiliy Aleksandrovich (23 June/7 July 1907–24 June 1989) in 1923

“I’m really eager to be Tsar, but I can’t be very good at it if I’m too young and inexperienced.  Just because that’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it can’t ever be altered.  I’m glad Dyadya Misha changed the House Laws so I didn’t have to take power when I was only sixteen.  Even if we had some good Tsars of that age a long time ago, it’s a new century, with new realities.”

“You can’t convince me this isn’t sheer madness,” the Dowager Empress said from the end of the table. “You can’t just sign away your Divine rights as easily and passively as your dear father did.  A monarchy can’t sit around waiting for four years while you have fun in Paris.  If you absolutely feel you need more education, you can always have some professors brought in to tutor you in university-level subjects while you govern.  You’ll still get to indulge your bourgeois whim for a higher education while attending to your sacred duties.  Misha can’t keep holding the throne for you forever.  The people will get restless, and might, God forbid, revolt all over again.”


16 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday—Happy Birthday

  1. Wow! What a birthday meal. And poor Aleksey, the weight of a nation on his shoulders and he just wants to grow up some more. That’s a refreshing change, I think.


    • I truly think the House Laws would’ve been changed significantly had he really come to the throne with a Regency. Beyond Grand Duke Mikhail’s desire for reform, there was no way he would’ve rushed his own nephew onto the throne unprepared. Those extra years would’ve served to give him more experience, education, and strength.


  2. It would be lovely to see a flower garden like that at the public libraries I go to. One does have a little memorial area, but it’s more concrete than flowers.

    Congrats on finishing your chapter-by-chapter notes! Those can be a doozy!


    • A lot of the local libraries have flower gardens. Some even have places to sit outside and read. I think my photos of the large outdoor garden by the Guilderland Library are on my other computer.

      I’m sure I’ll be adding in more chapters as I’m actually writing and letting the story develop organically, but it’s most important to have the meat of the story outlined.


  3. Carrie-Anne, have you been to the Shenendohowa Library? They have a lovely garden there. I think you’d love visiting with your camera, if you haven’t.

    I love the way you’ve envisioned Aleksey. With what happened with his unprepared father, it seems like, if he’d lived, he might have responded in just this way. His quiet firmness speaks well of what kind of Tsar he’ll eventually be.

    And i want to sample that meal….the salmon with pistachios and oranges seems especially delicious, maybe with a sampling of salads….

    Now I’m hungry! =)


    • That sounds like a nice day trip. I’m usually at Guilderland, Colonie, and Pine Hills, and sometimes East Greenbush and John J. Bach, but I always love discovering new libraries.

      I really do think Aleksey and Mikhail would’ve relaxed the House Laws and delayed the official transfer of power. The last thing anyone would’ve wanted was a teenage boy with uncertain health being forced onto the throne without adequate experience, even if he had gotten somewhat more experience than his father had growing up. It’s really frustrating to hear people on certain message boards insisting he would’ve HAD to come to power on his 16th birthday, ONLY marry a royal princess of the blood, and HAVE to be an autocrat just because that was what the House Laws said. These draconian rules clearly weren’t working out well for a lot of people in the family, and the rigid insistence on kowtowing to them was one of the reasons there was so much turmoil at the end of the dynasty. I can’t understand people who believe they were set in stone from the moment they were created (by one of the worst Tsars in history no less), and are still binding today. Had the dynasty continued, it’s quite plausible to imagine them being overhauled and rewritten to reflect modern realities and sensitivities.

      I used to love salmon so much. Lox was what tempted me back to eating fish after I’d gone vegetarian for the second (permanent) time, and salmon was the hardest thing to give up when I became a proper vegetarian coming up on two years ago. I’m still so tempted when my rebbetzin serves her delicious salmon fillets on holidays! It reminds me of how much I missed shrimp when I went kosher, for years afterward, and now don’t even find appealing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laws tend to change with the times. It’s reasonable to assume that the House Laws might have changed.

        I could rhapsodize about salmon, pistachios, and shrimp. They rank very close to avocados in my gastronomic favorites list…and you know how I feel about that… =D


  4. It’s interesting seeing the concerns of people in that time period and of that class. I love your flower pics. I took a lot of flower pics from my old neighborhood when I visited over the summer. The smells and sights reminded me of childhood.


  5. The flowers and the garden are lovely. It is nice to have places we can retreat to. I remember my small local library, I would spend hours there on a Saturday. Thought I would grow yup to be a librarian. Still want to.


    Good on Aleksey for trying to find his own way! That’s one helluva birthday!


  6. That’s a lot of food! …And now I’m feeling hungry, particularly over that venison stew! And yes, I agree with Aleksey that more education can only lead to being a better leader, but I guess being the dowager, she’s bound to be set in her ways…


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