- You are about to visit the apartment of my surrogate grand-parents. Though Sasha and Ania (formally Alexander and Oktyabrina) are really my brothers' great aunt and uncle, I have know them since birth.
The building, a suitable setting for a Dostoyevsky story, is an old six-story walk-up. The central location on the banks of the Fontanka River is blemished by its decrepit condition. The elevator was a two-foot-square cage added sometime in the 1970. Hot water existed only in the kitchen, where my brothers installed a heater ten years ago. Their offer to finally find a way to add a bathtub and sink to the bathroom was politely declined in favor of old habits – morning rinses at the kitchen sink with an oversized pot of boiled water and a trip to the local bathhouse as needed.
The couple lived here the 1930s, surviving through the Leningrad blockade in WWII. Layers of memories collect dust here, ghosts of those I knew and those who passed away decades before my birth.
When I visited in 2010, I recognized the sad eventuality – this would all be gone too soon. Ania was bedridden and Sasha very ill. He was not pleased with my insistence on taking his picture. He felt he has aged too far to want to be remembered this way. So, I contended myself with capturing my childhood memories, every little bit ofspace which held some meaning.
I wore him down in the end. He agreed to one photo, but only on the condition that it would be us both. This was the last time I saw him. He passed away in January 2012. My brother has begun to remodel.