Meet my heroes

Today we are be celebrating 75th VE Day (Victory in Europe) –  the day when the Second War Ended. Most of Europe celebrates it on the 8th of May, but all post-Soviet countries special day is the 9th of May – purely because of the difference of the time zones at the moment of signing! 🙂

But the date isn’t important. What’s important is to remember our heroes.

My great-grandparents were my heroes.  Here is their story.

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Valentina & Vasiliy Prokopovich

Summer 1939

Valentina  was only seventeen when she left her home town of Yaroslavl and went to the Mining University in Leningrad (Now St Petersburg). In her first year, on her course, she met a handsome man – Vasiliy.

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There were courting for over a year, and were planning on getting married in ’41, but…

The war has started, and everything has changed.

September 1941                                              

Leningrad was under Nazi siege. Noone could have even imagined that this will end up one of the longest sieges in history, and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city – with over three million casualties, one million of them dead.

Since summer, the students of the Mining University were working at the military factory, but Vasiliy wanted to go to the front. At nineteen years old he wanted to join the military and protect his homeland: honour and loyalty to his country was above all. But he was rejected.

He was the son of the Enemy of the State.

Vasiliy’s family  – The Prokopovich family – has been through a very tough time, with the worst year being 1937 – the year of the most brutal Stalin’s repressions. Russian nobility was being destroyed by the Soviets, with all of their lands and belongings repossessed by the State. Anyone who stood in the way of the new ideology was murdered. Vasiliy’s dad was announced as a British spy and an Enemy of the State, and was shot to death.

It was tricky to live with this stamp of shame, so after two months of trying, Vasiliy was finally accepted to the military and in November of ’41 he was setting off to the Volkhov Front.

He took this picture to leave it with his Valentina.vasilli prokopovich veteran estonia (1)

They said their good-byes and promised to write each other letters. He left her all of his tobacco, not even realising, that it will save her life…

December 1941

This is when the famine in Leningrad became extreme. Having worked at a military factory, Valentina had her bread vouchers, which really kept her going.

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One evening, on the way home after a long shift, Valentina got attacked and beaten up. When she woke up, her bread vouchers were gone.

 January 1942

Vasiliy was at the Volkhov Front, fighting alongside other young men, most of them under twenty, and just like so many of them, he got wounded. Many of his comrades died, but for him it was pure luck – he was found in the swamps, shell-shocked, with his toes frostbitten. It took him a good couple of months to recover from partial amputation and all of the injuries, but he was alive, and he could go back to war.

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March 1942

In Leningrad people were dying from hunger. It’s been weeks since anyone has eaten any solid food. Tobacco was more valuable than gold, and when all of the pets were eaten, people were boiling anything leather or making porridge from any wallpaper that they could find – most walls were painted, so it would be a luxury.

Valentina was dying from dystrophy. When she stopped turning up to work, her great-aunty heard about it and went on a search for her. Great-aunty Natalya has somehow managed to get herself a spot to the Road of Lifethe only available path out of Leningrad, and she gave it up for her great niece. Blockade victims were taken to Yaroslavl.

Valentina was going home.

August 1942

Vasiliy was studying in military medical school through his recovery, and was about to be sent back to the Front to work as a military paramedic, when he received terrible news: his twenty-two year old brother Vsevolod was dead.

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Vsevolod & Vasiliy

He lead the intelligence mission, which helped his battalion win, but unfortunately he didn’t survive. He was awarded with the order of Red Star posthumously, but the family never found his grave.

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Vasiliy & Vsevolod

1944

It’s been two years of loving letters, but in 1944 they managed to briefly see each other – part of Vasiliy’s army was formed in Yaroslavl, Valentina’s home town.

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January 1946

The war was over, Valentina was back in Leningrad. Vasiliy would only be de-mobilised in the summer, but he came to Leningrad, and on the 23rd of January they got married.

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Wedding Day. Vasiliy, Valentina and her parents Maria and Aleksander

 

1947: They were going to have a baby, but the boy wasn’t carried to term and didn’t live… Something that happened to the most of young girls who survived the blockade.

January 1948: A daughter Elena was born (my grandma – dad’s mum).

August 1951: A son Vladimir was born

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Vasiliy with his childen

November 1957

At the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, Stalin’s ideology was condemned, and Vasiliy’s father and family were rehabilitated. They were no longer Enemies of the State. 

1976: Vasiliy and Valentina attended the opening of the Monument to the Fallen at their university, where Vasiliy’s brother – Vsevolod is commemorated for his bravery.

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Both of them have since passed away, but I’m lucky to remember both of them, as I was their first great-granddaughter. Thank you for being my heroes.

This is the last ever picture of Vasiliy, my hero great-granddad with my little  brother and his military awards behind him ❤

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___________________________________________________________________________________

Valentina Prokopovich (Ershova) 28.02.1922 – 13.06.1997

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Vasiliy Prokopovich 23.02.1922 – 18.03.2008
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Я помню. Я горжусь.

 

A month of isolation

Yesterday was exactly a month since everything has changed.

On Friday the 13th of March was my first ‘working from home’ day until further notice.

We went on a lockdown ahead of the government’s advice. We started to abide the rules a couple of days before Boris put them down in writing. Better safe than sorry.

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Our isolation crew is perfect: Ben & I, our housemate and her boyfriend, who also happens to be our closest friend. Enough of us to bounce off each other, and luckily, the apartment size allows the four of us live in harmony (most of the times)

It’s been a month of adjustment, and a month of reflection.  We’re probably looking at another month before some restrictions are lifted, but the country is a very long time away from things going back to normal, that is, if they ever do.

First week was easy.

We even got together with the girls to film our thoughts on Corona:

There was this initial excitement of not having to go to the office, and the creative ideas of staying in touch were flowing right, left and centre.

The week when everyone downloaded Houseparty app and had their first virtual drinks.

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That was the week when we’ve run out of the toilet roll and pasta, but kids were still going to school, and the pubs were open.

I made a couple of videos for LinkedIn (first & second – you should totally watch them, and please do connect!), and had so many other ideas…

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That was the week of over-ambitious planning – I’m sure you’ve had one too? We’ll get to that in a minute, I promise.

Second week was determined.

By that point it’s been more than 10 days since I’ve been to the gym. This is when it finally hit me: all of my plans, my progress, PB’s are simply not going to happen. I’ve written out myself a fitness plan, to ensure I maintain some sort of routine… And so far I certainly have.

The key highlight was the egg hunt – well ahead of Easter. Supermarkets have run out of eggs, but the local suppliers were there to make our household happy.

Second highlight was Tiger King. Carole fucking Baskin. As a result, I am now cross-stitching a tiger.

We  would generally only leave the house to get essentials, or for one exercise a day.

We didn’t go out on that Friday before the hospitality industry went into hibernation. We still drank a lot, just at home.

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All the following weeks became a blur…

I’m not going to lie, I was taken aback when I looked at the calendar and realised that it’s been a whole month.

I dyed my hair pink, I’ve done TikTok challenges…. This is what a month without the gym and pubs does to a girl! (Who am I kidding I’d do them anyway ha)

[Add me on TikTok: polina.rocks]

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Key highlight is that we now have weekly pub quiz with the friends we normally wouldn’t see that often, and this feels truly special. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat – don’t take it for granted, cherish it!

Our Penthouse household goes on regular bike rides. We keep our distance. From other people.

We celebrated Easter in tradition.

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We had good quality nights out, whilst staying in.

 

But not everything was so lovely-jubbly

Of course, I want to reflect and remember the good things. Of course, I feel blessed and grateful every day about my circumstances. But I’ve recently realised the importance of voicing concerns and sharing difficulties: I’m not the only one who is going through this!

There’s been times when it felt tough.

First of all, the job. I know how lucky I am to have the job that is more in demand in times like these. I work in retail data analysis – what shoppers buy in supermarkets, specifically in alcohol. Consumer behaviour is changing every week, so we need to report faster and answer a lot more questions. There are a lot more time pressures than normal, and things are a lot slower, because everyone is trying to use the internet and connect to the VPN.  This is teaching me patience through so many opportunities of having to collect myself…

There’s been a couple of very late nights, which ultimately leads me to another tough self-check on my over-ambitious plans.

Because we’re at home, we get more time to do home stuff, right?! I can paint the wall, wash the carpets [insert your personal OCD]… WRONG. I’m not gaining the time I lose on the commute over the speed of the internet. And there is more work.

But what about all of those plans? All the videos I wanted to make? All of the arts/crafts/cleaning/shopping/etc.etc.etc. I was planning on doing? Boom, there it is, the  guilt or a super-planner and a control freak. So in time of isolation (or so I realised now), it’s more than important to allow things go.

Marie Kondo approach:

Would doing it bring me more joy? Will not doing it really make the world stop?!

Still learning, hey.

The toughest challenge is the lack of human contact

I thrive through social contact. I love throwing parties, I talk a lot, I work in a busy office and my jobs requires me to travel around the country and present to and train different audiences. I am a people person. My husband and housemates are amazing, but I need more people. Virtual just doesn’t do it for me.

The other day I was dropping some groceries off to a friend and we had a chat in the front garden for about five minutes (with all the distancing!). I WAS BUZZING. My housemate noted that I’m a true extrovert, because having a chat with friends really turned my mood around!

I miss people. I miss hugs. I miss pubs. The atmosphere. Ahhh, you have no idea how demanding I will become now of our group pictures.

I miss my bestie 😦

 

One more month.

This month will be very eventful, this month will be absolutely brilliant.

Because I want it to be.

 

Lots of love,

Po

x

What International Women’s Day means to me

Today is International Women’s Day – which falls on 8th of March every year, and I grew up knowing this. In all post-Soviet countries, the tradition stayed the same for years:

This is the day when men show their appreciation for women they love. 

The flower shops would be flooded by men of all ages, and all of them are getting flowers for all of the important women in their lives: mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and friends.  Many boys would be getting flowers for their favourite teachers.

My mum would have an arrangement with a florist, so when the men of our family went to buy flowers, they would all be same height and type.. basically so you don’t get a bunch of mismatched flowers!

Many would gift a single flower – often a rose – but in our household it was always tulips.

As a girl in my teens, I’d be getting flowers from my dad, grandad, two uncles, brother, two cousins, a couple of key family friends, boys from school, from music school, from karate… This was the day when you felt the love of all key men around you. But that was in my home country, in Estonia.

Interestingly enough, not many would say ‘Happy International Women’s Day!’; in Russian culture it’s simply “Happy 8th of March!’ – because everyone knows what that date is.

My first International Women’s Day, when I moved to England, was sad – I was terribly homesick, because nobody celebrated it, and the boys here weren’t brought up to know that flowers are a must on 8th of March. I shared my feelings with Ben, and that one year was the only year I was left without flowers. He’s a good egg ❤

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But now, 11 years on, a lot more people know about International Women’s Day, and the narrative has changed:

Women’s Equality

I love the campaigns that are run by great organisations that promote equality for women in many different aspect, and I love what local communities are doing. I love the rise of Women supporting Women, of #EachforEqual campaign this year and just how empowering this day has become. Most of all, I love the facts that this is the day to stop and think about most the important and inspirational women in your life – for both women and men.

But still, for me, forever, 8th of March is the day when I’ll get a sweet message from my dad and many other old friends from back home.  The day of tulips, appreciation and love.

I hope that each and one of you, ladies, got to spend the day the way you wanted.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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P.S. Spot the Party Po

Lots of Love,

Po

x

I’m twenty eight

I was the luckiest birthday girl this year. Twenty Eight. It seems the closer I get to thirty, the less scary it gets.

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At this age – late twenties (we can still say that we were in our twenties in the ’20s) – we get the best of both: we’re full of energy and still eager to learn, whilst already having quite a lot of professional and life experience under our belts. We already have our stories of accomplishments and successes and a fair share of heartbreak and many tough lessons learnt.

So I was happy to turn 28. Logistically, however, my birth-day turned into birthday-week. See, the big day fell on a Sunday this year around, and it would have made sense to celebrate on Saturday night, so my birthday starts right there at midnight… But it also would end right the next day! And I wasn’t having that, not this year! Plus tier one friend of mine was away with work, so I’ve decided to celebrate the following weekend.

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But as if this was up to me! My lovely Issy and Sarah decided to throw me a surprise the day before my birthday – Ben got me out of the house, and when I got back, the lounge was full of decorations and confetti (which – mind you – 2 weeks later is still all over the house despite hoovering it up every other day!

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As I’m writing this, the balloons are still everywhere… I’m too busy nowadays to take them off (that’s my excuse, ha)

polina.rocks polina jones oxford blogger (3)My 28th birthday was also a special one: it cemented the cupcake face mask tradition.

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The cupcake face mask is from now on inevitable in January and May.

We then popped out for some drinks at Port Mahon and Half Moon where the I played the piano. I’m sure it was a poor attempt, but after all that wine I was on top of the world!

Btw, this is Benji. If you’re not following on instagram yet, you totally should 🙂

@imarealdoggo Benji the doggo

 

The next day, slightly hangover, I was awoken by my husband to my new presents that I’ve wanted for a very long time! It got a new FitBit – I need to be able to try my fitness better – I can’t thank amazing family enough! The second present from my dear husband was a big surprise – we got amazon dot – I now have Alexa next to my bed! For year Ben refused to get Alexa – because they do listen. But from my perspective, we’re not important or interesting enough to be listened to as individuals! Plus – I have nothings to hide… Anyhow, now I can play Taylor Swift without having to even move a finger. What a lucky girl I am, huh?

For Sunday lunch we went to our wedding venue – The Crazy Bear – with my in-laws. As always, beautifully cooked food, seamless service, and live jazz. In the room where we dined for the first time as a husband and wife.

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And then it was Monday, and the working week started. We checked out The Oxford Factory with my team for my birthday lunch, and it was great – so much so we returned the following week with the wider team. Anyhow, the week was exhausting. Work is very busy nowadays, and for two days I was in Glasgow.

But the celebration day arrived – Saturday week later – and it was absolutely lovely, and for sure very memorable!

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We started at the Cartoon Bar at the Randolph Hotel, followed up by the meal at Acanthus restaurant. We’ve enjoyed our dinner and were about to go, as it started to… rain??? Yes, someone left the bath running in the hotel room above and our table happened to be right underneath the leak!

Imagine that? :O

Acanthus restaurant randolph hotel oxford

The final stop, for the final celebrations, of course, was The Oxford Retreat. I can’t thank the staff, but most importantly my amazing husband and friends for celebrating with me getting older yet again and making it so very special.

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Thank you all.

I’m writing  this, so that I can come back to it at any moment when I feel sad or anxious. I’m just so lucky to be surrounded by all these amazing people.

 

Lots of love,

Po

Love Saves The Day: 5 things I learned

My bank holiday weekend was absolutely epic – I went to Love Saves The Day festival, in Eastville Park, Bristol.

It’s not my first festival, and certainly not the last one, but I couldn’t have enjoyed it more! I’m not going to bore you with a typical festival review – you all know what festivals are like, however there are a couple of things I’ve learned for myself, which I would like to share with you.

1. I don’t understand fashion

Continue reading “Love Saves The Day: 5 things I learned”

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