I was born in May 1957, in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia with a military factory at Mayak and in September the same year there happened an atomic catastrophe. My family emigrated one week later to Udmurt republic, leaving all belongings. My father’s friend, a high ranking official in the military of this region recommended that we leave as quickly as possible, because the government already planned to close this place for any movement or migration.
My father and mother met in 1956 and dated a short time before marrying. He had a son from a previous marriage, and his wife passed away. My mother was divorced and had two daughters. Her oldest daughter lived with her father. My father served three years in the war and suffered head and leg injuries and from post-traumatic disorder. My mother is from a family of professional military people. Her father was an army general and spent many years in the gulag prisons for political reasons, tortured, and deemed rehabilitated after Stalin's death.
My father worked fifteen years as a television lighting technician. He helped make programs on live stream concerts, music, opera, ballet, and news. Before I started kindergarten, he took me to all the presentations, programs, concerts, etc. The events and behind the scenes, in the area where actors were dressed up excited me and made me happy. I saw many music and TV shows.
My mother hosted many parties, inviting friends and family, where people described freely their opinions about life and criticized the Communistic party. She wrote letters to the leaders in Moscow where she complained about some of my family issues and often successfully got problems fixed.
We did not have racial discrimination, or racial profiling in Russia, but we did have ethnic discrimination in the Republic where we lived. For example, it was not easy to get access to the University or to get an office job for the Russian minority in the Udmurt Republic and for those of other Republics of Russia as well. Easier to get entrance to the University in the central region, like in Moscow, where the Russian population is more predominant. Education remains free or very affordable to this day. No one incurs education debt in Russia, and foreign students receive free education too. The entire medical system also is free.
There were many irritations and disagreements between the two families (my mother’s first marriage and my family). It had a big negative influence on my life. I had a very close relationship with my half-sister, and we were together all the time. We often visited her family, where I heard many nasty comments about my parents, mostly about my mom. I felt unstable, my life, my value and everything I loved collapsed and I needed to defended the truth. It made me upset, humiliated, and I boiled inside. They wounded me very deeply. I discussed often the matter with my sister but she was obligated to her family. I kept a lot of emotions inside myself that drained my power. I never told what my sister’s family talked about. I acted like a warrior in defense of my mom.
Mom worked a lot and kept busy with the younger kids or spent a lot of time with her friends and did not pay much attention to how I lived, how I felt, how I grew up. I felt that my life is not important, I am not important. She always acted kind and patient, but had little time to spend with me. I had a brother seven years younger, and two sisters, two and four years younger. Mom gave birth to her last daughter while I finished high school. My mom is eighty seven years old now. And she is an angel in my life. She taught me that the greatest value in life is to be kind to people, to forgive, and to be patient. It is of more value than being rich. l am so grateful and blessed to have her!
At age seven I attended a prestigious Mathematics and English college school for the next ten years. School kept me very busy and I tried to learn as much as possible. The atmosphere in school was military-like and the study not easy, but I enjoyed it. I had excellent achievements in history, literature and languages, the best runner in the school, and also had good achievements in gymnastics and other athletic pursuits. I had a good voice, and sang sometimes in a big choral group, but attended music school only one year. I liked music and dance, but the teachers scolded me and discouraged me. I followed my passion to dance for two years after I emigrated to the United States. Here, the teachers were patient and encouraged me.
I chose to be in school rather than go home where there were many problems. I felt ashamed to invite classmates to my home. The living conditions at our home were not as presentable as those of other student's homes. I also did not want it known that I had lots of siblings. So, I preferred to not have friends.
I suffered from my mother’s decision to have more kids after she had my brother. I developed the opinion that it is not easy to raise kids. It is a big responsibility. My mom had a different view, thinking that kids manage to grow by themselves. Mom never assigned me the responsibility of raising and watching my younger brother and sisters, but I felt responsibility inside my heart anyway.
I decided to have more hobbies, studies, and interests outside of home, and came home only to sleep and go back to school in the morning. I looked for the purpose of my life outside of home. I suffered a lot, acting as the mature home psychologist, instead of being the child of my own age. I burned out by age eighteen. Later, I read many psychology books. They helped me understand better the different types of personalities and relationships. Some people I met told me I talked like a very wise adult.
I worked at a car factory for two years. I felt lost, exhausted and alone. I had a good salary, but it did not make me happy. I visited and sought help from a psychiatric doctor and she prescribed medication for depression. I started to feel better but there were side effects. I stopped the medication after two years.
I entered college to study culinary technology and worked at a restaurant. I met my first husband and we married in three months. I gave birth to my son the next year and my daughter two years later. Slowly, I started to understand that I made a mistake in choosing my life partner. We were different in many ways. He did not support me, and he often lived separately in another house.
My sister stayed in my home many times after she finished University in Moscow and joined a local newspaper as a journalist. She did not like my husband. I explained to her that I had kids, I did not want to know her opinion of how I lived. She moved out and we did not see each other until just before she died a few months later from sepsis after an abortion. Her passing away made it an especially difficult year for me. I suffered grief and guilt because I could not be with her during the last months of her life. I divorced the same year.
I raised my kids, studied, and grew a career in technology of food productions and later five years in financial management. At age thirty five I received the diagnosis of asthma. I healed myself using a Tibetan breathing technique. At age forty seven, before emigration to the United States, I had a precancerous condition. I used homeopathy, nontraditional medicine, and some of my skills as a nutritionist to heal myself.
I never journaled in my childhood because I never felt secure enough to do that. I did not have private space at home. I started journaling in June 2019, after I watched a webinar where I learned about Mari’s Journal Writing. I understood immediately that it could help me change my life. I read Mari’s instructions and details. I used my left hand to write as I thought it would better connect me with my inner child. All the negative reinforcement discouraged me by being a left-handed person in a seemingly righthanded world. My kindergarten teacher changed me. I remember how she yelled at me to change hands and use my right hand only and prohibited me from using my left hand.
My first journal entry I shed many tears as I wrote. I felt a desperate need to make entries in my journal to feel better. Now I have a good connection with myself and I try to write faster. I write in the morning and evening to include five comments on good things that happened during the day, for which I am grateful. I am still dealing with lots of problems, but I can now better recognize what is going on. I can go to my desk and write. My journal practice is my best friend.
Author bio: Elena McKee is a native of Russia. She has lived in Washington State for sixteen years. She has a degree in Financial Management and Technology of Food. She loves nature, hiking, and helping others. She lives in the forest with her husband and two cats.
Her email address is [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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