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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Маша и Медведь

A litte piece of Russian culture has entered our house recently, in the form of the hilarious animation series 'Masha and the bear'.
I spotted little Masha and her friend the bear for the first time when travelling to Ukraine in June. Merchandising was everywhere, especially in Kiev airport. And cute she is, as you can see on the dvd cover here.

Then last week - in the supermarket around the corner - there she was again. The dvd's of 'Masha and the bear' made it even to the Dutch-language market. I could not resist.

The dvd's were certainly worth their money. My daughters (6 and 4 years old) howl with laughter when they watch the adventures of Masha and the bear. That is mainly because Masha is not so cute as you might initially think. She is a 'little, annoying thing' who drives her friend the bear often to despair.

Which makes this animation series fun to watch for parents as well. So many scenes are familiar to me, and I guess to many parents: she does not give in when she has set her mind on something, she is not able to sit still for more than a second, she wants all attention of her friend the bear (who tries to escape sometimes but cannot say 'no' to her either),... This reminds a bit of the books and animation series of 'The little princess' of Tony Ross. The interaction with the bear on the other hand is more Looney Tunes style. Meep meep.

And while writing this, my daughters burst out laughing again! Masha, you have two fans! :-)

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Madonnas of Leningrad

It is becoming rarer over the years but now and then I still get touched by a book. 'The Madonnas of Leningrad' by Debra Dean managed to move me this week.

It is the story of an old Russian woman who has Alzheimer's. (If you have read my post on Memory loss you can imagine that Alzheimer's, though luckily not diagnosed in the family yet, is a disease I seriously dread.) Although she has lived in the US for most of her life, the memories that distress this woman are about the years when Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) was occupied by the Germans during the second World War.

Being a guide in the Hermitage museum at that time, she was helping with the rescue of thousands of pieces of art and furniture. Then, when there was nothing left but to hide in the cellars, she tries to remember the paintings by imagining each of them in their particular room, as such making the Hermitage into a memory palace.

Later, when she has started a new life in the US, she never talks about these terrible years, during which almost 1 million residents died of starvation, the cold or in bombardments. But when Alzheimer's disease is taking over, it are precisely these memories that come back and make her lose her grip on reality.

It might sound all a bit gloomy but believe me, this book is written in such a poetic and stylish way that you will savour every page of it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's this time of the year

It's this time of the year: I am studying Russian. Next week we have the final test. And if all goes well, that was it for my fifth year then. It wasn't my most fruitful year, I was too busy with other things. Yet, I'm happy not to have given up. There is always the possibility to give it a new impetus if the time turns out to be (more) right.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the pictures I took in Ukraine. Early June, I visited Kiev and the Crimea peninsula. A must! And yes, there was the opportunity to speak Russian. As it turned out, in Crimea they don't speak Ukrainian, only Russian. Even education is there in Russian, as I was told by our local guide. Add to your destination list, Russian language lover!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Russian for beginners and travelers

Hello again. Long time not been here. Was there more pain than pleasure in learning Russian the last few weeks? Luckily not. I nicely continued going to evening class, did my test before Easter holiday and am now ready to start the last trimester. Although I lacked a bit of enthusiasm and commitment to really improve my Russian knowledge, all things considered. One evening per week is just not sufficient and I didn't find the time to do some extras.

I managed to watch the interesting tv-series Rusland voor beginners though. It was a Belgian Dutch-language series but as Lena De Winne, Russian wife of astronaut Frank De Winne, was the central figure of the series (she travelled each episode with a Belgian personality through Russia, focusing on themes as religion, ecology, economy, arts, etc.), most of the conversations and interviews were either in English or in Russian. So, if this series will ever be released on DVD, I will certainly let you know here - it is also worthwhile watching it if you do not know the Dutch language.

And concerning this upcoming trimester of my fifth year of evening school... I participated a bit half-heartedly in the lessons lately, yes, but I have a good motivation to start focusing again: in a few weeks, I will go to Ukraine. Okay, Russian is not the first language in Ukraine but I imagine that some knowledge of the Russian language will certainly help during the trip. So, time to rehearse the Russian for travelers vocabulary...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Очень холодно!

It is terribly cold here in Belgium. Yesterday it was about
-10°C. With our maritime climate, we are not used to it. A little snow on top of it yesterday evening during peak time and we broke our record of kilometers traffic jam. Winter tyres become worthwile considering...

My Polish colleague tells me it was -27°C in Poland that same day. But people are used to it there, is her opinion, and houses are isolated well. Still...

On the Russia Today website, I read that Ukraine had
-35°C and that  there are already hundreds of deaths in Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe. Horrible!

Russia Today ends with some good advice: "Dieting is strictly discouraged – consume enough food and drink to allow the body to keep generating heat." Ha, can do that! Will do immediately :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

7 Russian books

End 2011, I followed this course on Russian literature, which was taught in such an enthusiastic way that you end up leaving the room with the firm decision to actually READ these books that you have just discussed.

Now, Russian classic books are not exactly what you would name 'thin booklets'. And there are many of them. So unconsciously I had always considered the reading of Russian classics as something I would do 'when I am retired'.

Yet, retirement age going up all the time and inspired by the course, I decided to make a shortlist, slice it up (meaning: read one or two of these enormous books per year) and voilà, in a few years I will have at least a basic knowledge of the Russian literature.

So here is my shortlist:
1. Dead souls - Gogol
2. Crime and punishment - Dostoyevsky
3. Anna Karenina - Tolstoy
4. War and peace - Tolstoy
5. The master and Margarita - Bulgakov
6. The cherry orchard - Chekhov (drama)
7. Eugene Onegin - Pushkin (poetry)

If you consider that I have already read Anna Karenina and The master and Margarita and that I am currently finalising my reading of Dead souls, it seems perfectly doable to finish this shortlist in a relatively short time period. So off I go. Next on my list: War and peace - a whopper!

Note: I will read these books in Dutch, in case you wonder; if I read them in Russian, I need decades, not years, to finish this shortlist!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jan Balliauw komt naar onze school!

't Is echt waar, Jan Balliauw (denk aan de onlangs uitgezonden documentairereeks Back in the USSR) komt op woensdag 15 februari naar onze school. Normaal gezien enkel voor cursisten maar ik ben ervan overtuigd dat een telefoontje naar onze school wonderen kan doen :-)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Russian movies: good stuff!

First of all: С Рождеством - Merry Christmas!
Having Christmas and New Year already a week behind me, it almost escaped my mind. But yes, in Russia Christmas is celebrated on 7 January because the Russian orthodox church uses the old Julian calendar for religious celebration days. So all my best wishes to everyone who is celebrating today!

Apart from that, what I wanted to share with you today is this: I discovered the Russian movie (yes, better late...) and I am enthusiastic! I am not talking about the American movies and television series based on Russian literature I watched so far (and enjoyed). I am not talking about the 'War and Peace' and 'Doctor Zhivago' movies but about 'the real thing': the Russian spoken and Russian made movie:-) And I must admit: they have 'good stuff'!

So much that I don't have time to write anything more now because my next Russian movie is waiting for me (honestly!). But if you are interested (and are not an expert yourself yet), then follow my discoveries on my I can recommend page. The list will be updated regularly!