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Grandma, grandpa and a cherry jam!

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Marina Marina | 09:57 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

Hi dear friends!

Yesterday I was looking at my family's old photographs. You see, when I was a child my family used to have a nice tradition. We just were sitting together at home with a cup of tea and were listening to the story of every picture telling by my grandma and later by my mum.

Well, while I was looking at those pictures of my grandparents I was thinking of what kind of associations I have with all of them, what memories are in my mind. You see, in Kazakhstan many children are often brought up with their grandma and grandpa like I and my sister were. I've been living with my Polish-Ukrainian grandparents for almost six years. Naturally, I was kind of influenced by them :).

My Polish-Ukrainian grandparents

People in our neighborhood used to spend their free time sitting with neighbors outside,playing dominoes, speaking about life, mostly political issues (sometimes discussing situation in the USSR), often arguing, drinking tea or beer and eating sunflower seeds. You see, friends, sunflower seeds were an essential thing among women as well as cigarettes among men :). I just can't imagine my grandma without them (I mean sunflower seeds of course). For me, as I was a kid, it was just one of the numerous amusements. But now I really don't think it's a good idea to eat them (may be just without husk? ;)). I mean they damage the teeth although the eating of them is useful. Anyway it looks like a bad habit as well as smoking :). What do you think?

My grandma grew up the sunflowers on her allotment. In the autumn they were harvested and seeds were dried in an oven.


Honestly, I just can't believe now how we managed to eat three huge bags of sunflowers seeds (my grandma often prepared three or four) per year! Anyway the smell of the ripe sunflowers seeds really reminds me about my childhood (it's quite sad but in the center of Almaty, where I live and work now, I can find the sunflowers at the florist's only, without any seeds of course).


Do you like a cherry jam? In our country we call it "varenie". I adore it and the way my grandma used to cook it though when I helped her I wasn't good at pulling pits out of cherry :)). I remember the smell of berries that was fantastic! And it tasted delicious of course!



The "tea ceremony" with my grandparents was my favorite part of the evening especially in the winter. Grandma prepared tea with the different dried herbs - mint, currant leaves, and chamomile etc. And the Russian "samovar" of course was in the centre of our table :)). But we had the "modern" samovar - electric one (in case some of you don't know: the Russian samovar is normally worked with using firewood). So during the tea grandma was telling some interesting "scary" stories in a "World War II" style or grandpa was reading me the "fairy tales" from a sort of "red soviet soldier" magazine. It was quite funny to listen to those stories considering the fact that I understood only a half of it :).



I loved them very much as they were like my second parents :). From them I learnt a lot of important things. It's thanks to my grandfather, Feodor, I became an addictive reader. My grandmother, Evdokia, in her turn taught me how to get by without medicine (or at least to replace some of them with herbs); I often use her recipes of herbal coctails.

Evdokia and Feodor


As to the countries where they were from, I've been only to Poland once. This is quite strange that I've never been to Ukraine as it is closer to Kazakhstan than Poland. But I'm sure I will :).

Warsaw, Poland


My Korean grandparents

You see, friends, my Korean grandfather, who constantly had the pipe in his mouth like Sherlock Holmes, was married twice. I never met my biological grandmother who was from Belorussia. I have only the pictures of her.

Grandfather with Belorussian grandmother Maria (and my daddy ;)


But my memories about my step-grandmother are really fantastic! For me she was like a mysterious fairy and looked like a porcelain doll. She was Korean and never spoke any other language that made her more mysterious. Every visit to their house was like a small celebration for me as I visited them rarely. Honestly it was quite a different world :).

My step-grandmother


First of all I love Korean cuisine a lot especially sweet rice cakes - "chimpeni". The cooking of them is a real art. And I've never managed to do it like my grandma did.



Secondly, she had a stunning clothes and accessories that were from South Korea. You see, in Soviet times people wore the same clothes and looked pretty similar because of the political regime. So it was just unforgettable pastime to play with that grandma's stuff :). The thing that I adored most of all was a big box of Chinese face powder with a smell of violets! :).

There's another remarkable thing that I'd like to tell you, friends. Although my grandparents had the Korean names, people called them by Russian ones. Yan In Hua (grandma) became Julia, Pak Don Su (grandpa) became Mikhail. And again, I've been to South Korea but never to Belorussia :). Quite odd, isn't it? :)

South Korea, Busan


And the last thing, friends. Ashish was asking about a Korean birthday tradition. This custom is quite old and people don't follow it anymore. But as my daddy told me the celebration of child's first birthday has its own history. Hundreds of years ago infant mortality was much higher than now. And every survived baby was treated with a special care. The Koreans used to celebrate the "pek il" when a baby turned 100 days (it means that baby overcame the most dangerous period of life) and "tole" - when it turned 1 year. Traditionally, parents sent the rice cookies to relatives and friends (in return the baby was given the money or the gold ring). But I know almost nothing about "hvegap" history - 60th birthday celebration.

It's just great that you can close your eyes and see the past.

OK, friends! It's time to go now!

Looking forward to your opinion!



  • Comment number 1.

    Hello Marina,
    I really like your stories. I agree with you that smoking is dangerous for health, as it can cause various diseases. I also used to eat jam in childhood and my favorite one was Mango jam. Marina the Russian word you used "samovar" is almost has the same pronunciation we have in Persian language "Samavar" (A medium water tang.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Aliass Hussain Changazi.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Marina,

    Thinking of old days is always a great flash back into the past and especially in childhood. I really loved the pictures you shared with us and reading about your past days is as if I was seeing it all happening in front me eyes. I have never tried cherry jam but over here the homemade jam which is made in almost every home is mango jam and it's worth a try.

    Looking forward to you posts.

    Naheed from Pakistan
    student blogger June 2007

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Marina
    i'm first here.
    i can't wait to reply your blog.
    because i'm Korean.
    i can't speak English well, so i can't write long.
    It's interesting story.
    thank you.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm from South Korea, and it's always feeling good when people around the world talk about South Korea. I read all your stories,quite interesting. ^^(Smiling Emoticon in Korea). there's one thing that I want to correct a word. "pec-il" → "Bec-il", "hvegap" → "Hwan-gop"
    If you have any questions more about S,Korea,check out my facebook,and add me as a friend^^ [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Dear Marina , It 's too nice to open BBC blog when there is a new entry from you . I save the pages and read them when I have free time in my work place So hope don't mind my late comments . It was nice to hear about your home town even still I don't know how to pronounce it! And hope to know more about Almaty via your Blog . You are lucky that you love your Job ,Most people do their Job because there is no choice to make their life ! thank you for your latest post . WE still use Samavar in Iran and I have seen some people using it ( with coal ) in their picnics ! I love sun flowers and it 's seed , too. WE used to plant them in our garden in my childhood and I will love to plant them if somday have a garden , too. Here we make cherry Jam and I like it a
    lot . Ok my time is up ...

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi every one its frist time here my english isnt good so iam here for learning . my name is haifa iam a libyan girl iam 30 and i like learning english .i have funny resone maby to pepole but to me its great resone iam abig fan roger federer i have alot of friends fans of roger we are chating on websit and i hope to be friend to all.

  • Comment number 7.

    Idon know what can i say about my family .my parntes ended their 's marriage when iwas eight idon have alot of memories with my father .sometimes when he come ididnt feel enything .but my paine still with me.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Marina,

    thank you for your post, especially for the photos of your relatives. The black and white colours give a touch of sweet nostalgia, don't they ?

    I've never tried sunflower seeds and even for me it is hardly possible do find them. What do they taste like ? Why are they supposed to be useful ? Maybe because in the past people had little to eat ?

    Just a note, when we prepare cherry jam we get rid of the pits almost at the end. After cherries have boiled enough they are manually sieved by a rough sieve. The pits remain above and the pulp of cherries drops belove.

    Looking forward to your next post.


  • Comment number 9.

    Hey Marina
    I like your openess by sharing with us your memories about your wonderful and warm family.These chidhood memories will be with you for ever.It's a real personal and ptivate treasure.
    By the way my grandpa was from Ukriana he left this place when he was 18 years old.But till his last days when he was 90 y.o he used to drink his tea from a Samovar.He used to put a cube of suger in his mouth and to "draw" the tea slowly and noisy a little bit...He didn't use teaspoon to stir the suger.
    I see that the Samovar can combine some of us like Pary from Iran and Aliass from Pakistan - at least in our memories.
    Keep writing
    Danny from Israel

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello Marina,
    I'm Maria from Poland. On the latest Monday I also was in Warsaw. Do you like our capital city? Many Polish have ambivalent feelings about this town and say that is ugly and dirty. It will be nice to know how foreigners look on our capital.
    But this is not the most interesting case that I want to ask you. How the Kazakhs treat their history, especially the period of being one of the republic of the USSR? The Kazakhs consider its as an occupation or rather as an normal situation? And what about now? As the nation do you like the Russian and politics that they are leading or you are rather more sceptical about them? I'm really interested in Kazakhs-Russian relation so it will be great if you write something about it.
    Thanks a lot for your blog. It's really nice to read your posts. I'm eagerly waiting for the next one.
    Best wishes from Poland,

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Marina!
    I am from Poland. I am Polish and everybody from my family is Polish too ;). Thanks a lot for your blog - I find it very interesting and read all your stories. Cherry jam is delicious, especially that made by my mum ;). I use to add sunflower seeds to the bread, which I make myself. I also add pumpkin seeds and such bread is very healthy and tasty.

    Looking forward to your next post


  • Comment number 12.

    Hi dear friends!

    I'm so glad that you like my stories and understand them although I've made so many grammatical mistakes :))

    I promise to answer all your questions a little bit later!


  • Comment number 13.

    Hello again Marina,

    I forgot to add one more thing about sunflower seeds. I like them very much they are delicious:)


  • Comment number 14.

    Hi there!

    First of all I'd like to say that I like your style of writing. I was pleased to read a facsinating history of your family. The fact that you have so many nationalities in your family is so impressive.
    What surprised me the most is that somehow your korean grandpa and beloraussian grandma found each other and finally ended up with falling in love with each other! Amazingly!:-)

    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Marina,

    Thanks for sharing your family history with us. You have such a nice mixture of nationalities in your family. I was just thinking whether the culture you follow reflects your ethnically diverse family or just follwing the traditions of Kazakhistan.

    Although I am not fond of sunflower seeds but I believe there are so many benefits for eating them and I try to include them in my diet occasionally. I love the flowers though and it does not take too much effort to grow them. Looking forward to your next blog.


  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Marina,

    I’ve been back again but a bit later than I’d planned previously. Thanks for another interesting piece. It’s really nice a writing that surely will make a sense of nostalgia in everyone, I think. While I was reading this blog, I also was thinking about my parents, how they’d tell stories and histories during my childhood.

    In fact, it’s great that you’ve got the collection from your parents and others. I'm really unlucky in this case as I'd no such collection that will help me reminding the golden time of my past. Can you imagine that how lucky you are in this sense? It’s surprising that the ‘Black and White’ photographs are also bright till now!

    Keep these as long as you can. Imagine the view that how much it’ll be surprising to hand over these to your inheritor!




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