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Who She Was Before She Was Babushka
Her name is Maria and she is from the Ukraine. When she was 16, she spent some time in a concentration camp. A long time in a concentration camp. Her life was spared because she knew three languages and she was heavily utilized as an interpreter. She lost many friends and some relatives in this concentration camp.
She later married a man in the military, had a child and eventually moved to the United States adding five more children along the way. She would lose one child to a congenital heart defect. The other five children would grow up and have children of their own.
Her skills as an interpreter were in great demand in the United States. She would teach for the prestigious Defense Language Institute and share her knowledge of languages. She would train many, many soldiers for years before retiring.
When I finally met her, she was just Babushka. She never shared these stories or much about her life when I was growing up. I would hear bits and bits from family members.
But she shared. She shared her summers with me. She shared the huge trees in her yard that I would climb over and over again. She shared her fabulous plum jelly that she made herself from the plum trees in her yard.
She would slather this plum jelly on freshly baked German blackbread (still a favorite of mine today) that she got from her local bakery. I sometimes would only eat blackbread with plum jelly for an entire day. I can still taste it when I close my eyes.
She shared her love of all things Russian, Ukrainian or German. Samovars. Matryoshka dolls. Gummi Bears (for the true lovers, there is only ONE kind). Blackbread. Russian and German candies that she would hide in her freezer (my baby could point to the freezer and grunt for a candy before she could even talk).
She shared. She shared so much. And she never asked for anything in return.
She is such an amazing woman. My grandmother. My kids adore her. She is my Babushka. She is their Babushka.
It was an honor to give my middle child the name of my Babushka.
Disclaimer: I am sorry for the lousy pictures. They were taken with a pretty bad camera phone. I clearly need a new camera and I need to better document these memories.