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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spring Mishap Brings Love, New Babushka

Love and garlic produce diapers in the kitchen." So goes the song by the Moscow bard Anton Yarzhambek. In Alla Anatoliyevna's kitchen this February, the diapers are hanging up.


We attended Alla's wedding in the provincial town of Kolomna in July. If you remember, I told you the story of the 20-year-old student teacher who married her policeman boyfriend, Lyosha, a little earlier than she might have wanted because the couple had had an accident last spring.


Such accidents are as common as falling into snow drifts in Russia, where condoms and even contraceptive pills are now available in kiosks but are still not widely used.


After the accident Alla sulked for weeks, and she was a more poignant than radiant figure in her white and gold bridal gown. But she is an ecstatic young mother.


"You are born again yourself after having a baby," she said last week as she proudly showed me her new daughter, Polina.


Alla was treated as well as she could have expected in the unchanging Russian roddom, or maternity hospital. "There were no showers. And of course the husbands weren't allowed to visit. But the doctors didn't shout at me too much. They were indifferent really. I can understand them. They are poorly paid like everyone else."


Alla and Polina were brought home in a flower-filled taxi. But life now is hardly a bed of roses.


Alla's student grant buys little more than one pair of baby leggings and Lyosha, who does dangerous shift work in the police department, has not received any wages since last autumn. The couple is financially dependent on Alla's parents: Anatoly, a factory worker and businessman on the side, and his wife, Natalya.


Lyosha still lives with his parents and only visits Alla, since there is no room for him at her family's apartment. Prospects for a separate flat are as grim as in Soviet times when couples waited for decades on state housing lists. Now lack of cash and the absence mortgages narrow horizons for newlyweds.


Buoyed up with the wonder of new life, however, Alla is cheerful, at least for the time being. In a tiny room filled with the sound of bird song and running water from one of her environmental music tapes, she feeds and changes Polina. Then she sits down to revise her knowledge of physics and mathematics, for she must take a class of 15-year-old students through these subjects.


"I'm the only one in my year at teacher training college with a new baby," she says. "Of course, it is easier for the others who only have their studies to think about. But I am coping. I love teaching. And, of course, I love Polina."


When Lyosha comes round, he helps as best he can. "But you know, he's pretty useless. He does not know which way up to hold the baby," laughs Alla, with the low expectations of the male that perpetuate sexism in Mother Russia.


Alla's main support comes, not surprisingly, from Natalya, a doting grandmother at the age of only 40. At Alla's wedding, Natalya danced and vowed she was going to launch a sewing business now that her daughter was off her hands. But, of course, she has plunged instead into the endless making of kefir, or fermented milk, for Polina. We are witnesses not only to the arrival of a child but also to the birth of a new Russian babushka.