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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: The First Day of Class Easily Upstages Crisis

Okay, so we have an economic meltdown, Yeltsin looks like he has five minutes to live and there's a pig fight going on behind the Kremlin walls while he's still (more-or-less) standing; but when I returned this week from a comfortable, politically stable Britain to the crisis-torn Motherland, hugging my three children to my trembling bosom, all I heard from my Russian friends was "Congratulations on the first of September!"

This week's so-called meltdown faded into relative insignificance for the millions of moms around Russia whose only crisis was preparing for the first day of school. Yes, the "Day of Knowledge," as it's called here, has come round again and all other worries are more or less swept under the carpet. So what that half the shops have closed down and there's been talk of the ruble's downward spiral causing a global economic crisis? This is Russia, where you shrug your shoulders, roll up your sleeves and boil up more borsch.

Listening to news bulletins back in England I might be forgiven for thinking I would find my beleaguered friends out on the streets preparing to barricade the tanks which were rumored to be about to rumble through Moscow, but the only panic stricken moms I saw were the ones out scouring the local Zhurnalist shop for the vital exercise books, pens pencils and gym shoes that their little darlings needed for the start of the new school year.

While expats were quietly sending their children out of the country, Russian babushki were pouring back into the capital after a summer with the grandchildren at the dacha. One of the friends who called up to congratulate me as a fellow mom on the big day had just returned from her summer by the Black Sea and found that her two children had grown out of all their school clothes. "I spent two frantic days battling through the markets looking for inexpensive outfits and fighting with my teenage son and daughter who didn't like anything I chose. They just had to turn up on the first day looking cool! And you talk about crisis," she said.

Our own first day was a great success. My 10-year-old looked sufficiently trendy in her orange flared pants, my four-year-old bounced happily around his new kindergarten and my seven-year-old was much feted along with the other kids in her class for starting her first day ever in school. The classrooms overflowed with balloons, flowers, bows, and frivolity, and we parents sat chattering in the cloakroom, swigging tea and eating chocolates as if we hadn't a worry in the world. The country might be teetering on the brink of anarchy, but we were just grateful for small mercies: after our having weathered 101 long, hard days of vacation, the kids were finally being swallowed back up by school.