Back to the Motherland

 Nikolskaya (Moscow)

Nikolskaya (Moscow)

Hey, guys. It's been a while. As I may have posted on the blog, I recently went back to my home country, Russia, to visit family and see the World Cup! It was probably the most heartwarming trip I have ever taken. Spending time with loved ones after not having been back for 10 years was amazing. Unfortunately, one week was not nearly enough time to see everyone. But I plan on visiting again within the next year or two. 

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Before heading back to Russia, I was feeling pretty depressed and I have no idea why. Nothing was wrong with my life. I had a wonderful group of friends to hang out with in New Haven, managed to maintain healthy family and professional relationships and I'm in good health. I thought maybe it's because I felt too pressured to have this huge success post-graduation. Then I thought it was my love life. It wasn't until going to Russia that I understood that I just needed to recharge. I'm big on family and my roots. If I don't continuously return to that, I feel disconnected from myself. Being there made me feel whole. I remember only feeling happy in the past while in Russia.

 Flower stand in Nikolskaya

Flower stand in Nikolskaya

 GUM department stores

GUM department stores

 Statue of Peter the Great

Statue of Peter the Great

 Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

It wasn't just visiting my family that made my life during this trip. It was also having the huge blessing of being able to attend the World Cup semi-final! My mom got the whole thing together. There were three rounds of being able to buy game tickets and we finally got the tickets during the last round. 

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 Luzhniki Stadium 

Luzhniki Stadium 

Never in a million years did I think I would get the chance to sit in a stadium like this and I plan to do it again. About 78,000 people were in this stadium and it was great seeing how passionate they were about their countries. I definitely saw heavier representation for Croatia. The best thing was seeing how excited my dad was to be there after being a life long soccer (football) fan. It took about an hour to get him to leave the stadium. I honestly didn't want to leave myself. It was magic. We went for England since Croatia beat Russia but either way, it was an amazing game and, lucky for us, all of the goals in the game were scored on our side of the stadium. 

 Subway station (suck it, NY)

Subway station (suck it, NY)

After Moscow, we traveled to Chudovo, 6 hours away by train in the countryside of Russia. It isn't the most spectacular place in the world, but it represented some of my happiest moments during the summers I visited Russia. It was one of the only places I felt truly at peace.

 My great uncle, Victor at his own well (Chudovo)

My great uncle, Victor at his own well (Chudovo)

 My great aunt and uncle's home 

My great aunt and uncle's home 

There were moments that made my heart feel heavy while being back, though. A lot has changed within the neighborhoods I used to visit as well as within my family. I wish I realized as a kid how lucky I was to have a family with such a strong bond that is now weaker since my grandma passed away. One place that we would usually visit is Orel, a deeper countryside that is more untouched. Now that my grandparents sold that house, my family probably won't return. If I ever could in the future, I would buy that house back and travel there in the summers to decompress and relive my old memories. 

 Petergof Palace (St. Petersburg)

Petergof Palace (St. Petersburg)

Our third stop was St. Petersburg, where we met more extended family, visited a few palaces and celebrated my 26th birthday. It was beautiful. The history here is amazing. Visiting palaces has always been one of my favorite things to do as a little girl. I love immersing myself in old culture and getting closer to the places my family comes from. And I am a pretty big fan of Russian karaoke now. I managed to get the courage to sing and can finally say I know a few Russian songs that are newer than 10 years old.

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 Catherine (Ekaterina's) Palace

Catherine (Ekaterina's) Palace

Now that I'm back in New Haven, I feel full of energy and motivation. I am consistently in a much better mood and feel like I can connect more with people and my work. This was just what I needed. Next time I visit, it will be for much longer and I will visit other parts of Russia as well. One of those parts being Siberia, since most of my family is from there and I've never met them! Pray for me.