Communal Living in Russia: Photos
Apartment II. Rooms: Pussy willows, icons, candle in a jar
  Summary
  Cards and pictures of icons on a standing mirror make a kind of icon corner. 2006.
  Basic Facts and Background
  When: 2006

Where: The room of Anna Matveevna in a large communal apartment, home to over 20 people, in the prestigious center of St. Petersburg.

Who: Anna Matveevna, the apartment's oldest resident.

After Anna Matveevna's father was killed in 1922, during the Civil War, her mother was left with five children. Anna Matveevna was taken in (as she says, "with room and board") by her distant relatives, whom she started helping with household chores. She came to this apartment in 1929, when she got work with a different family as a nanny. In 1931, her right to live in the apartment was affirmed officially: she was granted an occupancy permit, and became a full-fledged member of the apartment.

See the video with her story about her past.

What: On this little table, meant for toiletries, are a mirror and various other objects. In place of the perfume and powder that once, probably, were kept here we see cards and little calendars with icons, most of them representing the Virgin and Child. There are also a few small porcelain statues. The corner of a photograph can be seen on the right; it is Anna Matveevna herself in her youth. On the left we can see a fancy blue paper bag, decorated with the image of a World War II medal and the dates 1945-2005. Probably, veterans were given gifts or food assortments in these bags in connection with the Victory Day holiday. There is a candle stub in a glass jar, possibly in case the electricity goes out. But the candle's presence here among the icons and willow branches is not accidental: what she has put together here is a kind of icon corner.

On the holiday called Willow Sunday, a week before Easter, Orthodox Christians mark the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The willow branches with their buds are the symbolic substitution for the palm branches with which, according to tradition, people greeted Jesus. Pussy willows are usually bought by the entrances to churches. During services they are sprinkled with holy water. The branches are kept for an entire year, often in back of icons. They protect the home and promote good health. See also willow branches in an icon corner "Auntie" Asya's room.

In the right forefront is the insert from some kind of medicine. Anna Matveevna's green robe is reflected in the mirror in the top lift; she was sitting at the table with her side to the mirror.

On the greeting card with the three white roses is the message "For happiness, health, and success!" The key depicted on it represents the key to a happy and healthy life. Next to the card is a little green booklet that either contains religious teachings or the text of a prayer.

For credits, copyright, and contact information please see the "About" page at Communal Living in Russia: A Virtual Museum of Soviet Everyday Life, http://russlang.as.cornell.edu/komm/.