Communal Living in Russia: Video Tours
Tour 1. Where Daddy Used to Live: 5. At Auntie Asya's
  Ilya's former neighbor "Auntie" Asya serves tea to his children and shows them her wood stove.
  Basic Facts and Background
  When: Summer 2006

Where: The room of "Auntie" Asya in a large communal apartment in an apartment building in the prestigious historical center of St. Petersburg.

Who: 1) Ilya Utekhin, who grew up in this apartment and lived here for over thirty years. At the time of filming he still had a room here, in which he no longer lived. 2) "Auntie" Asya, who has been living in this apartment over forty years; 3) Manya and Vasya, Ilya's children, on their first visit to the building; 3) Slawomir, who is filming.

"Auntie" Asya (Anastasya Emelyanovna) is the oldest tenant in the apartment. She has lived in the room we see for almost twenty-five years. For around twenty years before that she lived in a rather dark room with a wood-plank floor, which once served as the bathroom; now the apartment drunk Anatoly lives there. Throughout her years in Leningrad she worked at a variety of low-skilled jobs. She lost almost her entire family in World War II and lives alone. She came to live in Leningrad after the war.

What: The stove that we see is a relic of the time when a wood-burning stove was the only means of heating a room. Now it is listed in the historical registry as a part of the apartment's original decor; it is protected by the government and cannot be moved, whatever happens to the room or its tenant (or owner).

  Translation of the Russian Transcript
  Auntie Asya: I can't decide who they look like.

Ilya: Manya looks more like me, and Vasya looks more like his mother.

Auntie Asya: Well, I remember you from the day you were born, and you had a rounder little face. A pretty little girl. And so big already! Five years old, she'll be starting school soon, won't she?

Ilya: Yes, she'll be starting school.

Auntie Asya: Would you like some bread?

Vasya: No.

Auntie Asya: No?

Vasya: No thank you.

Ilya: No thank you: he knows.

Ilya: We came in and walked with our shoes all over your clean floor.

Vasya: Papa, what's in the stove over there?

Ilya: What's in the stove? Ask Auntie Asya, what's in the stove? When was the last time you fed, I mean fired it up?

Auntie Asya: I keep jars and bottles there. But the stove works.

Ilya: Can we look?

Auntie Asya: Of course. Here's one little door...

Ilya: Yes.

Auntie Asya: And there's another little door.

Ilya: I see.

Auntie Asya: And there are two little shelves; this one has little holes in it. That's what it's like.

Ilya: A grate.

Auntie Asya: That's what it's called, a grate. And this is where the wood goes, and through the grate over there comes...

Ilya: You light it. And there's some kind of damper there, probably.

Ilya: Look, children, look at the swan.

Auntie Asya: When I first moved here there was a lot of renovation going on, and there was a lot of scrap wood around. So I burned it. And the stove, you know, it just howls and howls...

Ilya: It howls, right, it must have a really strong draft, then?

Auntie Asya: A very strong draft! So I would have a strong draft going and I burned everything in there, and my neighbors would come have a look.

Ilya: But you don't use it in the winter now?

Auntie Asya: No, there's no reason to anymore. And then I don't feel like cleaning up all the soot.

Ilya: All right, Auntie Asya, thank you so much! Children, say "goodbye" to Auntie Asya.

Children: Goodbye!

Ilya: Goodbye!

For credits, copyright, and contact information please see the "About" page at Communal Living in Russia: A Virtual Museum of Soviet Everyday Life,