1979 | Kiev, Ukraine | Age: 10 | via Austria and Italy
There was no Home Depot in Kiev in the ‘70s, so we had to slip something to someone under the table, and lumber would disappear from a construction site. That’s how we built the two shipping crates. My one grandfather was an architect, and the other was an engineer. Together they built miniature scale models of the crate and of everything they were taking, especially the furniture. They would play around and arrange every item to maximize the capacity, so that they could take as much as possible. My one grandfather sewed my great-grandmother’s earrings into the couch cushions. It was really something. They weren’t worth much, but they were just very sentimental. My mother died, and we wanted to take them so that my sister, who was 2 at the time, would have them when she grew up. The crate arrived here 9 or 10 months after we did and was dumped on the sidewalk by our apartment. And there we were with crowbars wrenching apart this wooden crate that we had built ourselves. Item by item, we carried everything upstairs, and this is when we saw the absurdity of what we had packed - a bucket of nails, a set of metal nail files, an electrical converter, a huge professional hair dryer, lots of tools, plates, silverware. Nothing broke, nothing was damaged, it wasn’t looted - maybe because it was impossible to get into.
So we arranged the furniture and carefully ripped open the couch to take out the jewelry. It was gone. We took apart every chair. It was like a comedy. My grandfather had taped it to a spring with electrical tape. We even looked for it again at a later point. But we never found it and never found out what happened.
These are some of the woodworking tools my grandfather brought. He had actually machined these by hand when he was an architecture student. Some are still wrapped in their original oiled paper and are still incredibly sharp because we never actually used them.
My father and I went through my grandparents’ things after they passed away, and I took only a few items I wanted to keep. My grandfather’s German-made straight razor was in one of the boxes. They came here with us in 1979, and he had never even unpacked it. Inside the little case, the razor was wrapped in a piece of paper full of calculations that I almost crumpled up and threw away. What it turned out to be was the plan for the apartment that he had arranged in Kiev for my father and mother. My grandfather had been an architect, and he was working on an 8-story building that was going up. Well, I was about to come into this world, so somehow he finagled it that this building would now have 9 stories, and there would be one apartment for my father, mother and me. So the apartment floor plan and the square meterage calculations were on that piece of paper, in which my grandfather’s straight razor had been wrapped.