I've loved the name Katya, or Katerina, ever since I first watched Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov skate in 1986 at the Goodwill Games. I used to skate competitively and I really admired her talent; she and Sergei were pure magic on the ice! She was my age and there she was an Olympic champion in Calgary in '88!
I actually met her father in 1989 after an ice show in Connecticut and he gave me their home address to write her. I had already started studying Russian then and he was impressed; he wanted Katya to keep working on her English. When I spent the fall in Moscow in 1991 I got to go to her home, even though she wasn't there (she was in the United States giving birth to Darya). It was amazing to see so many of her medals in her room! You can see a tribute to Sergei (he died suddenly and tragically from heart failure in 1995) and clips of their skating here.
Then in college I met another Katya who became a dear friend and my maid of honor. She had emigrated from Russia (St. Petersburg) as a child. Petite and considered small by all of us in college, it's quite funny that in our family she's referred to as "Big Katya"--to differentiate her from "our Katya." This summer we were able to meet up for the first time in four years; I got to meet her younger son and she got to hear our girls speak Russian. We all lived together in Ann Arbor, MI for three years when Chris was in Law School. We went through our first pregnancies together and then enjoyed being new moms together, too. It was very hard to leave Michigan and our daily friendship. I still miss going to the Farmers' Market and Zingerman's together...
Three years later we moved to Russia... and the number of Katyas we knew literally exploded. We had originally chosen Russian names for our kids because we met in our Russian classes and they jazz up our COMMON English last name. We also figured we'd be in Russia at some point for Chris's job, and having Russian names would help the girls to fit in more easily. I remember Katya's first day of nursery school in Moscow so clearly; she came home AMAZED that she had met another Katya! "There's anOTHER Katya in the world! And I met her!" Little did she know how many she would meet in the next few years!
In May we then met another very special Katya--who had just been adopted from St. Petersburg by an American family in Michigan (her mom is the Rachael mentioned at the beginning of this post). The girls thought it was quite wonderful to share the same name--and how ironic that "Katya from Michigan's" (that's how we refer to her) first American friend was also named Katya!
You just don't have the variety in first names that one finds in America... Chances are, any woman you meet here is going to be named Ekaterina (Katya); Natalia (Natasha); Irina; Anastasia (Nastya); Elena (Lena); Olga (Olya); Maria (Masha); Tatyana (Tanya). She might then also be Anya, Sveta, Karina, Lyuba, Lyudmila, Marina, Tamara, Nadya, Evgenya, Zhenya or Maya. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few, but that list covers most of it... I find it very hard to remember new acquaintances' names because of this! Since most women's names end in -a or -ya, they start to all blend together in my mind.