Friday was May 9th, Victory Day in Russia--the holiday celebrating the end of World War II. As I posted before, it's a huge holiday here. Almost 14 % of the Soviet population died during the war, as opposed to the .32% of Americans who did. Every family lost somebody.
This year the celebration was even more grandiose than usual since the new president was sworn in on Wednesday. Markings on streets were repainted, beautiful flowers were planted in every decorative flowerpot (they're all over the city--very large--adorning all major streets), landscaping was finished in the major parks, flags in bright colors and the traditional red/yellow/orange black Victory Day combinations hung from buildings/streetlamps/decorative metal structures... There were also huge billboards and banners featuring slogans and archival pictures of soldiers and weaponry. I can only imagine how impressive the city looked to tourists who are here for the first time! Jenn and her husband have now arrived...
Here are some pictures of what the city looked like all "dressed up." I had hoped to get many more pictures--I wanted to do an eleborate post with pics of all the major sites in their Victory Day "Sunday best," but the traffic problems this week prevented me from getting the pictures I wanted. First you see the Bolshoi Theater, then the street leading from the Bolshoi to Lubyanka, then a flag formation near the Gagarin monument on Leninsky Prospekt, and then a quiet residential street.
Friday was supposed to be a very special day for us this year... Natalia's teacher reserved a river cruise boat and the whole school--families and friends-- traveled from the Ukraine hotel to the Dom Musiki (the whole cruise itinerary) and then back to Gorky Park/Neskuchniy Garden.
The cruise was great, don't get me wrong. Sure, it was really cold... but the sun was shining and we had a nice time with all our friends. You can see how happy Natalia was to see her pals and teacher outside of school!
Katya passed the time being the pied piper to all the younger kids, blowing bubbles and making wishes on dandilions--for the safe return of her missing cat.
The problem for us that day was that we had realized just before we were supposed to leave for the boat (at around 8:30 a.m.) that our cat Lyalya was nowhere to be found. He must have escaped through the door to our apartment when Chris had come home the night before. (He sometimes perches on top of the shelves lining our entryway, ready to jump over anyone's head to the freedom in the hallway... I've had to chase him many a time before and we're always very careful when opening and closing the door). We frantically searched for him--in our apartment, in our building, all around our building outside, but there was no trace of him.
I wanted to stay home and keep looking, but Chris decided that we should still go since missing the boat party would upset Natalia even more--in the event we never found the cat. I only decided to go when our housekeeper agreed to rush over and keep looking the whole time we were gone.
There was still no sign of the cat when we got home at 3 p.m. Chris started to make flyers on the computer and I headed to the maintenance office in the building to see about getting a key to check out the crawl space leading up to the roof. I was waiting in the hallway for the maintenance man when I heard it--a very, very faint and feeble meow... And I KNEW it was Lyalya.
The worker then switched keys--he instead grabbed the one that would open up the storage closet behind the elevator shaft.
He had probably slipped through a crack between the elevator shaft and the stairs, but couldn't make his way back out.
The poor cat was SOOOO dirty. I ended up having to bathe him... He must have realized how filthy he was, though, because he was actually rather cooperative. Once I finished rinsing him, I swaddled him in a plush towel and Chris and I held him against our bodies under our bedcovers. Asya then came to be with him, too. She must have been so relieved to see her brother! (I must say, now he's soooo soft and sweet-smelling after the Loreal 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner!)
Natalia was so worn out from the day she fell sound asleep with her cat...
And then he and his sister curled up together for a l-o-n-g nap!
That night we celebrated our "victory"--Lyalya's safe return--with a special dinner out at a restaurant with an amazing view of the firework displays. I'll post that tomorrow! (Yet again, Blogger spacing is driving me mad! Anyone else know how to make it do 1.5 line spacing? )