I began to write this post on February 20, 2014. It was a birthday of my grandfather, who would have become 87 this year if he was still alive. Unfortunately, he passed away several years ago, in October 2005.
The name I have in my passport was given to me by my parents in his honor. Anatoliy. Only now I begin to realize how much I am actually growing to be like my grandfather, and how much I took from him.
My grandfather and his life
I know very little about his life. I heard various bits here and there from my mom or my grandmother, but only a couple of facts stay in my mind, while other have faded away. And he himself was not talking much about the past, as far as I can remember. He was living in the present. Mindful, focused, open to the life.
He grew up without parents. My grandmother told that because of a conflict with the people surrounding him at the village where he lived during his childhood, he was taken by an uncle of him who lived some 130 km away. And my grandfather walked the whole distance, because there was no other good way for a poor boy to transport a cow he owned.
His life work was devoted to the railroad. He started from an almost all-time-low position (an assistant to a switch person) and through his dedication to the career slowly has made his way to the station master.
My grandfather always was… Kind. Accepting others. Committed. A quiet leader. A head of a big family, a person who kept together multiple families in one big community. Always there. Not demanding much, but giving everything he had to the people.
I am not sure if he had any formal university education – as far as I remember, he went through some intensive trainings during some stages of his career and that was it. But my grandfather was one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable people I know. He read a lot, and learned by experience.
Even before I was born, his heart had been failing, and he got a cardiostimulator. He always had this small box inside his body, which was clearly visible whenever he was taking his shirt off. And with this box, he had built a village house and many accompanying structures, including a two-level storage unit for all the garden appliances, a greenhouse, and a simple washing room. This is without taking many technical devices and solutions around the village life that he self-engineered and implemented, quite a few of which still serve our family well.
Being on a cardiostimulator, he has been keeping a great order in our garden. Everything was done on time. Everything was clean and clear, and perfectly functioning – and if not, anything, it was fixed in the matter of a few days.
He was a masterful engineer in practice, even if he might not have had an official paper with such words.
For me, the main part of our shared story took place while I was going to the primary school. My grandmother worked as a teacher, and a very good primary school teacher had been accepting a new class, where my parents decided to put me. During the weekdays I was living with my grandparents, coming to visit and stay with my parents and siblings only at the weekends.
At that period of life, my grandfather actually has played the role of a father to me. He was always there for me, ready to give me his attention, entertain or educate :)
Very special fact about that period of my life is that neither my grandfather nor my grandmother ever rejected a question. They both were doing what they could to satisfy my curiosity, even when it went far beyond my age level. For example, while I has been only in the second or third grade, grandmother showed me some basic experiments with electricity and electric schemes, while formally I had no physics class for a few years after that. And grandfather did his best to answer any of the questions I had, searching for the information in books and encyclopedia (that was in times before the Internet, at least in our part of the world ;) ).
That was very different from most other people in my life, who were trying to fit my curiousity in the limits of what seemed reasonable for them, either by perceived “intellectual” level, or financially. Others were cutting off my dreams if they could not see a way for these dreams to come true. But not my grandparents (my mom’s parents).
It was my grandfather who, through many discussions while waiting for trains between our house in the village and the appartment in the city, taught me so much about the railroad. Having served from the very bottom to the very top at a railroad station, he knew every aspect of its work. I learned so many small details that the general public never becomes aware of, I understood the rationale behind most of the things. And seeing that complex system functioning well is fascinating. It is incredibly beautiful intellectually, and it is exactly this beauty and its aesthetics that I am capturing and expressing through my transport photography also in the artistic ways.
In the last several weeks, I have been exploring the pain that has been staying with me for the past six years, resurfacing and drowning me in itself from time to time.
One of the contributions to this pain was the death of my grandfather. On the day of his funeral, I had one of the first midterms in my first semester at the university. I wanted to take this day off and say a proper goodbye to the grandfather, but the midterm seemed very important to my parents, and they talked me out of it… I am still ashamed that I was not assertive enough and let them to do it.
However, the main component of the pain has been about my lifestyle, my behavior in regard to relationships with other people, my ambitions and my ways of going after things. And while talking things through with a counselor, I realized that the life I really want to live goes in ways very much aligned with the ways in which my grandfather had lived.
I want to give everything I have to people. I want to contribute as much as I can to making the world a better place for everyone. And I am doing it not for fame or credit, but because this is who I am, this is who I want to be.
I also decided to follow my desire to work in the railroad industry. I have finally did a quick search at the career site of Deutsche Bahn (an umbrella brand for the group of companies operating, maintaining and developing the railroad network and services in Germany). It seems that I have found a very, very good match for my aspirations in their Informatics/Telecommunications training program (in German!) :)
To honor the memory of grandfather, on his birthday this year I also decided to follow my love and joy and interest in the railroads that I took from him, and I went to Hamburg for a railroad photoshooting session. My locations included Hauptbahnhof, Altona, Landungsbrücken, Berliner Tor, Wilhelmsburg and Harburg. Lots of photos, multiple rides on the loved trains of the S-Bahn Hamburg. It was an unbelievably good and happy evening, even while physically it was quite challenging (cold, raining, I’m wearing a bag + photo bag + big headphones + carrying/holding umbrella and a camera at the same time).
Happy birthday, dear grandfather.
I love you.