expand/collapse this text box Summary
Ilya's former neighbor "Auntie" Asya serves tea to his children and shows them her wood stove.
expand/collapse this text box 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!

expand/collapse this text box Details in Photographs
Apartment I floor plan
Floor plan of the apartment from Tours 1-2 (all clips), home to "auntie" Asya, Ekaterina Sergeevna, Masha, Sveta, and Natasha. 2006.

Asya fills a thermos
A mirror on the inside door and a coat rack in Asya's room (see clip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1). Over the head of the bed is a small icon. Medicinal herbs steep in a thermos. The double door protects against hallway noise. 2006.

Asya's guests before drinking tea
In "Auntie" Asya's room (clip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1). On the refrigerator is a breadbox. Clotheslines hang across the room. Over the door is a built-in cabinet. Other things are stored in the wardrobe. 2006.

Asya serving her guests
The guests found their hostess doing housework: the feather bed is airing on the armchair (see also "Airing out a pillow and a blanket"). In the corner is a sideboard of a type commonly found in such rooms. 2006.

Airing out a pillow and a blanket
Asya is serving tea to guests in her room (see clip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1). The pillow and blanket have been stripped from the bed shown in this photo. 2006.

Bedding on the sofa
In Asya's room (see clip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1), there are two places to sleep; during the day she rests on the sofa. In this photo, she uses it to air out the blanket. 2006.

Holy corner on the sideboard, 2006
Asya (see clip "At Auntie Asya's", Tour 1) has set up a holy corner with pussy willow branches and a samovar on the sideboard (see close-up). Clotheslines are hung across the room. 2006.

The holy corner on the sideboard, 2000
Icons and other religious objects photographed in "Auntie" Asya's room in 2000. We see this room in clip "At Auntie Asya's" (Tour 1). See also a close-up photo. 2000.

Auntie Asya and the carpet over the bed
Asya (see clip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1) in her room. The bedding has been removed for airing. Carpets commonly hang in living areas over beds or sofas. 2006.

Asya sees her guests to the door
An open window ("fortochka"). The clothing storage unit ("wardrobe") typical of the late 1960s, the shelves, the vase on the television and the vases on the wardrobe are common among tenants of Asya's generation. 2006.

Canned goods in the stove
Asya no longer fires up the stove even in the winter (see clip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1). She has instead set it up as a cupboard for canned goods. Communal apartments often have tiled stoves and fireplaces. 2006.

Newspaper for changing shoes
When she enters her room, Auntie Asya (see videoclip "At Auntie Asya's," Tour 1) removes her street shoes and dons slippers. Newspaper is spread out so that her unshod feet don't touch the floor in the process. 2006.

Ilya visiting Asya
In addition to pictures from magazines, on the door is a calendar with pages that tear off (the date is not correct). Over the door, a cabinet is built into the thick wall. Behind Ilya are hooks, with a hand towel on the one at the far end. 2006.

expand/collapse this text box 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).