My first home

For the first twenty years (1948-1968) of my life I lived in this house:

On this picture, the two rightmost windows on the top floor belonged to the appartment of my parents. My address was Leningrad, Voinova 2/4, app. 30 (or Leningrad, Gagarinskaia 4/2, app. 30). It is in one block from the Neva river. You can see the river on the left hand side of the picture.

The house is located on the crossing of two streets, Gagarinskaia and Shpalernaia. They were renamed. Gagarinskaia was called for several years Furmanova. Shpalernaia was called Voinova for many years. In particular, when I lived there, it was called Voinova. Here is a view of this house along Shpalernaia (Voinova).

The house looks like a palace. And it was a palace of the family of Gagarins, dukes. When I lived there it was not a palace any more. Nice recreation halls, where noble people used to meet and dance, had been split into small apartments. I heard that prior to that, after the revolution, the building was used as a school and as a sauna. During the war a shell from a German canon destroyed water pipes in the attic, and planks of parquet floors became curved and squeaking loudly under a foot.

Our apartment consisted of two narrow long rooms of 180 and 120 square feet, respectively, a kitchen and entrance room, each of 40 square feet. There was no bath or even shower, no hot water.

But the ceiling was 15.5 feet high, the external walls were more than 4 feet thick, wide windowsills were made of marble, the window glasses were thick and only one piece of glass cracked, when a German shell exploded in the attic.

The poverty of the apartment was not something exceptional then. It was a separate apartment, and this was wonderful. Many of my classmates lived in apartments shared by several families.

The house gradually collapsed. Heavy car traffic shaken it. In the seventies all the habitants were relocated to other buildings and the house stayed empty for many years. Gradually the house turned to ruins. The roof and ceilings collapsed. Wallpaper was partly washed out. I could see (from the street - the house was locked, so I could not enter) that a part of the wall that separated our apartment from the next one was in fact a door. We never could suspect that the door existed.

Finally the remains of the house were decomposed by construction workers and its copy was built up at the same place. In fact, on the pictures above you see the new house. There are very few differences between the old house and its new incarnation. I observed only two differences on the picture. Windows in the new house are not that thick and strong, and therefore the window panels split into smaller rectangular sections. Two entrances to the basement disappeared.

I was happy there. It was nice to live in a palace, even if it has a few defects.