Anatoly Gladilin next shares his experience with the baleful reality of French public schools. His daughter Liza was attending school with Nastya, the daughter of Pravda's Paris correspondent. Ironically, the daughters of two purported ideological enemies befriended each other. Anyway, by that time the Soviet Union has collapsed and Gladilin was more of a freelancer.
Coming home one evening, Gladilin noticed that his daughter brought home a friend from school: a large "Afro-French" girl named Magda who seemed much older than her and had the physique of a Soviet Olympic shot put champion. Gladilin was surprised that Liza would be friends with a girl who seemed so much older than her (after apologetically assuring her that he had nothing against Magda's racial background).
Liza's response was priceless. Turns out that her new friend Magda was indeed seven years older than Liza because she was left back twice in each grade. Magda also was an inveterate bully who especially enjoyed beating Nastya, the other Russian girl in the class. So Liza decided to befriend Magda in order to save Nastya from her fists. Why didn't the boys in the class protect the other girls from Magda, wondered the writer. His daughter patiently explained that when they did, Magda's six brothers started pummeling everyone who walked out of the school's gate.
What about the principal, asked Gladilin. Useless to talk to her, explained Liza: "The principal isn't afraid of Magda, she's afraid to be accused of racism". And then it hit Anatoly Gladilin: "It was probably at that precise moment, that I realized that my little Liza is becoming a grown up". Nothing like a dose of politically incorrect reality to make a child into an adult.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.