School in the USSR

When my family lived in Moscow, USSR between 1977 and 1979, my sister and I went to a school called the Anglo-American School of Moscow. This was a 5 story concrete building that housed students from English speaking embassies, so this included Canadians, Americans, Australians, British and so forth. My sister and I were both* attending grades 6 and 7.

* my sister is older than I am, but I skipped grade 2, so we were in the same grade for most of our school careers, much to her chagrin.

We were bused to the school by the Canadian embassy. Usually we were picked up in a large van, but sometimes that wasn’t available and we were picked up in an embassy limousine, which was very cool. I think they were Lincoln Continentals.

I never had a concept of where the school was in Moscow other than it was something like a 10 or 15 minute drive from our apartment. You know how it is when you’re a kid – you have no idea where anything is because the adults do the driving and navigating.

We were not encouraged to interact with Russians anywhere, and we were basically confined to school grounds when we were at school. I’m aware that it was in a neighborhood that was surrounded by Russians, but we didn’t have any interactions with them. There were walls or fences around the school property, perhaps to keep us in, or perhaps to keep the Russians out. Maybe both.

The only image of the Anglo-American School I could find
The only image of the Anglo-American School I could find

There was a sports field down below the school where we did track and field and so forth. I was pretty good at track and field – I was good at running and that’s about it. I was hopeless for throwing and catching, and I still am.

Our teachers were brought in from various countries so we were taught by English speaking people. I don’t remember the names of any of my teachers, except for Mr. Julicher who was the Phys Ed teacher, I believe, and we called him “Mr. Julie Chair” behind his back, because that’s what you do when you’re 11.

I remember that I had the choice to learn either Russian or French as my foreign language course and I foolishly chose French, thinking that I am Canadian and French would be more useful to me than Russian would be. Of course, today I still can’t speak French, and I know about four words of Russian. I think I made the wrong choice.

The rest of the courses that we took at the school were pretty standard – science, math, that kind of thing – and I remember learning quite a bit about Russian history. I recall we spent several days learning about Rasputin, and when I heard the Boney M song, it was interesting to compare the song against what I had been taught. In science I remember doing physics things with motors reversing them into generators, that sort of thing. I hated physical education / gym, but that was a recurring theme throughout my school career.

I was bullied at this school. There were two kids who seemed to make it a point of beating me up at recess or lunch. One of them was a big hulking guy from Iceland – Hans. I don’t remember the name of the other fellow except that he was small and mousy. It almost became a game to see how quickly I could run away from them so they wouldn’t be able to grab me and give me a beating. I don’t know why no teachers intervened, nor why these two were picking on me, other than I was smaller and younger than others in my class. I do remember that I got pretty adept at kicking or punching them in the groin area to get them to stop.

This school was where I first became interested in girls. There was one in particular that I really liked, Catherine, who was from Australia. Nothing came of it, naturally, but I looked her up on Facebook a year or two ago and she’s there, which is kind of surreal. We live in strange times.

There was another girl who was interested in me and was good friends with my sister. We ended up going to one of the school dances together and I remember she was a good dancer. She contacted me on Facebook several years ago via my sister and we reminisced about old times.

The school moved to a new, much nicer campus in 2000. You can read about the current AAS here. It seems like a much nicer facility than we had.

The school was in the news in late 2016, being threatened by closure due to some diplomatic tensions. It was interesting to read this account by a former student. She attended well after I did and actually had some interaction with Russian citizens.

Overall, I wouldn’t say attending the Anglo-American School was a positive experience, but it wasn’t a wholly negative experience either. The teachers and staff were just trying to do their best and we muddled through. Being bullied wasn’t fun, but on the grand scale of things, a lot of other people have been bullied a lot worse. We get through.

Just One More Thing

I hope you’ve been enjoying these reminisces of life in the USSR. Here’s a few more to read:

2 thoughts on “School in the USSR”

  1. Steve – Very interesting – seems to me like private School but not boarding – reminds me of my years at private school at Pickering College in Newmarket Ontario for grades 8 to 11 and finishing in Montreal my home town after Commercial College. You always seem to remember School both the good and the not so good times !!- With best regards –

    Richard

    Reply
    • Hi Richard, yes, it is kind of like a private school, but since there’s no public school for English speaking people in Moscow, that’s all there is.

      School is definitely something that sticks in everyone’s mind. School is a big part of our formative years, I guess.

      Reply

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