The mention of Cheburashka would send me running from my bedroom through our dining room straight into the living room in our house in Plovdiv. I was certain that I must had seen the Soviet stop-motion animation series with this character at least a hundred times. Once in the living room, I would place myself in one bold leap onto the squeaky green armchair in front of our black and white television set. I would hold my breath and cross my fingers that the set wouldn’t start flickering or all of a sudden go dark in the middle of the show. I would jump up and down on the armchair (something strictly forbidden to me, for this piece of furniture was inherited from the father of my grandmother) and sing in Russian, loudly and very much out of tune, the crocodile Gena’s song from the series. In the first episode, Cheburashka, a big-eared, fanciful creature covered in dark brown fur, was discovered fast asleep in a crate full of oranges at a Soviet food market.
One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather taking me to pick wild strawberries in the surroundings of Koprivshtitsa, a town of some 2,000 inhabitants in the Sredna Gora mountains. We would set out in the morning before the sun had a chance to turn hot, cross the stream on the outskirts of town, from which our household fetched its daily supply of water, and head through the open fields in the direction of the forest. Leaving pastures with grazing cows behind, we soon disappeared under the shady trees, looking for a spot that other strawberry pickers had not discovered yet.