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Diane Doyle


It was soon after the Enterprise had left Gamma Hydra IV when Lieutenant Uhura decided to visit Ensign Chekov in his quarters. She figured Chekov needed some cheering up, especially when he was still feeling somewhat embarrassed about the fact that being scared of a dead body was the reason he had escaped the rapid-aging disease that had affected the landing party there.

"Come in." The Russian accented voice of young Chekov could be heard as soon as Uhura buzzed the door to his quarters.

As soon as the door slid open, Uhura walked inside and immediately noticed the navigator seated on top of his bed, holding a medium-sized, stuffed black and white mouse on his lap. "How are you doing, Pavel?"

Chekov put down the stuffed mouse and looked up at her. "Vwell, it hasn’t been my best day. But you know, Uhura, since I’m in my quarters, I see so many of my favorite things. And then I don’t feel so bad."

"As in the old song, ‘My Favorite Things,’" Uhura said before singing the words, "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..."

Pavel interrupted, "That vwas an old Russian folk song."

Uhura corrected him, "No, it was from the musical The Sound of Music composed by Rogers and Hammerstein in the 20th century which was about the Von Trapp family of Austria who escaped from Nazi Germany."

The young Russian gave her a "whatever" look.

Uhura scanned his quarters and noticed the mementoes that populated it, many of which were related to his homeland. "Pavel, maybe you can tell me more about some of your favorite things that are here. I was always curious."

"Certainly.”  Chekov’s tone of voice was enthusiastic as he nodded.

Pavel grabbed a porcelain box with holographic artwork on both the top and the sides of the box that depicted people dancing. He then handed it to Uhura who exclaimed, "Oh, this box is beautiful!"

"These are scenes from the Nutcracker Suite. They vwere recreated from an original painting on black lacquer. And if vwe open up the box, it plays the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,’ and vwe see the dancers dance to the piece." Chekov then pressed a lever and the famous piece from Tchaikovsky’s ballet could be heard, accompanied by a holographic image of dancers who moved in sync with the music.

As soon as the music finished, Uhura smiled. "Pavel, that sounded really great! So where’d you get it?"

Chekov looked at the communications officer, with sincere brown eyes. "I got this for Hannukah vwhen I was six years old. My mother vwas a figure skating champion, so she decided I’d follow in her footsteps vwhen I was four. Vwe performed the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ on ice one December a few years later."

Uhura imagined the scene. "Sounds interesting. In some ways, figure skating is like ballet."

"I vwas also taking ballet at that time. You can’t grow up in Russia vwithout taking ballet. Even the boys take ballet. It is part of the national curriculum. It’s considered great training for other sports."

"Dance in general is considered a great conditioning exercise." Uhura smiled at him. It was a well known fact around the ship that she was considered an excellent dancer.

"Our school vwas doing ‘The Nutcracker’ that same winter so I got plenty of practice at both ballet and skating. My mother gave me the music box as soon as I had gotten home from the skating recital so I vwould alvways be reminded that skating comes before ballet."

The young navigator replaced the music box on the shelf and then grabbed a painted, wooden, twenty-five centimeter tall figurine of a woman, wearing a painted blue dress with a white blouse and a red head scarf which reflected the traditional fashions of the 19th century. He sat on the bed and held out the figurine towards Uhura. "This is a matryoshka."

The communications officer looked intrigued as she held it. "A matryoshka. What in the galaxy is that?"

Chekov smiled. "I’ll open it up." He then removed the top half of the figurine to reveal another figurine that was inside it. The inner figurine was similar to the first, another female, except for being smaller in size and with a slightly different color scheme. After Uhura admired the inner figurine, he once again removed the top and then the bottom, which revealed still another figurine. He kept doing this three more times.

He explained, "A matryoshka is a traditional Russian stacking doll vwhere a set of dolls of decreasing size are placed inside one another. Sometimes the inner dolls are nearly identical to the outer dolls. Sometimes they aren’t but if they aren’t exactly the same, they follow a similar theme."

Uhura examined the figurines. "Very interesting. It would make a great toy for a child."

Chekov nodded and smiled. "Children frequently receive these as gifts. Did you know that many of the stacking toys they make for babies and toddlers vwere modeled on the matryoshka? And not just in Russia."

"Oh, really?" Uhura rolled her eyes at his latest attribution of credit to the Russians.

"And the name, matryoshka, vwas a common name before the Bolshevik revolution of the early 20th century. It vwas derived from mater, the Latin word for mother. The matryoshka nesting dolls are considered to be a Russian symbol of fertility."

"Those are very nice dolls, Pavel. So where’d you get this?"

"I’ll have to tell you the story. As you know, I’m more interested in math and science, but I do really excel at Russian history. I had a great teacher in eighth grade, Madame Atasanova, who made history really fun. She vwas a master motivator. When the school year vwas coming to the end, she promised that she would give a special prize to the student vwith the best average and planned to give it at the End-of-the-Year Awards assembly. To my shock, it vwas me! And the prize vwas the matryoskha stacking dolls you see before you. This particular set reflects the principal colors in the Russian flag: blue, white, and red as vwell as the other flags that have flown over our nation over the millenia.

"Now that you mention it, a lot of countries have red, white, and blue in their flags. Like America and Great Britain."

"The Russian blue is a bright blue vwhile the British and the Americans have navy blue."

With Uhura handing him the parts, Chekov reassembled the stacking dolls into their original configuration and replaced it on his dresser. To the immediate left of the stacking dolls was a brown wicker basket which contained an assortment of brightly colored eggs.

Chekov's ears turned a little red as he began his explanation. "As you know, I’m Jewish and Passover is a major religious holiday for me. However, Easter is one of the biggest feasts for many Russians."

"Was it hard to be Jewish during Easter?"

"Nyet. Usually the week before Easter, my art class in grade school vwould decorate Easter eggs." Chekov paused for a moment and took one of the eggs out of the basket and held it out towards Uhura.

"It’s beautiful and so delicate," Uhura gushed in admiration.

"This particular egg is one from the Khmelev collection. That company manufactures all kinds of decorative items, including porcelain Easter eggs. My mother is really into collecting them. She’s gotten both traditional Easter eggs and Passover-themed eggs over the years. Every spring, she vwould give me a new egg around the time of Passover."

Uhura looked at the eggs in the remainder of his collection. After admiring each of them and replacing them in the basket, Chekov returned the basket to the dresser. After that, he grabbed a small model of a starship.

"You’ll probably recognize this, Uhura." Chekov held out the model starship towards his guest.

She bent over to look more closely at it. "It’s the Enterprise. Wait a second. Those engines are different. They're kind of fatter than they should be. Oh, my gosh! They're the original warp engines like those used during Captain April's command!"

"The Enterprise was launched the year I vwas born."

Uhura furrowed her brow a little. "Now that you mention it, that’s true."

Chekov moved closer to Uhura. "I purchased this model at the Academy campus bookstore soon after arriving at the Academy. I had heard that the Enterprise vwas the flagship of Starfleet and vwas thrilled to be assigned there."

"I always felt that way, too." Uhura smiled in agreement.

"You know, Uhura, I had gotten many spaceship models throughout my childhood. I had a model of Yuri Gagarin’s original craft, a Soyuz craft, some ships from joint space missions between the U.S. and Russia and many others. But nothing meant as much to me as this model of Captain April's Enterprise."

"I’m sure you spent some time at Star City." She, of course, was referring to the Russian version of Kennedy Space Center.

Chekov shook his head slightly. "Not as much time as I vwould’ve liked. Vwe’d go there on class field trips. And then my grandmother vwould usually take me there every year for my birthday. My father, vwell..."

Uhura gave Chekov a slightly sympathetic look. "Your father didn’t support your dreams."

The young Russian shook his head. "He figured it vwas fine to think about space travel vwhen I vwas younger, but as I got older, he kept pushing me to choose something 'more practical' for a living, like an accountant or lawyer."

"That’s a shame."

Chekov smiled a triumphant smile, although it seemed to her somewhat forced. "But I showed him and vwent into space anyway."

"You sure did." Uhura smiled at him in return.

He returned the Enterprise back to its place and gave Uhura a slightly mischievous look. "I have one more favorite thing to show you." He directed Uhura’s attention to the mouse he was holding earlier. "This is Mikhail Mishkin."

Uhura looked more closely at the stuffed mouse. "Looks an awful lot like Mickey Mouse. Even though he’s in a Russian-style costume."

Chekov responded with mock indignation, while insisting, "It’s Mikhail Mishkin. That vwas the original name for the character. I mean, you must admit, that Mikhail Mishkin sounds a lot better than Mickey Mouse. The names just sound better together."

The Bantu communications officer shook her head in disbelief.

The navigator continued speaking.   “I got him at an amusement park vwhen I was a little kid and I’d sleep vwith him every night. I’ll admit it looks pretty worn, but I brought him to the Academy and onto the Enterprise. I know I’m too old to sleep vwith a stuffed animal at night but I felt I needed to check on him after today’s events."

Uhura placed a hand on Chekov’s shoulder. "Sometimes we all need a little reassurance. And by the way, which amusement park did you get him at?"

Pavel gave Uhura a teasing smile. "Vwhy at Disneyland Moscow, of course. You know, of course, that the music from Sleeping Beauty, one of Disney’s masterworks, vwas composed by a Russian: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. So, Disney has a Russian connection to start vwith."

"I guess you’re right on that one, Pavel. Touché."

The pair sat together in silence for a few minutes, admiring his objects. Finally, Uhura spoke.  Pavel, I assume you’re feeling a little better about things."

Chekov nodded.  As the old song goes, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad."

She favored him with a warm smile. "Good night, Pavel." She slipped out the door as he bade her goodnight, and wandered down the corridor to her own quarters. If anyone had been in the vicinity, they would have heard her humming one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's tunes.

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