In front of my building I once found a children’s toy pram that someone had thrown away. In place of the wheels, which had fallen off, some caring hands had attached round beer mats or coasters. They were glued to each other so well that each wheel seemed to be very strong and very durable. I imagined how a little girl’s father, after returning home from work, had made these little wheels from the coasters he had picked up at the bar, sitting under a dim light with his daughter next to him, who would be watching her father at work and holding her breath.

In my earliest childhood my favourite toy was a cook made out of rubber. He had pink cheeks and wore a white hat. Apparently I was teething and chewed up this poor guy’s shoes. The cook could no longer stand on his own feet. Having grown up a little I made him some crutches using wire from champagne bottles.

Bottle caps from vodka – in my imagination, Beskozyrka-style caps – turned little soldiers into sailors, and quarter-litre bottles, the so-called »chekushkas«, were themselves painted with black gouache to become mortars. During art classes at school we used to make our Soviet cartoon characters (Crocodile Gena and Cheburashka) out of beer bottle caps. Empty beer cans became orbital stations.

The children’s and the adults’ worlds were very close to each other. We did not know what Lego was, and we would not have had time for it anyway. We were busy conquering outer space!

Sergey Bratkov