100 Years..., (continued)

Six-year-old Vanya Vedernikov was born in the last tumultuous years of the Soviet Union. His father, Dima, is a wholesale eyeglasses distributor; his mother sells Mary Kay cosmetics. If all goes as planned, Vanya, who is in kindergarten, will go to a special school next year, where students take intensive courses in English, the "language of the 21st century."

Vanya's great-great-grandmother, Maria Mikhailovna, stretches out her gnarled old hands to pull him close. "Come here," she says, and takes his small, smooth hand in hers. "He's a good boy, a smart boy," she says of the child 92 years her junior. "Who knows what the future will be like for this country? But he will do well.

"I'll tell you," she says later, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "Out of all the years of my life, I have to say that now is the best time of all. Sure, things are expensive. But if you work, you can buy things!

"It was a difficult century. But I like the way things are now. I'm happy. This is the best time of my life."


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