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During her boarding school days, no boys ever looked at

her. Or, if they did look, they turned away in disgust. The

kinder-hearted called her

tsarevna lyagushka –

a frog

princess, while the more callous named her

zhaba –

a frog


After graduating from school

she was fortunate enough to

find work in a canning factory in a small town. While

meagre, her earnings were sufficient for her to get by. No

one particularly befriended her, but they also did not

ridicule her. Nadezhda Mihailovna learned enough Latvian

to satisfy her daily needs and soon felt like a full-fledged

local. Shortly after she also found a room with a kitchen in

an old house with the bonus use of a small garden. Thus in

the fall she could store enough vegetables for the whole

winter. Whatever was left over, she sold at the roadside.

In the nearby woods she came to know every path, each

tiny track, bog and marsh. Often, even before she went to

work, she managed to do a quick tour of the woods to

gather flowers, mushrooms or berries. The chanterelles,

king porcinis and orange-capped scaber stalks she sold. Of

all the mushrooms she herself liked the honey gilled

mushrooms the best, although the locals never picked

these. And she loved cowberry jam.

Nadezhda Mihailovna tried not to look in a mirror. Having

brushed her teeth and washed her face, she instantly

reached for a towel and turned her back to the mirror. Only

occasionally, by chance, she caught glimpses of bits of

herself. Now and then a flash of a slanted eye, then the