R IS FOR RUSSIA
Alyonka has always been there as I was growing up, peering out with her round blue eyes from the kiosk windows, store shelves, and, sometimes, from the floor, crumpled up. The chocolate had been around since the 1960s, so it was a staple in my parents’ lives as much as in mine. I’d often see an article in the tabloids, where the journos talked about the origins of the girl on the cover: the illustration was adapted from the portrait of photographer Alexander Gerinas’s daughter Yelena, and was named after the daughter of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Although, to be fair, Alyonka is the diminutive for Yelena anyway. In 1999, someone invented Kuzya, the friend of Alyonka, a boy who looked like a younger Alfred E. Neuman from MAD magazine, and who was a good few years older than the toddler Alyonka. It was creepy and he did not last. When I was a teenager, it was also common to use the foil from inside the chocolate bars—sturdier and more fire resistan than the regular stuff—for home made plastic bottle bongs. Which, according to the legend, led the manufacturers to make a smaller version of the chocolate. Now there’s also bite sized candy pieces in separate wraps which you can arrange in a pattern for a very unsettling sweet feast.