Avoska purchased in Kiev around 1970 and used until arrival in Chicago 1976.

String bag.  Originates from the Russian word avos meaning “just in case.” In the Soviet Union, one would not want to be caught without at least one avoska in his/her pocket or purse.

Because of chronic shortages of almost everything, avoska was a lifesaver when something happened to become available along the way. Stores did not provide bags to carry a purchase.

The invention of the avoska did not take place in the USSR. At the end of the nineteenth century, a Czech entrepreneur Vavřín Krčil started a business making women’s hairnets. Things did not go well, so he attached handles to the nets and passed them off as bags. His never-patented invention became popular in the 1930s, especially in the USSR. It took little space and was strong; you could just throw it in your pocket and take it out anytime. Remember that it was long before plastic bags became available and one had to carry their own packaging when shopping. In the Soviet Union, avoska was made at the enterprises of the society for the blind, from harsh threads, and could hold up to 70 kilos.

The Czech invention got its funny name in 1935. The famous Soviet comedian Arkady Raikin many times performed a skit where he appeared as a peasant who, holding the popular mesh bag repeated: “And this is an avoska. Avos (maybe)  I’ll bring something in it.” The monologue caused laughter in the audience, because every Soviet citizen knew very well the desire to “bring something home.” By the way, Raikin was not the inventor of the word “avoska” itself, although he has repeatedly said that he was proud of his find. The author of the monologue about the peasant was a comedian, Vladimir Polyakov. Raikin only spread the word invented by Polyakov.

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