Vera Soloview doing tire training in Alaska

Vera Soloview, Class of 2023, a member of the rugby team, had to get creative with her workouts while gyms were closed due to COVID-19. (Photography by Vera Soloview, Class of 2023)

Texts and photos

Through text messages and photographs, Vera Soloview, Class of 2023, tracks her pandemic-upended life. 

This article is part of the special feature “A Spring Quarter Like No Other,” which chronicles the experiences of eight College students. Vera Soloview, Class of 2023, spent the quarter with her family in Anchorage, Alaska. Her brother Vasily, Class of 2021, remained in Hyde Park.

Red Lobster door sign
"If urgent, please text me!" A sign on Soloview’s bedroom door stops her parents from wandering into her UChicago classes. (Photography by Vera Soloview, Class of 2023)

Part One: Chicago

24 January 2020

10:12 pm

Shá (boyfriend): Hey I don’t wanna be over worried or worry you, but apparently the Coronavirus is breaking out in Chicago? Idk just stay safe!! Hard to avoid these things! Also apparently AK is at risk!

30 January 2020

9:58 am

Mom: Good morning dear children. Just the word of warning that coronavirus is in Chicago. Be extra careful, please!

Vasily: I’ll be careful, but I also don’t think it’s too much to worry, CDC has really clamped down on it

11 March 2020

6:19 pm

Vasily: We have not got an email yet, but it seems that this is official: next quarter will be completely remote. It has been leaked to the school newspaper, but an email should be coming soon.

Mom: Wow. Everything is happening so fast.

Me: yes. we will facetime you tomorrow once we have processed this on our own.

12 March 2020

2:10 pm

Shá’s friend: I was gonna ask out a girl in my anthropology class when we got back from break. So much for that

3:06 pm

Shá: Wow I’m just watching the news and literally sports leagues are canceled. Broadway shows. Tons of players and politicians are testing positive. So weird that this is happening.

14 March 2020

7:21 am

Me: i just wanted to say even tho it sucks that we’re being forced onto the online system and essentially getting kicked out of the dorms lol, i’m so excited to be back home and see all of y’all. . . . we can all do homework together

Friend back home: Brooo yeee are ye coming back???

Me: yee i think so, unless all domestic flights are canceled

17 March 2020

10:03 pm

Vasily: First case on campus, a student at Booth school of business

Mom: Stay away from everybody.

21 March 2020

12:30 am

Vasily: How is everybody?

Me: good – washing all my clothes and leaving suitcases outside for a couple days haha

Me: how are things with you

Vasily: Finally completely moved out of Max [Palevsky]. Just now unpacking into [girlfriend]’s apartment.

Mom: Do you have masks? I don’t care what they say. All Asian countries wear masks and keeping it under better control it seems.

Vasily: If they have masks, we’ll buy them.

Mom: Good luck. Otherwise there are videos on YouTube how to make them. Some Russian ideas are really simple and quick.

Vasily: Hmm, good idea.

Vera Soloview's father wearing PPE
Soloview’s father, a notary public working out of their home, in the personal protective equipment he wears when clients visit. (Photography by Vera Soloview, Class of 2023)

Part Two: Anchorage

At the beginning of Spring Quarter, getting up for my general chemistry lecture at 5 a.m. meant getting up before the sun rose. As the quarter went on, Alaska’s five hours of daylight during winter continued to shift into the 22 hours of daylight for summer.

When I was packing, I made sure to take my Alper House door sign from the Max Palevsky dorms, designating me as a Yucatan Tilapia and Shrimp meal from Red Lobster. I taped the card onto my bedroom door, trying to replicate my environment on campus. Because I knew my parents had a tendency of coming into my room without knocking, I made sure to include an “IN CLASS!” sign.

My dad was put on temporary leave from his government job, so he has to rely on his work as a notary public. In the “Before Times,” my dad’s clients would come into our house. This is not an option, especially as my mother is immunocompromised. Now my dad has instructions for his clients posted outside our house.

Winter Quarter is conditioning season for UChicago’s women’s rugby team. In Chicago I was going to the gym three times, on top of two practices, every week. Back home, all of the gyms have been closed. Fortunately, I live five minutes away from my high school’s football field. I bike to the field, run the track, and do any bodyweight workout I can with the equipment left out on the field.