Archive for April 18th, 2009

From Russia with Amicable Regards

Saturday, April 18th, 2009
The famous, onion-domed towers of St. Basil's Cathedral

The famous, onion-domed towers of St. Basil's Cathedral

So I’ve made it back from St. Petersburg, once again successfully navigating the various Russian metro and train systems to arrive back at Jim & Laura Hutchinson’s apartment.  Refreshed with a shower and fresh change of clothes, I headed back out into the streets of Moscow to meet up with a Russian couple outside the Kremlin.

Natashia and Leon are Muscovites I met during my train ride back from St. Petersburg.  Natashia was returning home from visiting her grandmother and she and I shared a cabin on the train.  The train left at 10:20, and I had intended to get to sleep early, as I’ve been desperately short on rest.  I discovered that she spoke a bit of English and we ended up talking until about 1 AM.  It was fascinating to hear a local’s perspective on her country.  She would often simultaneously disparage and commend Russia.  She claimed that post-USSR life in Russia offers many more choices and freedoms for people, but when I pushed to hear her opinion about comparing the quality of life now to life under soviet rule, she was hesitant to say that it was any better now.  “Who is to say it is better or worse now? Do you think your life is better than your parents’ or are your parents unhappy with their lives?  It is just a different life.  We each have a life to live and enjoy, and we have little control over anything else.”  I was taken aback by the wisdom in her words.  I had expected to hear a reinforcement of my opinion that things are so much better for Russia with freedom and newfound affluence.  No more long lines to enter shopping centers empty of all but a few shoddy products.  No more fear of the KGB crashing through your door because of suspicions of dissidence.  No more strict, drab dress codes.  In fact, what she said echoed my own drum that I’ve been beating for years: happiness is a decision, it’s not dictated by circumstance. (more…)