Category Archives: Experiences

The Unexpected Comeback of the Soviet Spirit due to Pandemics

I was going to tell about this, but tonight’s snowfall makes an ideal backdrop for my story.

I witnessed the final 11 years of the USSR. I was a child, so my memories don’t contain any grim episodes. Instead, I remember the Soviet period as a very quiet time, synonymous with such words as security, safety and peace.

And it was also the time when families were very close-knit and generally kind-hearted. Money was rarely an issue, for everyone was generally pleased with what they had.

Following the demise of the USSR, families began to fall apart. For the second time in the 20th century, after the Civil War of 1918-1922, fathers and sons opposed each other. The civil war didn’t break out this time, but money and the opportunities it provided became the bone of contention. I can’t help pointing out that this expression is a perfect, if sad, metaphor for the conflict that engulfed generations of Russian people.

There was one more important change, apart from money. Younger people began to drift away from their families and homes. Some headed abroad, others to nightclubs. Shops began to work till late, and very soon there appeared those that never closed their doors.

And this was one of the biggest departures from the Soviet times. In Soviet Russia shops used to close any time between 6 and 9pm. I cannot remember a shop that would remain open till 10pm or later. Obviously, there were a few “duty shops”, like the chemists, that would stay open but there’d be only a handful of them for the whole of Moscow.

We often consider any restriction as an encroachment on our freedom. On second thoughts, restrictions help to structure one’s life; without limitations and boundaries people are quite incapable of implementing even the simplest regime.

In Soviet times, when most people finished work at 6pm sharp, they had some three hours to do their shopping. It is true that there were queues at the cashiers, but it’s now clear, why: lots of people had to do their shopping before 9pm. They also had time to meet their friends, visit the theatres and cinemas, walk or attend evening classes and clubs before coming home and spending the evening with their family.

Then, when many shops began to work 24/7, it suddenly became possible to do any shopping at any time. Time with the family became not so important, or it was difficult to make time for them. When you work for yourself, as capitalism often demands, you make your own success and fortune. But, as we have plainly seen, very few people are capable of managing their time well. And, as much as those 24/7 shops were convenient, they also helped to devalue the time. Indeed, if you can do your shopping any time, it doesn’t matter when you actually get to do it.

“Thanks to” the pandemics, shops in Moscow currently work from 8 till 11pm. In the spring 2020, some of them even closed at 9pm or 10pm. Naturally, we had to plan a shopping trip, or we and our pets would be left without food. This added some pressure, but I suddenly realized that I enjoy the quietude of the streets after 11pm.

Before, the traffic never stopped whatever the weather. Tonight there are only few cars, mostly taxis, that snail through the snowfall. People are at home. I don’t think they all sleep, but most of them do.

We hear about different conspiracy theories, but, if my observations are anything to go by, the traitors of mankind may not quiet achieve their goals. By getting back to the normal regime, sleeping when one is expected to sleep, and shopping in the day people are likely to improve their life and perhaps even make it more harmonious.

In historical terms and in the Russian context, this may indeed be a U-turn to the Soviet past and the best it had to offer.

Thoughts on Orthodox Christmas Eve

The Orthodox Christmas Eve is called “sochelnik” after a special meal cooked on this day. In Orthodox tradition, Christmas Day ends the so-called Christmas Lent that lasts from the end of November until January 7th. This Lent, similarly to the Assumption Lent in August, has fixed dates, as opposed to the Great Lent in spring and St. Peter’s Lent in June.

According to tradition, the faithful are not allowed to eat any food on Christmas Eve, except for “sochivo” – a mix of cooked wheat and honey, sometimes with the added dried fruits. I must admit I’ve never cooked it yet, and in fact, the last week of Lent was difficult to fast because my body demanded that I enjoyed the festive time.

The faithful have been asked not to visit the churches this year, and the service at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour can be attended only by special invitation. I suppose one may express their surprise, if not anger, with these facts. So, let’s remember that Jesus was also born outside the city and laid with the animals. We are in the same cradle this year, as Jesus, so let us focus on the essence of this holiday. A Child is born in cold and poverty to become the King. So we in our homes and in different state of being welcome the Light of the World to change our lives for the better.

Some Notes on the New Year Night 2021

I’m sure you’re interested in what safety measures are undertaken in Russia for New Year Night 2021. Here’s a short digest:

  • shops close at 10pm;
  • restaurants shut down at 11pm;
  • ice rinks close at 7pm;
  • no official street festivities;
  • New Year fireworks can be watched in the city centre but people have to have hot drinks on them, as no cafes or street vendors work;
  • underground and public transport work all night;
  • Red Square in Moscow is shut down for visitors for the night.

New Year in Russia, just as Christmas in the UK, has always been a family holiday. Two or three generations sat down to one table to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new. With time, youngsters began to get together for huge celebrations at the restaurants and regional hotels. Due to virus, the tradition is back, although some families have to celebrate New Year separately for health reasons. My Instagram friend had a baby this October, and then her parents fell ill. So, she is meeting New Year with her husband and their baby daughter. But their New Year Night 2021 will be truly blissful.

We’ve had some sleet today, and some local folks are setting off fireworks already. I’m off to walk my dogs, and then I plan to go out to snap a few photos of the year 2020 as it is drawing to a close. I’m very happy as I’m on the verge of great changes, and I sincerely wish all of us to find happiness and faith, whatever happens in the world.

Other posts in 2020 Xmas.

new-year-night

Bye, Year 2020! Happy New year 2021!

I’ve been looking through my posts here in which I tried to draw a line under the previous year. It was good to see for myself what experiences got me well prepared for the year 2020.

Back in the Day

There was a marriage break-up in 2006, a loss of job in 2008, yet another one in 2009, lots of travelling in 2010 and various events in 2011, more travelling and events in 2012-2013. In 2013, I started teaching. In 2014 my grandma died, the pound sterling rate doubled, and I found myself in a bit of jeopardy because I couldn’t get my books and academic photocopies back in the next six years. I rarely mentioned my extensive translation work here, except when it was literary translation. At the end of 2015 the neighbour upstairs got everyone below him severely flooded, so until 2018 I had to deal with a complete makeover of my flat. I was also an editor-in-chief, then a head of the department, and I started to perform as a singer. I couldn’t always maintain my blogging, so between 2015 and 2017 LCJ was offline. All these experiences, however unexpected and unwelcome, taught me to stay calm amidst any kind of storm, to be agile and flexible, to rely on myself but also to trust others, and to be patient.

My Year 2020

This explains why in 2020, when people were going mad because of distant work and learning, constant home living, and all sorts of restrictions, I was in the position when I could actually give them advice and provide help. I followed my heart, and it always brought me more good.

Some great things that happened to me in 2020:

  • I translated 4 books, due out in 2021;
  • I had 5 books published, 1 electronic and 4 printed, The Hammock for the Falling Stars I mentioned before;
  • starting from summer 2019, I listened to 9 online courses on finance and psychology;
  • I translated and voiced a course on front-edge technology for aesthetic medicine, orthopedics, dentistry etc.;
  • thanks to the above, and also my friends Adrian and Marco, I was finally able to get all my books and papers back to Moscow (here’s the mention).

I didn’t travel much, but I happily resorted to following a few Instagram accounts of people who live in countries as different as Bali and Italy and tell us about their everyday life.

Thoughts on Year 2020

Overall, I’ve had a fantastic year 2020. I realise this sounds ridiculous to some of you, so I’ll explain. I’ve had my best results in all my life when I took a complete responsibility for every action. I made my own choices, I followed my decisions, and I put myself first. Now, as far as I know, “I” for many people include their relatives, at the least, if not also friends, job, country and mankind. And this is the problem: we cannot be responsible for the mankind. We can be only responsible for ourselves as a part thereof. We cannot be responsible for our relatives, except for how we interact with them. It’s a totally different subject, but basically, if another person is unable to be happy, we cannot and shouldn’t make them happy at the expense of our own happiness.

My Wishes for Year 2021

For the year 2021, I want to wish us all to be patient and flexible. If it’s true that the virus is here to stay until 2023, then the new year will come “equipped” with more instability and danger. There will be more restrictions, more pressure, and more uncertainty. So I pray that we all stay calm and faithful. This storm is also of spiritual nature, it especially hits control freaks who are very fearful deep inside. As it is quite clear that the events are out of our control, please don’t fear what you don’t know. Instead, build on your strengths and find faith. With faith, we are unconquerable.

S Novym Godom! Happy New Year!

happy-new-year
May the year 2021 bring you joy, keep you healthy and let you see the good chances!

Moscow Mayor Promises No New Lockdown

An autumnal park in Moscow is still the place for peaceful walks

While a new lockdown has been announced in several European countries, the Moscow Mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, hopes to avoid the drastic measures. To do so, the following measures have been implemented:

  • no public transport access for pupils aged 13 to 18, pregnant women, people over 65, and those who have disabilities or chronic illnesses;
  • shops’ working hours restricted to 7/8am till 11pm;
  • masks and gloves are mandatory in shops, on public transport and in crowded, busy places;
  • at least 30% of workers to work out-of-office, except those whose presence is critical;
  • leisure centres closed until the end of November;
  • night clubs and bars’ visitors must obtain and scan a QR-code (until the end of November);
  • if hospitalised, a person can only receive food packs from the relatives; personal visits not allowed.

We are waiting to hear about restrictions on visiting the places of worship. This Wednesday, when the Russian Orthodox people celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Kazan, one of holy icons that played an important role in fighting the Polish and Lithuanian intervention in the 17th c. November 4th (the day of victory over the intervents) has been celebrated since the 17th c., minus a few decades when November 7th (the day of October Revolution) was celebrated instead. It is the day when Russian people traditionally visit churches. And this time, unlike the Great Lent, the faithful will be able to participate in the service, albeit in masks and gloves.

Moscow is obviously affected most, as it is bigger, and more businesses and people are located here. Incidentally, in Paris, people have been leaving the capital ahead of a new lockdown. This is unlikely to happen in Moscow, as a lot of famous dachas are not adapted to winter conditions.

I suggest we all keep in touch at this time, so please share your experience of living through the pandemia, suggest the topics we can discuss, or look at my brisk notes on the first wave of epidemics in spring this year.

More posts in safeathomeinrussia

The Mask as a Test on Inner Freedom

For the second day running one of Russian radio broadcasters, VestiFM, is discussing a truly vital question:

How to make citizens wear a mask?!

The question sounds crazy because “to make” is to force someone to do something against their will. In the days of “we shan’t be slaves” a mask is called nothing but a “muzzle”. According to this logic, the task is, more or less, to make the Russian citizens wear muzzles.

Dogs are shocked: people are wearing muzzles

A MASK: FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY

Since March 2020, just as you, I have been reading various opinions of the doctors as to whether a mask protects you, and how well, and if the demand to wear it at all times is really justified, and whether this runs against the Constitution and the civil rights, etc. Likewise, I cannot doubt that the virus exists, and people fall ill, among them – my friends and their relavites.

Add to this numerous publications about the “Illuminati conspiracy”, and I suspect that someone really wants to see all the craziest forecasts come true so we can witness “apocalypse now”. You see, the TV passions are no longer exciting, but a live catastrophe is just the right thing!

You know what I think? I think that the virus, the pandemics, and all related restrictions run a check on the degree of our inner freedom. We may call it Jesuitism and abuse, or look for the culprits. Or we can admit that the most aggravated are those who are in no way responsible for their lives. For them, to wear a mask is not a measure to protect oneself and everyone around; it is a pain because the inner restrictions (which sees no-one but you) are now coupled with the outer.

Believe me, this is one’s personal choice. It has nothing to do with the circumstances, place-and-time, or the “wrong” head of state. This is one’s own fear: to fail, to take responsibility, to make a decision, to choose. It is far easier to find a scapegoat and send it off to the desert, so one can sit back and keep fearing.

William Holman Hunt, The Scapegoat (1854-1856, Manchester Art Gallery)

You may disagree and say that age is a factor, but let me disagree with you, too. Anxiety has nothing to do with age. It is a consequence of a person’s desire to control – especially if the object is out of one’s sphere of influence, in principle. Today we witness people who are ready to give their all just to prove that the mask is not necessary and can be done without.

A person who takes primary responsibility for their life is doing the following in the present conditions:

  • Seasonal prevention;
  • Wearing protective equipment;
  • Avoiding, if possible, busy places;
  • Looking after oneself, the near and dear, and friends.

And what do some people do instead? Anything, except looking after themselves. Still, if anyone is really awaiting the Doomsday, please remember the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Five wise virgins took with them the oil for lanterns, the foolish ones didn’t. Then the latter ran out of oil and couldn’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Parable of the wise and foolish maidens

To look after oneself and wear a mask in busy, crowded places is the task of the wise virgins. Yet Christianity respects one’s free will, so it is only a fine that can make “free citizens” wear masks. Meanwhile, my friend was attacked on the Moscow underground when one such citizen tried to rip the mask off her face.

WELL, WHAT IF ALL THIS IS TRUE?

One final thought, especially for those who love conspiracy theories. Suppose, all this is true: there is a conspiracy, the Masons and the Illuminati, the digital concentration camp, and so on. Suppose even you’ve had an epiphany, and now you are dead certain as to who is guilty of all this mess. To begin with, any such culprit is an illusion; the real masterminds remain behind the curtains, so you shouldn’t be too pleased with your guesses. Secondly, what’s next? Most likely, there’s nothing you can do. Are you planning to keep on living in spite of these terrible people’s ? Then remember that the main goal is to reduce the population of the Earth. Smart, free people are indispensable in the face of a pandemic: it is thanks to their irrepressible love of freedom and concern for others that the goal is achieved much easier.

Look after yourself. And use a mask.

The Russian original text

Other posts in LCJ Author Corner, safeathomeinrussia, and News.

My English Library Returns to Moscow

My library is finally back home. After I had moved and posted everything that needed to go before anything else, there only remained hardbacks and photocopies to be transported from Manchester to Moscow. That was the end of December, 2013.

In 2014, my grandma died, then the anti-Crimean sanctions struck, a little later, in the aftermath of the flood, we were faced with a complete makeover of the flat… The prospect of bringing the books and papers to Moscow was delaying with every passing month and year.

Then I made a resolution to have them all back to Moscow by the end of 2019. And when that didn’t work, I didn’t back down but instead adjusted the deadline. I suppose I was as determined as Cato the Elder when he professed the imminent destruction of Carthage. None of us knew exactly when this would happen but both of us were determined to live to the day. Well, I certainly was.

So, the books are finally here, and I have also been able to appreciate the long-term friendly ties that remain despite the boundaries and time. One friend helped to pack the boxes, another arranged the posting. Here in Moscow I had some books delivered by the courier; a few I picked up from my local post office; and one I had to collect from a remote post office in a taxi.

This weekend was spent putting the books on the shelves. The papers are still to be accommodated in their new abode. One thing I have already done was to look through my treasured Unseen Vogue and People in Vogue editions. In one of the pictures you can see Wallis Simpson and the former king Edward VIII, photographed by Cecil Beaton.

QR-codes in Moscow Are Introduced

We’re in the new week of quarantine, and QR-codes in Moscow are now necessary to obtain if you need to go to work. Officially, this is due to the Muscovites’ below-average observation of quarantine. Indeed, a lot of people, especially youngsters, still go out, so now they will have to order QR-codes in Moscow that will then track their movement and whereabouts.

As for me, I’m in yet another week of distant teaching. There are many advantages, and perhaps my dogs appreciate the sudden absence of people more than I do. The biggest disadvantage is the need to operate multiple devices. In the past, if we used a textbook, then I didn’t need either phone or the Internet. Today, I often use both a textbook and the Internet, and I conduct a session via a phone.

Other posts in #safeathomeinrussia

A Roman Bath Morning

Encircled by four-legged friends, it’s so tempting to stay in bed longer. But you still have to get up. Now, just about every visitor to this hall in the Louvre stops at this bath to admire it. I and a few tourists from Australia decided that we would happily accommodate this one at our houses. And so, the question: if indeed this bath were yours and you knew it was waiting for you, would it make you more eager to get up in the morning?

A Roman Hall at the Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Liverpool: In Search of The Beatles Story 

The first time I visited Liverpool was in November 2002. The weather was typical of the English North-West in autumn: above the nil, wind and RAIN.
It should be noted that the trip was an act of appeasement of this Russian girl who was ready to love Manchester United FC provided that no one would stop her from adoring The Beatles. You see, Mancunians are peculiar people. In their view, all best things had happened – or are happening – in Manchester. Therefore, Liverpool, or London for that matter, is a nuisance that throws its shadow on the splendour of the red-brick city. (A note: Liverpudlians secretly giggle at, yet uphold, this ‘competition’). God knows what I had to listen about Liverpool! All people there stretch “i” sound, it’s raining there, Scousers keep outplaying MUFC in the Premier League and at various championships; and on top of that, there is an incomprehensible urban planning and roads that are impossible to navigate. However, as I was eager to even take the train, and my hosts couldn’t risk letting me go on my own, we eventually went by car. 
…and for some reason it was the day of our trip that the firemen trade union had chosen for their strike! To avoid strikebreaking and any incidents, the lifts were switched off throughout the country, communications with the firemen were aborted, hence anyone using electrical goods, shaving and cooking in microwaves was doing so at his or her own risk. We nevertheless went on our trip, but you surely do understand that Liverpool was the cause of it all?!

None of my company knew the city and had barely ever visited it, so we spent a long time searching for Albert Dock where The Beatles Story Museum was located. At first, we ended up at a car park which was at the opposite end of our destination, so we had to brave the rain and wind. In search for a parking space we had to go as high up as level 6 or 7. And whilst going downstairs wasn’t much trouble for any of us, walking back up the stairs presented a challenge even to the healthier ones, who didn’t suffer from asthma and had no problems with legs. The parking was located somewhere near the university, and, as I recall, it was the first time that I saw some tropical plants, like palms, fluttering pathetically in the wind. Later I would see many an unfortunate tree, like those ones, that somehow got settled in the English North-West and in Wales and were courageously soaking wet in the intermittent, cold local rain, the icy winds tearing apart their leaves. 

The road to The Beatles Story was long, though not winding. We had no idea where the museum was, so we took the direction in which everyone wagged and waved. We had to stop regularly because the adults had difficulty walking. We got hungry and popped into a cafe; I tried scrambled eggs with salmon for the first time. This part of the journey took about an hour and a half. Mancunians kept looking for ways to pick at Liverpool, but, apart from the weather (which hardly differed from Manchester), there was nothing to discuss.

After lunch we went on to search for The Beatles Story under the rain. The longer you live in England, the more you realise that the rain is accepted as an inseparable part of life, its absence denying life altogether. Or at least without the rain life becomes palpably incomplete. That time in Liverpool, looking for the museum, I also figured that it was under this perpetual rain the young Beatles had been gathering at each other’s houses, composing and rehearsing songs, and then going to the historical Cavern club to play a gig. They soaked to the bone and got cold but still went wherever the music was taking them. 

Finally, we almost reached our destination: we got to the other end of Albert Dock. Yet we were in Liverpool that evidently decided that those arrogant Mancunians had to get beans for their sharp tongues. On our right a wall was rising, in front of us the boats were floating, and on the left a small bridge was leading to the other bank of the dock. Unconsciously, instead of all this we expected to see some remarkable building with a running inscription, like the British Museum or the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, for shouldn’t Liverpool have been proud of its famous citizens? But alas, there was nothing of the kind. Looking around in despair, I saw two street-signs, one near the bridge, another next to us. Both had “The Beatles Story Museum” arrows pointing at each other. Where they intersected, stood a red Royal Mail post box pinned right in the middle of the little cobbled space where we stood. 
The epic journey was becoming unbearable. This magical mystery tour seemed to be endless but then we noticed a man with his young son. To our question he confidently waved towards the brick wall, and we turned around it and immediately stumbled on a green garbage bin and a sort of cabins painted in the style of the Beatles’ cartoons. And a little farther there was the museum building, with a running inscription, but the entrance led downstairs, rather than upstairs, and The Beatles Story was beginning with the very first steps…

From The City of Optimists by Julia Shuvalova