12 August, 2009

The Russia Diaries: 12 August - The Young

"You're sixty years old. Medicine won't help."
- Anton Chekhov

* * *

Later exhausted and drained from our "very sensible" trip to the post office we drive to  Novodevichy Cemetery only to discover it is closed. Damn.

We sigh, concede to return next week and walk around the beautiful river bank, taking in the setting sun, the extremely, demonstratively affectionate couples snuggling on benches, the dogs, the ducks and babushkas all sitting still as anything, lost in thought.

We buy cold drinks and head back to the car, ready to pack up and head for the train station, The Red Arrow, and for our sojourn to St. Petersburg.

On the way home, Vadim tells us his children and Emanuelle will be in Petersburg at the same time.      "Perhaps you could met?" he suggests, "though it is a very large city and they will all be at the disco..." he grimaces. "I worry for them," he admits, "and... how I envy them."

The lost time. Lost opportunities. That is a theme with Vadim. In Irina one can clearly see the Russian characteristic of acceptance, of spiritual endurance.

But in Vadim it is another matter. Vadim knows of and cares little for the details of economic ideologies, but on a human level, thus far, he appears to be an individualist, and almost, one might say, somewhat ashamed of it.

     "Nastia..." he sighs, "Nastia signed up for fashion school in Milan and got on a plane by herself at 19. She doesn't even know what that kind of freedom really feels like to the likes of me. Communism is a distant shadow of her past, something she barely remembers. And why should she? Why?" And he is quiet for a long time.

We drive along. I wonder if he is thinking about the juicer. I wonder if he is thinking about Nastia's current Italian visa troubles. The day we arrived she had gone to the Italian consulate and been denied her student visa. It was a paperwork issue, and after Kit assisted Vadim draft an English letter clearing the whole mess up, everything was off with her student acceptance letter and all was well. But she returned home understandably distressed. And it was precisely this distress, this notion that world is her oyster for in many ways, it is; that was the thing that both amused and hurt Vadim. That, and of course, Emanuelle. And the juicer. And perhaps the notion that she is leaving not only his house but his world. The only familiar world he knows.

This isn't about the juicer or the boyfriend or the fashion school. It isn't all about her growing up. It is more about an uncertain and unfamiliar world. For her, for him, for everyone. It isn't simple. And yet, in truth, it is.

     "And Arkady?" he continues, laughing loudly, "Arkady is a born businessman! An entrepreneur! He owns a flower shop with his mother on Tverskya! He renovates old cars, races them, and sells them! He is studying for his doctorate in science! Everything he touches turns to solid gold!" He shakes his head, smiling. Confused perhaps, but proud. "And did you know he knows everything? And, by the way, he is always right. He won't stop talking until you agree with him! Where would Arkady's place be in Communism? They are so lucky and so... ignorant..." he sighs. The Young.

They all nod.

And it is in this moment when I truly feel that I am Arkady's age. No. More than that. Not only his children's age, but I feel a part of the generation that shares the auspiciousness of his visions.

I nod too. But my nod is a vow: to not to waste the opportunity that is my life, nor the gift that is my freedom.

The young and The Old.
I wonder.
I wonder if it is always the same.


  1. s interesting and heartbreaking



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