Unfortunately I don’t come to my city of birth often enough but when I do the place seems to become more alien every time . The face of the nation is changing, the traffic gets worse, the shopping assistants or the street cleaners seem to be from any other region of the former USSR but Russia, there are more men who carry beer bottles from the early morning-the list can go on.
Of course it’s not all bad, there are young guys who can help you with carrying of the buggy or a very smart looking elderly lady, who gives you a helpful advice regarding the insect bites, while you are queuing in the pharmacy, or the really delicious food that they serve in one of the Coffee Mania’s –not going to tell you which one, because it’s the best one! The waiters there are smiley, the juices freshly squeezed and delicious and I love watching the nice crowd that gathers there every time I go there, be it for lunch or cocktails.
The laws of how things work bewilder me too, for example I wanted to see Giles Bensimon’s exhibition of Russian celebrities called ‘Bed and Breakfast’. It opened last week at Dom Spiridonova /Spiridonov’s house. My sister-in-law and I tried in vain to get into the place but when we couldn’t open the entrance door, we called the exibition’s space phone line-the guy who picked up the phone was not only rude but told us in a surprised voice that the exhibition has closed….having been open for four days only. Is that the sign of success or the poor level of interest?
But the thing that irks me the most is the use of English language in everything, from news to the names of the restaurants or description of services. We have the most beautifully musical and rich language that is full of synonyms, wonderful expressions and history yet we tend to use English terms, while many people don’t actually speak or know English. Where else will you find the bridal shop called ‘To be bride’ or the café called ‘Flat Iron’-I mean seriously, do people even think of the meaning of the words when they use them? What scares me is that we are on the downhill path of losing our identity, our language and the next generation, who might love Grisham more than they love Akunin, prefer American movies to the ones made by Mikhalkov or Bodrov or Hotinenko and who choose to copy the West instead of following our path and being proud of being part of a magnificent nation who is culturally and historically rich.
On one of the nights, my brother and his wife took me out to have dinner in the restaurant on the 22nd flood of the Academy of Science, which had a sweeping view over Moscow. I felt almost lost, barely recognising the skyline of the city where I was born and raised and which I dearly love. There are too many high-rises that look out of places, the buildings stand too close to each other and while I know that progress moves us forward, I had a sinking feeling that whoever is building those monstrosities and betting on making a lot of money for himself in the process, does not think of our past and traditions, while planning the future. And without the past there is no future…………