Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marta craves friendships nearly as much as she craves sweets now. She loves making friends. And she's real good at it.

Funny, but I've met quite a few people thanks to her as well. Playground acquaintances. Here in Moscow, the majority of them happen to be of really diverse backgrounds.

There's a girl whose father is a Syrian Arab married to a Russian woman.

And a girl whose father is Turkish and mother an ethnic Russian from Turkmenistan.

A Kurdish boy and his older sister (I wrote about them here).

A boy whose mother is half-Georgian and half-Russian and whose father is Georgian.

Another boy whose father is Georgian and mother from Belarus (father is fluent in Russian, English and Armenian, in addition to Georgian, while mother is Russophone and regrets not knowing Belarusian).

A girl whose mother is African American and father Russian.

A girl whose father is Jewish and mother a crazy mix of Mingrel, Abkhaz, Turkish and perhaps something else as well. They are leaving for Germany the day after tomorrow, for good.

A girl whose father is Armenian and mother a Mountain Jew.

A boy whose father is Turkish and mother Russian, but who spent much of her childhood in Japan and has some family in Israel.

A boy whose mother is an ethnic Russian who fled Grozny during the First Chechen War.

A Polish girl - named Yulia, of all things.

No Ukrainian friends so far, but we've got plenty of those in Kyiv.

Lots of Russian Russians, of course.

And a perfectly peaceful atmosphere. Except for those sandbox battles for toys that have nothing to do with anyone's ethnicity.

Yes, Moscow is like this - very diverse. The paradox, though, is that there are too many people with village mentality here, all those xenophobes who don't really belong in this huge city. I don't meet them in person too often, thank God, but it doesn't mean they do not exist.

I keep thinking of Iowa City - a village compared to Moscow, but they celebrate Cultural Diversity Day every year there and don't run around demanding Iowa for Iowans. Their attitude towards diversity may be a bit too idealistic, but if Moscow could borrow some of this idealism, it would perhaps change the attitude here to a slightly more realistic one.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 19 is the official date of papa's death, though we'll never know for sure. I'm not myself these days, and today wasn't any different. Marta, as always, is a perfect distraction, as well as bookstores. Today I've bought a 1956 edition of Yosif Orbeli's translation of medieval Armenian fables, a lovely volume, and here is the first item from it, in my quick translation from Russian:

A Drop of Honey

One man kept a store and was selling honey there. A drop of honey fell on the ground, a bee sat on it, but then a cat came running and snapped the bee, and a dog ran after the cat and seized it, and the owner of the store hit the dog and killed it. Near this village was another one, and the dog was from that other village. When the dog's owner learned that the honey seller had killed it, he came running and killed the man. Then the peasants from both villages rose and started a great war amongst themselves, and such a carnage occurred that only one person survived. And all this - because of one drop of honey.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We went to see Antony Gormley's Domain Field at Garage Center for Contemporary Culture today. At the bookstore there I asked myself what kind of book my father would've liked me to buy for him, and Auguste Rodin was the first artist who came to mind. Then I turned around and saw a two-volume Sculpture edition, published by Taschen. I leafed through volume 2, and it opened on a page with Rodin's work almost right away. On the cover of volume 1 is Nike the Winged Victory of Samothrace, my near-namesake that I'm familiar with since childhood. So we bought it. It's a sign, I'm sure, and a good one.

On July 16, two years since my father's departure, mama walked into an air-conditioned Adidas store in Kyiv, to escape the unbearable heat outside. A saleswoman came up to her and started showing the Roland Garros tennis dress collection to her. Just like that, as if she knew. Papa's last time at Roland Garros was in 2004, I guess - the year when Gaston Gaudio won the tournament and I almost turned alcoholic rooting for him from a sports bar in Kyiv. Mama took it as a sign, too, and ended up buying one dress. We'll keep it for Marta, I guess.

We love you and miss you terribly, papa. Rest in peace.