St. Petersburg: She sat outside a hotel, her luggage at her side, reading something on her phone. She was sporting an unusual outfit: a shawl on her head, a dark green dress and red boots. The young woman had she had moved here from Belarus and had just been asked to by the hotel to find another place to live. She didn't want to explain what happened, but was confident she would find another place to stay. She said she didn't want to go back to Belarus, explaining that she preferred the life in St. Petersburg.
Andrei, 21, was smoking near a metro stopped, dressed in all brown and carrying a white bag. He said he had moved to Moscow about six months ago ”to test myself in this city.” I asked him how things were going. He said they were going well, until recently. He got a job at a hotel, but was downsized shortly afterward amid the crisis. He then got a job at a restaurant, but that went bankrupt….
Dmitry, 36 and a father of two, is among many from the former USSR that have moved to Dubai – at least temporarily – in search of new and better opportunities. Go into any major hotel or shopping center and you have a good chance that a Russian-speaker will service you.
Nastya, 17, was walking around the center of Minsk taking photos with her school friend. She said she is interested in Japanese culture and has begun studying the language. The biggest event in her life last year was developing a relationship with a Russian youth. She said they first met 3 years agoand mainly kept in touch via Skype, only seeing one another a few times over ghe years. In February 2014, he moved to Minsk to be closer to her.
This English-language student said the biggest event of the pasy year was a trip to Italy, her first visit to a foreign country. "I alsolutely loved it. People there are happy, friendly, open...not rushing around and angry at the world." She said she chose English as it's "the language of languages" and loves to sit and think long and hard how to most beautifully translate literature. When not studying, she plays experimental music with her bass guitar. The photo was taken in front of her university.
Anya was sitting in a tiny cafe next to a bus station one early morning with her fellow classmate Angelina when I walked in. Anya, who has Polish roots like many Belarus citizens, said she wanted to study landscape design in St Petersburg, Russia but her mother didn't like the idea of her being far from home. Thus, she settled for web design in Minsk. Anya said she hopes to go to St Pete once she finishes her Web design degree. Her friend Angelina though wants to go to west to Poland to continue her studies. When I asked about work in Belarus, they said web designers could find jobs, but the salary may not be high - a comment I heard repeatedly during my stay.
Anastasia was walking through the center of Minsk in nearly all black, including Gothic-styled boots. I expected her to talk about an interest in some obscure hard rock genre. Instead, she passionately talked about her interest in recreating 15th century German life with a club she joined a few years back on the recommendation of a now ex-boyfriend. She said her group consists of about 30 people, nearly split 50-50 between men and women. She said they take part in Middle-Age festivals around Belarus and neighboring countries. I asked what attracts women like herself to such clubs. "It's romantic - knights, beautiful dresses, music. You leave all your problems behind. It's an unforgetable experience." The red 'scarf' she is wearing is a Middle-Age replica she made.
Victor, 59, was sitting on a bench in the center of Minsk and I approached him to get his views on the city. He ignorned the questions and talked about his painting career. He said as a university student in USSR, he - like other students - was sent to a village to help with the potato harvest. While taking a break in a village house, he noticed a typical Belarusian rug with flower designs on a black background. The babushka let him take it. Twenty years later, he came across the rug amongst his stuff and it inspired a painting in his 'Snow in Black Square' series. The series itself is a play on 'Black Square' by Kazimir Malevich, who lived a few years in Belarus. Victor's site is: www.vitart.net
Artyom & Denis perform chillout and ambient music outside their regular jobs. Artyom said he started experimenting with music while attending a military school and played trance for a while. I asked how he got into these other music genres. "I was resting with a friend by a river early one morning outside Minsk, when we heard ambient music and it inspired us."
German was serving me cofee at a restaurant in the center of Minsk when I noticed the tattoos on his arm. They were from the film Spartak, a culture which is an inspiration to him. He said he is a mixed martial arts fighter and has taken part in 3 bouts. He has 'Fight til the End' tattooed across his chest.