MOSCOW: Alyona, 21, was sitting in the Moscow metro wearing sunglasses, a flower-pattern dress and pink sweater. She said she is from the Moscow suburbs, about an hour from the city by train. Alyona said she studies at a medical institute and works at the moment at a military hospital.
Irkutsk: Aslan, 16, was smoking a cigarette near some old wooden homes in Irkutsk, dressed in an all black sport outfit. He said he was born in Grozny, Chechnya in 1998 and immediately moved with his family several thousand kilometers to Irkutsk. Did his parents sense something or was it luck that they moved in 1998? A year later, Grozny would become a horrific war zone. Aslan isn't quite sure what path his life will take - he says he is interested in the medical and oil industries - but he knows where is life will end. "Grozny is my hometown. I was born there and I will die there," he said with pride.
ULAN-UDE, EASTERN SIBERIA: Chris, 16, was walking in the center of Ulan-Ude dressed in big, black boots and black leather coat with silver spikes. She was carrying a yellow schoolbag that was in the form of a cartoon character. Chris said she wanted to be a "certified heart surgeon" and hoped to study abroad, potentially in Finland. She said she thought the level of medical education would be higher in Europe. I asked why a heart surgeon. "It is an amazing feeling to hold a beating heart in your hands," she said with passion, holding her hands together as if she actually had a heart. Chris added she had visited a morgue in town and "didn't experience any fear" as she walked past corpses. Chris then kindly offered to call a friend whom she thought was worth interviewing for my project. She waited with me a few minutes until the friend arrived, intoduced him and then left to finish her day.
Sakhalin: He was walking in the center of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in a traditional Russian winter hat around 5pm, perhaps returning home from work. He said he was born in Sumy in Eastern Ukraine, studied medicine at Moscow's top medical university and interned there as a paramedic. For the past 37 years, he has been working as a physical therapist on Sakhalin Island, a Russian oil and gas province in the Pacific off Japan.