Khabarovsk: They said the were on their way to the Amur riverside "to get some fresh air." While it was rather warm for Khabarovsk, not sure it was really time to be wearing sneakers...
Khabarovsk: While many people do seek to leave Khabarovsk, there are those that move here as well. Sisters Eliana (left) and Diana were leaving the Chinese market in Khabarovsk when I met them. Diana, 23, said there parents were born in the Caucasus, met in Khabarovsk, but moved back home after they got married. Diana was born there. But their parents returned some 15 years ago to seek better opportunities. Eliana was later born in Khabarovsk. Diana, who recently finished her degree, said she plans to stay in Khabarovsk and has already started a family of her own. "I really like Khabarovsk - it's a big and beautiful city," said the mother of two. ''As for a job, she is confident she will find one post her studies. "Of course you need to search hard for a good job, but I will find one. I am a very driven person."
Khabarovsk: Vlad was wearing a Kangol 'bucket' hat, bright sneakers and jeans as he talked with a classmate on the chilly streets of Khabarovsk. Vlad, 19 and a 2nd year university student, said he wants to pursue a career in marketing, which he says he is passionate about. When asked if they would like to stay in Khabarovsk, many students say they would like to move to western Russia, St. Petersburg in particular. Vlad said he would like to live and work in the nearby Asia-Pacific region as likes the culture and atmosphere. When I asked what changes he would like to see in Khabarovsk, he mentioned both tangible - more roads and a metro - and intangible - attitude. "I'd like to see more polite and positive people on the streets. That is the main thing for every place and Khabarovsk too."
Daniil was walking back from school in the center of Khabarovsk with a winter hat that read 'DOPE.' I wondered if he knew what the word meant. As I stopped to talk to him, he said ''We can speak English if you like'' in quite a good accent. I asked where he learned his English. He said his parents sent him and his older brother to study in Los Angeles. His brother ended up living there two years before returning home. Daniil said he only spent a few months there and was ''surprised by the size of LA. You need two hours to get from one end to the other. It takes less than 30 minutes to get from one end of Khabarovsk to the other.'' I asked him what he would like to see in Khabarovsk. ''Big modern buildings, more parks and places to bicycle,'' he answered. Daniil keeps up his English by watching US movies and TV serials on his Apple laptop at home. ''I don't like Russian serials. They are made for old people.'' Daniil said he would like to make films or videos some day and prefers detective genre.
While in Khabarovsk, I poppoed into a new 'hipster' bar called Beer Beard and met some of the interesting patrons. Elizaveta, 18, was with her friend Zoya at the bar. She lives in a village of about 600 people some 30km from Khabarovsk. She studies at two universities in Khabarovsk and gets up between 5am and 6am to prepare for classes. She said she has been working since 11 - after her father passed away - to help her mom, a village school teacher. Her mom saved up and sent Elizaveta to the Black Sea in the south of Russia last summer for her 18th birthday - the first time Elizaveta flew on a plane and saw the sea. "I cried from happiness - like a child," she said of the experience. Elizaveta - like many other young people I met in the Far East - would like to move to St. Petersburg. "It is an amazing city...romantic..each street full of history."
This 21 year-old mother (left) was pushing a child in a sleigh along the icy streets of Poronaysk on her way to the park with her friend. Many parents on Sakhalin were using such sleighs to get around town with their young children. Sakhalin has a very attractive financial package for young families with more than one child. Sakhalin residents, it seems, tend to start their families in their early 20s.
Sakhalin: Masha, 31, is a native Sakhalin resident and works as a translator. In her free time, she photographs her Island. I asked her about what changes she has seen on Sakhalin, an oil and gas region, over the years. "15-20 years ago there was nothing here. One Chinese market, a few stores. There was no choice. Now you can find anything. About 6-7 years ago, good cafes, restaurants and hotels started to open." The city has become less grey, she said, something one can see from the housing refurbishment program. But, the cityscape isn’t the only thing that is changing. She has noticed behavioral changes that are also present in Moscow. ‘’If five years ago it was popular to stand on the street and smoke, many people now try to lead a healthy life.’’
Stanislav, a high-school student, was walking along the streets of Poronaysk early one February evening, sporting a Yankees winter hat and yellow sneakers. He said he wanted to leave Sakhalin for the Russian mainland as ''there aren't a lot of career opportunities'' in Sakhalin. Stanislav, who likes to play soccer, said he would like to become a policeman. ''They rid the world of crime,'' he said, explaining his career choice. ''I want to be on the side of the law.''
Slava and Nina were holding hands as they walked amid the rally. Slava was carrying a Russian flag in his other hand, while Nina was carrying four red roses, a camera wrapped around her neck. They said the came as a group of five, including parents and a grandparent. ''My mom doesn't like such rallies, but she was so shocked by what happened that she decided to attend,'' Nina said.
Moscow: Artemy, 23, took part in the Moscow rally that paid respects to slain activist Boris Nemtsov. He was carrying two white roses tied together with a ribbon representing the Russian flag colors. ''I walked alongside Nemtsov during the last rally for peace in Ukraine. He was an important representative of the opposition and one of its longest-serving members. He represented liberal values, which I share.''