MOSCOW: "Clothing should match," said Muscovite Olga in perfect English when I asked her to describe her style. She was strolling by herself across Red Square on a Sunday evening right before sunset. Olga said she taught English to workers at western companies in Moscow such as Deutsche Bank and Boeing. She now teaches English privately.
MOSCOW: ''I came here to make money and build my future without any help from my parents,'' said Shakh, 22, who was born in Kazan and raised in Samarkand. He moved to Moscow 4 years ago. ''I always dreamed of achieving things on my own and the time has come to do that.'' Shakh, who lives with his 2o year-old brother, has worked at various jobs over the four years, including Burger King. He currently works as a barman, but dreams of being a rapper. ''It is impossible [to become a rapper] - I don't have any sponsors or such acquaintances,'' said Shakh, who likes 50-cent and Russian rapper Timati.
MOSCOW: Tanya, 27, was riding across Red Square on a yellow-turquoise bicycle right before sunset on a weekday evening. A manager for strategic planning at a ad agency, Tanya says she doesn't often get a chance to bike. She often returns home late from work, so only gets to bike at best once a week. However, on this particular sunny day, her employer held an outdoor corporate event. She left early, went home and got her bike. "I try to ride at any opportunity as summer doesn't last long." Born in Saratov region on the Volga, she moved to Moscow to study and stayed upon finishing. She earned two degrees, studying at two faculties at the same time.
RED SQUARE: Ivan and Nadezhda, 22, were crossing Red Square right before sunset, Nadezhda's bright dress making them stick out from the crowd. They said they live in the Siberian oil town of Surgut are in the middle of a long vacation. They came to Moscow to visit Ivan's grandparents after a week-long stop in a Nizhny Novgorod village, where Nadezhda was born. They were then headed to Prague. Ivan and Nadezhda said they were in Moscow last year and I asked their opinion of the city. Nadezhda was surprised at the amount of street underpasses under reconstruction in Moscow. They said that Nadezhda’s mom joined them on the trip Moscow, a city the mom hasn’t visited in 26 years. Nadezhda's mom was surprised by the changes in Moscow, in particular, the skyscrapers and refurbished parks. I asked Nadezhda and Ivan about their view of Surgut. Nadezhda would like to see a refurbished riverside in Surgut that she sees in her home region of Nizhny. Ivan, a future pediatrician, wants to see a specialized children’s hospital in Surgut as well as a refurbished train station. I asked how they met considering that Ivan grew up in Surgut in Siberia and Nadezhda in Nizhny. Ivan said that his friend went to study in Nizhny Novgorod and became friends with Nadezhda. The friend put the two in touch and then Ivan and Nadezhda continued to communicate by Internet until Nadezhda moved to Surgut. Ivan has a few more years to study to finish his medical training.
MOSCOW: Vazgen, 66, was walking across Red Square at sunset, wearing a red shirt, red shoes and bow tie with matching handkerchief. The graphic artist said he made the bow tie and handkerchief himself by cuting up a straight, long tie into three pieces. ‘’I love tying a knot,’’ he said, when I asked if he often wears a tie. An Armenian with roots from Nagorny Karabakh, Vazgen said he loves poetry and always buys bilingual books to practice his English. He loves the work of Emily Dickinson, am American poet who lived a secluded life, never marrying or having children. I asked the pensioner if his children were also artists. He said he didn’t have children, but still hoped to. ‘’I am not too old,’’ he said.
ST. PETERSBURG: Alexei, 41, was hanging out on Nevesky on a Saturday afternoon offering pedestrians a ride on his motorcycle. Alexei said he first started riding at age 10, when he lied to get into a bike class for those 12 and over. A few years ago, while riding around St Petersburg in the early afternoon, he decided to have coffee on Red Square. By 10pm, he said he was sipping cappuccino on Red Square, having traveled 700 kilometers in about 8+ hours.
Igor, nearly 30, was crossing Red Square on his bike amid a heavy snow storm right before New Year's. A former gym trainer with more than five years experience, he said he had biked about 7 km to Red Square and planned to bike the rest of the day. He said he planned to spend the New Year's night biking around Moscow with his new girlfriend ... just like he did on Dec. 31, 2013.
I passed Kristina as she walked with her friend on Red Square around the time of the 2014 New Year. We talked next to GUM shopping center, whose bright window lights created a colorful background. When I asked Kristina what she was wishing for in the new year, I expected to hear something like "a trip to Spain/Italy." Instead, she said she hoped her team would win the Moscow judo championship.
Photos of Moscow's Kremlin