Miroslava (left) said the current Russian economic crisis has pushed a lot of people, including herself, ''to think about starting projects and following dreams.'' She recently left her advertisement job in Rostov to travel around Italy for a few months. ''I want to test myself in Italy, see if I can assimilate into another culture,'' said Miroslava, who has been studying Italian. ''When you travel, you become more tolerant and generous.'' Her cousin Dasha will leave Rostov as well...but for Moscow. ''If you want to achieve something in Russia, you will have to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg.''
Ilya was among a few Ukrainians that packed their bags in January 2014 and headed to XX in the UAE to serve at new, luxury hotel catering in large part to Russian speakers from the former Soviet Union. It was good timing…a few weeks later, the Ukrainian President was overthrown,
Ruslan, 22, a geology graduate student, said his most memorable event last year was hitch-hiking around Armenia for two weeks with his girlfriend. ‘’Armenians are very hospitable - they were not only willing to pick us up along the road, they would invite us for coffee, offer food or even to stay at their places.'’ Ruslan said he met his girlfriend through a rockabilly dance school, where they both take lessons.
Katya was sitting outside a mall on a sunny day before the New Year dressed in all black except for a big, white tank top that was over her turtleneck. As she smoked her cigarette, Katya told me that she had just done some holiday shopping (those are her white bags) and was waiting for her sister. A future designer, Katya said one of the most memorable events of 2014 was an impromtu summer picnick with her friend at 2am in a Moscow park with beer and sushi. She said their spot was an island of happiness amid the homeless, police and trash in the dark vicinity.
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.
Immigrants who have come to Russia to work are also among those hurting from the ruble drop. Eduardo, a Ghana national, was handing out flyers by a major train station in Moscow. He said he came to Russia with hopes to play soccer, but things haven't worked out. He said he is trying to save up $2,000 before leaving. Assuming he spends half his modest salary on food and rent, it could take him a year to save that much money after the massive ruble decline to 70/$.
Occasionally, people I photograph tell some unusual stories, that I question their validity. This was the case with Roman, who approached us in a church in Kolomna (Moscow region). Quite knowledgable about history and religion, Roman said he has been traveling around Russia for the last few years after his wife and daughter were killed, leaving him with nothing really to live for as he put it. He said he was Uzbek by nationality, but raised in an orphanage mainly in Russia. He went into the army and served in Afghanistan. He said he was headed to the south of Russia where it would be warm and where the people are hospitable and may settle there.
I met Garich, a juggler, in the Moscow metro in the summer. He invited me by for tea to see his apartment and juggling studio. A free-lance journalist for more than a decade, Garik said he was inspired to go full time as a juggler after an interview last year with a Soviet photographer that specialized in nude portraits. When Garik asked him how he managed to get away for so long with taking nude photos in USSR, he answered "if you really love something enough, you will find a way to do it." Garik now supports himself by juggling on Arbat street and teaching.
She was walking with her friend at a Moscow park and asked me if I knew where the ice skating rink ticket booth was. I said no, taking notice of her Harlem hat and blue eye lenses. I then asked her if she knew what/where Harlem was. She said no. I asked her why she bought the Harlem hat. She said she simply liked it. I could understand her, recalling the time I bought a jacket with Japanese writing, having no idea what was written on it.
I have seen a few people in Moscow on a unicycle over the years, but almost always at a park. Nikolai was riding near a metro station and I asked why. He said he was a student at Moscow's circus and arts academy and was trying to improve his riding ability. He said his parents realized early on he wasn't headed for an academic career and enrolled him in Moscow's only grammar school with a circus focus. Nikolai says he hopes someday to organize his own circus show and knows his life will always be some way connected with the circus and/or magic performance.