St. Petersburg: You can figure out Olga's job by looking at her legs. Covered in tattoos, including a matryoshka, Olga is one of the growing number of female tattoo masters in Russia's cultural capital of St. Petersburg.
MOSCOW: Years ago, it was rare to see a pensioner in Moscow well-dressed. Many senior citizens stood by popular metro stations selling cigarettes or flowers to supplement their pension. Russian pensions have risen several fold over the years, outpacing inflation, while many Moscow families have more money to support their parents. Though many pensioners still sell goods on the road on at train stations in regional towns, the number of pensioners selling goods on Moscow's streets has fallen. This senior citizen reminded me of the changes over the past fifteen years. She stood out even from the fashionable crowd outside one of Moscow's busiest shopping centers.
ULYANOVSK: Marina is the director at the Lenin family museum, and if the communist leader were alive today, he would probably use her life story as an example of the deficiencies of the current Russian state.
A teacher for twenty years before becoming director of the museum 10 years ago, Marina lives at home with her 26 year-old son and several cats and dogs. Her son is unemployed and 1/3 of her very small salary goes to housing and communal services, she said, probably living her with next to nothing after food expenses.
MOSCOW: Svetlana was walking down Arbat dressed in black and carrying a single red rose. She said she was a poet and had just finished a 3-hour walk with a friend, who had given her the rose ahead of the official celebration of Woman's Day. Svetlana said she now writes poems about Moscow and started to mention various poets she admired, none of whom I recognized. She then asked if she could recite for me a French poem. When I said I didn't know French, she said she would recite the Russian version of it. It may have been 8 or 10 lines long and it was about nature and waterfalls. I asked if she spends a lot of her time reading poetry. "Poetry isn't meant to be read, it is meant to be listened to," she said and then hurried off to meet someone.