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 in savings after food expenses.
Marina said she had borrowed money – in part to publish a book of poems and essays by local people – and has struggled to pay it back, taking out higher-interest loans to pay down existing debt. She hinted she was paying sky-high annual interest rates and facing personal bankruptcy.
Like many Russians over 40, Marina said ”life for the average person was better under communism than now.” She said her husband ”didn’t survive” the transformation of the 1990s, which she called a ”genocide.” She recalled caring for her ill father while raising her child during those years.
The tears welling in her eyes disappear when she turns the topic to literature, her passion. Marina organizes a weekly Sunday meeting of enthusiasts at the top floor of the museum, where they read aloud poems and other literature.
Marina said she holds a yearly writing contest among the public, publishing the best poems in a book. The government no longer supports the annual publication and she hasn’t been able to find money to publish 100 copies of last year’s collection.
As for Lenin, Marina said her ”whole life is connected with him” in some way. She went to the same school that Lenin attended and wore pins with Lenin’s face on it as a school girl. She said she has a favorable opinion of him, highlighting his promotion of schooling and literacy.