While spending time at an English school in Dublin, an Irish friend I met asked me to write down what I thought about Ireland. It was suggested to me that I say something about Russia too. So here goes:
I am Russian, from distant Siberia. I grew up in a different world – in a country that is not a member of the EU. As it was said by one of my friends, I live in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it’s damn cold here. When I told Irish people that I am from Russia, they always asked me if it is cold there and if I am good at drinking vodka. It’s so cold that we prefer not to walk in the streets in winter and not to sit on a bench, because the temperature is minus 30 degrees. I just hate vodka. I feel ashamed that this drink is considered to be my country’s national drink. Producing it is not a complex technological process. It’s not art – anybody could make it, and this decreases its value and prestige.
Where to Visit
So asking you, the Irish, what part of Russia you would like to visit, I hear Moscow and St. Petersburg. Good choice. These are the main cities – rich with cultural heritage. They are magnificent – yet I have never been there. My opinion is based on photos from the Internet. These cities are expensive for Russians, as they are tourist hotspots. Foreigners are welcome there because they have a higher income and make a contribution to increasing GDP by spending money there.
From Another Part
I am not from that part of Russia. I am not from a European area. It’s like being from a different state separated from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
I grew up in a small village, in a place where you’re told about culture, but you never feel and experience it. There are no theatres. People don’t go to cafés, because there are none. They take off their shoes when they enter a house because the streets are so dirty. You have to wash your boots every day. There is litter everywhere because everybody is littering and it does not bother them. (I heard Ireland was somewhat like this fifty years ago!) There are no parks that you walk in with your family in the evenings. If you decide to go for a run, everybody will stare at you and shout to get away to the stadium.
Not the Same Friendliness
Maybe this is why I preferred to stay at home and not face the world outside the flat – with its ugly concrete buildings and its people not satisfied with their lives and themselves. It was better to live in my own world. (I suppose this is the struggle of a very intelligent person in a poor environment!) I did not want to look straight ahead of me. I walked with my eyes on the ground so as not to notice the other people, who would make me feel worse by giving a hard glance and making their tension felt.
I am not going to tell you how wonderful, nice and pleasant it was to get to Ireland. These words have lost their power and can be colourless now. For the first time I was proud of the many people I met, of being just human, being myself. So many things uplifted me.
When you walk in the park on your own and accidentally meet a stranger, he or she greets you.
When someone jogs into you, he says “I’m sorry.”
When your host family is talking to their son, they are not against you hearing it or observing this important moment. They are sharing it with you.
When you stumble, there will be no laughter.
When you speak, they are listening.
When you can’t find the words, they are waiting for you to find them.
When you are standing in the street with your map opened, they ask if you are lost and need help.
If you are not wearing the right clothes, they don’t make you feel a misfit.
When you walk along the streets in a good mood, you can smile to a stranger and get a smile back.
In general, Ireland is a good place. It makes you want to be better. The Irish bring out what is best in you. Your inner world does not get damaged, but enriched. And it feels so good. I have never felt such freedom and delight in being myself. Thank you, Ireland. You kindled a light in me. I’ll let nobody blow this out.