Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Omsk, Russia- Day 89: Olga's Russia
Olga - our hostess in Omsk is an English professor at the Law faculty who has lived in Omsk all her life. As we sat at her small kitchen table late into the night, she explained the challenges of everyday life in Communists Russia and narrated stories of her personal losses and tragedies. As someone who was born in 1940's, she has witnessed the hardship of not only her parents and grandparents but also the lack of choices in present day Russia for her grandchildren. After the fall of Communism, she says the country has merely changed hands to another set of thugs and made little material difference to regular folks.
Her grandfather was branded an enemy of the state and executed shortly after the 1918 revolution. In the years that followed Olga recollects seeing her parents and grandmother live in a cramped apartment with little to eat and few job opportunities to earn a living wage other than at state owned factories with deplorable working conditions. Her mother was a pediatrician but even that didn't ensure a decent life. A few years back she lost her husband to cancer and her daughter to a car accident, yet she shows an amazing appetite for life and is full of questions about America and the countries that we have visited.
Like any grandmother she dotted on Isaac and insisted on making us elaborate meals even though it wasn't included in our lodging arrangement with the Home Stay association through which we found Olga.
Omsk is a pretty enough town and is known for having the most number of Lenin statues that any other city in Russia. The highlight was being invited by the church caretaker of Omsk Cathedral to view the city from the bell tower and to see the golden onion domes up close.
Boris - the caretaker said that I was the first Indian he has ever met. Since Moscow I have been a bit of a novelty; perhaps because Indians are not common in these parts or perhaps because I don't look anything like the Indian movie stars from the 70's and 80's that they are familiar with :)