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April 20, 2015

Love and Spies

The cost of falling in love with an American

Vladimir Filonov / MT ─ Pavlenko holding the photo of a U.S. sailor, which she hid behind her wallpaper when the NKVD came to arrest her.

Valentina Pavlenko first met U.S. seaman Bill Rowgraft at a large dance party in Arkhangelsk.

Pavlenko, then 15, knew she would pay a heavy price for falling in love with the bright-eyed sailor depicted in a photo that she has kept for the past 65 years. Little did she know how much.

“I hid his picture behind the wallpaper when the NKVD came for me”, said Pavlenko, now 80.

Pavlenko is among thousands of girls from three northern ports who frequented Interclubs, clubs established by the Soviet government for foreign seamen during World War II. The clubs — located in Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and Molotovsk (now Severodvinsk) — offered movies, music and dancing to sailors working in Arctic convoys, which delivered vital supplies under the Lend Lease program from August 1941 to May 1945.
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April 14, 2015 , , , , , , , , ,

Cold and Bears

Bumbling travelers forget cold and bears

Yury Nadezhdin, a rescue worker in the Far North, does not like winter. For him, it means people doing stupid things – and killing themselves in the process.

“I always look toward winter with a feeling of dread”, said Nadezhdin, who has led the Murmansk region’s search and rescue team for the past decade.

This winter has been relatively injury-free so far, he said, but six thrill-seekers died last winter on the slopes of mountains that his team had marked as off-limits.

“I will never forget the girl from St. Petersburg who was caught in an avalanche last winter,” Nadezhdin said. “She could have survived. We found her quickly, a half-hour after receiving the call. But all our efforts to resuscitate her were in vain”.

The 29-year-old woman was among a group of four covered by an avalanche while snowboarding on Aikuaivenchorr Mountain, near Kirovsk, 150 kilometers south of Murmansk. At least one of her companions, Alex Mamontov, also could have survived because he was buried under only 80 centimeters of snow, Nadezhdin said. Rescuers failed to find him in time because he had neglected to wear a snowsuit with a satellite tracking device.
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May 5, 2011

Grechka

Unusual Russian Food: Grechka

Grechka (Buckwheat groats) is a cereal known mostly in Russia. Roasted whole-grain buckwheat is mainly used to make grechnevaya kasha, a fluffy porridge with a special, nutty aroma.

Buckwheat is one of the most nutritional cereals. It is rich in easily digestible proteins, vitamin B, and especially in rutin, an antioxidant that plays a role in restricting the spread of certain types of cancer.

These health benefits make grechka a popular dish in Russian kindergartens and schools. Children like to eat it with a little milk, and some add sugar to it.

Russians have eaten grechka, which is a product of flowering plants from the Polygonaceae family rather than a type of grass or any kind of wheat, for more than 1,000 years. But during the Soviet era it was, like many other products, officially defined as a “scarce food.” During this period, serving grechka was a sign of prosperity.
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May 5, 2011

Tvorog

Unusual Russian Food: Tvorog

There is not really any adequate English translation for the word “tvorog,” a very popular dairy product in Russia. It has sometimes been called farmer’s cheese or cottage cheese, but this does not quite capture it. In fact, all kinds of cheeses are tvorog in the initial stage of their preparation. Generally speaking, tvorog is concentrated sour milk with whey separated from curd.

Tvorog contains about the same percentage of protein as beef and more than milk. Its high levels of calcium and phosphorus, as well as vitamin B4, make tvorog a nutritious food for children.

The best kind of tvorog is homemade, of course, but the process takes several days. Some people buy tvorog at markets from babushkas, who have the time to make it properly, but it is possible to buy quality tvorog in stores. Some people are fond of popular brands like Blagoda and Svalya. Others, however, maintain that tvorog from dairies in the Moscow region such as Russky Tvorog and Savushkin Khutorok is better than any famous brand.
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May 4, 2011 , , , , , , , , ,

A Father’s Crime

Russian father’s desperate crime to save his son

Faryusa Kostina holding Sasha. The boy received a new liver in Belgium.

Fayrusa Kostina, a nurse from Chelyabinsk, has not explained to her son why his father went to prison. She never told anyone before she brought her son Sasha, now 6, to the St. Luc University Clinic in Brussels, for a liver transplant.

But on Friday, she was finally ready to tell how her husband had tried to hold up an armored car in a rash attempt to secure money for their boy’s operation. She spoke because health authorities confirmed on Friday that they were finally legalizing the operation that saved her son’s life — a child-to-child organ transplant.

A spokeswoman for the Health and Social Development Ministry said Friday that guidelines were being prepared that would allow the transplants. “The guidelines are now being discussed by doctors and will be implemented in several months”, the spokeswoman said.
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May 4, 2011 , , , , , , , , ,

Traveling to Russia

Easy to get in mess, hard to get out while traveling to Russia

He calls his conviction and pardon on espionage charges a nightmare.

Edmond Pope considers himself lucky to have escaped 20 years in prison. But the U.S. businessman says he can do nothing about the nightmares that started with his arrest on espionage charges in 2000.

“I enjoy life here, but my days in Lefortovo jail will remain with me the rest of my life”, Pope, 61, said by telephone from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Pope, who owned two companies brokering the sale of Russian technology, spent 253 days locked up in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail after his arrest on April 3, 2000. A court went on to convict him of acquiring classified blueprints of high-speed torpedoes, and he was freed under a presidential amnesty on Dec. 14.

It is rather easy for foreigners to get into trouble in Russia, even if they are not interested in torpedo blueprints, said Pavel Astakhov, the lawyer who defended Pope.


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May 4, 2011 , , , , , , , , ,

Rich and Poor

Russian Rich and Russian Poor, A War

Vladimir Filonov / MT ─ Voronino resident Anatoly Nikitin showing the remains of his banya, which mysteriously caught fire in January.

Voronino, Moscow Region – The first dead dog was a friendly red mutt named Ryzhukha. She did not belong to anyone, but everyone in the village liked her and fed her.
“It was a neighbor, Vladimir Yegorov, who found the dog with her throat slit near his house last November”, said Alexander Morozov, a resident of Voronino village, located 22 kilometers northwest of Moscow.

The body of the second dog, a German shepherd, was found in December, on the main road leading into the village. The dog had been shot in the head, Morozov said.

The odd occurrences did not stop there. A fire engulfed a banya. Rude security guards abruptly blocked access to the nearby river. Telephones rang with menacing calls.

Voronino residents have no doubt who is behind their troubles: Araz Agalarov, a flamboyant, Baku-born businessman with a fortune that Forbes estimates at $1.2 billion.
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May 4, 2011 , , , , , , , , ,

Russian Disabled

Russian Disabled Stuck in a Separate World

Igor Tabakov / MT ─ To cope with life in Moscow, including getting up and down the city’s many staircases, wheelchair users often have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Every morning, Vadim Voyevodin performed the same ritual: Bending over almost parallel to the ground, he lifted the baby onto his back, slung a towel around his son and knotted the edges around his chest. The little boy remained pressed close to his father’s body throughout the day as he cleaned the house or cooked.

“I always dreamed of having a child, but I never imagined that this dream would come true at a time when I was single and handicapped,” says Voyevodin, 59, who lives in a one-room apartment in northern Moscow with his son, now 16, who is also named Vadim.

Voyevodin has not left the apartment in more than 10 years. Many disabled Muscovites, especially those with spinal problems, are effectively locked within the four walls of their homes — doorways and elevators are rarely big enough for wheelchairs, and the Moscow metro and bus systems are not designed for people with disabilities.
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May 4, 2011 , , , , , , , , ,

A Foreigner’s Nightmare

A Foreigner’s Nightmare in Dubrovka

Igor Tabakov / MT ─ A government sniper targeting the front entrance to the Dubrokva theater from a nearby building on Oct. 24, 2002.

When Svetlana Gubareva woke up in the intensive care ward of a Moscow hospital, one of the first things she heard was President Vladimir Putin offering condolences to the families of the 129 hostages who died in the Dubrovka theater.

Gubareva wondered what had happened to her fiance, a U.S. citizen, and 13-year-old daughter, who like herself was from Kazakhstan. But Putin did not utter a word about the foreign victims of the 56-hour stand-off, which began five years ago this Tuesday when 42 Chechen rebels stormed the theater in southeastern Moscow during a performance of the “Nord Ost” musical.

The omission would have been insignificant if it were not for the fact that it encapsulates the way that authorities have blithely ignored the foreigners taken hostage in the attack, refusing to assist them in any way or even offer them the small compensation handed out to Russian citizens, Gubareva and others said.
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May 4, 2011 , , , , , ,

Russian Contraception

Sales statistics show that the sales of birth-control pills in Russia start going up in May and remain higher than usual throughout the summer. Encouraged by the warmth and sunlight and anticipated vacations, it seems that Russian women want to be prepared for whatever may come their way.

The number of Russian women who use the pill as their primary form of birth control remains low – only between 3 and 13 percent, according to various surveys. The corresponding figure in Europe is 52 percent.

“I hate pills. They make me fat and kill my libido,” said Irina, a manager at an IT company who declined to give her last name. Women discussing taking the pill on Internet forums voiced similar complaints.

“When I start taking pills, I feel no desire for sex. So then why bother to take them?” says a woman with the handle Netochka. Others found it next to impossible to take them at the same time every day.

It would certainly be an overstatement to say that the pill helped facilitate a sexual revolution in Russia the way it once did in the West. Intrauterine devices (IUD), which appeared in the early 1980s, were much more “revolutionary” in terms of introducing modern contraception to Russia.
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Love and Spies
Cold and Bears
Grechka
Tvorog
A Father’s Crime
Traveling to Russia
Rich and Poor
Russian Disabled
A Foreigner’s Nightmare
Russian Contraception