A Postcard from the Real Russia

The South African Dispatch Online reports:

AN East London woman has written a book detailing her adventures and frustrations of living and working in the Russian capital for three years. The book, titled 23 Months of Extreme, is a diary account of Lisa Hirschbeck and her husband Robert McIntyre’s life in Moscow from 2004 to 2007. Hirschbeck, a born and bred East Londoner who matriculated from Hudson Park High School in 1991, studied accounting after leaving school. She and McIntyre were married in 1999 and, after a number of years living in East London, decided to pursue work opportunities abroad. “A lot of our friends had gone overseas to work so we decided to do the same,” she said. We had a choice of going to the US or Moscow and decided on the latter because we believed it would be more interesting.”

They initially spent a week in Moscow before moving to the city permanently. But three weeks into their new life, the couple were stopped by four militsia, or police.Even though their papers were in order, they were forced to pay a bribe to avoid being detained.Hirschbeck said the experience had been shocking, but it also gave her a new-found understanding of what foreigners in South Africa were subjected to.“The police there are very corrupt and it has definitely given me a better understanding of what foreigners here go through, especially if they don’t have the correct papers,” she said.

The couple faced numerous challenges in adapting to life in Moscow, like overcoming language and cultural barriers. “They don’t have the same retail system that we do here,” she said. “Most of the bigger shopping malls are on the outskirts of Moscow and were far from where we lived.  There are a lot of corner cafés where you can buy groceries, but things are not packaged the same as in South Africa and it’s in a different language.“We spent about two weeks looking for salt before we found it.”

Hirschbeck said they had also battled to adapt to the five-month long Russian winter. “It was quite hectic, we’re not used to that kind of weather. The snow would sometimes be piled 12 centimetres thick on the sidewalks.”  Hirschbeck said it had taken her six months to write the book and another six months to find a publisher. She now lectures in accounting and taxation to second-year students at the University of Fort Hare in East London. “It was an incredible experience, one I’m glad I did but one I would not do again,” she said.

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5 responses to “A Postcard from the Real Russia

  1. that doesn’t sound so bad. . .

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    Compared to what, a concentration camp? Is that the standard by which life in G-8 member Russia is to be judged?

    Maybe that should be Russia’s new tourism promotion slogan: “Visit Russia this summer! You won’t be gassed. We promise. Probably.”

  2. c’mon – have to be idiots to look 2 weeks for some salt.

  3. Typical British subjects in Russia: “there was so little written in English, did you know that they even use a different alphabet? How rude. They put salt in a square box instead of a round one! And it says SOL on the side instead of SALT, they have a different word for everything, how on earth does anyone find anything there.”

    “They don’t have the same retail system as here.” How rude! “The cashier sits down while they scan the groceries, it took me two weeks to figure out where the cash register was.”

  4. Actually Marc, they were South Africans.

    Big difference.

    And stop whining on about being rude, have you ever seen Russians in a foreign country?
    Russians come to New Zealand and complain about the “blacks” being allowed into the same restaraunts. Considering that NZ has worked very very hard to stamp out racism, funnily enough we are not too happy about Russian immigrants.

    Besides, the main point of this post was talking about the police corruption I believe.
    “They initially spent a week in Moscow before moving to the city permanently. But three weeks into their new life, the couple were stopped by four militsia, or police.Even though their papers were in order, they were forced to pay a bribe to avoid being detained.Hirschbeck said the experience had been shocking”

    Now that is rude behaviour, but from the militia, not the Yarpies.

  5. Andrew, “militia” is rude (to foreigners) everywhere. I’ve been badly treated by german police in train crossing Germany (from netherlands to switzerland) – my colleague (she was lucky to buy the last couch in the sleeping car) as well. the family sleeping in the couchette asked her “but why did they treat you like that?”

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