Travel Reference
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There is desperation in his voice. Maybe desperation to hold onto something: His
friends, his grandmother, his village, his image of a Russia that protects him.
It's easy to forget he's only twenty-one.
“From childhood we decided that we would stay together in life,” Evgeni says.
I ask Ivan what he dreams about.
“I have a great wish to travel. But it's not possible.”
There's no money left. Ivan rents his own place. He and Evgeni do odd jobs around the
village to get by.
“I would love to own my own business,” Ivan says. “It would take a certain sum of
money—maybe five hundred thousand rubles [seventeen thousand dollar] to get started,
rent a van. I have a driver's license.” He pauses. “With all the difficulties in life? Will never
We have been sitting for more than two hours. Our tea is cold. I ask if anyone wants
more, but everyone declines. The woman behind the counter has been watching an old
Soviet movie on the television all this time.
“So what do Americans think of Russians?” Ivan asks.
First impression, I explain, is a country full of people who don't smile much. But when
you spend time, as I tell him, you see the warmth and friendship on the inside. Both young
men smile. But Ivan presses on. (Who's the journalist here anyway?)
“What was your worst moment living here?”
“My wife and I were used to living in a country where you can rely on the police if any-
thing happens. I didn't have that confidence here if, god forbid, anything happened to me
or my wife.”
Now it's Evgeni's turn. “Okay, so was there a worst moment ?”
“Fortunately nothing happened to either of us.”
“So,” Ivan says proudly, “your worst fear about Russia never came true.”
“I guess not.”
Ivan smiles. “In our country we don't assume anything about our police. If something
happens on the streets, better not to call anyone. Because it's better to keep your record
I tell these young men how grateful I am to have met them. All thanks to a meteorite.
“There has been a joke on the local radio,” Ivan says: “We are never happier than when
a meteorite lands in the morning.”
I don't even know how to respond to that.
“I was so curious to meet a foreigner,” Evgeni says. “And you know we joked about
how maybe you and this meteorite were not accident.”
“Oh, like somehow I rode on this meteor—”
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