who don't accept. The mayor took a moment, and the smile left his face. Yes, he finally
said, he would consider joining United Russia, if it was in the best interest of the city.
Within weeks, United Russia posted a message on its Web site that Viktor Kondrashov,
the mayor of Irkutsk, had declared his support for the party and would be formally joining
as a member soon.
I T CAN BE so tempting to look for the big battles in Russia—big elections, big rallies, an
Arab Spring. And it can be deflating when you don't see Russia rise up, when you see
what looks like a citizenry that's lazy or resigned. But maybe this is overlooking the smal-
ler battles. Spending time with Nadezhda is leaving me with this feeling of hope. She and
Andrei may be trailblazers. But over time, if more people feel as emboldened as they do to
challenge power, even in small ways, maybe a corrupt government will begin to weaken,
maybe their outdated strategies for clinging to power will become less relevant.
Nadezhda's spirit of freedom and survival in this Siberian outpost has me more excited
to head deeper into this region and meet more people. And to see Rose, who I know will
love hearing about Nadezhda.
“You know, when we checked into your hotel last night, I never imagined we would feel
so much warmth here.”
She shows me photos of her daughters on her iPhone. Her seven-year-old is in a dress,
ballroom dancing with a seven-year-old partner.
“He loves her. We are ready to make him her husband!”
I can tell she misses marriage.
“My daughters are truly what makes me happy.”
I show her a photo of Rose, and she immediately zeroes in on her wedding band, a silver
ring with tiny diamonds that belonged to my grandmother. “Why do you wear silver wed-
I explain that in the United States, wedding rings can be of all sorts, not always gold, as
is the case in Russia.
It's time for our train. Nadezhda drives us to the station and—of course—walks us in to
make sure our train is on time and we know where we are going. For both me and Sergei,
this is the toughest good-bye so far. Sergei and I often talk about how, on our reporting
trips, we so often pick up new members of an extended “family”—strangers so much more
welcoming and friendly to us than they need to be. This makes us feel incredibly lucky.
“Ogromnoe spasibo [Thank you so much],” Nadezhda says, standing in the middle of
the small train station.