little seems fair. I have kept that in mind at every stop on this journey, tempering the fun
and wild moments with a dose of reality.
I N V LADIVOSTOK in 2011, Sergei, Rose, and I met Olga and Dmitry Granovsky, married and
both thirty-nine years old. They each had previous marriages that ended in divorce. He's
a musician, a fashionable, confident guy who wears rock-star-looking sunglasses. Olga is
a professor of political philosophy at the local university, a warm, generous middle-aged
young woman with an easy smile. Last time we spoke, Olga told me she was disappointed
in Russia's government. She and Dmitry thought often about taking their four children to
live in another country. “Our society is sick,” she said. “It's ill. It's not healthy. We have
no society.” Still, she said, her family loves life in Vladivostok—the coast is beautiful, they
enjoy vacationing to some of the islands to the north, they certainly felt no impulse what-
soever to join the antigovernment protests raging in Moscow around the time we spoke.
Rose and I felt a close connection with this couple—akin to what I felt with Andrei
in Sagra. We could see ourselves in them—in our thirties, happy with our jobs, enjoying
our friends, the local music scene, and vacations together. The difference, of course, is that
Rose and I don't live in a society we see as “ill.”
Dmitry picks me up my hotel in the afternoon. He's wearing the sunglasses I remember.
“It's great to see you again,” I say, climbing into the passenger seat—on the left side in his
“Olga is at home,” he says, speaking impeccable English like his wife. “She hurt her
foot. But we can bring you over, and we can all have dinner?”
I know that in Russia, going to a friend's house doesn't mean just dinner—it often means
hours of eating, drinking, and socializing. And I'm fine with that.
We stop by a takeout place, and Andrei runs in and grabs some sushi and a Hawaiian
pizza. “I'm also going to cook some meat—but want to make sure we have enough.”
Then we drive outside the city to a massive apartment complex that is one strange
stepchild of Russian bureaucracy. Dmitri explains that the government built this new com-
plex of skyscrapers as housing for military veterans. But far fewer veterans than expec-
ted actually took advantage. Of those who did, and received units for dramatically cheap
prices, many decided to make an extra buck by renting to nonmilitary families. This is how
Olga and Dmitry got their place—not exactly what the government intended. But decisions
were made somewhere in the government, forms were signed, a program was set in mo-
tion, money was passed, Olga and Dmitry got a nice flat for their family and a military vet
somewhere got some extra dough. Who's asking questions?