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Something about this scene captures Russia for me. In the background, pristine Lake Baikal, a World Heritage site that
the Russian government seems to neglect and underappreciate. Storm clouds impose themselves on what could be sunny
skies. And an old Soviet Lada, symbolizing a previous generation's engineering ingenuity, sits unclaimed on a snowy
shore. (David Gilkey/NPR)
Zhanna Rutskaya used a link of Belarusian sausage as a baton, waving me into her cabin. So began my education about
life on the Russian rails: It's all about sharing food and conversation. Her cabinmate—they, too, had only just met—is
Sergei Yovlev, a die-hard fan of Yaroslavl's pro hockey team. The 2011 team died in a plane crash. Yovlev said the abil-
ity to survive tragedy is “the way the soul of a Russian person is built.” (David Gilkey/NPR )
Albina Ostrovskaya (right) lost her husband a decade ago. Like too many Russian men, he died before the age of fifty.
Her sister-in-law, Tamara, often makes a three-day train journey to Moscow to keep her company. She likes to fit in
some shopping. “Here, I have a rug, a small rug, my clothes, and something to eat,” Tamara told me, pointing at her
overstuffed parcels. She doesn't mind the train at all. “Nice people in the cabins, so we have a good time.” (David
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