Travel Reference
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N OW I get to enjoy the Russian tradition.
During our trip so far, I've seen so many made-for-the-movies scenes of families drop-
ping loved ones off to catch a train, or greeting them with hugs and love as they arrive. It
happens everywhere, at every stop the train makes. It's hard to find that kind of poetry on
I got a small taste when Zhenia and Ira picked us up two days ago. But this evening I am
getting the full treatment.
Zhenia and her friend drove to the station separately, just to make sure they're able to say
“David, this is for you,” Zhenia says. She hands me a magnet, with an artist's rendering
of Nizhny's rivers and landscape. I'll cherish it—this city that looks so much like my home,
We hug, as Pavel reaches behind me and grabs my roll-aboard suitcase from my hands.
“David, let's go, we have to board.”
Yes, we .
Pavel walks, dragging my suitcase along, boards the train with us, finds our seats with us,
and gets us settled until it becomes clear our departure is imminent. He and Sergei share an
extended hug, and Pavel kisses Sergei on the cheek: “Sergei, you come back soon. David,
very nice to meet you.”
He gets off the train and positions himself on the platform, with the entire family, waving
and waving as our train begins to move. I still have a photo of the scene on my iPhone—the
flash off the window distorts it some, but there is Pavel, in his black leather hat in the cold,
pressing his face against our window, and Ira, bundled in a black jacket and hood, smiling
warmly at me and Sergei, posing as I snap the shot.
Russia can be so maddening. The day before, I listened to Alexei describe the horror of
being tortured at a police station, then ignored after being fully exonerated, living his life
without the use of his legs and with no one seeming to care but his sweet mother. This coun-
try's system of justice—this country —is so deeply flawed.
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