What did I ever know about Russians? I was born in Poland, so there was a certain image one had of Russia officially and then there was the unofficial, the deeply rooted feeling one had for Russians. But one barely met them in person. Ever. They did not seem to be interested in visiting Silesia. And that, so I was told, was a good thing.
I met so many people from the USSR later, so many more. Especially after moving to New York. So many Russians everywhere. Those Russians. One knew a thing or two about what they are like. And some were like an aplified version of their reputation. Whatever that reputation happened to be at that moment. Especially in New York.
Getting to Moscow was not very easy, as the visa requirements were pretty strict. And some of the questions asked appeared to be those that had been asked the other way before. Someone was seemingly suspecting that I would not leave Russia after experiencing it first hand. I had to prove that I would be interested in returning to the less fortunate world outside. What was there, what could possibly welcome me there?
My experience of Moscow was different than any of the warnings. It was much better. It was much friendlier and funnier. Perhaps because I had learned Russian in school (in Poland and in Germany,) the place did not feel quite as locked away to me as to many others who had visited here before. And I was surprised how I was able to argue with a taxi driver, (and get my way,) or how tourists asked me for directions; Russian tourists. I seemed to belong here much more than I could have ever anticipated. When asking for a line in the Metro, the police woman corrected my choice of a word, but she did not ask or care where I was from. I seemed to be from here, just not quite as quick and not quite as determined as everyone else.
I felt that I should visit the ZOO. This seemed like the place where I would discover how the people here dealt with lifeforms that were kept exhibited and contained. It could be an interesting thing to experience. Animals locked away in Moscow. The ZOO was easy to find it occupies a nicely central location.
The crowds were overwhelming. I probably ended up seeing three or four animals in total. But there were thousands and thousands of people. It was a massive, massice gathering of generations. Humans interested in humans, the animals a mere backdrop, or a prop, perhaps? Touchable animals too. The man who stuck his arm a giraffe’s throat? The horse everyone got to pet. Where had I landed? What place had I entered?
I want to return to the Moscow ZOO. I want to see s much more of this. I tried to enter again, on a different visit to Moscow. But that particular Monday happened to be “Hygiene Day”. No outside visitors were allowed. It could be interesting to visit on “Hygiene Day”.
New York, August 2014