Friday, 13 July 2012

VIII Russia: Thunder Crawl

Soviet war cemetery, Weissenberg, eastern Germany.
In return for a special ‘Victory Day’ orange and black ribbon, and a sew-on police badge, given to me by a young Ukrainian fellow passenger, i proffered a photo of the war cemetery in eastern Germany, with its Russian inscription above the entrance; “To the Best Sons of the Soviet Country”. Thankfully the frontier crossing was painless, after which we continued via Anton Chekhov’s birthplace, Taganrog, to the bus station in Rostov-on-Don.[1] There are plenty of west European cities with a less affluent feel than this. The hotel at the nearby rail terminal was a bit pricey, so in clement evening climes i made for the centre, looking out for a cheaper place, and/or an internet cafe. I found the latter and made a sortie into cyberspace, but there too options were limited, so going back outside i carried on as before, picking my way through clusters of high-spirited Victory Day celebrators. Eventually i settled for a place to sleep under a walkway in a court yard, but was discovered very early in the morning by someone leaving for work, wishing to know what i was doing. It wasn’t enough when i said i was a pilgrim – there are no particular pilgrimage destinations in the vicinity of Rostov – but when i said that my goal was Mexico he seemed to be amused, and said i could lie in for another hour.

[1] Nobel Laureate and soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University in the late 1930s. Since 2009, the year after his death, his magnum opus The Gulag Archipelago has been compulsory reading in the high school curriculum of the Russian Federation. On the subject of atheism, in a book by Edward E. Ericson Jr., "Solzhenitsyn – Voice from the Gulag," published in 1985, he was quoted as saying:
“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."

1 comment:

  1. I wonder whether you more crazy and/or brave to do a journey like this! Actually, I think you must have a good faith more than anything!

    keep us posted and see you hopefully in Channings when you back!

    Good luck and God Bless James!