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That’s what it says over the whole swastika/war poster/flower mess now. Antifa are a group of anti-fascists. Every time I see it I think of Cartman walking to Kenny’s house singing “…in the ghetto…”

The weather in SPb has been weird lately. Every day starts out sunny, then it gets rainy. Temperatures are very unpredictable, but mostly chilly. Difficult to dress oneself appropriately in the morning.

We’re pretty much into official White Nights season. I love the white nights, I really do. Though it makes things a bit confusing — you tend to lose track of time in the evenings. You might think it’s 6 p.m. and actually it’s 10:30.

Kindergarten is nearly over. I can’t wait. I have lots of teaching work lined up for summer, but I won’t have to be anywhere every day at 8:45 any more. I become less and less of a morning person every year. Also, I won’t have to wipe any more runny noses or poopy butts. A little Russian lesson: “Ya pokakal!” means “I’ve pooped!” and the kids announce this when they want you to come and wipe them. 3- and 4- year olds aren’t to be trusted to do it for themselves.

Erm… is that it? Oh, Kostia and I sang at a music/poetry festival for losers this weekend. It was like a Russian John Waters movie or something, all of St. Petersburg’s geeks and bohemians listening to each other’s bad poetry. It was part of a larger music festival — there was a real stage, and then there was our makeshift stage next to the port-a-potties. Looking around at the crowd I could sort of imagine I was back in Ann Arbor. It wasn’t bad or anything, I sort of felt at home. I was surprised that Kostia didn’t mind it though, he’s kind of snooty. :-)

Today I was thinking about all the American women Russophiles I know, and realized that they’re all of a certain ilk (myself included): kinda crunchy, kinda nerdy (in a good way, ladies), feminist, not inclined to wear lots of makeup or stiletto heels, vegetarian or vegetarian-sympathizers… you know the type. The ironic thing is, this is the exact opposite of the stereotypical Russian woman. We come here and stick out like sore thumbs. Whatever it is that makes an American girl want to study Russian, it’s got little to do with reality.

Yes, yes, I’m still alive. Everything’s all green and beautiful in St. Petersburg and it doesn’t get dark until midnight and it’s really hard to remember what it was like when it was -30 and we only got six hours of sunlight a day. This is how St. Petersburg tricks people into staying here.

So, those of you reading in the US will have never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest (I myself heard of it for the first time only last year), but it’s been going on since the 1950’s and is like the Olympics of pop music. The event is, basically, a big joke, though I don’t think the organizers intend it that way. The songs are so cheesy and terrible, except for the ones intended to be funny.

And this year, there were several intended to be funny. Lithuania’s entry was to the tune of the playground taunt “Nya nya nya nya NYA nya” and the words were “We are the winners/of Eurovision/vote for the winners!” Germany’s had some ridiculous cowboy thing going on. And Finland’s was a metal band all dressed up in monstrous costumes.

The cool thing is, everyone can vote from his/her mobile phone. Kostia voted for Lithuania. I, however, voted for a winner for the first time in my life — Finland! They won by an incredible margin, proving that the contest is a big joke. And also proving that Finland rules.

Speaking of Scandinavia, and speaking of not being tricked into staying in St. Petersburg forever, Kostia and I are a few steps closer to our dream of living in Sweden: we’ve been admitted to several master’s programs, have chosen which ones we like, and prepared our applications for residence permits. If we get them, we’ll go mid-August and spend a year there. Super exciting, though right now it seems crazy to leave St. Petersburg…

Now that I live in the sleeping districts rather than a cosmopolitan street in the city center, I get to experience a whole other side of St. Petersburg, and not the nicest one either. Aside from the soul-crushing ugliness of Soviet high-rise apartment buildings, there’s the graffiti. Racist graffiti.

If you’re a Russophile, you’ve certainly read about the hate crime epidemic in St. Petersburg. On average, one non-white person gets killed by skinheads every month in this city, and several others get assaulted.

Last week, a swastika appeared on the building across from ours, and another on a nearby fence. Needless to say, having to pass by a big red swastika several times day made me pretty fucking upset. Although there are some antifascist graffiti artists around here as well, several days went by and the swastika was untouched.

The evils of racism and fascism aside, I can’t believe the stupidity and irony of putting up a swastika the week before Victory Day, the biggest patriotic holiday of the year, a celebration of the Allies’ defeat of the Nazis. How ignorant do you have to be of history to be an ultra-nationalist who paints the symbol of a regime responsible for the deaths of millions of your “own” people?

I decided we had to respond somehow. But Kostia was opposed to battling graffiti with graffiti. So, we settled on gluing over the swastika a reproduction of a Soviet wartime poster which read: “The fascists’ legs won’t carry them – we’ll find them in their foxhole!”

The poster stayed intact for three and a half days. It got half-torn off the night of Victory Day, and when I saw it the next morning, I was really bummed. But I was a bit cheered when I came home that evening and saw that someone had scribbled over the visible bits of the swastika with gold spray paint, and painted a flower next to it.

So there are other people who care in this neighborhood! Like the people who edited another bit of graffiti, which read: “Russia for Russians”. Someone crossed out “Russians” and wrote “Everybody”. Then somebody crossed out “Russia”. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it’s better than the original, anyway.

Happy Victory Day! С Днём Победы!

Hey, don’t worry, I haven’t died or anything, and I actually have plenty of new blog fodder. What I don’t have at the moment is any spare time, or free internet access, since moving from the fancy place I shared with Aunt Kelly to the ordinary place I share with Kostia. In addition to my 9-5 at the kindergarten, I’ve been doing some extra work every evening, which gives me just enough time to go home and hop in bed before waking up and doing it all over. At least we get another three-day weekend this weekend, though they’ve moved the Saturday to Monday again. Hmph.

More soon.

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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May 2006