Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Count your blessings

Some of you around Washington may remember Misha Zelenchukov, the Russian journalist who has visited here several times as a guest of this newspaper and of Jon and Kathy Stevens. Misha started his journalism career as a police reporter for our sister newspaper in Siberia, the Kuznetsk Worker. He then moved on to television but lost his job a couple of years ago. He's now working as a security guard at a furniture factory. No longer able to afford his apartment in Novokuznetsk, he's now living in a village outside the city, in a house with no running water and heated by a coal stove.

Misha wrote to the Stevens recently and wondered how they were faring in this harsh winter and trying economic conditions. There's something to learn from the comparisons. A few excerpts from from Misha's letter:

"Such cold (minus 42 F) was last week in my region. Each day I must go beside the small shed, where I store the reserves of coal, and bring the minimum of three buckets of coal to the house..."
After running out of coal in January, he purchased 2.5 tons for $150 U.S.
"This is expensive sum for me. To me they again detain wage. I did not obtain wages for three weeks of November and entire December...
"To have a house in the village - this is much work each day. I must clean snow, pump cold water from column (well), drop snow based on the roof... I do not buy firewood. I guard furniture factory and I take wooden withdrawals from the garbage. Large problem - to attend toilet during the terrible frost. Toilet - this is small house in the vegetable garden, it has thin walls and does not have heat inside. Cold makes my visits to the toilet short and rapid...
"There was last week terrible cold... water in the pump froze and for several days I could not pump water..."

"If you please, report to me about the weather and economic situation in your city."


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should get a fund going for him to help alleviate his woes. I am sure many people would be happy to contribute to it. Perhaps you could present it to him in some way as a grant for journalism to protect his pride. (?)

Anonymous said...

Poor Misha. I remember when he visited us. Now the spark seems to have gone out of his eyes.

Park Burroughs said...

I have been in the business - literally - of helping poor Russians for many years, with Books for the World. Our last project there provided 13 tons of clothing, sporting goods and sewing machines to 12 Siberian orphanages. This was made possible by the generous contributions of people here who feel so much more fortunate.
Unfortunately, the Russian government has made it impossible for my organization and other small charities to do any work in Russia. But I wouldn't be starting a fund for my friend Misha anyway. That's because, Misha, sadly is a lot better off than many Russians. He actually had the money to buy coal this winter, unlike some of his neighbors, who might very well freeze to death.