The gloomy Sunday that wasn’t

These waning days of July have been bad. The weather is maddening – in a city that gets so little heat and light, people require a proper summer. When summer peters out a month and a half early, as if the quotas on warmth have been reduced like the quotas on foreigners, you don’t know quite how to respond. Well, aside from responses that just involve screaming “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” very very loud at odd hours of the day.

Being trapped in the city makes it worse. Lev and I are due at my parents’ in Kiev next weekend for a few days, but I don’t think I even have the strength to look forward to that. When children are a certain age, the patterns hardly change. You don’t get any rest with children. That’s just how nature designed the process. You do get a lot of joy and excitement and random Instagram moments – but not rest. Not stillness.

When the weather began to turn in Moscow, I started thinking, “Another year?” Another year of waiting for the sun to return. The rains that turn to snow that turn to black ice that turns human bone to mush from a certain height. The ghostly outlines of outdoor cafes. Lev’s feet getting too big for his boots. Another unsanctioned protest and wondering when the other shoe will drop. Telling yourself half-heartedly that “maybe Thailand this winter” – and almost being relieved that you can afford nothing. Phone calls from the dentist wondering where you’ve been, and no longer being sheepish about responding with the truth – which is to say that dentists are a luxury right alongside space heaters.

And through it all, you wait for the day that your visa is not renewed, or the day you wake from troubled dreams to discover yourself transformed in your bed into Edward Snowden – or something. You wait for the illusion of home to fade away again like it has always done before. Just like nature reclaims human dwellings, so do governments reclaim whatever small, honeycomb spaces humans like to call their own. You wait and you get tired of waiting – and go for a walk.

Moscow has a way of fooling you in late summer. It greets you in the morning – gray and wrinkled with the wind – and then it mellows slowly, growing golden around the edges. Never promising anything, never explaining. Never harder, never sweeter. Moscow is a deadpan city where no one is ever waiting – except for people who matter.

visotsky zheglov gif

2 thoughts on “The gloomy Sunday that wasn’t

  1. Hi Natalia,
    This is unrelated to the topic of your post. It’s just that I was seeking for a way to contact you personally and this is the best I could find.

    I came across your article “The Ashes of Beslan” ( and was deeply impressed by the strong empathy and profound reasonability of the arguments. I have been living the Beslan tragedy for the past three years (feels like 10 years) studying the events themselves as well as causes and effects. In fact, the Russian Wikipedia article on the subject, which was voted “Article of the Year” in 2011 by the editors, happens to have been written by your loyal servant, a limited-print book in Russian is expected to come out this September and a book in English is currently in works. As you can see I take the topic very seriously and after reading and analyzing gigantic volumes of materials I can assure you that it is an extreme rarity among journalists to say things that you have said in your article. Not that my opinion should matter much, but I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for not smearing the rescuers, not praising the terrorists or supporting incompetent officials. Best regards, Alex.

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