Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My country

I love my country. I did not leave it many years ago because I didn't like it or things were bad for me there. Not at all.

I had a very happy childhood: my parents weren't exceptionally rich or powerful, but they earned well above average living and had successful careers. They were both athletes: Mom was a member of the Soviet National Volleyball Team and Dad was first a member of the Soviet National Yachting Team, then a Chief Coach of that same team.

Russians are well-known for their patriotism. My family was no exception. Yes, of course my parents worked to earn money, but they also genuinely took pride in doing their best to make their country proud.

Professional sport is not for the faint of heart, as any professional athlete will testify: training is grueling and seemingly endless and just as one competition ends, preparations for the next one begin.
Us Russians are also known for our stoicism: we work through the pain to get the result. That's why very popular Western concept "I did my best" does not wash with Russians: we don't really care if you did your best, your worst or your medium,as long as you have achieved the goal set forth for you (desired/expected result).

Mom had many injuries inflicted during training and competitions and Dad had 5 heart attacks, 2 strokes, ongoing liver and kidney problems, stomach ulcers and various other health issues brought on by stress of his chosen career which span several decades.
But you should see the pride on his face when he (and later his charges) brought home Gold medals from Europe and World Championships! He was proud to do his bit for his country. And his country rewarded him for his efforts-hence our comfortable lifestyle.

I grew up in a beautiful city-home to people of many different ethnicity's. We all got along great!
Sure, my country wasn't without problems, but neither is any other country.

I am grateful for so many things:

-FREE medical care, including doctor's home visits (even in case of a flu). Medicines cost next to nothing as well.

-FREE education (you could study for free all the way up Academical ladder-to be a Professor if you wished and had the necessary aptitude)

-FREE and GUARANTEED job placement according to one's field of study immediately upon graduation from University or college

-Heavily discounted (almost free, really) vacation stays if you were a Union member (most were)
-Extremely low cost of utilities, produce and public transport.

-FREE housing. Sure, you had to wait for it, but ultimately none of us had rent or mortgage.

I really do appreciate all that, especially after living in Western countries for a long time (US mostly), where rent/mortgage often eats 60-80% of one's earnings and many young people graduate Universities with over $100K worth of student loans debt and no realistic prospects of work. Not to mention the cost of medical care, where one can literally be left homeless and penniless as a result of serious illness or accident.

I do realise that things did not go great for everyone in Russia. Some people struggled. Some really got the raw end of the stick. But you can find this in every country: I travel a great deal and am yet to find a land where every single person is absolutely happy and content and no one is complaining about anything.

Yes, Russia was rife with bureaucracy. Bribery was common. But overall life was good for the majority. There were plenty of honest hardworking people and the system (although definitely not without fault) worked.

Russia went through some seriously rough times in the 1990's: my country nearly perished. But it survived and rebuilt itself. It is doing fine now.

I was there just last month and was happy to see that overall people (as in your average folk)  are doing good and are happy with their country and it's leadership. I stress that they are not afraid to "show their true feelings"-they are genuinely happy and content.

It also felt good to "belong", be a natural part of something. Only those who lived for a long time in countries other than their own (especially those with a completely different language) would know what I mean. It's all good and well (and cute and entertaining) to be asked "Where are you from" on your holiday. It's entirely different feeling when this happens several times a day for years on end in the country where you lived most of your life and are a citizen of: you feel excluded, like you don't belong.
When I was in Moscow, no one asked me where I was from-they naturally assumed I was from there. People addressed me by my proper name in a respectful manner (Russian way of doing this is using one's first and middle name-it's very culture specific). I was asked for directions by passersby on the streets. When I inquired about a job (just out of curiosity), no one asked me if I had a proper visa-they assumed I did. It felt good to be on a Metro (subway) and be surrounded by people all speaking my native language.

Many will do well to remember that in today's age of media anything and everything is a subject of a "spin": whomever gets the most print/TV/Internet space in any given territory wins public opinion. It is very rare to get a true objective information on anything: whatever country you live in will put it's spin on it. Add to that the fact that opinions (and truth itself) are very subjective based on one's interpretation, which is often colored by one's personal (past or present) experience.

I quite deliberately avoid any political discussion here: I do not wish to engage. I do have an opinion (quite strong one), but that's not the point of this post.

I was brought up to be grateful. To remember all the good that was done to you.

So I say this again: I love my country and will not forsake it in order to please somebody/anybody. It was (and is) good to me and I shall never forget it.

So please do not prompt me to any political discussions-it's a pointless exercise. While you are perfectly entitled to your opinion, kindly do not try force it on me or attempt to "convert" me.

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