Here I am in Moscow. It’s the 5th of January 2018 and it has been 6 days already. I haven’t had the time to write anything about the Russian Boy story as it’s been rather busy and intense.
I arrived at Domodedovo Airport on Saturday night from Marseilles via Francfort. I must say I was a bit nervous to meet Dmitry. The story had been shown all over the world before we had even met. I was trying not to think too much about it – well a congested nose and a sort of post-Christmas tiredness helped a lot – and moreover, I had no expectations apart from having fun really. And there he was, on the other side of the fence, smiling behind a huge bunch of flowers. Straight away, it was like meeting an old friend. A journalist from the Komsomolskaya Pravda, Pavel, was there too. He was the first one to write about the story mid-November. He was doing an update. Dmitry drove me to the hotel in his powerful Cadillac 4 wheel drive.
Pavel was sitting in the back, asking questions while I was trying to film. It was snowing but the snow was melting as soon as it reached the ground. Then we arrived at the Alpha Hotel with a feeling of “déjà vu” as that’s where I stayed last Summer with my friend Elisa – the one who took me to Izmailovo flea market. Thinking back, I would have never thought I’d be here again six months later just thanks to old photos.
Marion and her husband Tristan were waiting for us. Taken by the story and eager to discover Moscow, they had decided to come and spend a few days in Moscow for New Year’s Eve. We had a few beers with Dmitry – who could only drink coffee because of the drinking zero-tolerance – and off he went… Till we met again on the 1st of January for a magical day. In the meantime Pauline, my daughter, and her boyfriend Nick had arrived by train from Berlin and we had a funny New Year’s Eve hanging around with an old couple we met in Sportivnaya.
I wanted to take everyone to a very good Georgian restaurant in the area. It was closed and we were wandering like lost souls trying to find a place to eat. The old couple could not speak a word of French nor English. The lady – I understood her name was Arla but I am not sure at all. Her husband was Leo – could speak a bit of German, “she had learnt at school ages ago”. They took us to back streets and we ended up in the middle of a playground. Leo went home and came back with a bottle of Vermouth, one glass and one piece of bread with salmon. He wanted to share a glass with us for the new year to come. They couldn’t bring us to their home. It was too small but they wanted to share something.
It was a weird and funny moment, and unexpected. We all decided to hit the centre of the city for a bit of fireworks atmosphere. They walked us back to the tube and paid for our tickets. I think they did as much as they could to be kind to us with what they had and it was such a human way to end the year…
The next day, Dmitry, his wife Maria and their two sons Igor, 5, and Feodor, 3, were waiting for us at Semyonovskaya. The plan was to go ice-skating. Where did I get that idea from? I can’t even stand on ice skates… I think it had to do with the spirit of Christmas and spending time in Russian at the heart of Winter. Anyway, everybody liked the idea and Dmitry chose a great place to go : VDNKh, an exhibition park dating from the USSR times, with pavilions representing the different republics and the largest ice rink in Europe. We had to go for lunch first. Dmitry and Maria chose a lovely café, Varenichnaya with posters of Gagarin and all sorts of Soviet memorabilia.
We had borsch after a glass of vodka to open our appetites! I loved the way the borsch was served with: black bread, garlic, spring onions and salt.
And a mulled wine on top of everything. Just what we needed before braving the ice… and a huge crowd, who had exactly the same idea as us.
It was Dmitry and Maria’s first time on an ice rink with the kids, all together. I was left behind very early – a big thank you to Marion for her compassionate support – but didn’t give up and managed a whole tour of what is Europe’s largest ice rink. It took me a good hour and I am not talking about the back and feet pain… Then we went on visiting the park, spending a bit of time under the Vostok 2 rocket – Gagarin flew on Vostock 1 -. It turns up Dmitry loves planes and is a model airplanes collector.
Tristan works for Airbus in Toulouse. They had things to talk about and I know what collecting is… We went back to the Metro, quite exhausted, Igor and Feodor showed a great resistance and didn’t complain even once, but as soon as they sat on the tube, they collapsed. So did I.
Dmitry and his family stopped at Elektrozavodskaya, two stations before ours, Partisanskaya and our kitsch hotel, the Alpha Hotel, built for the 1980 Olympic Games. We were all enchanted by our first day with Dmitry. It felt easy and was like meeting with an old friend after years of separation. Well, the last memory of him was the one of him on the photos, 27 years earlier!