Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fifteen Kopeeks 4/12/09

Fifteen Kopeks 

Snow fluries
Temp 33F
Wind 1-2 MPH westerly

Saturday, while doing my P-Day cleaning I took the vacuum hose off of the floor tool and began sucking up the dust bunnies along the edge of the floor where the linoleum comes about 2 inches short of the baseboard. Suddenly a coin slid from under the baseboard molding. I wiggled it loose and found a 1961 Communist era 15 kopek (kopeck) coin.

Later, on Sunday night after the YSA Fireside, I showed it to Andrey and his friend. He is about 24 years old and remembers these coins. They were used in coin-operated telephones on the streets. I remember seeing these phones when we visited Russia in 1990. We also used these coins to ride the Metro in Moscow. That seems so long ago, and yet just yesterday.

Finding this coin reminded me that most of these young people never really knew the Communist period. The lived through the transition which was chaotic I'm sure, but most see it only as history. Political life here has not changed that much. You still have to register where ever you are. You still have the same school system and the same distinction between "college" where you learn a trade and "university" where you learn a profession.

Fifteen kopeks bought something in those days, a loaf of bread, a phone call, a metro ride. Today it takes roubles and lots of them. Then, there wasn't much, but what there was everyone got some. Today if you don't have a source of income, like many pensioners, your life is day-to-day, hand to mouth, and often less than needed. This shopping area in the Metro underground corridors has lots to offer someone with roubles.

When I see the old women standing by the metro with their hand out hoping for a few roubles, I always give them something. Ten rubles to me is 30 cents, but it is half a small loaf of bread to them. It won't buy a pack of gum for me, but to them it can pay some of the electricity bill.

I cannot imagine what it is like to be a 60-70 year old widow who grew up, dated, married, had children and grew to middle age under the sparse, but provided existence under the Communist collective process and then be thrust into the chaos of the transition with its unknowns, confusions, conflicts, and finally today's reality. They must just feel bewildered and wonder where their world went.

I am told by some of the older people that it was a time of few worries as long as the fears and controls were far away from you personally. There was always bread and everyone had some. You stood in lines most of the day, but there was something at the end on that line that you might be able to use or trade with someone else. Today, there are no lines, but if you don't have money, it doesn't matter. With all the things that weren't, there was always bread. Now there is also bread, but only if your pension lasts for the whole month. For those who run out, an upturned palm at the Metro station is the only answer.

My heart goes out to these Russian senior citizens who are trying to cope with changes they probably don't fully understand. I believe there are many who simply don't leave their apartments because the world is just too bewildering. I wish there was some way that we as missionaries could serve them. Meals on wheels, phone calls from a friend, reading to them, just spending time with them. I wonder what can be done for those people who remember the value of 15 kopeks.

What a country


Trisha said...

Dad you rock. It brings back the memories of the lines we saw. And the hope that I wanted for them. I still hope and pray for those lost in the bewilderment of that life. Pass on the roubles.

Shannon Simmons said...

Very introspective. We here in the states are so blessed. We have so much hope and promise that often altogether goes unfulfilled. God bless as you serve on - sharing a hope that will extend beyond the 15 kopeks...

Bob and Doretta Henshaw said...

I wept as I read your blog today. My heart was touched by the pictures and the thought of so many confused and lost in what is a "new world" for them.
It seemed appropriate that the Russian National Anthem was playing in the background as I read. I wondered if the strains of that music bring feelings of love and pride for their country or only a longing for a time which, though restrictive, seemed to provide security.