|Communal Living in Russia: Audio|
|The narrator's compassion for the apartment drunk.|
|Basic Facts and Background|
Where: A large communal apartment in a prestigious neighborhood in the historical center of St. Petersburg. About 20 people live in the apartment.
Who: S.A., born in 1934 and living in this apartment since 1944, making her the longest-term resident. She lives with her husband and son. Slava, the apartment drunk. Ilya, an anthropologist who is doing the interviewing; he lives in a different apartment in the same building.
What: See also this selection from an interview where this same apartment drunk is mentioned.
In this photo and in this clip, we see leftover pieces of bread that are saved to feed pigeons as described by S.A. People who lived through the Siege of Leningrad, have a reverent attitude toward bread and do not throw it into the garbage.
|Translation of the Russian Transcript|
Ilya: So in general, would you say that people help each other?
S.A.: Well, how shall I put it? I, for example, help. How do I do this? Say I see that Slava is hungry, I want to feed him, the poor drunkard. He's like, you know, like a lost child. But I see that he's starting, you know, I save bread for the pigeons, I think it's a sin to throw out bread so I put it all in a little box, I tell everyone, don't throw away your bread, I'll moisten it for the pigeons. You understand? So I look and there he is, poking through. God! Right away I give him some soup, I make him a sandwich. And I think that he, he's very modest really, he's not a thief, nothing like that. It's only when he gets drunk then he starts yelling that he's also a human being, but somebody here poured...
Ilya: So he starts yelling, right?
S.A.: Oh, it's awful, he screams. Sometimes at night he starts talking with someone on the phone, he gets confused, he doesn't know it's night., he's always in trouble. And the police are always being called, and they always bring him back. So that's...
Ilya: Have they called in the police often?
S.A.: So many times, so many times... Because he brought home some short man. They even think he's gay, this Slava. I don't know, but he's already forty and he can't get married. He says, I was in love once, and it's over. A general's daughter!... I feel so sorry for him, he's so unlucky. The way everybody, you know, all little people who like to think of themselves as Napoleons. I say, Slavka, when you get drunk, you're like Napoleon. Or Mickey Mouse. With one eyebrow higher than the other, it goes up like this, and he himself is so silly, so pathetic, you know. He starts jabbering about his rights, that he's also a human being. Slava, go away! I tell him, look, Slavochka, please, go home when you get drunk. Or you'll end up back in the jug. "Why is everyone always disrespecting me, blankety blank?" So he doesn't listen, and we have some people, they take action, like this Nadya, she sees it, she calls, they come, they take him away, the poor little piglet. And in the morning he's back. So good-natured, not angry, you understand, not about to take revenge or anything like that.