Video Tours > Tour 5. Our Neighbors > 4. I Know Their Footsteps
expand/collapse this text box Summary
A young tenant in a small communal apartment talks about the rules of communal life and about her neighbors.
expand/collapse this text box Translation of the Russian Transcript
Marina: Hello!

Slawomir: Hello!

Lena: Take your coat off, you're going to talk. They'll take this off me [the microphone] and put it on you.

Marina: Have you been talking for a long time?

Lena: Really long. We've had tea.

Marina: Got it. Good.

Lena: They're taking pictures of our stove. Here, take these slippers. And there are also some white ones over there.

Marina: So many slippers.

Ilya: Marina, good evening!

Marina: Good evening!

Lena: Let me turn on the light.

[Marina's room]

Marina: The reason I really like living here is that the houses are so varied. The architectural styles are all mixed up. And the people. When you go to the new districts, the way people look, it's like they are masked for me, or I just can't understand them. Here there's a different mentality, I'd say. A different spirit.

Marina: How did I get to this apartment? We'd been living in our own apartment, in one of the new housing districts, I think, we were living, where was it, Kupchino, I think, then we were on Demyan Bedny Street, and then we came here. Mama left me here in this room and went with my stepfather to get our things. There was a deep echo here. It scared me, and I was thinking like what is this, what on earth is going on here, and I went to meet the neighbors. They invited me in, I think they even gave me tea, I mean, they were very nice to me from the start. When everything was fixed up, I lived in this little compartment. You probably filmed it already.

[Main room and walled-off "compartment."]

Ilya: We didn't go in, but we saw it.

Marina: So I had my desk there, and I slept there, and in fact I spent pretty much my whole adolescence there. That was my study, my space, and really nobody else could come in. So it was all mine. I loved to invite my girlfriends. We even played a lot of pranks. So. Well, not malicious ones, of course.

Ilya: What kind of pranks?

Marina: Well, like we had one neighbor living here, he's gone now. An older man, now I understand that he was an older man, but he was a little mean. So we were bad. We stomped our feet in front of his room, I mean, the girls, we went past his room stomping our feet... What else could we have thought up? I mean, all our pranks were like that.

Marina: Absolutely all the kids who went to School 70 lived in kommunalkas. I don't think there was anyone who lived in a private apartment. Everyone was from a kommunalka, and everyone lived nearby. As for people with a separate apartment, I think that one girl lived in one, I think she was the only one like that. I remember her last name: Kravchenko. Natasha Kravchenko, I think her father was in the military. They had a separate apartment somewhere on Kamennoostrovsky. And the way we looked at it, she wasn't one of us. Now that old man who we were stomping at, and his daughter, who was really mean, they moved away...

Lena: That's not true. Pasha Davidovna was a good person.

Marina: But we, the young people, we thought she was mean. She hardly ever got us when someone called on the phone, and she bawled us out. And... I mean, she was very strict and that... she restricted our freedom.

Ilya: She bawled out the children?

Marina: Yeah, she liked to teach us a lesson.

Lena: She was strict. What do you expect?

Marina: Sometimes in the morning you'd go into the kitchen, and she's got this awful expression on her face. You think: what did you forget to do, what was it? You didn't sweep the floor, you didn't wipe the table, or... Maybe she was just thinking her own thoughts... So I was kind of scared of her... She restricted my freedom and I didn't like it... She used to say things like "Of course this is none of my business, Marina, but... " and she'd give me her advice. How a woman should act, how to cook, how to deal with men.

Lena: In the room I showed you, next to Sveta's, we had some very interesting people.

Marina: They were alcoholics.

Lena: They were alcoholics, but they were quiet alcoholics. They were very cultured alcoholics.

Marina: I'm not bothered by the sound of my neighbors' footsteps in the hallway: if it's the heels of their shoes or something else. I feel good when people come in, I know that the apartment will fill up, I mean, like it is in a family. You know, when there's a husband, a wife, and a child, and when one of them isn't around, there's a feeling of anxiety, and when everyone's back, it feels good. That's the way it is here. That is, like one big family. The way it works, you don't feel embarrassed coming out in a nightgown and robe. Even...

Lena: Your mother likes to do that.

Marina: Yes, okay, my mother likes to do that. I mean nobody is offended by that, nobody feels insulted. Of course if an outsider tried it, everybody would be shocked, that would be, it would be indecent. We transmit these things, we transmit them pretty strongly, like, "careful," "pay attention," "don't make things difficult for others," "you really shouldn't use the phone after eleven, but if you do, then you have to run as... very quickly to the telephone, so that... Somebody needs their rest," and so forth.

Lena: Well, it's like a commune, you can look at it that way, right? People are living a communal life.

Marina: So there are these rules, and if a newcomer breaks them, then people will let him know about it pretty quickly.

expand/collapse this text box Details in Photographs
Lena's and Marina's rooms
A diagram showing the rooms from the clip "I Know Their Footsteps," Tour 5: entryway, Marina's room, and the common room with its "compartment" for Lena and "Vlad's corner," walled-off by a cabinet. 2006.

Computer and photographs
Lena from the clip "Who Lived Here Before the Revolution?" (Tour 5), in the room of her daughter Marina. Marina and her son Vlad are shown in the photographs on the wall. 2006.

Marina's media center
The media center in Marina's room. She is seen in the clip "I Know Their Footsteps," Tour 5. See also the diagram of the rooms where she lives with her mother and son. 2006.

Icon and picture
This is the "holy corner" in the room shown in the clip "Over A Cup of Tea," Tour 5. Long before the religious revival which took place during perestroika, icons came into vogue as a decorating accent in the homes of the intelligentsia. 2006.

Marina makes tea
Marina ("I Know Their Footsteps," Tour 5) brews tea to drink with guests. Tea is drunk from large mugs (as is instant coffee, a can of which is also on the table). The vacuum cleaner is in its customary spot. 2006.

Marina holding a mug; stove and bookcase
Marina from the clips "Carpeting on the Staircase" (Tour 8) and "I Know Their Footsteps" (Tour 5) in the living room (see diagram). 2006.

Lena's sideboard
The sideboard in Lena's room. An ironing board is crammed between the sideboard and the stove. The room from the clips "Over A Cup of Tea," "I Know Their Footsteps," (Tour 5) and "Robbers and Ghosts" (Tour 6). 2006.

expand/collapse this text box Basic Facts and Background
When: 2006

Where: A midsized apartment in a prestigious district in the center of St. Petersburg.

Who: Marina, who has lived in this apartment over 20 years; Lena, her mother, who moved into the apartment with Marina when Marina was still in grade school; Ilya, visiting Lena and Marina to do the interview; Slawomir, who is filming.

What: Entering the apartment, Marina takes off her street shoes and puts on slippers, as is usual in Russia.

Before they moved to this apartment, Lena and Marina lived in their own apartment in a new housing district in the north of the city on Demyan Bedny St., and before that in a different new housing district (Kupchino) in the south of the city. Marina talks about her attitude towards these districts in the clip "Outer City Housing Complexes."

In order to divide up the space, a significant portion of the room in which the interview takes place is separated by a wall in such a way that another room is formed. Marina calls this a "compartment." It has a door. Another compartment is created by means of a cabinet, for Marina's high school-age son.

This family is the longest established in the apartment and an authority within it. They not only enjoy certain freedoms enjoyed by permanent residents, like appearing in a bathrobe, but can also instruct newcomers in the rules of behavior.

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