So the adventure starts.
It is August, I am on Croatian seaside. Sun is amazing but I know that just in one month I was going to change Croatian scenery for cold and unknown Moscow. My husband got a job there and as we always promised each other that we would stay together, the decision was a simple one - all of us - My husband, two kids and me - would be moving soon.
First, we tried to get as much info as possible about Moscow and Russia, and it did not go well. Mainly people told us it was grey, serious, congested with traffic and full of unpleasant people. One of our friends who had lived her whole life in Moscow, completely terrified me. Some of the instructions were - Russians are very serious, they don't like Croatians, they wished there is still Yugoslavia, so whenever you introduce yourself tell them you come from Yugoslavia; never smile if there is no reason for it, traffic is terrible - you can spend two hours in traffic just to cover 10km in the city. At that point I got really scared. Will we really be able to survive this? How are kids going to cope? We have such a great life in Croatia...
At last the moving day arrived. Scared of the unknown and how it will all work out, especially being a woman and needing to plan everything three months in advance it was a pretty fast move. I think we didn't even have time to think it through, which was even better. Moscow is huge. When you think that in Croatia there are 4,5 mil people and Moscow has around 12 mil you start to feel really small. However the town somehow seemed as if we had known it, as if we had already been there before. I don't know whether it was because I knew it was to be our new home, but it seemed as if I had mentally prepared myself for it. And what a GOOD surprise this adventure proved to be!!!
Moscow is great; we really enjoy our time here. Yes, some of the thing my friend said are true, but fortunately most of them are not. Russians are serious and closed, just until you start to talk to them in Russian. It was amazing when I discovered that, even though my Russian is bad and sometimes they think I come from Ural mountains when i speak it, they turn from grumpy serious figures into people who genuinely want to help you. I do sound strange when I try to speak Russian, it is a mash of Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian and a touch of real Russian. I came to shop one day and asked for meat. The way I said it in my Russian it took my hands, my feet and repeating it five times in order for the guy to understand me; 'but I was reading the label on the meat!!! ' I realised later that probably the thing was that maybe I did not sound as a foreigner, but the guy still couldn't
believe he cannot understand a word I was saying.
Russians love kids. When with kids you really feel their hospitality. In metro there was not a single time that someone did not get up to let my kids sit. Also they do ask you for directions the moment they see you have kids with you. As one of my Russian friend explained, if you have kids you must be local, so you learn how to say ' ne znajem' which means you don't know and you are safe. There are amazing places in Moscow to visit with kids; parks which are the size of Zagreb so in order to say you have visited one you need to go there at least five times and then you can say you have seen the entrance and at least additional two kilometres of a 10 km walk through the park. We try to visit a new place each weekend and already we have seen many things such as, parks, ice-skating rinks, chocolate museum, circus.....
And as I mentioned earlier, my friend instructed me to tell people that I come from Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, this time I did follow her advice (not clever on every ocasion). I did it once and NEVER again. My daughter started to play with a Russian girl in the park, so her father asked us where we come from. Almost proudly I said - Yugoslavia - and you should have seen the look on his face -'What do you mean Yugoslavia?! It does not exist anymore. Now you have Croatia, Serbia... so where are you from?' I really felt embarrassed but at least I knew Russians knew their geography and I shouldn't mess with that. Next time when I was asked about my origins, I said Croatia and every Russian had a story about visiting Croatia at one time and how it was beautiful, and how they loved it.
The last problem that first I thought I would not be able to survive was the traffic. In Zagreb I needed 15 min to go by car from one end of the city to the other end. Here the traffic is really bad. So I decided not to use a car. Metro is perfect; fast, simple (after you lear how to read Russian). So I use the metro. Every weekend my husband and I fight because he wants to use the car but I love freedom of the Metro; yes, it seems longer but you do not get stuck sitting in the same spot for half an hour or even more. And i like that feeling that I am moving. Funny, but my main problem in the Metro was to stay serious. I always tend to smile to people. Here, it could result in them calling a doctor to take me to a mental hospital, so I learned to smile on the inside, but my face stays dead serious.
We really enjoy our time here. kids are happy, I am making many new friends, discovering new life and culture and accepting to play by their rules in order for all of us to feel happy.
Russia and Russians do feel distant and somehow eastern until you come to live here and discover what a great country it is and what great people live here. And we have just started our adventure....