Russia’s Vox Populi
Some 20,000 protesters reacting to Russia’s anti-American adoption law marched through Moscow on Sunday, clearly spelling out that the “voice of the people” was not as unified as Putin’s pollsters would have some believe. The rally was populated by urban, middle class types, the same profile as those participating in anti-Kremlin protests over the last two years.
These internet-savvy, young, urban adults stand in marked contrast to their less-educated, rural counterparts, said to obtain their news from Kremlin-run TV, suspicious of all things foreign. We ran into one of these xenophobic Russian peasants when we were adopting our second son.
“These are Americans who kill Russian children!” the gold-toothed grandma, Olga Timofe’evna* screamed at the top of her lungs, hiding behind the orphanage boarding school gate, looking for all the world like a lunatic on the loose in the local insane asylum.
She worked in the kitchen and made her presence only too well known. A crowd began to gather in the street and gawk, first at her, and then at us, sitting in a van across the street, waiting to collect our son’s documents. Our driver, a professional man now retired, laughed at her and shouted a few things back in Russian.
This was in a remote region, far from big cities. But everywhere else we went with the children, average Russian citizens admired us.
“Thank you, thank you,” men and women came up to shake our hands when the realized my Russian was not quite on par with our kids’. They put two and two together.
“Always listen to your parents,” one shopkeeper urged our second son. “They love you and will make a good life for you.”
“God bless you,” the group of ladies gathered, looking at my outfit, as well as how the children were dressed.
“God bless you and may they never forget Russia.”
“It’s for you,” the costumed actors put the large Russian ruble bill in our first son’s hands. “Morozhenoye (ice cream) money,” they winked, smiling and holding our hands in a freeze-frame, eyes gazing into ours, refusing to take any payment for us photographing them together. They knew the score.
What is the voice of the Russian people? It depends on whom you ask: young, urban, and well-educated, or older, rural, and those more fearful of non-Russians. It’s a divided, schizo Russia that needs to see a doctor.
One thing is for sure: the winds of change are blowing, and cannot be calmed even in the coldest of winter months.
It’s my turn to say, “God bless you” to those tens of thousands of Russians having the courage to stand in solidarity with orphans whose only crime is that they have no one near the Kremlin to advocate in their best interests. May God hear the prayers of those little hearts crying out for a family, no matter where it might be located.
*Name changed to protect the guilty.
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