This is the Part 3 of my weekly series about Russian women. It’s about the babushkas, bless their hearts.
The babushka, or grandmother, has a special role in Russian history and life. They are the social conscience, and humorously, the collective mouthpiece of Russia. They have an opinion about everything. They are fearless; they talked back tank drivers at the Russian White House in 1991, they march in political demonstrations (all sides), they guard the lobbies of apartment houses, they beat away gypsies attacking foreigners in the street (as they once did for me). They sat outside my building on long summer nights, petting the house cat, enjoying the children playing hopscotch on the pavement, complaining about the immoral price of milk or the crooks in the Kremlin. Yes, they also sweep the streets and sidewalks with stick brooms–someone has to do it.
Sometimes intimidating with their dour, deeply-bred suspicious looks, they can quickly return a smile exposing a few gold teeth or none at all, or start a conversation, or willingly give a direction. They often live alone or in depressing communal flats struggling to maintain their dignity. Our Los Angeles/St. Petersburg Sister City Committee supports a charity group that serves some of the dear ladies in that city. I remember dearly my visits with a few. One was 95 years old and fought the Nazis in that terrible “900 days” war of attrition- wonderful sweet lady. They deserve help and are one group you don’t want to have against you.
Come back next week for the Barbies and the beaten.
Your questions and comments are welcome.