A few mental snapshots in everyone’s life are forever etched in your brain and seared into your soul – nanoseconds that capture THAT feeling at the VERY moment. While slipping and sliding down a 30 degree solid layer of ice on the Siberian sidewalk – grabbing street signs and a few unsuspecting Russian Citizens, I finally found myself in front of a folding table attended by an incredibly ancient, wizened old man whose product line was impossibly narrow – one tired old shoe.
I was stunned and bewildered by the sheer insanity of the spectacle of one shoe for sale but was more overwhelmed by the utter poignancy of such a tableau – a large table with only one lonely, weathered shoe that used to have a sibling. Tears welled up.
I will never forget that moment. It would forever symbolize the unabashed compassion that I felt and will always feel for Russian citizens – real people who were left on their own by a government without a heart. Yes, the United States of America is no less heartless – but at least we have the luxury of elections. In Russia, the same hyenas continue to gnaw on its country’s resources and people.
I am not a Russian Historian – I’m simply trying to describe my experiences during 4 years of living and working in the Russian Far East with the first coterie of Business Professionals in the Peace Corps and the first group sent to Russia a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
All of my writings will obviously be subjective and details will often be sketchy, but I can assure you none of them ever overstate the sentiments I felt when they occurred to me. I’m a minor raconteur but I’m no liar. I only hope that One Shoe For Sale conveys a tiny fraction of the emotions that I felt in the Russian Far East from November of 1992 through the same month in 1996.
Julie A. Barnes,