I lived in in St. Petersburg, Russia, from August of 1994 to October of 1997. It was known as Leningrad during the time of the Soviet Union. Many people who don’t live in St. Petersburg still call it Leningrad! At least they did during my stay in Russia. But I don’t remember a resident of St. Petersburg refer to it by the Soviet name. They are proud of their pre-Soviet history when Peter the Great founded the city on the tributary of the Neva river — actually a wet land. The mosquitoes in the summer time are terrible!
The photo is Gostini Dvor on the main street, Nevsky Prospect. In 1997 I spent over 2 whole hours looking for a weather thermometer but could not find one. The sales people kept telling me to go to a pharmacy. I replied, “I’m not looking for a body thermometer! I want a weather thermometer.” They replied, “Yes, but they also sell those at the pharmacy.” Well, can you guess what happened when I posed the same question to the pharmacy people back then? They looked at me like I was nuts! “This is a drugstore, not a household appliance store!” “I know I know! But the main department store in town TOLD me to come to you!” And so I was bounced back and forth about 3 times before I finally gave up. A few weeks later I went back to my old neighborhood in Chicago and found what I was looking for in a Dollar Shop in a matter of minutes.
The lady on the right is a nostalgic communist who is campaigning for the return of communism. Behind her are photos of Stalin, Lenin and a contemporary politician named Zugannof. If you guessed by the sour look on her face that she doesn’t like me, you’re correct. She knows that I am a foreigner and a Christian missionary. I just smiled back at her and walked on.
St. Petersburg is situated on a tributary, and so it is divided into several small islands that are linked by bridges and tunnels. Here is a typical beggar in Petrogradskaya Ostrov (Petersburg Island). It is hard to tell which beggars are really in need and who are faking. Some are professional beggars who actually pay the Mafia to beg on their turf. After a day’s work of soliciting donations they can relax in a fine restaurant eating a good meal. This is something I could not afford to do when I was there!
There was real poverty in St.Peterburg when I was there. I often visited a poor lady named Helen. Here I am with her in 1997. But though she was old and needy, she never begged. She taught English and got paid in groceries. Sometimes I would bring her food and gifts. Read more about Helen, a former interpreter who helped in an interview with the famous Yuri Gagarin, the first man to be shot into space into orbit!
Here is a picture of me and friends in a school in St. Petersburg. It is close to Easter and I am giving a talk to the pupils on the meaning of Easter — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I had the total support of the school teachers and principal to do so. Do you think I could get away with this in a public school in my homeland, the USA? Only deep somewhere in a rural area in the State of Indiana where the Amish live perhaps.
Giving a talk about the meaning of Easter
Here I am with Natasha Blond in a park in front of a horse. Isn’t she pretty? The horse was kinda pretty too. Her family name is not “Blond” but I named her that because of her real 100% natural blond hair, smooth as silk! You can tell that I really liked Natasha Blond! But alas, she was way too young for me.
In photo is Russian Stephanie, American Nat and me at an main exhibition hall in town. We are offering audio-visual teaching material for children. This is partly how we supported ourselves. The rest of the support came from donations from the headquarters of The Family and monthly donations from my faithful friends in Japan to whom I wrote monthly newsletters of my missionary activities in Russia.
In the picture on the right is Lydia (right) talking to a lady from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. I don’t know why in English we say “Georgia” because the correct pronunciation doesn’t sound anything like the US state of Georgia. It sounds more like Gruzia. Lydia was a friend of the head of security at the main exhibition hall of St. Petersburg. He would let us inside for free when everyone else had to pay $1.00. A dollar doesn’t sound like much now but it sure did then! That was 5000 RUBLES!! It was nice to walk around with the head of security. This way the other guards would get to know us and leave us alone while we offered our teaching materials to the guests.
Here’s Lydia again on a street by a vendor of flowers. Lydia is from Kiev, Ukraine. People often remarked that she spoke with an accent unlike a Ukrainian. This is due to her learning English and being with missionaries from America. She is now married and has a one year old daughter named Diane.