I just returned from Penza, middle sized town about 700km South-East from Moscow, where I visited my cousin Anastasia (whom I always call my little sister). She turned 24 on the 30th of September. :)
Penza region, and to be precise little village called Lunino, is where my mother was born, and grew up, and this is where she decided to give birth to my brother and myself even though we were living in Siberia at that time. So Penza is sort of my home town.
A few history notes on Penza: it was founded in 1663 and historically was never too important on a grand scheme of things. It’s current population is close to 600k.
(Some old photos for you)
I rarely come to Penza, and prefer Anastasia to come visit us in Moscow. But it’s always nice to go there once in a while (not too often though) to check how small Russian towns grow and develop. I’m happy to report that in my opinion Penza got a bit better and prettier compared to the last time I went there 2 or 3 years ago. I’ve noticed more cool shops and cafes, which is often a good sign. Ugly asphalt on the main shopping street got replaced by paving stone, which looks so much neater and they say it is healthier that way. Apparently tarmac releases some kind of bad fumes under the sun light, not sure if it’s true. Anyways, the town centre of Penza looks great with the new theatre building (instead of the one that burned down a few years ago), and re-painted facades of houses. I’m rather pleased I must say and I hope my home town will get even better with time.
Unfortunately I’m sure that beneath all that new slightly improved entourage there is still a heap of same old problems: leaking pipes, turned off water (at my sisters house cold water was off every morning, no morning shower for me unfortunately) and many other things that make life in Russia so much harder.
What amazes me in towns like Penza is beautiful young ladies wearing high heels (no matter what!!), tight jeans or short skirts and always with great looking long hair.
Obviously skinny, and often hungry for rich men. In Russia it’s seems like most girls (especially in smaller towns) dream of catching a wealthy man, getting married and then staying at home and getting all dolled up. If they are lucky to get hold of a rich guy, they might open up their own beauty salon, or fashion boutique…
Of course there are a lot of smart, ambitious and hard working women out there, but in a sexist country like Russia if you live in a rather small town I think it’s so much harder to get the same career opportunities as men. Plus there are soooo many sexist attitudes towards women, I hear/see them everywhere – on TV, in social networks: “She is a woman, she doesn’t need to think!”, “wife should stay at home and take care of the husband”, “what can you do, she is a woman”, “don’t worry your pretty head” etc etc.
Or here is a typical plot of Russia’s TV series: she is a pretty, humble and poor girl from the middle of nowhere in Russia, one day a ‘prince’ on a Mercedes and his own firm in Moscow comes in, and spots her (from thousands of other poor and pretty girls) and takes her to the capital. He buys her expensive stuff, gets her an iPhone, and takes her to posh restaurants… bla bla bla… Then imagine some standard plot twist where an evil envious lady attempts to break them up, and there you get a complete stupid cliche that young girls absorb and build their life views on. Of course with this ubiquitous sexist mindset girls become so demanding of men: he’s got to support her, he is the one to pay all the time, he is the one paying bills, and she can spend her wage on pretty things…
I’m sure I’m generalizing A LOT but it’s what I hear and see from my Russian friends and acquaintances… I kind of hate this patronizing attitude to women, and this selfish and purely economic interest to men…. Just to note, most of my friends (especially from bigger Russian cities like Moscow are quite different from that).
I was planning to take pictures of typical Penza people but as usual I forgot… Well, I’ll try to show typical Moscow citizens at some point.
Another thing that amazes me in towns like Penza is wages. My aunt who works 10 hour shifts on a confectionary plant gets around £220 ($350) per month!!! Anastasia got offered a job in a beauty salon as an administrator with a £4 ($6.50) pay per DAY with a 12 hour shift! I understand they are not super skilled and educated labour but £4 a day?! It was the cost of my lunch in London!!
Food is pretty cheap in Penza, but other things are not so much. You can’t buy a nice winter jacket on that kind of money. Utility bills also come to about minimum of £40 a month…
I just don’t understand how people survive on that kind of money! Especially if they need to rent accommodation! That’s exactly why children live with their parents for their whole lives, they just can’t afford to live separately… BUT, with that kind of wages young people still buy iPhones, how?? And why??
That’s some of my impressions and thoughts from the trip. I guess they look a bit grim… On a whole I had a lovely time in Penza, and really enjoyed cheap but great coffee and cakes :)
My sis and I :)
Other photos are mine. I believe my cousin is great representation of a stunningly beautiful Russian girl, she wears her hair long and loose, she wears high heels and tight jeans, but fortunately she doesn’t fall into the category of a hungry for money ‘starlets’.