Russia: Three Stories of Extreme Poverty

Russian photojournalist Oleg Klimov has recently spent two hours waiting for a train at the train station in Syzran, a city in Russia's Samara region. While there, he interacted with a few locals and then jotted down their stories of extreme poverty (RUS) on his blog.

Story #1:

[…] Mother, her daughter, and grandson, aged 5 or so. Have been living at the train station for two days. Are 400 rubles (approx. $13) short of [buying tickets] to get to their native village, not far from [Penza]. Are coming back from a funeral. Are waiting for a female relative to arrive and bring those 400 rubles. The relative isn't coming – possibly, because she is out of money, too. They asked [me] to send a text message [from my cell phone]. Ordinary village people. Maybe they aren't too clever and aren't too educated, but they are open-minded and ingenuous. Qualities of no small value nowadays. The mother's pension is 4,500 rubles [a month; approx. $148]. The daughter sometimes works in Penza, and sometimes doesn't. The son doesn't attend a kindergarten. [Because] there is no kindergarten. A female relative had died, they gathered all the money they had and set off to bury her. “How else? – One has to bid a decent human farewell…” […]

Story #2:

[…] Four ethnic Tatar women commute weekly from their village to Syzran to earn some money. At best, they make a thousand [rubles; approx. $33] between the four of them, working as cleaning ladies at public facilities and anywhere else. There is no work whatsoever in the village. “There is work, but none of it pays.” Sometimes they don't have enough money to simply buy bread. So they buy flour and bake their own bread. To save money. They have their own potatoes. And cucumbers, and cabbage. But they don't have money. “It's possible to survive, but very difficult. It's easier to die…” […]

Story #3:

[…] A man, aged 55 or a little older. His children threw him out of his home. Just like that: “Get the hell out of here… Sometimes I stay with my acquaintances, and sometimes at the train station. Do random jobs, here and there…” Doesn't consider himself a hobo, because “there are no hobos in a small town. People do help.” He's got cold tea in a plastic bottle. Bread and foul-smelling cutlets are wrapped in some piece of rag. He ate one cutlet with bread. Washed it down with tea and fell asleep on the train station bench right after that. Just lowered his head onto his chest and fell asleep. […]

Klimov ends his post on an emotional note, writing that “it's horrible to watch all this,” and that there is no shortage of such stories in the “sleek-looking ‘Putin's Russia'”:

[…] You can spend a couple more hours there and write a piece. With no comments. Just by listening and writing down things that people say to each other. It's that simple. Any journalist can do this. And no damn intellectual analysis is required. […]

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