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,
P.S. The following chapters are not published in their entirety. With any luck, the book will be published and the remainder of each will be available. Stand by.