Last time Ilya Varlamov (zyalt) was featured in RedHotRussia as an explorer of New York’s urban environment.
However, to his readers Varlamov is better known as a keen observer of his native Moscow, about which he has made many interesting photo reports.
One of the latest such reports was dedicated to the homeless residents of Russia’s capital.
Every day we stumble upon homeless people in the big cities. They’re sitting in subway, train stations, sleep in doorways.
Of course, authorities do everything to remove the homeless people from the streets: they open shelters, help them with documents etc. But still, they don’t disappear.
Most of them fall to the bottom because of vodka. Moreover, many like such kind of life. “Look at me – I’m a lucky man. You cannot imagine how happy you are, when you have nothing to lose!“
These people do not want to go to shelters, because there they are not allowed to drink. They do not need papers, work or the future. They have everything here and now.
Here, at the bottom, they seem to be absolutely free. Even police is not interested in them – there is nothing to take from them. Their main goal is getting some vodka.
They all drink a lot. Some don’t become sober for months, until they end up in hospital. In such state they continue existing, until one day they freeze in the street or die from the drinking companion’s knife.
Yesterday I and Markov [ed: another blogger] decided to spend time with a group of homeless – to drink together and talk about their difficult life.
Our journey started near the Kuznetskiy bridge. Olya – who in the past worked in the office issuing the passports, and now is a homeless with a slightly swollen face – agreed to arrange our dive to the capital’s social bottom. The admission fee for this attraction was fair – 500 rubles [ed: about $ 16].
We went to Tsvetnoy: as Olga said, the local boulevard was the gathering point for all homeless in the area. Our first respondents were Lyosha [ed: Alexei] and Valeriy. Alexei said that he was born in Hungary and was a son of military translators, while Valera swaying and groaning could only extract few unclear sounds from his throat.
At first, the guys were wary and not talkative, but when the bottle of vodka appeared, they visibly brightened. Even Valera, who previously could not even lit his cigarette, suddenly demonstrated a remarkable ease of motions with the plastic cup.
- That’s the way we live, – explained Lyosha, pouring the second glass – Now we will sit with you and later go to sleep.
- Where to?
- To the building entrance, – shortly replied Lyosha. – But which one – I will not tell.
Olga explained: the dislocation of warm entrances is the top secret and sacred knowledge in the world of the homeless. Nobody discloses their trumps: the guys split into groups of two-three people and spend the night in small groups.
Lyosha, for example, “lives” with Valera: they spend nights together and always keep an eye on each other. Looking at them, it seems that this is how Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn would probably look twenty years later.
Ten minutes later, two more guys joined us. Alexei reached for the vodka and trying to open the bottle, while holding the glasses, smashed it.
It is impossible to describe the shock experienced by the men. If we had not immediately gone to bring another one, Lyosha undoubtedly would be lynched right in the square.
Fifteen minutes later, the vapors of booze attracted three more people. This time, the group included a girl: she refused to talk to us and long time was hiding from the camera.
Alexander, one of the newcomers, shared with us the code of good homeless:
- I’ll explain it all to you! – he said – Look: I was sleeping in one apartment block. Spent there long time during few years. I would go there with my own cardboard, went to sleep after midnight and was leaving at six in the morning in order not to encounter the tenants. And I always cleaned after myself, always kept my entrance neat! I even knew some tenants. But then I brought one asshole with me and he pooed right on the staircase! Can you picture it? Put the pile right under the door! Of course, I was kicked out after that …
Guys started buzzing, Sanya clearly touched a very important and vital topic.
- Yes! – said one dude – There are assholes who don’t understand that we must live by the rules: I don’t bother you, and you don’t bother me. Why shitting under the door? You can go out, there are many shrubs around…
- And if it’s really cold and unbearable, – added Alex. – You can take a normal bag, lay it on the staircase and …
The fecal topic was interrupted only by another call for a drink. This time the bottle was entrusted to the lady, who smiled for the first time from such an honor and exposed two knocked out teeth.
- The girl has a complicated story, – whispered to me someone by my side. – She left the house, there was father or stepfather kinda pedophile…
Suddenly, our light attracted the attention of a little crowd of Kyrgyz. They looked unfriendly, but upon noticing the generously poured vodka, got kinder and hurried to speak out:
- The homeless Muscovites are still in better situation – in worst case they can go to hospital or shelter. And what about us? We are chased away from everywhere.
- Then maybe you should go home?
- And what is at home? I’ve got there wife, kids, parents …
There was a pause.
- In a world where I am from – wife and children, are on the contrary, considered as a reason to return home, and not being homeless in another country.
- Well, I am divorced, – said the Kyrgyz and just in case added the regular phrase. – And besides I have no money or documents, everything was stolen.
Suddenly, we heard a sound thump on the right – Valera miscalculated his size and weight and fell from the bench. Three guys at once rushed to Valera and put him back on the spot. He did not mind: in fact his whole appearance witnessed that for the last half an hour he was in the mode of hibernation.
We have expressed our concern:
- He won’t freeze here?
- No, – smiled the guys – Valera will be fine. He is tenacious.
- Well, but one day he might freeze as well?
- Firstly, we will not leave him – Alex will wake him up and take to some warm place, – explained the guys. – Secondly, who usually freezes in the winter? The novices who just arrived. Those who are on their own and don’t know where to go. And those who have been in Moscow for a while, they will not be wasted. We are looking after each other.
- That is to say, the key to success in the homeless-community – is the presence of broad social connections, – we tried to summarize.
- Of course, – agreed the Kyrgyz without giving much thought.
- But still, it is not clear how you survive.
- Come on. You, too, would have survived. It just seems that it is impossible. But find yourself in the street and you will start picking it up…
- I hope I will not find myself here.
- Anything can happen in life, – said the Kyrgyz and leaned on the poster of National Geographic. – Come on, take a photo of me with the bunny.
At the end of the evening I found myself thinking that I spent time in the company of normal, happy and kind men.