Returning to St. Petersburg, we were treated to a break in our schedule. Mike and Carrie Pickett invited us to enjoy dessert at their renovated communist-era apartment on the fifth floor. As we climbed the stairwell—a typical high rise with no elevator—an ancient babushka climbed ahead of us. (“Babushka” is the Russian term for grandmother. It also refers to the headscarf eastern European grandmothers typically wear.) Though Mike and Carrie’s apartment sits side-by-side with the babushka’s on the fifth floor, this sweet-faced grandma would not accept help from Carrie. Would not allow her to carry her bag, or steady her arm as she swayed and gasped for air, clinging to a hand rail after what was for her a torturous climb.
Later, Carrie explained that the grandma lives alone and is afraid of their sympathy, deeply mistrusting their motives. This is because she knows that her apartment has become more valuable than gold in the new and upwardly mobile St. Petersburg. And it is well known that eager young people gain the confidence of babushkas in order to abduct and kill them to obtain their apartments. So, Mike and Carrie’s desire to show Christ’s love continues to be rejected out of fear and isolation—another harsh contradiction between the old and new Russia.
Dessert time was a pleasant departure from the world outside. Elliana joined us, and being two years old, naturally stole the show for the rest of the evening. With the exception of the irresistible cakes and fruit trays Carrie had prepared.
After dessert, the long “white nights” of St. Petersburg were beginning. Positioned north on the Baltic Sea, the sunset seems to go on forever. We took advantage of it and walked-off our dessert until 10 pm, bathing in the photographer’s golden hour. We found that the Russian way of life produces a much greater appreciation for its city parks and squares. The winters are long and confining, and the apartments quite small, therefore in the spring and summer people eagerly depart their dwellings to spend hours in the city’s common areas.
We joined the locals and walked through a plaza of water fountains dominated by a great statue of Vladimir Lenin. We were reminded of the truly old Czarist Russia of the 1700s, when Peter the Great built this fabulous city. And two-centuries later, when the dark cloud of communism imposed its atheistic signature, renaming the city Leningrad—a name that endured until 1991, when the Soviet Union broke-up. Today, the new Russia has reclaimed the original name. Yet, Lenin’s statue stands ironically frozen in mid-stride, stuck in an era that has disappeared due to the massive failure of his ideas.
It is good to be an American in St. Petersburg tonight. We think ahead a few weeks to our July 4th celebration when names like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton will stand in stark contrast to that of Valdimir Lenin. These American founders will be honored, not for the failure of their ideas, but for the God fearing wisdom they demonstrated in preserving freedom for so many generations to come. America’s blessing continues to bless the world.
Filed June 3, 2012 by Media Operations Manager, Stephen Bransford.