Muscow's Soup Kitchens Reflect Swelling Underclass FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 14:35:38 -0400


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FWD  Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 1998


MUSCOVITES TURN TO SOUP KITCHENS

By Mitchell Landsberg
Associated Press Writer


MOSCOW (AP) -- Inside a bright little cafe one snowy morning, respectable
members of Russia's fading intelligentsia are chatting over soup and tea.

Suddenly, a tall, white-haired woman in a full-length, cream-colored fur
coat begins to sob.

``We're not bums!'' she wails.

The others quickly reassure her. Of course they aren't. Over there -- that
man was a prominent screenwriter. That woman -- once a leading engineer at
a radar-making plant.

Now, however, they are among Moscow's swelling underclass, eating free
meals in an off-hours soup kitchen.

With winter approaching, alarms are being raised in Russia [about] people
going hungry. The United States, the European Union and the International
Red Cross have agreed to help, even as top Russian officials insist the
country has plenty of food.

It might, but that doesn't mean people can afford it. Since Aug. 17, when
Russia devalued the ruble and defaulted on its foreign loans, the typical
Russian's meager income has fallen by two-thirds, and many people continue
to go without any pay at all.

In post-Soviet Russia, Moscow was the one place that clearly benefited from
the country's patchy economic reforms. It rapidly became a boom town. But
it also took the main blow when the economy collapsed last summer. Although
a person of means can still splurge and pay the equivalent of $5 a pound
for German sausage, $1 a pound for Spanish oranges and $10 for a bottle of
French wine, many older and poorer Muscovites now face the hunger and other
problems fellow Russians have suffered for years.

The city offers free meals to retirees at cafeterias in each of its 28
districts, but their capacity falls far short of the growing need. The
Salvation Army and hundreds of Russian Orthodox parishes have stepped in to
fill the gap. Neither the city nor the charitable organizations can say how
many people may be homeless or hungry, but all concede they cannot meet the
demand for free food.

``It's a big problem in Moscow right now,'' says Nemerud Negash, an
Ethiopian immigrant who helped found the Center for Humanitarian Aid, a
non-profit dedicated to helping the homeless.

The numbers of needy in Moscow has been growing rapidly, especially since
the economic collapse, Negash says. A few months ago, his organization was
serving 130 to 150 free meals a day. Now, he says, it serves 200 -- a
number that is fixed only by the limit of the center's resources. Every
day, he says, he turns people away.

Negash's center serves meals from the yard of the 300-year-old Church of
the Apostle Saints Peter and Paul, located a couple blocks from three of
Moscow's main train stations, which are magnets for the homeless.

One recent day, with the temperature hovering around 5 degrees, the
homeless begin lining up well before the 1 p.m. start of the free lunch
hour. When the gates open, there is a brief scuffle as volunteers block the
hungry from rushing the churchyard. A line of sorts is formed. First women,
then men, shuffle past a folding table laden with a bucket of bread, an urn
of hot soy milk and a pot of steaming mixed grains and fish.

``I come almost every day,'' says Lyudmila Baranova, a slender, clear-eyed
woman of 36 who lives in the nearby train station. She came from Velikiye
Luki, a small city to the west where she had worked as a seamstress until
being laid off in May.

She arrived in Moscow two months ago, figuring her prospects had to
improve. In her hometown, ``There are no jobs, no charity,'' she says.

But in Moscow, she earns no more than 50 rubles a day, about $3, peddling a
newspaper written by the homeless. She is disgusted by the situation in
Russia.

``Things are much, much worse,'' she says. ``We lived without problems in
the old days. We don't need the Soviet Union back, but we don't need this,
either -- not what's going on now.''

While a vast social gulf separates the homeless shivering in the Peter and
Paul courtyard from the fallen intelligentsia eating at the ``U Kuzmi''
cafe, the essential difference is that one group has homes, the other
doesn't. Both are living on the edge of hunger.

Nina Petrukholva, the former engineer, eats almost every day at ``U
Kuzmi,'' where a consortium of Western and Russian charities and the city
government pays for a few dozen people to eat modest, three-course meals of
soup, salad and a small entree between 9 a.m. and noon, before regular
patrons arrive.

Petrukholva used to hike and climb mountains, and she looks far younger
than her 74 years. A lively, cultured woman, she still cross-country skis
in the winter, attends free performances at Moscow's theaters and indulges
her love of classic Russian literature and music.

She once headed a large department in the Soviet Union's main radar
engineering and manufacturing enterprise. In Western terms, she was a
high-ranking executive, someone who might have expected to pamper herself
in retirement with travel and occasional fine meals.

Instead, she gets by on a pension of just over 400 rubles a month, the
equivalent of $23.

``People ask me, `How do you survive on such money?''' she says. ``I reply:
`Silently.'''

END FORWARD
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receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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FWD  Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 1998 



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>MUSCOVITES TURN TO SOUP KITCHENS


By Mitchell Landsberg

Associated Press Writer

</paraindent>


MOSCOW (AP) -- Inside a bright little cafe one snowy morning,
respectable members of Russia's fading intelligentsia are chatting over
soup and tea. 


Suddenly, a tall, white-haired woman in a full-length, cream-colored
fur coat begins to sob. 


``We're not bums!'' she wails. 


The others quickly reassure her. Of course they aren't. Over there --
that man was a prominent screenwriter. That woman -- once a leading
engineer at a radar-making plant. 


Now, however, they are among Moscow's swelling underclass, eating free
meals in an off-hours soup kitchen. 


With winter approaching, alarms are being raised in Russia [about]
people going hungry. The United States, the European Union and the
International Red Cross have agreed to help, even as top Russian
officials insist the country has plenty of food. 


It might, but that doesn't mean people can afford it. Since Aug. 17,
when Russia devalued the ruble and defaulted on its foreign loans, the
typical Russian's meager income has fallen by two-thirds, and many
people continue to go without any pay at all. 


In post-Soviet Russia, Moscow was the one place that clearly benefited
from the country's patchy economic reforms. It rapidly became a boom
town. But it also took the main blow when the economy collapsed last
summer. Although a person of means can still splurge and pay the
equivalent of $5 a pound for German sausage, $1 a pound for Spanish
oranges and $10 for a bottle of French wine, many older and poorer
Muscovites now face the hunger and other problems fellow Russians have
suffered for years. 


The city offers free meals to retirees at cafeterias in each of its 28
districts, but their capacity falls far short of the growing need. The
Salvation Army and hundreds of Russian Orthodox parishes have stepped
in to fill the gap. Neither the city nor the charitable organizations
can say how many people may be homeless or hungry, but all concede they
cannot meet the demand for free food. 


``It's a big problem in Moscow right now,'' says Nemerud Negash, an
Ethiopian immigrant who helped found the Center for Humanitarian Aid, a
non-profit dedicated to helping the homeless. 


The numbers of needy in Moscow has been growing rapidly, especially
since the economic collapse, Negash says. A few months ago, his
organization was serving 130 to 150 free meals a day. Now, he says, it
serves 200 -- a number that is fixed only by the limit of the center's
resources. Every day, he says, he turns people away. 


Negash's center serves meals from the yard of the 300-year-old Church
of the Apostle Saints Peter and Paul, located a couple blocks from
three of Moscow's main train stations, which are magnets for the
homeless. 


One recent day, with the temperature hovering around 5 degrees, the
homeless begin lining up well before the 1 p.m. start of the free lunch
hour. When the gates open, there is a brief scuffle as volunteers block
the hungry from rushing the churchyard. A line of sorts is formed.
First women, then men, shuffle past a folding table laden with a bucket
of bread, an urn of hot soy milk and a pot of steaming mixed grains and
fish. 


``I come almost every day,'' says Lyudmila Baranova, a slender,
clear-eyed woman of 36 who lives in the nearby train station. She came
from Velikiye Luki, a small city to the west where she had worked as a
seamstress until being laid off in May. 


She arrived in Moscow two months ago, figuring her prospects had to
improve. In her hometown, ``There are no jobs, no charity,'' she says.



But in Moscow, she earns no more than 50 rubles a day, about $3,
peddling a newspaper written by the homeless. She is disgusted by the
situation in Russia. 


``Things are much, much worse,'' she says. ``We lived without problems
in the old days. We don't need the Soviet Union back, but we don't need
this, either -- not what's going on now.'' 


While a vast social gulf separates the homeless shivering in the Peter
and Paul courtyard from the fallen intelligentsia eating at the ``U
Kuzmi'' cafe, the essential difference is that one group has homes, the
other doesn't. Both are living on the edge of hunger. 


Nina Petrukholva, the former engineer, eats almost every day at ``U
Kuzmi,'' where a consortium of Western and Russian charities and the
city government pays for a few dozen people to eat modest, three-course
meals of soup, salad and a small entree between 9 a.m. and noon, before
regular patrons arrive. 


Petrukholva used to hike and climb mountains, and she looks far younger
than her 74 years. A lively, cultured woman, she still cross-country
skis in the winter, attends free performances at Moscow's theaters and
indulges her love of classic Russian literature and music. 


She once headed a large department in the Soviet Union's main radar
engineering and manufacturing enterprise. In Western terms, she was a
high-ranking executive, someone who might have expected to pamper
herself in retirement with travel and occasional fine meals. 


Instead, she gets by on a pension of just over 400 rubles a month, the
equivalent of $23. 


``People ask me, `How do you survive on such money?''' she says. ``I
reply: `Silently.'''


END FORWARD

- 

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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