FEBRUARY 11, 2014
Two Russian Women on a Sochi Train
I've learned long ago that some of the most interesting stuff happens on trains. Right now, I'm on one of the free commuter trains linking downtown Sochi to the Olympic Village and Krasnaya Polyana up in the mountains. Across the very small aisle from me, two Russian women are having a discussion. One is older, one is younger.
Young Woman: "I have a green card. I can apply for [U.S.] citizenship next year. But I don't want it anymore."
Older Woman: "You should apply, just in case."
YW: "I don't even want it anymore. Look at them shitting on our Olympics, I've had it up to here with them. I don't want anything to do with them."
OW: "And look at all the things we built. Look at this train. It's free! It's investment, people will come here."
YW: "Because America is founded on conflict. They need conflict. And they're jealous. They just can't say anything nice."
OW: "They're afraid of having a competitor. Because after the Cold War, they got used to being ahead and now Putin has come along and raised the country up."
OW: "Look at what they've done all over the world, muddying the water everywhere. Syria, Ukraine. Poor Ukraine. They've destroyed Kiev."
YW: "It's all them, it's all them."
OW shows YW the magnets she got at the souvenir shop. One is of a bare-chested Putin galloping on horseback through the water.
YW: "Look at him. Where can you find another leader like him? Athletic, decisive. And who do they have? Obama." [she puts her hands behind her ears to imitate Obama's large ears] "He just stands there and does nothing."
OW: "All these people who criticize Putin, what have they done? What have they accomplished?"
YW: "Nothing, of course. All they do is criticize."
OW: "Why don't you go and do something? Why do you wait for the government to give you something? Why do you think the government owes you everything?"
YW: "You'll always feel foreign in America. Although, I have some friends in America who are obsessed with America. 'America! America!' My god, I ask them. What has this America given you? A husband? A car? What has America given you?"
OW: "Why would anyone ever leave Russia? Your land is here, your relatives are here. What's the most important thing? Your roots, right? Your roots."
OW: "I can forgive some of the people who leave and try to build something there, but only some of them I can forgive."
OW: "What is capitalism? Capitalism is if I don't eat you, you will eat me. That's capitalism."
YW: "All the Americans do is criticize us. All they do is criticize Russia."
New Republic Senior Editor Julia Ioffe will be writing dispatches from Russia for the duration of the Olympics. For the entire collection of her pieces, click here.