New Russian Chronicles
Surviving monotaxocausofilia

The Pushkin

I have the impression my last post was a bit on the dry side.

Maybe you don’t know what the Pushkin institute is, maybe you don’t know the stories I tell of that place. If that’s the case, let me expand on my previous post.

The Pushkin State Russian Language Institute is where I spent my first year in Russia. I met interesting people, I learnt Russian, I had experiences, I….

No, let’s cut the bullshit: That place can be fucking hell. It definitely was for me. So! Why not hear some horror stories from uncle me, about that place?

I have so many, where to start?

I think I’ll tell you the story of my Mexican friend and the Deshurnaya.

A Deshurnaya, by any other name, would kick your ass just as strong.
Now, what is a Deshurnaya?
The literal translation would be “Service woman”. In every student residence in Russian, on every floor, there’s one.
Their role? Be in charge.

Of what? Well, good question, no one ever really knows what they do, since cleaning is done by others. But when she looks at you from her chair in the main corridor of your floor, and a cold shiver races down your spine, you know it: she’s fucking in charge.

But I am serious, no one, not even them, knows exactly what their responsabilities are. They are seriously underpaid. Many of the deshurnayas at Pushkin institute tipped the bottle like there was no tomorrow. (And honestly: was there?)
Oh, and one thing: During soviet times they were ALL, every single one of them, on the KGB’s payroll. And I should mention we had a KGB agent with us at the dorm, but that’s a story for another day.

Now, the one at my floor, the fourth (I lived at room 418) was the worst of the lot. She didn’t drink, she saw everything, and she had a temper. Well, actually she had a handful of tempers.
She was scary, I assure you. And had an accent that was difficult to understand for me.

The Beauty and the Mexican

So at one point, this Mexican friend of mine was doing whatever fucked up shit crossed his mind his utmost to impress this beautiful Austrian girl that’s still my friend.

At one point she lent him some VCR, which in hindsight we never managed to watch or even know what it was about. My friend didn’t really know what it was all about, but the girl had give it to him, so he was desperate to watch it ASAP. The problem? We didn’t have a VCR player. Who had?

You guessed. The Deshurnaya.

Now, asking her was easy enough. She lent it to him with little resistance. Things looked fine.
Until we actually tried to put the VCR in the machine, that is.
The damn thing swallowed the cassette whole, and proceeded to die.

We looked at the thing in despair for several minutes.

In for trouble.

Of course, I kept a level head, and I knew we had two problems. A minor problem, which was giving the girl her VCR, and a HELL of a problem, which was the Deshurnaya’s rage.
But my friend was having none of that. And the girl had asked for the cassette back. Time was NOT on our side. And he just knew what to do. He went screwdriver.

Now, my crime has prescribed, so I’ll say it here, for the first time: I was as guilty as him. I took another screwdriver and helped. He was my friend, come Deshurnaya or high water, I had to stick by him.

We had to take apart half the damned thing before we could get the cassette out, and by that time it was 1am, we were very tired and we had class the next day. So we just said the obvious thing any two proud latins would: Mañana.

Click here to listen to context-appropiate music

I went to bed and fell asleep pretty quickly.
Little did I know what was coming.

Reveille played on the silver horn of Valhalla

Now, first, at the time I used a blindfold to sleep. Yep, no curtains or blinds, so it was sorely necessary. Second, she woke me up. Personally.
At 08h16 she storms in my room shouting and crying at the same time.
I’m dazed at this time. Not only did she wake me up violently, I was also blinded, since I had taken my blinfold suddenly. And I was confused as hell. Dazed and confused.

Luckily, all my senses rallied and very quickly I was able to take stock of the situation: She had gone to my pals room and seen the mess, with his VCR taken apart.

Now, in case you are wondering: yes, she just entered his room. Why would she do that? Did she have to do something? No. My guess is that maybe she wanted her VCR. Then again, maybe the reason was another. You never knew, the only thing that was sure is that she could go in your room whenever se pleased, and then scold you for something or other that she saw in your room. Why? Because she was in charge.

So yeah, suddenly I have this woman I’m scared shitless of, crying in my room and I just woke up. Luckily, my mind was in overdrive, bringing to the forefront all the Russian I knew, and I was able to gather that she was just ranting, that she didn’t know of my involvement. John and the twins were safe from emasculation, for the time being.

Reactions? Comments?

My reaction was simple: I tried to console her and explain that I was sure my friend had only goodwill in his heart. Along the way I promised that we’d fix the video, bring her flowers and return Crimea to Russia. That seemed to make the trick.

We spent that afternoon rebuilding the VCR creatively. At the end, we only had 4 pieces we didn’t know what to do with. And the VCR didn’t work any worse than at the start. Meaning, it didn’t work at all.

I feared for my friend. I kept seeing this images of my friend being shot twice in the back of his knees, then left to die in the snow, his corpse found only in Spring, after the thaw. Or worse. I just knew we were in deep shit.

Now, then… maybe this is a knowledge should be kept among a few initiates… but I prefer you have it, in case, somehow, you end up in a dorm in Russia.
If you need to deal in any way with a Deshurnaya, specially if she’s angry at you, three things, and only three things combined will save you:
– Flowers
– Chocolates
– Kowtowing in generous quantities.

That’s what my Mexican pal did, and that’s what saved our skin.
Otherwise, who knows the horrors she might have unleashed upon us. We might have ended up in Siberia.

Oh well. Next time I’ll tell you the story of a much nicer person, her subordinate the cleaning girl. I said girl and not lady because she was 40 years her junior. I mean, ok, it’s easy to be 40 years younger than a Deshurnaya, but still. She was much nicer, I’ll tell you about her, and her incredible technique: she was able to dry clean an entire room.
Actually, I’ll tell you a particular story, the story of The cleaning lady, the Italian teenagers and the coathanger abortion. A story true as real life.

But to wrap it up today, I’ll leave you with a small snippet of life at Pushkin institute. This is an excerpt of its webpage in english

Hostel details:

* 24 hour security service
* 24 hour front desk
* Number of floors: 13
* Number of rooms on a floor: 29
* Superior rooms (suites, hotel style) – specially rated
* Elevators/lifts
* Kitchens (on each floor, no utensils provided)
* Special rooms for quiet study (on each floor)
* TV rooms (on each floor)
* Two Internet cafes with office equipment (surcharge)
* Weekly housekeeping
* Laundry (surcharge)
* Iron/ironing boards (on request)
* Cloak room
* Medical nurse, first aid

Just for you, I bolded the true statements. Lemme tell you the rest were either complete bullshit, or a very fancy description of the reality behind them.

Wanna know more? Ask me.

Over and out.


2 comentarios to “The Pushkin”

  1. I am very happy you survived. Whatever doesn’t kill us….. (actually, I don’t believe in that expression at all… but it seems appropriate here).

    I am surprised you would willingly return to the country after such experiences.

  2. “We looked at the thing in despair for several minutes” 😀

    I actually know a little bit of the things you’re talking about. Yeah, Russia might be hell and we’re still willing to return…(talking of me)…


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