The World Trade Center in Moscow is still there, and this is what it’s called: World Trade Center, in English. It consists of a few concrete-and-glass skyscrapers, filled with offices and expensive boutiques, connected by a shopping mall in the basement. At six pm the employees of banks and corporations, who occupy the said offices, pour outside. They form a river of dressed-up people, flowing to the nearest metro station. There, on the way out of an underground passage and into the station, this gentleman awaits them:
He must be at least 80. He comes there with two stools: one, on which he’s seated, and another one, where he puts his songbook, some big bags he temporarily doesn’t need and a plastic bag from a cheap supermarket, where he collects change from the passers-by. He plays the accordion and it seems that his tiny, fragile frame is about to break under its weight – but it never does. He keeps playing. Slowly, but meticulously. He also sings with vigour about the war and devchonki (girls), but it’s the former (and pobeda – victory) which always takes precedence.
I first saw him in the summer, on a fine, warm, sunny evening. I stood behind him and a bit on a side. I was listening to him and thought that it was great that he still had the energy to do all that. I thought that maybe he wasn’t there because he had to make a living, but because he wanted to keep himself busy. Out of a sudden, a lady in a prudish skirt approached me. Using the elderly man as an example she started convincing me that the world made no sense. ‘Look at him’, she said. ‘he’s old, he should be resting, but he has to play here. There’s no money in the country, there’s no justice either. How to live in a world like this?’. I run away before she started convincing me to believe in a god or another.
I passed that place again many times and each time I saw that man there, in the rain and in the frost, with his big accordion. Each time I passed him, I thought of the lady in the prudish skirt. She wasn’t right in the end. Even if he was there because he had to, not because he felt like playing the accordion every evening, there was nothing sad in it. He wasn’t begging, he wasn’t complaining or waiting idly for things to change. He made use of whatever he had at his disposal and just kept on going. I wish I had just as much optimism and determination.
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