Hello, dear readers. I’ve recently found some old diary entries that I wrote 7 years ago. It was a time of change for me. I was preparing to permanently move back to Russia after 20 years in the United Kingdom. Many things were unfamiliar to me at the time, and these ‘first impressions’ make for some interesting reading. The stories take place in 3 cities – Voronezh, Moscow and Naberezhnye Chelny. Here is the 2nd installment…

29th of May 2011 - Our train to Moscow was at 00:05. We were ready for a nice sleep. That never happened. Upon arriving in our cabin we learned that the train we were on had originally departed from Chechnya. The other passengers on board were soldiers who were on their way to a vacation of some description. How do Russian soldiers celebrate such a momentous occasion? By getting drunk.

We were surrounded by trained drunken killers. One of them asked me my name, to which I replied "My name is Dima." He replied "Hey brother, my name is Dima too." This rather mediocre event was a reason for celebration for the drunken soldier, so he had another 50ml shot of vodka. No more than 5 minutes had passed until he asked my name again. I replied "My name is Dima." Once again the soldier informed me that he had the same name and drank another shot to celebrate. Then 10 minutes later he asked my name AGAIN. I said "I have the same name as you, Dima". This time the soldier replied "O my God! How the hell did you know my name was Dima?"

Dima and the other two soldiers in our cabin (Alexander and Sergei) decided that my father and I were travelling musicians on the sole basis of the fact that we both had long hair. They didn't even give us the opportunity to correct them before asking for song requests. The fact that we clearly didn't have any instruments with us was of no concern to these fine patriots. We arrived in Moscow at 9:30 the next morning feeling awful due to lack of sleep.

So I was officially in Moscow. Where did I go first? Red Square, of course! If you're visiting Moscow and you don't go to Red Square, you’ll be missing a wonderful opportunity. It is the first place anyone links to the Russian nation. The architecture is divine, the historical significance is overwhelming, and with elements of Westernization over the last 20 years, the place can be good fun. We visited Lenin's grave, the Kremlin and Alexander Gardens. The Gardens are mentioned in the novels of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Boris Akunin. Now, here I was eating ice-cream and practicing hand stands in the very same place. I had my picture taken with a man dressed as Spider-Man, with the walls of the Kremlin in the background. There was also an outdoor Judo tournament being held in the military parade area. Dad and I caught the last fight.

After a thrilling day out we went to the apartment of my grandfather Pyotr Dmitrivich Polovinkin. The man is my fashion icon. He defines the phrase 'Casual look for a Formal occasion'. We both love light gray suits and beige shirts. I was unable to come to Moscow when my beloved Grandma (Izolda Nikolaivna Polovinkina) passed away. So it was a true blessing that circumstances let me see my Grandfather on this occasion. The evening was spent watching women's gymnastics. Grandad was a keen and talented gymnast himself once. He was genuinely interested in the competitive element of the sport. I wasn’t.

The following day Grandad and I went to the Moscow Academy of Economics. This is where he works. The academy has the most amazing interior, complete with giant chandeliers and winding stairways. Also, the food was delicious. My Grandad said "Imagine if you studied here", to which I replied "To be honest, I'd spend more time in the cafeteria than in lectures".

The 31 May 2011 was a day I will always remember. It started with a 2 hour bike ride in the company of my 15 year old cousin Danila Orlov.

Danila has a quick witted and juvenile sense of humour much like my own. Although his humour is less insult based than mine. His passion is cars. He knows EVERYTHING about cars and it was a pleasure to be educated by him on his favourite topic.

That evening I experienced something that will stay in my heart forever. Myself, my father, my aunt Katja, cousin Danila and two of Katja's friends (beautiful sisters called Anya and Svetlana) attended an arts evening entitled "Serbo - Russian celebration of companionship".

We were invited by my family's good friends, Dragon and Sveta. They are a couple who are both musicians and perform concerts together. Their performance was incredible (I knew it would be as I am loosely familiar with their work). However, there were other performances that evening. As well as traditional Serbian music, there were poetry readings and speeches about peoples' experiences of the war in the Balkans in the early 1990s. To say "I was moved" would be an understatement. I was truly surprised by how such a dark topic as the war in the former Yugoslavia could produce such inspiring and beautiful art. This was a perfect ending to my last day in Moscow and I thank everyone involved. After this, I was on the move again. Read about it next time.


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