murderous traffic, Lyme Disease and following the blind – it’s Moscow

So I arrived in Moscow – miles of crumbling tower blocks before you get to the centre, horrible traffic (murderous if you want to cross as a pedestrian), huge electric cables stretching between the top of one tower block to another, huge new towers being built, shopping malls, money. It was one of the few places I actually started to worry about getting enough to eat. In the hotel the meals were ferociously expensive and microscopic – and since, unbeknownst to me, I had Lyme Disease I didn’t have a lot of energy to walk around and find things – and my hotel was a bit isolated.

Somehow, had the impression that the guts have been ripped out of this town – some older sections still survive – great art galleries – the two Tretiakof galleries are cool, onion domed churches, a park with busts of Lenin and Stalin staring at you, slightly annoyed at being stuck in this garden, undignified.

And then the filming itself – with Anatoliy Popko – a young blind man, funny, intelligent, resourceful. I follow him through the metro system – beautiful but unforgiving – it’s very rare for a blind or disabled person to be seen on the metro or out in the streets. He moves quickly from pillar to pillar. He walks with his stick tracing the very edge of the platform. The one thing you don’t want, he points out, is to not know where the edge of the platform is.

The blind factory worker – the woman assembling light bulbs all day – her face makes me want to cry. I feel guilty gliding in and filming and gliding out – but I go on with the shoot.

Later, at work, he shows me the cool software that means you can e-mail him and he’ll write back. There’s a continuous burbling, robotic voice. As his cursor runs over a sentence or as he writes, the software reads it out, so he knows at every instant what’s on the page.

Anatoliy invites me back to his parents’ home – a pokey apartment on the outskirts of Moscow. Most people seem to live in fairly pokey apartments by Western standards. They serve home-made wine which tastes as if it’s about 50% alcohol. His mother gives an emotional interview about the day she knew Anatoliy would never see again – at the age of twelve – and how he lay down for a year doing nothing, before springing back via dishwashing, to excelling at Moscow State University.

Anatoliy with his ten-month-old daughter Polina – very touching, seeing him soothe her through touch and sound.

I’ll remember this trip. Was diagnosed with Lyme Disease shortly after I got back – now better.

You can see the complete 14 minute film here.

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