The Club of 100 Year Ladies
June 13, 2012 2:49 PM   Subscribe

English Russia often chooses odd subjects but the ladies in this article have lived sadly sweet lives through some of the most intense and difficult years in an intense and difficult place. It was originally published in Russian Esquire if you prefer the Russian language version
posted by Isadorady (19 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When I visited Russia in the early 2000s all the old ladies working as coat check attendants, looking after lavotories and anywhere where you might want someone standing around to look after something really stood out. Apparently after glasnost they lost all their pensions and it was work or starve.

"Things were better under Stalin" is, apparently, a frequently expressed opinion in that set.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, but also: things were better for them when they were 40, not 100, and everyone they loved was still alive.
posted by pracowity at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a guy who lives up the road from me who is 102... He's still surprisingly fit, just needs a motability scooter if he has to go any distance, and lucid. I saw him in the doctors the other week and he was telling the other patients he's planning to live to at least 110 and become the oldest living Englishman. (I'm hoping having the same doc ups my survival chances)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:08 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I wake up and think what a fool I’ve always been. Did so many stupid things. And never became smarter. I have a bad character, I have never been able to swallow my pride.

Hey, lady, don't summarize my life so succinctly! Leave me something to look forward to....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

everyone they loved was still alive.

WWIiI was really not the same rosy experience for them as fit you guys, so probably not.
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on June 13, 2012

posted by GenjiandProust at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2012

Pshaw, Artw. They didn't even lose 15% of their entire population in that war. 'Twas a flesh wound!
posted by Malor at 3:22 PM on June 13, 2012

Or II even. Or "the Great Patriotic War"

One of the weirdest experiences of my Time in Russia was visiting a museum of the St. Petersburg siege WHO PROBABLY LIVED THROUGH IT talk about the experience, in Russian, with help from a translator who barely spoke any English herself. The hate with which she spat out the word for German was visceral, and we definatly got the following: everybody starved, a lot of people died, I'd it was vaguely organic someone tried to eat it, and of course death to all Germans.
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

(also some cool stuff about attempts to break the drive by driving over ice. )
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I wake up and think what a fool I’ve always been. Did so many stupid things. And never became smarter. I have a bad character, I have never been able to swallow my pride.

Lady... Every day you wake up is a day you are doing something right. One fine morning you'll wake up dead. Правда
posted by spicynuts at 4:10 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Those not wanting to click through 2leep can go directly to
posted by vidur at 4:21 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the post it reminds me of how much I miss my "old people" friends.

Years ago I moved into a neighborhood that had mostly old people in it. I met a few and word got out that I was a nice kid who could fix stuff. After a while I was doing pro bono odd jobs for folks, mostly things they would have done themselves a few years earlier. Over the course of a couple of years I'd done a couple of hundred little odd-jobs and almost every time they would have a few bottles of beer waiting in the ice box.

Now the beer wasn't payment, the beer we shared. The payment or what I got from them were the stories about them. Stories about the neighborhood, the city, the growth and excitement they felt as things grew. Stories about the Great Depression, WWII and about how Mrs. Hanson, my neighbor across the street, heard about and felt when her oldest son died in Vietnam.

At least twenty years have passed and they have all passed too. At the time I thought I was just being a good kid, doing things any good kid would do. Years later I realized that those small jobs, changing light bulbs, climbing on roof tops, rewiring vacuum cleaners, were all very unimportant. I know now that they were opportunities for them to share things with a relative stranger that they might otherwise have not shared and that I got some things from them that no amount of currency could ever purchase.
posted by snsranch at 4:50 PM on June 13, 2012 [22 favorites]

In English Russia, tea drinks YOU.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:29 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

What was "the Jewish mess" that one woman survived?
posted by Renoroc at 7:32 PM on June 13, 2012

I'd guess she was talking about the pogroms.
posted by newg at 7:58 PM on June 13, 2012

One way or another.
posted by Artw at 8:02 PM on June 13, 2012

There's something invigorating about Russians' willingness to be publicly depressed. When the American media does a "quotes from old folks" story, everyone will say every day is a gift, I always looked on the bright side, I have no regrets. But the Russians? Misery! Horror! Ennui! It gets to be a drag after a while, but it's refreshing like a cold shower.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:18 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

The American oldster did not have to live on the front lines of two world wars and they probably have dementia. That's why they are happy compared to the Russian, who is still sane and lived through some heavy, heavy shit.
posted by Renoroc at 5:14 AM on June 14, 2012

Though to be fair Russians of all ages are like that too. There are probably grimly fatalistic Russian toddlers.
posted by Artw at 6:09 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

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