Galina, Tanya and Yura are practicing yoga. They are meeting regularly once or twice a week for common exercises with a larger group of yoga devotees. At home or among themselves, they prefer vegetarian diet, and fruit juice to alcohol. In the wide society they can eat or drink anything.
We met in Galina's home to celebrate her birthday. Yura was in a hurry. But he still managed to show me after the supper how to use properly a Russian steam bath (banya). I had no problems after the initial steaming to run naked outside at -20°C (-4°F), and cover myself with the snow!
Galina is self-employed, and lives comfortably with daughter Irina in her own house in a small town of the bedroom community type about 20 km from Irkutsk. Her other older daughter had married recently, and moved far away from her to St. Petersburg.
Tanya is a sound operator in the Irkutsk radio and television (a colleague of Tatyana of one of the following stories). Before that, Tanya used to be the sound operator of a documentary film crew, with which she travelled all over a large part of Siberia, and has thus many friends everywhere.
The afternoon before we arrived to the Galina house, Irina, about 17, was returning from work with the very first wages she earned in her life. She had not noticed that somebody was following her on her way home, and he snatched her purse from her with all the money and documents not far from the gate to their house. It was hard to imagine that something like happened in such a quiet side street in a town that seemed so sleepy and safe!
This was the closest I ever got to a crime scene during all my stay in Russia. Although crime still seems to be a problem that many Russians worry about. Just recently, in the beginning of March 2002, I read on the Internet that in the vicinity of the same town where Galina and Irina live, a group of five businessmen from the city of Angarsk (just north of Irkutsk) were murdered. They were travelling to China to buy goods, and had large sums of money on them.
Galina has a funny guard dog called Mukhtar. He was apparently not very happy with my presence when I went for a short walk in the morning, as they forgot to introduce me properly to him in the evening. So he broke loose his chain and bit me in the leg. After four months, the marks of three of his teeth are still clearly visible on my calf.