Russia’s Untouchables

photograph by Denis Sinyakov, Reuters

A photographer I’ve worked with just put out an amazing feature on Central Asian immigrants in Russia – this country’s ‘untouchables’.

It’s a sad, hard subject actually, and so very, very real for me. I’ve seen lots of different sides of this issue.

As Denis says,

“Everybody is used to it, but I felt deeply ashamed. The unpleasantness of locals to the immigrants is an intangible, a mentality ingrained as part of the status quo, easy to seem unremarkable and by its nature unnoticed.”

I see these ‘untouchables’ everywhere – on the metro, cleaning streets, making noise with jackhammers outside my 8th-floor living room window.

by Denis Sinyakov for Reuters

Our office did a video series about Central Asian migrants this fall, but personally I’ve never really done anything about the situation.

What should be done? What personally should I do?

Economist husband and I have a brave friend who is constantly traveling the CIS.  He’s a missionary who is perfect for living in Russia because he’s laid-back and makes friends without thinking, and sometimes when he’s half-asleep.

I love his stories about befriending people like random taxi drivers who take him on visits to their dachas, or Central Asians migrants who are afraid of Moscow escalators. We could learn a lot from him. Sometimes I think just being open and seeing everyone as a fellow human being is the answer to a lot of problems.

photo by Denis Sinyakov for Reuters

This is a post with more questions than answers, and also to share a little window of some of the issues Russia and specifically Moscow is facing.

As far as the age-old question about what should be done. I guess there’s the accompanying age-old wisdom that says if you really want the situation to change, all you have to do is ask and God will give you insight into it. It comes down to a heart issue – what do you really want? To see things change? Or to not get involved?

I really liked something I read a few weeks ago by Don Miller. He told a story about a little church that he was part of. One day his pastor came to a prayer meeting and challenged them all to pray and ask that God would help them love people that were different from them. It wasn’t long after they began praying this prayer that their church doubled and tripled in size.

The point isn’t the church – the point is that that’s such a great prayer, and is so something I need! It’s really hard to love people who are different from me. God, I think, has to give us that love…

photo by Denis Sinyakov for Reuters

Anyway, check out the post and photo series by Denis. It’s not too long, and it’s beautifully done!

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5 Responses to Russia’s Untouchables

  1. Phyllis says:

    We got to know a family who sold dried fruit at the market in Kovrov. They have been some of the most loyal friends! They still call us. I think they were drawn to us, because no one else would talk to them. I know we had a bond as fellow foreigners.

  2. Phyllis, that’s such a great story! I wish I had a similar one to share, but haven’t had the privilege of a friendship like that here in Moscow yet…what’s Ukraine like? Are there lots of immigrants there??

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    Your post is poignant, beautiful and convicting, I have been heartsick all week about human trafficking personally, and praying hard, raising awareness, especially with the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. I’ll have to head over to Miller’s page.
    Regarding your comment on my site, Lots of books! His Needs Her Needs, Wild at Heart, Love and Respect, For Women Only, Love to Last a Lifetime, Intended for Pleasure, several articles, and more books. They are great. Which marriage books have you most appreciated over the years?

    Jennifer Dougan

  4. Ha! Jen, I was just over at your site… I have to agree, “Love and Respect” is a great one. I also really liked the one you gave me for a wedding present – “The Power of a Praying Wife”…(could be subtitled “Prayer: the better alternative to nagging!” 🙂

  5. Phyllis says:

    Hmm. We live so far out in the sticks that I don’t really know what the immigrant situation is like. We have “Koreans” here. Apparently there are some really successful Korean farmers around here somewhere. (Or once were?) So, everyone calls anyone remotely Asian “Korean.” I think that’s very local, though. 🙂

    I try to be friendly with the few wives of the market guys who bring their babies out to the playground, but they don’t speak much Russian, and the playground they go to is far for us. Even here, I’m the only one who will talk to them, but I don’t think people are quite so outright mean and hateful.

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