I posted the other day about how my time with my guide in Russia gave a face and story to global headlines.
I heard the announcement yesterday about increased US sanctions against Russian and Putin’s retaliation through the lens of the woman who guided me to Peterhof and Pushkin — food. We had been talking about her childhood in Soviet times, and how they had plenty of locally grown fruit where she lived in Uzbekistan — melons, berries — but oranges were imported and rare, and every Christmas they got a box of chocolates and one orange.
“I was 20 before I had a banana,” she said. “At the time I thought it was manna.” She paused. “Now I am indifferent to bananas, but I am a vegetarian, and the big problem is cheese. I depend on it as an important part of my diet. With the sanctions, we cannot get good cheese. In Soviet times, there were only three types of cheese, but they were all good — now all of the cheese we can get is terrible.”
When they can, they cross-border shop to Finland to buy… cheese. Because all that good European cheese can’t make its way through the economic sanctions.
Sanctions are headlines, and they are also this lovely woman and her inability to get cheese.