New Friend Friday #21

New Friend Friday #21

To understand this week’s New Friend Friday you’ve got to understand one simple word, Stubborn. You know when your parents get in a fight that is triggered by something that happened a really long time ago? And when they are all done fighting they can’t remember why or how they started fighting in the first place. Then there will be that one little thing to instigate the fighting all over again. Well, that is what Russia and Estonia are like when it comes to a certain statue in the center of town. I went down to the statue today and spoke with this week’s New Friend Friday.

Bus loads of Russian football fans are flooding into the square and a mix of intoxicated, celebratory, and sobbing Russians are lingering around. Viktor is here early. An armband designating his position slowly slips down his dark blue blazer. It says Nochnoj Dozor or Night Watchman as we know it. He shows up for his volunteer shift early because today is a football match between Russia and Estonia. Kind of like what it would be like if the Cowboys and the Indians were in the Super Bowl and the game was being played on a Reservation. Yeehaa right? Wrong.

Meanwhile the statue is collecting offerings of carnations and tulips for the Soviet soldiers who died during WWII. Viktor, who is an engineer by day, keeps an eagle’s eye on the situation because like many Russians living in Estonia, his father was one of those Soviet soldiers. He points at two bus stops near the street and says that is where the soldiers’ graves are. Some say thirteen, some say a few dozen, and some say none at all.

The heart of the problem is that the statue, which stands for liberation to the Russians, also stands for oppression to the Estonians. There are countless little tid-bits to complicate this situation but even the most miniscule like how the sculptor was an Estonian and the model he used for the soldier was also an Estonian, leads to argueing, fights, and riots. Nonetheless, the Estonians want it removed and the Russians feel it should stay out of respect. So today as the opposing countries flags are being waved and the national songs being sung, Viktor stands as an outsider in his own country, protecting a loaded symbol that is about to erupt. But for now, it’s still daylight and Viktor is amongst friends arriving from far away.

This N.F.F. would not be possible without the help of my handy-dandy translator Paul Nikulin. Without him I would have only been able to understand Это Віктор. Он инженѐр. And to celebrate the fact that everyone lasted a whole week of listening to Ice Cube from the last post, I’ve replaced it with the sound of downloading, buffering, and scrolling.