Mariya starkova

Portraits of our seniors

15 500 rubles. 1300 hryvnyas. 12 000 rubles. Can you survive a whole month with that money? They can. They know where to get the cheapest macaroni or buy the shoes for 300 rub. and wear it like glass slippers.
It so happened that I`ve always spent a lot of time with elderly people. I lived with my grandparents and knew everything about my grandmother`s friends. But those were just stories. It`s much harder to look them in the eyes and start asking questions. Somehow you instantly feel ashamed of yourself cause you have a chocolate in the refrigerator and yesterday you threw away a 600 rubles t-shirt cause it was in raspberry jam.
Grandma Valya
Krasnodar, Russia
Grandma Valya was standing near the supermarket on one of the Krasnodar central streets with flowers in her hands. I stopped by her and we started talking.
She lives in the suburbs of Krasnodar. A couple of times a week she goes to the city to sell flowers. She says, people used to buy more, now they simply pass by, they have no money for that.
I was on the steppe, that`s why my pension is good - 15 500 rubles. Plus the garden, you can always survive when your grow things yourself. I`m trying to enjoy what I have, live with kindness in my heart and share it with others.
She`s not ashamed of selling flowers, she tries to do it with love. The only upsetting thing is the road, a round-trip ticket costs about 200 rubles. She takes 20 bouquets and sells it for 100 rubles each, it makes a good addition to my pension. She gives the money to her grandkid - he has a family, works as an engineer and earns 16 000 per month.
Meanwhile, Valya needs new teeth, has a sick heart, but almost never spends money for her own needs.
People buy flowers more during the holidays. Once I was selling cyclamens for 30 rubles per each, one woman bought some boquets from me and started selling them a little further for 50 rubles. People do what they can.
Nikolaev, Ukraine
An old woman works in a small private hotel at nights. She watches the visitors, meets their eyes with the distant look of a woman, whose life ended a long time ago.
A room in a private hotel costs from 350 to 500 hryvnyas a night. The conditions are mediocre: decent decoration, non-expensive furniture and fixtures, of a more or less good quality. Work here is an additional income, cause once a month she gets her pension - 1300 hryvnyas. If she had to stay in this hotel it would only be enough for 2,5 nights in a standard room with a big bed and a shower.
She lives with her kids, wouldn`t make it without them. That is how most of people her age, that she knows, live. They share the utilities bills among everyone, eat together, hold on to each other.
If I lived alone, I would have died of hunger a long time ago. My expenses exceed my income, though I don`t remember eating caviar, I don`t live a chic life.
She looks at the TV with fear in her eyes. It`s the evening news. It shows Verkhovna Rada deputies. Tatyana says, she`s waiting for the news about health care. The deputies adopted the first reading of a new bill, which means no free health care from now on. Only for money.

Mother of her daughter-in-law moved to Spain and sends a lot of things from there. That`s how they save money on clothes for adults and little Tatyana - her granddaughter. The situation is more difficult with food. One can buy bread, sugar, butter and it`s already 70 hryvnyas. It`s only 18 times a month with that shopping. But you also want vegetables, fruits and sometimes meat.
Once an American woman came here, ordered food to her room, paid 6 euros and said: it`s so cheap here, so cheap. And I was looking at her, thinking: my family can live a couple of days with that money, not just have a lunch…
Yekaterina Nikolayevna
Sevastopol, Russia
Yekaterina Nikolayevna doesn`t skimp on food, she simply never throws anything away. The woman remembers the Leningrad blokade well, she was a little girl. She lives alone, food can stay in her refrigerator for days. She almost never buys clothers. If she knows there`s a sale somewhere, she goes there.
She boasts about her super-comfortable flats, that only cost her 300 rubles. She wears them carefully, so that they could last longer.
My pension is a little more then 12 thousand. I think it`s not that little. My friend has a 9 thousand pension, and she`s been working as a nurse for 40 years.
The utility cost takes about 3 000 rubles, for a 3-room apartment it couldn`t be less. She buys food in a couple of shops, that she knows well. One sells cheaper dairy products, other - sweets. Most of the money are spent on medicine. Yekaterina Nikolayevna survived a heart attack.
I`m lucky. My children and grandchildren are well-settled, they help me. My friend lives alone, she has no one, she`s living from hand to mouth, struggles to pay for the apartment and medicine. She can rarely afford fruits, her pension is also 9 000 and she has no additional payment for soldiers` wives.
All these old women live in different parts of our big country. Each one of them has her own story, but they all have one thing in common - they have to survive in a severe capitalistic reality. No cruises with old millionaires, no travelling the world, no happy retirement. Only struggle for life.

There is a calculator on the official website of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation. I incerted the approximate parameters of my current and future life: my salary, years of experience. My pension will amount to 12 162 rubles. Now I spend 50 thousand rubles on myself monthly. And my way of life can be called pretty humble. How can one live on 12 thousands per month is a mystery for me. But I don`t want to think about it. At least till I`m 50. The perspective seems too sad.

May be that`s why ignore the problems of old people and hide our eyes when we see an old woman with flowers near the pedestrian crossing? We see ourselves in the future.
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