During these days in Russia the football (soccer) Championship is the happening thing, and a huge number of foreigners have come to watch. To our surprise, we began to notice that into Sretensky Monastery, the gates of which are not marked by any signs in foreign languages, scores of fans have been coming from other countries. We decided to get acquainted with some of them and ask them about their impressions of Russia and Russians, what cities they visited, about our culture and mentality.
A father and son from Jaffa, Israel:
My name is Ramzi, I’m sixty-five years old. We are Orthodox Christians from Israel, and we live in Jaffa. This is my third time in Russia; this time I came with my son Mario, who is thirty-six. Mario is here for the first time.
—What impression do you have of Russia and the capital this time?
—First of all, Moscow is a very beautiful and clean city. We came especially for the World Cup, and we don’t have very much time to visit other cities in your country. But we are simply ecstatic about Moscow. And because we are Orthodox, we came here to the church today. This is the second Orthodox church we have visited in Moscow.
In general, it’s good to be a tourist. When you are a tourist, life is wonderful. Although I have to admit, there is one unpleasant thing about Moscow. It’s your taxi drivers. They are not honest. They wanted to take 150 dollars from us for a ride from the airport!
—How do you like the monastery?
—It is very beautiful and rich. You can immediately see that many resources and efforts were put into it. In general, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Ukraine are all Orthodox countries, and they should be together, I think.
—What is you occupation?
—I am an insurance broker, and Mario is a lawyer. By the way, did you notice that he has an Argentinian name? I really love football, and in 1978 the World Cup was in Argentina, where the Argentinians won. They had a famous forward named Mario Kempes, and I named my son in honor of him!
Pierre and Daniele from Brazil:
Christ the Savior Cathedral. The Church of St. Basil amazed us with its beauty and grandeur; it preserves the spirit of ancient Russia.
We also see the kind and happy faces of people who welcome the visitors. In general, when we came to Russia we thought we would see serious, stern faces; but in reality it turned out entirely different. Russians are very cheerful and friendly people, with sincere souls, always ready to help.
We ourselves belong to the Catholic Church, and at home we sometimes go to church. We would gladly visit Russia again. Our visit here was a real revelation.
Jose from Columbia
—My name is Jose, and I am from Columbia. I am in Russia for the second time.
—Where were you the first time?
—In 2012 I was in St. Petersburg. Now having come for the World Cup I can say that I have been in the two largest cities in Russia. In St. Petersburg I was very impressed by the architecture and history, and in general all that this city stands for. For example, I visited the Winter Palace in the Hermitage Museum. All of these places are filled with culture and tradition.
—How do you like Moscow as compared to St. Petersburg?
—During the time that I was able to spend here, it seemed that Moscow is more “administrative”. That’s probably natural since Moscow is the capital. So here you can see new buildings, modern architecture. But in St. Petersburg there is to the contrary a greater connection with the historical past.
—Were you able to get to know any Russians?
—I can say a lot about Russians. What we hear about other countries depends very much upon the media and the press. But one of the great advantages of tourism is that it allows you to see everything as it is, with your own eyes. You can see people as they are in real life, really feel the city, culture, and country. My trip has opened my eyes. Having been here I saw that people in Russia are friendly and open to greet you and help you. This is great, because in fact I didn’t expect this. Probably I had imagined that Russians would be more reserved, but when I came here I was amazed.
I already know several of my compatriots who have come here and say that they would like to live here someday, in Russia, because they like the Russian culture and Russian people. I do not want to get into politics about this, because some Russian friends have told me that it’s not very good to discuss politics. I consider that discussing the political side of things is suitable for presidents and prime ministers. But we ordinary citizens and ordinary people should better talk with each other and understand that there are no essential differences between us—the difference only exists in the mass media and press, in the fables they tell us about each other.
—What thoughts would you like to share with us?
—I have met so many kind and wonderful people here who are sincere and want to help you! In the final analysis it is important how we approach and relate to people, our respect for others and understanding that perhaps were are different, we have different cultures, religions, and traditions, but we can be enriched by all that. We have to value that, and not attack and criticize.
Three fans from Mexico
—Hello. Where did you come from and what is your religion, if it’s not a secret?
—Hello! We are Catholics from Mexico.
—Did you know anything about our country before you came to Russia?
—We have never been here before and only heard that it is a beautiful country in which cold and serious people live. Oh! And we heard about nesting dolls.
—And what do you think about Russia and Russians now?
—In fact you are very hospitable, friendly, and beautiful people! And Moscow is just a magnificent and vey cozy city. We like it here very much!