My first disappointment was that there was no snow—I love Russia in Winter with everything white and gleaming, turning the entire city into an urban enchantment.
But this time I was met with a beautiful sunny week of deep-blue cloudless skies, which were a perfect backdrop for the magical gold onion domes and the fantasy of St. Basils Cathedral.
It was wonderful to visit my favorite Pushkin Café where I had dumplings and a wonderfully smooth vodka. I was also able to attend an extraordinary concert of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky where women gave the male soloist and the conductor dressed in tails bouquets of flowers and baskets of food. This took me back to my adolescence where concerts were sacred places of reverence.
Had the women changed? Yes, and No. The ones that I met were more fashionable, sophisticated, politically aware and open than the women I had met 25 years before.
But they were open about being afraid, shamed and guilty! They spoke about the pressure to be good mothers first and foremost—and then good wives. The society remains very traditional, particularly concerning gender roles. It is a land of the “binary”!
The women complained bitterly about the medical system and the lack of information and communication with their doctors. They were amazed at my concept of Patient Power and the discussion about challenging their doctors. Doctors are ultimate symbols of authority and subservience to authority is a large part of the Russian experience.
But progress is definitely being made. Domestic Violence is discussed, and there are the beginnings of shelters and resource centers. Women were extremely excited about the concepts of peer counseling and consciousness-raising groups.
Mental health issues and fear of menopause and childbirth were not at all discussed during my last visits. Russian women are beginning to find their voice.
And I am listening. I intend to return and work with the women of Project Kesher to expand the focus on women’s health education, assist in building and setting up resource centers for victims of domestic violence and most importantly expand the reach and power of women’s voices!