Humans of New York

Humans of New York @humansofny

Currently sharing stories from Russia.

“We met six months ago at a dance night. His wife passed away three years ago. I’d been married for thirty years and gotten divorced. It was just nice to have someone to talk to. We have so much in common. My ex-husband only wanted to stay home and watch TV. But we do all sorts of things together: walk around the city, go to museums, travel.” “Have sex.” “Hush.” “What? We’re still young.” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
“It wasn’t an official marriage. We didn’t register. But we had a plan. I was earning good money even though I was young. I was already a specialist at the age of nineteen. She was very beautiful. We’d been together for four years. She was a good person and very easy to talk to. She’d met my family and everyone loved her. At the time I was helping to construct a new subway line in Moscow. I came home from work one day and she was gone. There were no cell phones back then. Nobody knew where she was. She’d last been seen getting into a private taxi with her friend Natalya. A lot of people were disappearing during that time. The police stopped searching after a few months. She wasn't seen again. There’s a line from a Russian poem. It says: ‘We love just once in a lifetime. And spend the rest of our lives looking for something similar.’ I’ve had other girlfriends after Oksana. But I don’t remember their birthday. Oksana’s birthday was July 9th. She was a Leo.” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
“I quit my job earlier this year. I’m taking a little time to focus on myself. I worked from nine to six everyday. I often brought my work home with me. I was getting sick, and anxious, and I wasn’t sleeping well. But I could never accept my weaknesses. I’d see other people working harder than me, and I’d think: ‘If they can do it, why should I feel tired?’ Eventually I pushed myself so hard that I became depressed. One reason I couldn’t slow down is because my entire family is hard working. Both my parents are architects. My grandfather is an engineer. The importance of hard work has been passed down through the generations. I think the entire country is afraid to stop working. There have been so many hard times. There’s been so much hunger. For so long we had to work all the time just to survive. Even though things are better now, that’s a difficult to psychology to escape. I’m starting to interview for new jobs. But I’m asking different questions. Money is the last thing I worry about. I’m much more interested in the schedule.” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
“I came here to meet a girl that I know from the Internet. She's coming all the way from Belarus. It's nothing sexual. Just a friendship. Her name is Olga. We’ve known each other for seven years but this is the first time we’re meeting in person. She’s supported me through a lot of hard times. I get bullied a lot. People at my school often call me names and try to start fights with me. They send love letters to other guys in my name. Olga has comforted me a lot. She checks in with me throughout the day. She says things like: ‘You don’t deserve it.’ And ‘Don’t pay attention to them.’ Her messages have really helped me get through the last few years-- even if they were just words on the Internet.” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
“We were together for nine years. I was completely dependent on him. He was a strong and powerful man and he expected obedience. If he called me at 4 AM, and told me to meet him in Moscow, I was expected to go to the train station. He had a very strong energy. It was hard to argue with him. In the beginning of the relationship, I obeyed because of the pressure. But then the pressure just became a habit. It got worse as time went on. Eventually he stopped listening to me completely. I became so lonely. When you’re with someone who doesn’t care about your views, and has no desire to understand you, it’s worse than being alone. I still loved him though. I knew that he’d had a hard life. I told myself that I had to make sacrifices to build a family. But one morning I woke up and decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. If I stayed in the relationship, I would lose myself completely. I remember it was raining that morning. There was mud in the streets. And something told me: ‘Today is the day.’ That was two years ago. I’ve spent these last two years learning to be alone. I’m realizing the things that I like to do. I feel better, I look better, and I’ve been sharing more of myself with others. I feel like I’m finally learning who I am.” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
“I’m ninety but I feel like I’m fifty. I don’t take any medicine. I never complain. I’m just happy to be alive. I tell people: ‘Start with what you have, not with what you want.’ Every day I dance for two hours. And I’m still really interesting too. I love politics and literature. I love the sciences. And I’ve got a boyfriend named Alexander. We exchange books. I don’t even know how old he is.” (Moscow, Russia)
“My father died in his sleep last year. Right after my birthday. I didn’t have a good relationship with him. He left the family when I was ten. We had good moments but we were never really close. I wanted him to understand me. I wanted him to realize that I needed support, and love, and somebody to take care of me. I needed him to say ‘I’m sorry.’ But he never did. Whenever we talked, all he cared about was getting across his side of the story. And then he died. And now I have to forgive someone who can’t say ‘I’m sorry.’ I feel like I’m playing this game of chess. And I have to keep making moves, or nothing will ever change. Except that there’s nobody sitting across from me anymore. And I can only guess the moves that he’d make.” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
“There are always two little beautiful humans looking at me like I'm the most important thing in the world. They copy everything I do, especially my son. I’m very careful how I treat my wife because I know that’s how he’ll learn to treat women. I call my wife pet names, and my son started calling his sister those same names. Recently I picked flowers for my wife. And the next day he picked flowers for his sister.” (Moscow, Russia)
“I’ve worked in the circus my entire life. I studied to be a clown for many years. A great clown can make you see your own clumsiness. There are many famous clowns. Einstein was a clown. I always think of that famous picture of Einstein sticking out his tongue. That is a sign of extreme intelligence. Dumb people are always working on their serious face. They think a serious face will make them seem intelligent. But intelligent people don't need a serious face.” (Moscow, Russia)
“I was only eighteen when my first daughter was born. Her name was Svetlana. She came down with an infection but there were no antibiotics in the hospital. I begged the doctors and nurses to tell me where to buy them. But none of them would tell me because they were afraid to go to jail. I finally found some American medicine on the black market. But weeks had already passed and it was too late. The antibiotics didn’t work and my daughter passed away. Up until that moment, I had considered becoming an artist or a dancer. But I decided then to become a doctor.” (Moscow, Russia)
“I’m afraid I’ll live a useless life and nobody will remember me. I don’t feel a strong interest toward anything. If I do, it’s just a momentary thing, and then I drop it. I tried acting. I tried swimming. I tried dancing. But I got bored with all of it. If I don’t choose something soon then I’ll leave nothing behind. We only have a certain amount of energy in life. If you don’t put it somewhere then it’s wasted. I feel like one of the little yellow minions from that movie. They get sad if they don’t have a villain to serve. When I have a goal, and I’m moving toward it, and I reach it, then I feel a little relief. That’s what life is to me. A series of goals that you move toward. I don’t think it’s possible to just become happy. Life’s not that easy. But if you keep moving, you can forget that you’re sad.” (Moscow, Russia)
“I cut my hair the other day. It used to be down to my waist. It’s a personal experiment. I’m trying to prove to myself that I can have short hair and still be feminine. It can be hard when I step out on the street and all the other women have long hair. I think a lot of people see short hair, and form an idea that I hate men, or that I only think about business. But I still feel feminine inside. I guess I want to prove that feeling has nothing to do with the type of attention I’m getting.” (Moscow, Russia)
“This is a picture of me before I lost my job. It was only a year ago but I barely recognize that person now. I was thirty pounds heavier. I was much more confident. It felt like a guardian angel was guiding my steps. Things always seemed to work out for me. Now it seems like my guardian angel is drunk. Now I look at this picture and see a man who’s wearing a mask. The man in the picture wants to be seen as a person who does important things. He wants to be seen as confident, and harsh, and a leader. He wants to be seen as an attorney. Now I just want to be seen as a person. Someone who’s calm. Who’s balanced. Who loves his friends and family. And who’s kind.” (Moscow, Russia)
Today in microfashion... (Moscow, Russia)
“I’m the lead singer in this band because he can’t hear very well. But I’d like to say that he’s a wonderful man. You should have seen him when we met in 1953. Green eyes. Black hair. A little gray on the side. All my girlfriends were so jealous. He had no money so he sold his best suit to buy me fruit and flowers. I used to get entire letters from him that were written in verse. He still writes in verse-- but just little notes now. I think he might have run out of verse.” (Moscow, Russia)
“I’ve sold thousands of pieces of latex in my life and I’m a doyen of the fetish scene. I love to get people from ‘here’ to ‘there.’ ‘Here’ is having a fetish and hiding it. ‘There’ is exploring it. Trust me, your dark secret is nothing I haven’t heard before. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just what you’re into. And there’s plenty of other people who are into the same thing. You should never feel shame. Unless of course shame gets you off.”
“I have four boys. I was a single mother for most of my life. But I’ve been a good mother. I’m going to pat myself on the back for that. It wasn’t easy. I struggled hard. In my twenties, I got kicked out on the street with four young kids. But I made sure they were always safe, fed, sheltered, and had proper clothes for the season. They always had bikes and skates. And I kept them busy. I signed them up for everything: karate, basketball, swimming, you name it. I paid for it all. I didn’t want them spending time in the streets, so I’d work overtime just to keep them busy. I never had much left over for myself. I sacrificed a lot for them. I still wake up at 3:30 every morning to beat the traffic across the bridge. But they always come first. Because they never asked to come here. They were my decision.”
“My mother had always been functional as long as she took her medicine. But a couple years ago I began to notice a change. When we spoke on the phone, she’d laugh at the smallest things. Everything was a joke to her. But then she could also get very angry. She became convinced that people were plotting against her. She kicked all my siblings out of the house. When I went home to California, I discovered that she had drawn lines and circles inside all of her books. She seemed fixated on certain times and dates. Everything bothered her. She started calling me ‘faggot’ and things like that. It’s been a tough two years. She’s gotten worse and worse. I’ve flown back to California four times, but we barely speak when I'm home. It’s like she’s not even there. Meanwhile I’ve stopped investing in my friendships. I’ve had to drop out of my dance company. I’ve been getting depressed. Even when I’m not with her, I’m worrying about her. It’s getting to the point where I have to choose not to care about this. I have to think of her as gone. I didn’t create this. I created my life. And I don’t think I can take care of us both.”
“We’d only been together for a year when I was diagnosed with a blood clot in the brain. I couldn’t work for months. I couldn’t go out. I could barely leave the house. I became completely dependent on him in every way: he provided emotional support, he ran a lot of errands, he even helped me with bills. It was a very tough time for me. I’ve always been independent. I’ve never had to rely on someone like that before. And it scared me. We hadn’t been dating for long. I thought the burden would become too much for him. So I got frustrated. I’d get pissed at little things and I’d take it out on him. But he never got rattled by it. The whole time I was afraid that my situation would become too much for him. When in reality, it was only a big deal to me.”
“I always wanted to be a mental health therapist. Ever since high school, I've enjoyed encouraging people and giving them hope. But I lost my way. I got caught in a world of addiction. I lost ten years of my life to drugs. I stopped when I became pregnant with my child, but by that time it was too late to go back to school. I started working as an office manager. I never completely lost my dream. But I just put it on a shelf for thirty years. Then five years ago I took it off the shelf. I heard a lady in my choir talking about how she enrolled in community college. I drove there the very next day. I was so nervous when I filled out the application. I was so nervous the first day of class. All the old voices were telling me: ‘You never finish anything.’ But I said ‘fuck you’ to the old voices. And I started getting A’s. On my first test, I got the only perfect score in the class. I graduated at the age of 50. I got my Masters at 55. And just last night I completed a mental health first aid course. I’m so close now. There’s still fear there. I used to be afraid of it never happening. Now I’m afraid of it happening. The old voices try to come back sometimes. They tell me: ‘You can rest,’ or ‘You’ve earned a break.’ But I’m not stopping this time. Somebody out there is waiting for me to finish because they need my help."