Anna Bogdanova: From Yekaterinburg to London

A Russian expat in the UK speaks about herself and shares impressions of her life in Moscow and London.

Anna Bogdanova, 26

Occupation: Account executive in a digital agency

City of Origin: Yekateriburg

From Yekaterinburg to London: I have been living in London for just over a year and a half. I have previously lived in Birmingham for a year. I am originally from Yekaterinburg and have travelled around quite a bit throughout my life - it’s quite a complicated story.

I lived in Yekaterinburg for the first five and a half years of my life. Because of perestroika and the political situation in 1993 my parents decided it would be a good idea to move out of the country. We started off living in Hungary, then moved to Austria, and finally to Greece, where my brother was born. It was then that they decided to stick around for a little bit longer and they still live there to this day. 

What Russia should be proud of: Their artists and scientists. All the modern Russian poets are absolutely amazing. Mayakovsky, Brodsky, Rozhdestvensky above all.

The Russian book to recommend: War and Peace. I wasn’t able to read it throughout my childhood and my early adult years. I would be looking at it and think: “This looks like the kind of book you could kill a person with.” And then last September, when I had just finished my Master’s degree, I sat down and picked it up, just because I was unemployed and had nothing to do. And discovered how great it was. It’s a book that is very important to read to understand Russia psyche.

I do absolutely despise Anna Karenina, however. She is horrible. But the fact that Tolstoy was able to create a character that you can experience so much hate for is why it’s so brilliantly written.

The Russian place in London to visit: There is one restaurant in Caning Town called Albina. As soon as you walk in it is like you are transported back into Moscow of 2002. It has a very strange Russian-Ukrainian decor, the white tablecloths, the weird bread basket, the grim and angry - and a little hangover - Russian waiter. And, of course, the Russian music.

The menu is all Russian, all the Russian vodkas and beers are available. Perfect when you feel nostalgic and crave some borscht.

Life in Russia as a child: I remember bits and pieces, the typical childhood events such as going to my grandmother’s summer house and picking berries. I also remember the completely unattended time that we spent in the courtyards of Yekaterinburg.

On Russians and Brits: People are much more laid back towards other people in the UK than they are in Russia. London is such a varied city and includes too many nationalities and outlets on life, that you learn how to be tolerant whether you want it or not - just because you are bombarded with different cultures and different approaches to life all the time.

In Moscow there is always a little discomfort and judgement wherever you go, whereas here in London there’s nothing like that. One of the biggest thoughts that I have been having lately, however, is the fact that really there isn’t anything that particularly different between life in Moscow and London. People still go out with friends to bars and pubs. They still go to work and then come back really late and don’t have time for anything else. There is this aspect to life in a big city in the 21st century that are relevant both for London and for Moscow.

Living in Moscow as an adult: I have quite a few stories from my time in Moscow. One that sticks to my mind particularly is when a friend of mine finished his PhD in Russia. He decided to have a little get-together with us friends. We stayed out from 8 o’clock at night up until 9 o’clock the following morning. We first went to a pool bar, then a bar, then a pub, then we decided we were hungry so we went to a breakfast place. We went walking down the riverbank and it was absolutely beautiful and fantastic.

When I spend a night out in London it’s very different, because here you don’t have 24 hour cafes unfortunately - something I really really miss. The fact that you can have food at any time of the day and of the night is a very good thing about Moscow. Here you go out in Soho on a Friday night with some friends and by three o’clock in the morning everything is close. So you have to go home. In Moscow you stay out until you pass out and someone has to take you home.

Breaking into Gorky Park: One of my favourite memories about Moscow is wandering around Gorky Park at night, which is something a friend of mine and I did on a night out. We broke into the park and wandered through it. It was before the renovation so you had all these weird and strange rides in the nighttime, hardly lit by one faint street light. It looked exactly like it was in Soviet films but then you realised: ”This is actually 2009 and this is not a Soviet film.” We spent hours around walking around and looking at things with our mouth wide open.

Would you ever go back to Russia? I will definitely go back and visit. In terms of living there, I don’t know. I moved away because I couldn’t stay any longer - the atmosphere was a little bit oppressive. From what I have heard there are changes happening now. I am not planning to move back but I would not say that I’d never go back. If you are in the right place in terms of employment Moscow is not a bad city to live in.

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