Why a Russian granny is the only life coach you’ll ever need

Hai Thanh and her Russian "babushka" Tamara.

Hai Thanh and her Russian "babushka" Tamara.

Hai Thanh
Even if you don’t have relatives in Russia, a grandmother - babushka - will be a lodestar in your life and a touchstone for the most important things.

In Russia, a babushka is more than just a nice elderly lady. No matter if she is your relative or just a pensioner from the next apartment, she is always ready to share with you her experience and be your life coach. Probably, the best one.

1. Guardians of family values

Hai Thanh and her Russian

French journalist Erwann Peñsec met his Russian babushka Lyudmila when he moved to Moscow: she rented the neighboring room in the communal apartment lived in. “The first thing she asked was if I were married,” he said. “She often repeated that I was ALREADY 25, and it was high time to find a soulmate.”

Young Russians today are in no hurry to start a family: first they plan to finish university and find steady work, but the older generation puts relations and love in first place. “I told her that at first, I planned to finish my studies and get a good job, but of course, it didn’t stop her from asking me almost weekly if I had finally found a beautiful woman or not,” Erwann said.

Vietnamese student Hai Thanh used to learn Russian with babushka Tamara via Skype and recalled that she also asked when she was going to get married - and she was only 28! “I said that I first would finish university, but she said that I should focus on family, because it’s really more important than a career. It was very nice.” When they finally met, Tamara took her to visit her daughter and two grandchildren, who sang Russian songs for her.

2. Eat healthily (even if you have another vision of healthy food)

Erwann's dishes from his Russian babushka.

“In winter, babushka often told me that I need to eat more to survive the Russian climate,” Erwann said. “She knew I was a vegetarian and treated me to special dishes with sooooo much fat. Once when my father and stepmother visited me, she cooked her version of soul-food: pelmeni and vareniki with huge dollops of mayonnaise in the dough and put it all in a bowl filled with oil. I can say only that my father could not sleep because of his stomach ache.” 

Erwann's dishes from Lyudmila.

Nevertheless, babushka Lyudmila taught him to cook real pilav, dumplings and even cottage cheese.

UK resident Genevieve Holl-Allen met her babushka Galina, when came to St. Petersburg for a visit; she was her landlady. Her Russian babushka taught her that tasty porridge, or kasha, could solve any problem, from bad weather to a bad mood. “Every day a huge saucepan of porridge was placed triumphantly before me, followed by an impassioned speech about the health benefits of porridge,” she wrote in a blog. And yes, that porridge was cooked with lots of sugar, butter – and from the soul.

3. Discover the world

“Thanks to my Russian babushka, I toured Russia,” said Hai Thanh. “She spoke with such warmth of her hometown, where she spent the youth, that I just had to go there. I started with Moscow and St. Petersburg, went to Ulyanovsk, saw the Volga River, and finally got to Yekaterinburg, the city between Europe and Asia. And of course, I went to the Bashkirian town of Tuymasy, where she was living.”

4. Babushka has your back


Traditionally, Russian grannies help their children by babysitting and helping out with household chores. They devote their time to make the life of new generations better – and you can always rely on them. But sometimes you will be surprised by their advice.

Genevieve recalled that her babushka was “an indispensable font of knowledge” throughout her stay in St Petersburg, but her advice was slightly eccentric. “When I was ill I was ordered only to drink lukewarm water, never cold, and she told me that a shot of vodka would rid me of a sore throat in short order. She emphasized her personal experience proved its effectiveness.”

5. Age is just a number

Most Russian grannies are not archetypical old ladies who spend their days knitting socks or darning stockings. They ride snowboards, enjoy dancing, and go on extreme sports. Famous Russian babushka Yelena Yerkhova from Krasnoyarsk adores her Asian trips - even at the age of 91. Valentina Kuleshova from Krasnodar, who is 86, is an Instagram-diva: in her blog, she shares recipes, memories, and life hacks.

Omsk photographer, Igor Gavar, decided to shoot the most stylish grannies and grandpas across Russia, and as a result, established a model agency for seniors called Oldushka. His models believe that life begins when they reach pensionable age. And you? 

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