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POSTCARD / ST. PETERSBURG : Home is Where the Heart Is for Russia’s Tamara Moskvina

Given the freedom to leave Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tamara Moskvina seemed like a good candidate to do so. The dollars, after all, are greener on the other side. One famous figure skating coach left for California. Another left for New York. So why not Moskvina?

When I met her this week in the city where she has been involved in pairs figure skating for more than three decades, first as a competitor who won a silver medal in the World Championships and later as a coach who groomed two Olympic gold medalists and two silver medalists, she was frazzled.

She is not responsible for the problems that the Yubileiny Sports Palace had producing ice, but it is the rink where she coaches and she wanted to do anything she could to help. A proud woman, she was a little embarrassed. But just a little.

As others who know and love Russia have pointed out, an ice rink with no ice might be an inconvenience for the Goodwill Games, but it hardly rates among the country’s most dispiriting problems. Workers with no jobs and markets with no food, those are problems.

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But just as the Russians eventually mustered their energy and their know-how and put Yubileiny on-line Thursday night for the figure skating competition, Moskvina said they will do the same for their country.

“Russian people are very talented, very enthusiastic and have often found it necessary to find the answers to difficult situations,” she said. “We have a very strong character.”

She is concerned, however, that it might take longer because the city that Peter the Great founded as Russia’s “Window to the West” has been so widely opened, especially to the United States.

“I am not happy with the intrusion of the American culture,” she said.

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She fears that it will make Russians, well, less Russian.

She already has noticed it in her sport. It was easier in the past, she said, to lure Russian skaters to the Kirov Ballet, now the Mariinsky, which they used as inspiration for their performances. Now, she said, they are more interested in rock videos.

That does not mean, she emphasized, that she dislikes the United States.

“I like America very much,” she said. “But it is not my home. I am Russian, and St. Petersburg is my home. How do you like it?”

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“It’s beautiful,” I said.

“Now,” she said, “you know why everyone does not want to emigrate.”


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