The 15th Annual Night Flight Open

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The 15th Annual Night Flight Open was held at the Moscow Country Club.

Participants enjoyed a 2-man scramble with the following program :-

  • 07:30  Breakfast at Night Flight
  • 08:30  Transfer to the Golf Course
  • 10:30  Shot gun start – “Half way house” Lunch / “After Game Bar”
  • 16:30  Transfer back to the City
  • 20:00  Swedish Buffet at Night Flight
  • 21:00  Prize Ceremony
  • 21:30  Coffee and Cognac

Loads of fun was had and we are already looking forward the 16th Night Flight Open in 2014!!

Night Flight Club & Restaurant

17 Tverskaya St.

+7 (495) 629 4167

www.nightflight.ru

British Business Club presents The Monty Python Show

montypythonThe British Business Club, in association with Richard Bennett would like you to come and enjoy a night of fantastic British Comedy.

We will have booked the Center of Documentary Cinema to watch Monty Python “In English” and laugh to our hearts content at sometimes some inexplicable British humour.

The date is confirmed as August 6th, 2014

Meet at the Cinema at 19:00

Ticket Prices are Paid Members 500 rur, Guests 1000 rur

All tickets must be pre-purchased either by paying the invoice using Pay-Pal as directed on the invoice issued or you may agree with David Morley ([email protected])
or Svetlana Kondrashina ([email protected]britishclub.ru) separately to make cash payments before the event

 

The British Football School

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Sport is undergoing an upsurge in popularity across Russia recently – the successful winter and Paralympic Games in Sochi impressed us all. Next up for Russia will be the Football World Cup in 2018! Now really appears to be an exciting time for sport in Russia!

Russia certainly seems the place to be to watch sport, however what about taking active part in sport, and the legacy of these global competitions taking place on Russian soil. There seems to have been a positive effect in the amount of young Russians taking part in various sports. However, sporting opportunities are often limited to Russian speakers.

Take football as an example, currently there is only one football competition that International children living in Moscow take part in – the Moscow Youth Soccer League (MYSL). This tournament takes place only in September and October each year. Otherwise there are the school competitions or playing for a Russian football team, which usually requires Russian patronage or citizenship to do that.

Think again – welcome to the British Football School!

British Football School’s Director, Richard Peers, explained why he started this school.

“This School offers the chance for children of any nationality who live in Moscow to receive professional football training by former coaches from clubs across England including Manchester City FC and Manchester United FC. We have created a specific football education program so that children can be trained in ‘The British Way’ of playing football! Their training is open to both boys and girls from the age of 3 to 14, whatever their age and ability.

Selection_207“During my many visits to Russia through a charity I volunteered with, I was surprised at the lack of options for English speaking football training. Eventually I relocated to Russia permanently to try and change that. I started coaching for MYSL in 2012 and realized that there were no other opportunities for those children who participated to carry on practising and enjoying their football when the competition was over. So I started the British Football School to offer children living in Moscow the chance to continue their football training throughout the year.

“Our training sessions incorporate fun, games and technical practices that enable our children to learn new skills regardless of their ability. The football sessions focus on physical exercise, and are structured to incorporate key football skills such as dribbling, turning, control and much more. These are especially important to provide children with the opportunity to develop their coordination skills, but the trainings also focus on teamwork and communication. We ensure that our children have a fantastic experience when playing football. From improving their abilities through to meeting new friends and having lots fun. In addition to this, during the sessions the children are inspired to practice their English language skills.”

Based at a number of locations across Moscow, the British Football School runs various programs:

Development Centre – for children aged 5-14 wishing to excel their footballing skills and abilities through the company’s own program of technical practices and small sided games.

Pre School – for children aged 3-7 looking to grow their love of football through fun games and exercises that develop their basic coordination skills.

After School – for children aged 5-11 to develop the basic FUNdamentals of football through fun games and matches.

Holiday Camp – for children aged 5-14. The holiday camp training sessions incorporate fun, fast moving games that enable children to enjoy the ultimate football camp experience regardless of their ability.

And in May, the British Football School are set to launch an exciting new project called the British Football Club!

Developed on the model of a children’s football club in the UK and led by a former Manchester United FC coach, British Football Club will have a number of different teams based upon age which boys and girls can join and play more football with the aim of developing their skills and abilities against children of their own age.

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The children who join the British Football Club will have the opportunity to play structured football games against different Russian and international opponents throughout the year. The football games will be friendly matches but excitingly British Football Club players will also take part in football tournaments! British Football Club players will have the chance to experience playing in a real team and in real football stadiums! All the results, match reports and extra information will be available on a user-friendly website that will be launched in May. To add to the authentic feel, every child who joins the British Football Club will receive a personalised football shirt with their name and team number!

The British Football School offers different training programs to suit different goals ranging from a fun way to improve physical fitness to serious preparation for competitive play.

Richard has plans for his school to grow, but stresses that his personal aim is to provide the very best in professional football training within a safe and simulating environment, where all children are valued in their own personal development.

For more information about British Football School then please see their website – www.britishfootballschool.com or email [email protected]

TESTIMONIAL

“My son Hamish has been attending football training at the British Football School for two terms and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. His fitness, football skills and knowledge of the game have improved greatly. The coaches are all excellent and are very friendly and relaxed with the children. They provide encouragement for all of the children regardless of their abilities. My son has also participated in a number of the friendly football matches played against Russian football teams and schools. He has enjoyed these immensely. The teams have had a great bond and team spirit, the players have learnt how to play together as a team rather than as individuals and have learnt tactics and game play. And finally, my son has enjoyed meeting and making friends with a great group of Russian and expat children of many nationalities.”

Peter Schulze, expat parent in Moscow.

 

Keeping Fit Forever

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Age, unfortunately has a way of creeping up on us. Hardly do our 30’s seem over and we celebrate 50. Soon after it is the dreaded 60! Some people are blessed with excellent health and a great metabolism that enables them to at least, look in shape, others however are not so fortunate.

Living and working in any major city is not easy and stress creeps in to every aspect of our daily lives. Air quality, noise, traffic, family and business are just a few of our daily challenges. On top of this combination come the endless meetings, business lunches, networking and evening events which can further lead to excessive alcohol consumption, smoke (in Moscow whether you smoke or not!) and a badly balanced diet.

As a recently turned 60 years (young) expat with the normal traits of being somewhat overweight and whilst relatively fit have a lack of serious exercise, I decided that it was time to find out how my motor is working and what I can do now to improve my own quality of life for the next working years and on into retirement.

One of my first steps has been to find a new Health Club. Having tried several in Moscow and found that many are either overfilled and most look at you just as a client and don’t appear to have your health as their principal interest. On receiving an invitation from the new Nikolskaya Health Club I thought that it was worth investigating as research indicated that their offers take a health club into the next league. Not just a pool, machines and aerobics but qualified Doctors, specialists and a treatment based on a proven Austrian programme.

If you live or work in the centre, it is a most convenient location within sight of Red Square. You enter the club through Nikolskaya Plaza and take the escalator down to reception where one is greeted by fountains and wonderfully friendly staff. The changing rooms are more like a club and nothing like a normal fitness club. Beautiful sauna, large showers and even an open fire! How many Health Clubs in Moscow provide bathrobes? Nikolskaya does!

Selection_249The aim of my first visit was to gain an overview of my general state of health. This is not a full medical examination (this can be arranged) rather a special consultation to establish ones Body Mass Index (BMI) which is arrived at on the basis of kg/sq.m. One’s ideal BMI is 18.5 – 24.9 which is described as ‘normal weight’ and at minimal risk. This check indicates your BMI based on the following criteria:-

This is performed by a combination of an EKG for the heart, a breath test, measurements of height, weight, diameter and with a low electrical current that measure the opposition that your body presents to its passage, as electricity doesn’t behave the same as when it goes through fat, muscle or fluids.

So what was the result? To be honest I did not need the test to tell me that I was overweight and did not take enough exercise. I know this but why don’t I do something about it! However you receive a very interesting print out of the test and if you are serious about improving your health it makes interesting reading as one educates oneself to understand the body better and to remain longer on this planet!

So the next stage was to visit a Personal Trainer. The Nikolskaya Health Club uses Technogym equipment from Italy. These are very sophisticated machines that help you exercise and burn calories. Some of the machines look scary but with the help of my personalised training programme and key card, the machine recognizes me, shows me the weight I need, how many exercises I should do and even keeps a record of what I have done! My super fit personal trainer, Gregor took one look at me and laughed (in a nice way) I could see in his eyes that he could see a challenge and away we went. He explained the importance of warming up so the first machine is a cross trainer that offers a combination of step, elliptical and vario, so a cross between a running machine and cross country skiing. With the use of your key card the machine knows how long you should work on it. Quite fascinating to see the calories you are burning. Then it was on to a range of machines for other parts of the body. To finish, a longer session on the cardio machine (more calories burnt) and then stretching, again on a high tech machine. Feeling hot but proud of what I have done on my first visit it was time to relax in the beautiful pool and Hamman before the sauna.

The Nikolskaya Health Club is not cheap but offers exclusive service. It’s not crowded and the service and standards are amazing. They also offer many health programmes on their Arteprevent concept based on the techniques of the Austrian scientist, physician and physiologist Dr. F.K. Mayer and Dr. Alex Witasek from the Innsbruck Health Centre. The possibilities are endless and the wonderful staff will guide and advise what is best for you.

Our health and the future of our lives is in our own hands. If we do something to redress the years of un-healthy eating and lack of exercise 60 is still a young age and we have so much to look forward to!

– Body fat Weight

– Lean (Non-Fat) Body Mass

– Active body cell mass (ACM)

– The percentage of ACM in Lean Mass

– Musculoskeletal Mass (MSM)

– The percentage of MSM in Lean Mass

– Basal metabolism and specific basal metabolic rate

– Total body water

– Extracellular body fluid

– Index of waist – hip measurement

– Percentage of fat mass

 

Retiring to Thailand

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For some retirement is a long way off and does not need to take much thought at this time, however for many of us the day is drawing closer and plans must start to be made. There are many choices, stay here? Go back to my country of origin or do I look for somewhere more amenable, better climate, cheaper?

Here we look at one possibility:-

The attractions of warmer weather, great food and a relaxed lifestyle are one of the main features Thailand has to offer for the adventurous who feel retirement there will be a great move. Before you get used to the cultural changes there are some practicalities which you will need to deal with.

In order to become a temporary resident you will need a visa. The best option will be a retirement visa, renewable annually. These are available for foreigners over age 50 who can demonstrate they have sufficient means to live. This comes in the form of a bank deposit of Thai Baht (THB) 800,000, or a guaranteed pension income as certified by your country’s embassy in Thailand.

If you wish to own your home there are restrictions as foreigners may not own land. However, leasehold properties are available and you may thus own a lease on a condominium. Leases are only 30 years. They may be renewed so there are good opportunities to secure a nice home in the popular centres where expats tend to retire. Purchasing a property as a foreigner means you need to import foreign currency to do this. There are stringent regulations surrounding this and you need to obtain advice on how to go about this before you embark on your property purchase.

Medical insurance is also something which you really should not ignore. Treatment can be expensive and if you have no insurance this could prove catastrophic for you. There are a number of options available and the old adage that you get what you pay for is true here. There are very cheap insurances available but when you want to make a claim you discover that the cover you have secured is so poor that you foot much of the bill yourself anyway. Do not get caught out.

Opening a local bank account can be tricky. Once you start to apply for a retirement visa it gets easier because you need your funds in a Thai bank.

If you have investments which will create income for you it is best not to bring them into Thailand. Here the political risk is considered too high and the currency can be volatile. Your gains will also be taxed in Thailand and you could lose as much as 35% of your gains. The best option is going to be investing in a tax haven. From there you can import reserves into Thailand for living as you need them. This can all be achieved from within Thailand giving you as many options as you need for comprehensive global investment strategies. Gains will be tax free in their origin and your investments can be managed from anywhere in the world.

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1994. The Ugly Truth.

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Yeltsin had a short time to bathe in glory after his tumultuous victory in 1993. In 1994 all hell broke out in the shape of war with the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya.

The setting for the first war in Chechnya was a country struggling to come to terms with itself. Many members of Soviet nomenklatura made a transition to positions of power in the new privatised industries and in the government of Russia. The general public finally realised that capitalism brings stratification of wealth, and the majority, the poorer members of society saw real wages fall in terms of purchasing power, even as they watched a small elite which included some government officials becoming fabulously rich. Left wing leaders weren’t so active now as the chance to make real money had come to them too. The only organised opposition came from the directors of collective farms who obstructed the government’s desire to break up the Kolhozes into small, privately-owned farms. Yet this was not because of any socialist altruism but because the government could not supply credits to purchase badly needed agricultural equipment.

Russians were grieved by the fact that Racketeers had taken over some of the basic functions of the state so soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gradually these functions became to be concentrated in the hands of the government. The government and the criminal underworld, to an extent we shall never know, merged in 1994.

Over half of Russia’s state enterprises were by now privatised, and vast numbers of flat owners, under the privatisation programme, were being given the deeds to the flats they previously leased from the government. Loyal Prime Minister Chernomyrdin maintained state subsidies on fuel, lighting, telephones and transport. Yeltsin strived for greater market reforms, but came up against a new form of opposition: vested interests in the form of groups of non-communist parliamentarians who formed lobbies and blocked initiatives.

Using such obstacles as a pretext, Yeltsin started to impose his will without consulting representative bodies which he himself had been instrumental in setting up: the State Duma and the Federation Council. The Great Leader resorted to the bottle more and more frequently in public. To the slight amusement of many Russians, in September in Berlin he snatched a conductor’s baton and drunkenly led an orchestra through a rendition of ‘Kalinka.’ His drinking led to chronic heart problems, and later in the year he was ‘too ill’ to meet the Irish prime minister at Dublin airport.

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow had moved fast to restore its influence over the outer edges of the previous Soviet empire in newly independent Moldova (Transnistria war in 1992), Georgia (the unresolved South Ossetia War 1991–1992 and the Georgian Civil War 1991-1993) and Azerbaijan (Nagorno Karabakh 1992-1994). Little was actually achieved in these territories by Russia apart from recapturing many of the armaments that newly independent forces had acquired or expropriated on the cheap from the Soviet military.

Chechnya, whose leader Dzhokar Dudaev, an ex-Soviet air force general, had declared independence in 1991, was different. Dudaev allegedly resided over the criminality of the Chechen economy provided a haven for protection racketeers operating in Russia’s cities. He allowed the operation of Sharia law, and frequently referred to the truism that Chechnya had remained within Russia only because the tsars and commissars had more guns. Some said that the interests of the Russian state and the Russian mafia became almost the same thing, the challenge posed by Chechnya – the only part of the Russian Federation where Moscow’s writ meant precisely nothing, became more acute. Grozny airport was the only place where anything, guns, money, drugs, plutonium and people could be exported. The location of reasonably sized oil fields and an important refinery in Grozny ensured that Dudayev had enough cash to bribe functionaries all over Russia, and also ensured that he could secure enough ex-Soviet weapons for a military struggle.

Attempts had been made to replace Dudaev in June, when a so-called ‘Congress of Chechen People’s Deputies’ was established at Moscow’s behest and announced that it was transferring ‘absolute power’ to a new body known as the Interim Council. This council failed to overthrow Dudayev in a carefully staged ‘internal conflict’ in September. Much to the embarrassment of Russia, Russian soldiers were among the ‘opposition’ forces taken prisoner by Dudayev, and they were duly paraded before the Russian media and described how the FSB (previous KGB) had recruited them. The FSB also saw a war as an opportunity to re-establish their importance as an anti-terrorist organisation and achieve increased funding.

A week before the war started, an extraordinary event took place which showed the true nature of the new civil accord á la New Russia. The main offices of the Most Group, a banking, media and property empire run by the flamboyant former theatre director Vladimir Gusinsky, was surrounded by security forces from the presidential security service. When Gusinsky’s security guards were beaten up, he exited to England. Gusinsky had established a working relationship with the Moscow mayor, Yury Luzhkov whereby the mayor would provide legal backing for Gusinsky’s sometimes dubious real estate projects, while Gusinsky part-financed the mayor’s budget. The real problem was that Gusinsky had shown how Moscow had bungled its Chechnya operation on NTV, which Gusinski owned, and in his newspaper Sevodnya. This was the start of the Kremlin’s long attack on the electronic media.

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In December, the Minister of Defence lost no time in explaining to Yeltsin that the Russian army could easily crush the Chechnya rebels. His motivation was not clear, although it might have had something to do with wishing to take the spotlight off accusations of his mismanagement of military finances. The next day, tanks trundled into Grozny and the Chechnya nightmare began. Grozny was bombed to rubble, the rest of the world looked on and begun to wonder what kind of a country they had helped to create. After Grozny’s fall, Dudaev and his commanders organised resistance in the mountains.

Meanwhile, Moscow TV stations reported on the Russian army’s incompetence, and alleged atrocities. Several units, many of them scrawny, terrified conscripts were reported to have been fighting each other until they realised they were on the same side. Thousands of civilians were killed by waves of apparently indiscriminate bombing. Yeltsin, mysteriously taken out of action by a ‘nose operation’ on the day the conflict began, officially issued several orders for the bombing to stop, but it went on, and on, until Grozny was little more than putrid wasteland.

Krasnodar 1994

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The day had started well. Volodya had taken me early to Vnukovo airport and I had flown to Krasnodar. Gone were the Intourist days when foreigners were afforded the luxury of separate check in and lounges in return for the privilege of paying in hard currency, and I had joined the jostling crowds trying to get through the rudimentary security before seeking the check in desk. Passengers cursed the newly installed security screening, convinced it was just one more way by which the authorities could check on their goods and domestic trade, electrical goods out from Moscow, fresh fruit and vegetables into Moscow. There was, however, a very real reason for the screening. Vnukovo was the main airport for southern Russia and the Caucuses, and recently there had been a considerable escalation in tension between Moscow and the autonomous areas of Ingushetia and Chechnya. Chechnya in particular, lead by an ex-soviet pilot general that had served with distinction in the Afghan war, was calling for separatism hoping to follow in the wake of the Baltic States.

We had landed on time in the sunshine at Krasnodar, capital city of the Krai (area) of the same name. The contrast with Moscow was enormous. A massive airfield littered with aircraft, both military and civil in various states of decay and row after row of ancient bi-planes used annually for crop spraying interspersed with the odd helicopter. The main airport building was white and crumbling, reminders of Lenin at every turn and packed with eager relatives and hopeful would be taxi drivers. The biggest contrasts with Moscow though were the clear blue skies, a spring temperature ten degrees warmer and air that was clean and a pleasure to breathe. I had a good feeling about Krasnodar, my new project and the day ahead.

Krasnodar Krai is special to Russia and to Russians. Bordered by open plains to the north and east, to the south it is bounded by the magnificent Caucus Mountains reaching as far down as Sochi and inland to the Karachay-Cherkess Republic border. To the west it is open to the Black Sea and possesses Russia’s only warm water ice-free port; Novorossiyisk. Various holiday resorts are dotted along the coast, which make up much of what was the Soviet’s summer playground, company sanatoria providing relief from the northern winters. The Krai is also home to the famous ‘black earth’, soil massively rich in nutrients that supports the growth of much of Russia’s wheat production, along with the Kuban Cossacks and their legendary choir.

Met by our local office manager, the bi-lingual Kristina, we drove for 2 hours to Novorossiyisk, Russia’s main southern port. In addition to dry cargo and terminals for ferries from Turkey and Bulgaria, to the south of the town is the oil port of Sheskaris, owned and operated by Transneft who were encouraging our new pipeline venture to place our planned oil loading terminal alongside their facilities. The purpose of my visit that day was to survey from a distance the layout of Sheskaris, its size, disposition, weather, vulnerability and space for expansion. As an engineer it was a part of my work that I greatly enjoyed and the best way to view the location would be to head up into the hills above the town. We drove around the cargo port and past the monuments to the Great Patriotic War, this is a Hero City where Brezhnev had made his reputation as a resistance fighter, and climbed past the cement works towards the crest of the hills. From the top we had an excellent view of the ports, their harbours and the shipping lanes and approaches. After careful note making and photo taking we decided to drive over the hill and down past Grushevaya, the location of Transneft’s tank farm from where crude oil is loaded out to waiting oil tankers. From there we could return via back roads to Krasnodar.

As we wound down the hill, a Lada overtook us with wheels squealing as he went into the next bend. The driver of our Land Cruiser muttered something in Russian, which drew looks from Kristina who was explaining the ancient history of the region, the influences of the Scythians and more latterly the Greeks and Armenians, and the fact that there is a natural spring lower in the valley the waters of which are attributed with healing properties. We had weaved down another kilometre when we came upon the Lada firmly embedded in the roadside Armco barrier. The barrier had done its job preventing the car from descending into a gully many metres below but in the process the driver, unrestrained by his seat belt, had put his head through the windscreen which had shattered. I switched off the car’s ignition and checked, he appeared to be conscious. We had no mobile back then so I told Kristina to drive to the Grushevaya terminal and to phone for an ambulance while I waited with the man. She objected. She knew that the terminal was on security alert because of the events in Grozny and even if she could get past the security uninvited and get access to a phone what ambulance service did I think she could access?

The injured driver was becoming agitated. He was clearly in great pain, and appeared to have damaged his knee, which was leaking blood and fluid but my concern was for his eyes, which had slammed into the ridge of the remaining windscreen. The left was open but cloudy and granules of glass protruded from it, the right was closed although glass poked between the lids and a trickle of blood ran down his cheek. We cleared the back of the Cruiser and gently laid him on his side. Twice he struck out in a mixture of anger, fear and confusion much of which stemmed from his inability to see. We spoke reassuringly to him that he would be OK; that he had dirt in his eyes and that they needed to be washed and drove to the Seaman’s hospital back in Novorossiyisk. On arrival I was dismayed by what I saw in the emergency area. More decay, examination rooms with tiles missing from the walls and floors, buckets in corners with used dressings, and a general lack of cleanliness. A cat curled asleep on a chair. Kristina assured me this was the nearest and probably best hospital in the area while we struggled to raise the level of urgency among the staff. After what seemed an age convincing them that we had not been the cause of the accident a doctor appeared, looked at the injured driver and gave instructions for him to be carried inside. On searching his pockets the driver only had one hundred and fifty roubles and we were informed that would not be enough to cover the fees and medications that he would require. Clearly if we were going to leave them with the problem of treating this man they would need more money, an unsympathetic administrator explained. I left with them two hundred dollars and all the feelings of wellbeing that I had enjoyed earlier that day. Kristina scribbled out our office details and asked that they let us know his progress. We never heard from them or the driver again.

I flew back to Moscow that night feeling hollow with the realisation of my own vulnerability and how little compassion had been on display at the hospital. Even Moscow now felt safe compared to the treatment available in the regions. From then on, safety in the work place and the community took on a whole new meaning for me.

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Tula Region

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The Tula Region is Moscow’s next-door neighbour to the south, the border-line being formed largely by the impressive Oka river. The route to the region can be taken either by the M2 highway, the so-called Simferopol or Crimea or the M4 ‘Don’. Both of these roads are fast and reasonably well-surfaced.

The region has been somewhat left behind when compared to its other more dynamic neighbour, the Kaluga region, which has attracted significantly more foreign investment over the past 10 years noticeably with the development of the automobile industry. However, since the previous ineffectual and notoriously corrupt governor was replaced by the younger and forward-looking Vladimir Gruzdyev, things are beginning to improve in terms of infrastructure and development in both industry and agriculture. Gruzdyev was a wealthy man in his own right prior to his inauguration, having been one of the founder members of the 7th Continent supermarket chain in 1993. In his new job he immediately got down to cleaning up the mess in the local regional government and taking radical measures to drag the backward region into the 21st century.

Selection_212Selection_211Consequently, Tula has become a viable alternative to Kaluga for investors looking to find a home for their new projects. The capital city is considerably larger than its westerly counterpart and so the local market is larger. In terms of logistics the recently improved road system is an added advantage too.

One of the attractive aspects of the region and where development is taking place at a pace is in tourism and recreation. Being reasonably accessible to the capital city of Moscow, at least in the northern parts of the territory, Muscovites in search of their weekend retreat and a chance of refreshing peace and quiet can find what they need on the banks of the Oka river or in the historical centre of the old town, Aleksino. These areas can be reached in under two hours from the edge of Moscow, even taking into account the Friday evening rush hour traffic. This compares favourably with the nightmare treks to the popular resorts of the northern Moscow districts along Dmitrovskoye or Leningradskoye which will not get you half as far in the same time.

The popularity of the Tula region for dacha and residential property development is consequently on the rise, particularly for those looking for a more picturesque spot, cleaner air and with an eye on their bank balance. Land designated for house construction is not surprisingly more plentiful and more affordable than the overcrowded and overpriced equivalent in the Moscow region. There is also more to chose from. Depending on the location a plot of land suitable for a dacha starts from around 15,000 roubles per 100 m2 (known in Russian as a sotka, from the word for hundred “sto”) and from 30-35,000 roubles per sotka for a plot on a residential area development. Obviously, the closer you get to a river or lakeside property or, if you opt for a more up-market club or village style development with all mod-cons, the price will be higher.

Selection_213One popular way in which property and land developers work is by forming a so-called DNP or dacha non-commercial partnership or cooperative. Your contribution to the DNP is compensated by signing a purchase agreement transferring the ownership title of the plot of land to the same value in return. Owning land title is of course only part of the story. The title holder still needs to build his house, have road access to it and connect the property to whatever utilities are available to the site. These may be provided by the DNP, or by a separate or affiliated company, under a second agreement by making a one-off payment for the service to which you require to be connected. A starting price of around 300,000 roubles will be charged, unless the service is already there and included in the land price.

Don’t forget, however, that you will still have to pay for the connection to your future dwelling from the boundary of your property and for an electricity meter to be installed officially. If natural gas is available in your district, which is not always the case, bringing the main pipe will cost more, depending on how many subscribers take up the offer, and the connection to your house system will be more expensive than the connection to the electricity supply grid. Water and sewage is only provided centrally in residential communities. For dachas you will have to resort to drilling your own well on the property and installing your own septic tank arrangements, unless you can do without and put up with the basic outside toilet arrangement!

Selection_210Most developers will offer you a choice for your building options. You can acquire land without any construction obligations in which case you are free to pick your own design and find a contractor to build it for you. Alternatively, you can opt for a project proposed by the developer from his catalogue using his sub-contractors. The latter brings some advantages these days as the builders will be likely erecting a series of a similar type and can thus economize on the material purchases. The construction teams are also better trimmed and can get the job done quicker and closer to your budget as there are less unforeseen problems. However, the choice is yours.

In the more up-market village developments the developer may insist that you build only one of his designs as they wish to maintain a unified style and standard image for the whole development. If you are looking for more than a summer retreat and intend to invest in a second home for all year round use, you have the added advantage of 24-hour security and the benefit of other communal sports and recreational facilities. This of course comes at a price.

To Russia With Love

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I met Debbie Deegan in the office of ‘To Russia With Love’, which is a charity she founded to help Russian orphans. The office consisted of one room inside a rabbit-warren Soviet style office block off Stoleshnikov Pereulok. On talking to Debbie, who is wonderfully Irish, I soon realised that a smart office in the most prestigious building in Moscow would not be enough to pay credit to what she is doing. The impact that one person, who is now helped by a small team, has had and continues to have on people’s lives here is truly vast. Here is Debbie’s story, in her own words:

Find out more about To Russia With Love on: http://www.torussiawithlove.ie

 

Selection_215“I was at home in Ireland, watching telly back in 1998. We had taken in two Russian children; they were called ‘Chernobyl Children’ which was a phrase we used to describe all Russian orphans at the time. They were over on holiday for a month, and arrived with tags on them stating their names, ages and the word: ‘orphans’. The night we took them in and put them to bed, I said to my husband: ‘We’re not taking them back’. After a month one of the girls returned, actually she had no interest in our family really, but the other girl, Zina, didn’t want to go anywhere again, she was at home. So we let her stay. To get round problems with official adoption procedures, which can take 5 years in Ireland, we decided to think outside the box, and went straight to the Russian embassy in Dublin and asked for permission to keep her. The Russians surprised me by saying: ‘yes it is manageable to keep her’, and granted us permission to keep Zina with the caveat that they could come to our home, visit her school and her doctor at any time to check up on her for the statutory 5 years. My mother had to go out and buy a tablecloth, as diplomats were coming to the house. We cut the grass every second day, I polished the knobs on our hall doors every day in case the consular Alexander Pikalev should call by, and he did. He was very professional, and we became quite friendly with the Russian embassy.

Selection_216“After about a year of living with us, Zina started telling us stories about some of her friends in the orphanage where she had come from, who she was broken hearted for. She had lived seven years with some of the children. I hadn’t really considered the whole Russian aspect; I was only concerned with keeping her in Ireland. She started talking more and more about her best friends Pasha and Valya, and the more I heard about them the worse I felt, because yes, we had sort of rescued her, but in fact we had taken her from a whole life that we hadn’t even considered. I realised that I needed to do something, so when Zina was 9 years old, I went to Russia in 1998, to try and find her friends, and that’s what bought me to Russia.

“So I had to trace the orphanage where Zina had come from. My main goal was to find her friends and report back to Zina, so that the bond between her and her friends would not be lost. I eventually found the orphanage, and it was not in good condition, in fact I was quite shocked by it, and don’t really want to talk about that. All of Zina’s classmates were there and I felt quite guilty that all I was really doing was kind of bringing her sweets from Ireland. But at the time, with no previous knowledge of orphanages it was all I could do. So I went back to my comfortable lifestyle in Ireland, but I felt terrible. My heart wouldn’t let me rest, and eventually I sat down with a group of amazing people from my community, and we talked about the orphanage in Bryansk. Together, we raised £150,000 to rebuild the orphanage, put in new windows and heating. That’s how it all started.

Selection_217“And so I began the process of setting up a charity called ‘To Russia With Love,’ with the blessing of the Russian ambassador of the time and we started fundraising in earnest. We were lucky, because it was the beginning of the Celtic Tiger, a time when the Irish economy was booming, and Irish are incredibly generous when it comes to giving. I think they are one of the most giving nations on earth. All the charity’s board were parents, not bankers or whatever. We kept it very focused.

“I went on national television and told my story, and said: guys I need to raise about £200,000. It snowballed instantly. People In Ireland came forward, or should I say angels came out of the woodwork – builders, carers, teachers, doctors, and nurses, they all volunteered their time to help. In Bryansk we started the rebuilding work, we asked the children themselves to help us with the designs, something which didn’t go down too well with the authorities because the children wanted the walls to be painted a sugar pink colour, whereas according to regulations they should be brown and green. We painted the walls sugar pink… that was just the start.

Selection_219“We started bringing in beautiful new Russian staff and carers, and the effect of this, plus the impact of the new buildings meant that the children really began to grow. We introduced the idea of foster parents, and we bought Irish foster care specialists in to talk to the authorities about that, but it was a little too early in 1999 for Russia to accept that then. In the meantime, the kids were running around with tattered socks and shoes, so we started to provide then with warm new clothes, as a well as visits to dentists and a thousand other things. Basically, we treated them as human beings, exactly as family children would be treated. None of the children knew when their birthdays were, so we found out and organised celebrations for each child. The older ones were allowed to celebrate outside the orphanage walls, which they weren’t allowed to do previously, so we bought an orphanage bus.

“Then we started education programmes. The Russians are actually way ahead of the Irish with education, but the children need socialization and integration skills very badly. So we copied various programmes used in Ireland. Basically we set about training our staff and the Russian carers about the importance of unconditional love, something rare in any institution. It is not our job to judge the children it is our job to love them. The younger kids were going through the system and getting brighter and brighter, we started many new programmes, the boys were dying to develop sports! So we brought in sports equipment because there was none in the orphanage. Within 5 years we had a whole wall full of trophies that the children had won, previously the orphanage had none.

Selection_218“We’re still working with that orphanage but as the money kept coming in, we started to take on more projects. We discovered that all the orphans had been separated from their brothers and sisters, which they do here. We had children coming up to us and asking us to help, in finding a brother or sister. So we put a social worker on the job and in three or four years we hunted down every brother and sisters that any of the children had. It was a huge job. It is a very emotional experience for a nine year old to find that he had a four-year-old sister and a 16-year-old brother. Some of the brothers were in prison, some of them weren’t. We did that for about 10 years, we found I don’t know how many siblings. If we found that one of the siblings was in another orphanage, and I found that I could trust the director, then we stayed and helped that orphanage. But if I felt I couldn’t trust the director, for example if he had a fancy car outside his office and a karaoke machine with bells and whistles in his office, and the children were running around barefoot, then we moved on, because I felt that there was no point in putting money into a situation like that.

Selection_220“That was how we found our new orphanages. We took on a beautiful small orphanage for blind children at the time. They had no specialised equipment at all. If any of the children we worked with, who by then we felt were ‘our’ children, was moved somewhere we also arranged to visit him or her a month later, to let the child know that the family, as it were, is still there. So we took on three orphanages, actually what were called ‘temporary shelters’. Nobody paid any attention to these places, because the authorities felt that the children would not be there for very long, so they didn’t spend money on things like playgrounds for them. Orphanages for babies are comparatively well looked after here, so I didn’t feel that we needed to spend a lot of resources on them. But nobody wants to look after 17-year-old orphan boys for example, so that was where we focused our attention. They are also the most difficult category to raise money for. There was a fantastic orphanage in Kaluga, which has sadly closed, and we helped them for a while and set up our own Leavers’ Programme. This was a whole programme for children going on to college. If we can afford it, we pay for them to go into hostel accommodation. We hold a clinic for these students every once a week, which they have to attend, and the rules we set are quite strict. Some of them go into the army, and when they come out we are there for them. We get them back on their feet, back into college. The programme has been a great success. I think we’ve had one of our children in prison in 15 years, which is very low for the national average.

“So now we are helping children in a network of orphanages throughout the country. I have been amazed all the way along at how welcoming and cooperative the Russian authorities have been. I thought that they would sort of resent outside interference, but I was wrong, the system is full of great people, people who care. We don’t come across as being superior, we Irish are not in a position to tell any country how to how to do it, we have a lot to be ashamed about ourselves when we look back at our orphanage history. To understand some aspects of that, I advise you to see the film Philomena. I have met a lot of people in various levels of the administration here, and they all know that I am not here because I want fame, or some egoistical reason. They have seen me crying my eyes out, they have seen me go to weddings, in maternity hospitals when babies are born, stand at children’s funerals, they have been watching me for 15 years. There is no glamour associated with what I do. The Russians well know that we adore the children and visa versa. I have never been a threat; I have never said a negative thing in my life about the Russian system, because I respect the efforts that are being made every day to eradicate this enormous problem. The people we work with are hard working, under paid and probably under great pressure.

Selection_221“Due to a recent EU law, funds are no longer available to strengthen institutions, orphanages etc., this is the right decision, however, until we live in a perfect world, we have thousands of children still behind those very walls. Russian corporates donate to us, and so do expats. We can’t survive without money, we are grateful for every rouble. We have so many programmes; the orphanages, the leaving programme, the college fees, the petrol for the bus, and everything in between. Parents know how much it costs to supply everything for a child, and that is what we are doing, for hundreds of children. We have never said no in 15 years in answer to a request from a child. I have to say that we don’t need volunteers to go into our orphanages, to just be there for a short period and then disappear. Orphanages have very tight schedules and if a bunch of volunteers arrive in a bus from a bank etc., jump around in front of the children and then leave, quite honestly, this can cause more harm than good. At times we have to please donors, of course donors should be allowed to see where their money is going. But if you want to help, you need to help us in the way we need help to be given. That’s the way to get involved. We don’t want to sound ungrateful, but we don’t need old torn clothes or used and broken toys. It’s difficult to say this, but it’s quite embarrassing when we go to an orphanage and open up a box of old clothes, we respect our children as we respect our family members. It takes a lot of money to do what we are doing, that’s where we need so much help.

Selection_222“There are some fantastic donors out there. For example, The Marriott hotel just across the road are amazing. They bring the children into the hotel, they talk to them about careers, about cleaning, cooking, management, they treat them to dinner, the hotel does career days at the orphanages also, this is constructive help. Very structured, very well managed and very useful. The Marriott Aurora is in partnership with the Bolshoi Ballet, so the children are allowed to come in and watch the ballerinas practising; this is such a treat for the girls in particular. They get packed off after a long and exciting day with a whole kit of shampoos and so on. On top of all that, the hotel has now put envelopes in all their rooms where guests can donate. The Marriott Traverskya recently had all the children up for a big family day, the children loved it. Other Marriott hotels are also helping with parties, they are a perfect example of well thought out care, and make a real difference.

“Finally, I would like to reiterate that we know that the way forward in Russia is to get children into foster homes, out of the orphanages. The current government have many good programmes running to make this happen but like Ireland, they need to look at quality and not just quantity fostering. We made many mistakes in this area, they could learn from our mistakes. That’s our next big project, to assist our authorities with this if we are allowed, this is a difficult thing to fundraise for, but ultimately it gets a child a family, what more could we want.

Train Sets and model railways in Russia

Selection_223Imagine a train set that ran on clockwork around a track, with a platinum locomotive, five gold cars with thin crystal glass windows, that all folded inside a jewelled egg. Such was the ‘Great Trans-Siberian Easter Egg’, designed by Karl Faberge and given to the Russian Royal family in 1900.

 

Despite such royal induction, model railroading in Russia does not have anything like the long traditions as in the US or Germany. The first train sets for mass consumption appeared only in the 1930s when the Press factory in Serpukhov began making three-rail, 45-mm gauge tin-plate trains. These sets, and those that followed were expensive and experiencing model trains did not become popular in the Soviet Union until the 1960s when East German PIKO train sets began to appear. These were pretty basic sets; an oval-shaped set of rails, an engine and three carriages, and only a limited number of extra parts and items were available. In the 1980s, various more modern Soviet train sets appeared, such as the first Soviet HO gauge set designed by the Bureau of Technological Toys and manufactured at a state factory in Kursk. But production costs during 1983-1986 were higher than the selling price and the project was discontinued. Production was started again in 1991, but because there were so few such sets available, and they lacked somewhat in finished details, enthusiasts ‘kitbashed’ their purchases and spent hours, days, painting wood stacks, or customised their purchases in a thousand different ways. Model making from kits in the Soviet Union was a lot more than sticking or slotting things together. Enter the Russian-model-train-fanatic.

Selection_224Evgeny Shklyarenko is a supremo fanatic. He started as an apprentice at the Soviet ‘All-Union Society of Knowledge’, making models of space ships, and was later employed at the Soviet Union Railways which had an in-house modelling workshop, “My first train model-making work was a model of the American ‘Baldanovsky’ steam engine, which pulled the train that Lenin travelled on from Finland to Petrograd, my father was a railway worker. In those times, we modified and made trains sets for organisations; it was expensive enough just buying a simple mass produced train set from East Germany. After train sets started to appear, societies of model train enthusiasts sprang up, and people began to meet together and exchange parts and so on. We began to subscribe to magazines, and we organised a model railway enthusiasts’ club in 1969 at the Soviet Union of Railways. The state company I had been working was closed down in 1991, because large scale models at exhibitions were no longer required.”

Selection_228After the fall of the Soviet Union, Evgeny and his colleagues started to work for private clients, but such people who had the resources to buy custom made train sets only appeared in the early 2000s. “I remember in the meantime, to feed my family, I made models of Russian churches, which I sold in markets. Eventually with some friends we began to organise a small company, one person was good at electronics and specialised in that, somebody else was a master craftsman and so on. We took part in international exhibitions, and there were one or two places around Moscow where we showed our work. Clients appeared, both private and state, including RZD (Russian Railways), for whom we built large models, which were partly used as training modulators for train drivers. I recently completed a 60-metre set for RZD which is on display at Moscow’s Rizhsky Station. This is complete with cameras mounted onto to some of the engines. When connected to video monitors, the realism you can achieve is amazing, and it is sometimes used as a simulator. Private clients include Russian company owners or senior managers who perhaps like the idea of escaping from reality to the loft or cellar; into a world that they can control.”

Selection_227The boom times for ‘Niko’, the company Evgeny worked for lasted up to about 2011, when other private train modelling companies appeared offering turnkey solutions for wealthy clients. “I would say that it is a bit like a wave, one year we had order after order; mostly by recommendation. The next, hardly any. The last two years, however have been very difficult. However the tide can turn at any moment. I think that there are always a certain number of people who love railways and they will always somehow find the money. But they may not be the same people as they were in the past. I personally have a huge back order of work to get through, and of course I am not the only person in Moscow making train sets” said Evgeny. Ex-Soviet organisations such as RZD which used to have their own model making facilities take up the slack when the private sector is weak.

Nowadays, the whole cult of train sets is increasing; more and more children are getting their hands on Bachmann, Pioneer, Spectrum (to mention but a few) sets and parts. There are specialised shops in Moscow that deal only in train sets. Prices have come down thanks to competition, and many families can afford this hobby, despite the inroads into children’s playing time, being taken by social networks and computer games.

Selection_226Custom made train sets have become a status symbol, along with a Bentley and yacht on the Black Sea. But that is not the only reason that grown men (train modelling hasn’t really caught on amongst wealthy Russian women yet) spend fortunes on model trains. Evgeny said that there is one trait that unites enthusiasts: “When people come up to us at exhibitions, and they are interested in our work, they almost invariably say: ‘When I was a child, I had a train set…’ That’s how it all begins. For the husband, spending lots of money on an adult version of his childhood is natural, but for the wife it isn’t, and she might say to him: ‘It’d be better off you started drinking’, or something like that. The children or grandchildren get involved and that usually saves the day for the father. It’s really quite amazing watching this process over and over again.”

Selection_225Costs vary enormously depending on the amount of detail work put into each square metre of the final installation. Variables include not only the complexity of the scenery, people, buildings and so on, but the electronics. Evgeny explained: “We of course prefer to create sets that the operator becomes engaged in. That he or she can make changes to, perhaps create an emergency situation and then solve it, so that there is a process of play. You can buy an engine for €80, or you can construct the same engine with parts that cost €500. The most expensive set we ever built was for 3 million roubles, this took us several years to build. Then there is servicing which can also be costly, depending of the circumstances.”