. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Parent Calls to Action But Not to Revolution

Families are in a state of near panic after reading Juliet Butler's account last week in The Moscow Times of her nightmare trip around Russian children's hospitals, where -- with a near-lifeless baby in her hands -- she had to bribe even the security men to get into the hellholes.

Later the same day, Miranda heard about a child who, after similarly being refused entry to several hospitals, died at Sheremyetevo while awaiting evacuation. Miranda didn't sleep at all after reading the article and tells me it was being passed around expatriate toddler and baby groups, leading one mother to demand that her husband get himself a transfer out of Russia forthwith. It's not that no one knew what the worst-case scenario might be, but, as another foreign friend put it, "you put it to the back of your mind and hope it just won't happen."

Juliet Butler's piece -- and fortunately her baby is fine now -- brought every parent's nightmare right back to the front of their minds.

When I read the article, thrust into my hands the minute I got in from work, I felt sick with disgust, fury -- and shame. This is my country, but once again I wonder why is it that this society of mostly European, civilized, well-educated people is so hopelessly, brutally corrupt and inefficient? The popular excuse is to blame it all on the vestiges of communist rule, which of course doesn't explain anything. Russia has been swinging from reform to counter-reform for a thousand-odd years. The tragedy of the nation is that it has been not so much a bridge between East and West -- roughly defined in Western terms as Eastern totalitarianism and Western-style democracy -- but more of a horrible melting pot for the worst of each. Eastern culture, like for example, Islam, does offer a certain security and order while demanding submission to its rules. The seedier side of capitalism hardly needs explaining to anyone living here today.

But the true essence of Western democracy, in my view, and what Russia most crucially lacks, is the ethos of organized debate and challenge of the status quo -- as opposed to revolution. Everyone in Russia today seems unhappy with the way things are but has decided that the way to cope is to find a way around the formal lines.

There is no grass-roots resistance to the shabby, sleaze-ridden society we have become. I would like every Russian to hear Juliet's story and not only be appalled but remember that what the foreign community read as a nightmare is only the everyday experience of millions of Russians, and realize that it is time to complain, picket, form pressure groups and movements: to act rather than just endure.