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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Educating Vita: Green Shock Therapy Steels Russian Hearts




The talk of Bray-on-Thames, the village outside London where we settled after moving from Moscow, was the little deer run over by a speeding car in a narrow lane. I saw it the other day as I took Vita to her new detsky sad, the local preschool. It was as horrible as any other roadside casualty.


The neighbors were already congregating outside the village post office, discussing how dreadful it was. Someone said it should be reported to the RSPCA, the British society for animal protection, while others suggested a new speed limit should be introduced in the village. Apparently some action is to be taken soon.


As we walked past the corpse of that poor little deer I desperately tried to distract Vita's attention.


Where should I make her look? At those magpies in the field: One means bad luck, two means good. Oh, there's a squirrel up that tree, Vita, he's hiding acorns for winter, and do you see that slug on the garden wall? Look at that spider -- "There came a great spider and sat down beside her, and frightened our Vita away."


I succeeded in my diversion, but as I walked back home from school, I remembered one day last year when we were driving from London to Miranda's home in Stratford-upon-Avon. I was surprised to see how different the roadside casualties were in Britain. We saw several foxes and even a badger, and there were dozens of run-over squirrels and rabbits.


I also remembered how back in Moscow, as we traveled the same sort of distance out to my dacha near the village of Akulovo to the west of Moscow, we would see about the same number of dead animals, but they were rats, cats, dogs and crows; we saw very few deer or rabbits, and certainly no badgers.


I am not trying to say that the comparable numbers of dead animals shows British drivers to be as reckless as Russian ones, but rather that the fact wild animals still live up to the fringes of populated areas is a sign of Western "green superiority" over Russia.


Living in a country as vast as Russia you expect much more exposure to nature, but the vastness of Russia makes urban life there more horribly urban than in the smaller countries of the West. People simply become less aware of the necessity to protect their environment. When you have more to dispose of, you care less, whether it's a matter of badgers, rats, oil or money.


One day, I said to myself, Vita will understand that, and she will have the advantage of having lived in both a small, tightly knitted community and a cruel but vibrant megalopolis. She will not have to turn away from that dead deer, but will be all the more able to confront the problem facing her.