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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

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Tanya was beside herself. She had invited her 8-year-old son Sasha for a visit from Azerbaijan and his grandfather was now hedging about the airfare.

She asked me to lend the necessary $300.

My father's advice rang in my ears. "The best way to lose a friend is to offer a loan," he said.

His motto was if you have to lend, don't offer more than you can afford to lose.

I didn't really want to lose $300.

This was not the first time Russian friends had asked for money. Yury, a wanna-be musician from Moldova, sought a $500 loan to buy a new electric guitar. Dima, an accountant with a big Western auditor, came to me after saving $2,000 of the $4,000 he needed to own his first car.

Even a neighbor, a police officer I exchanged pleasantries with by the elevator, stopped me once and asked if I could lend $5,000 toward the purchase of a new apartment.

I turned them all down.

Yury got a job with a sugar importer and promptly borrowed the guitar money for from his new co-workers. Dima scraped together the remaining $2,000 from former classmates and an old friend who works for Coca-Cola. My neighbor moved to his new apartment within two months.

My friend Kolya told me lending between friends and acquaintances was a practice that went back decades. "There were no bank loans," he said. "We were always ready to help each other when possible. And we always got the money back."

Kolya raised $1,000 from friends to help buy his Moscow apartment and paid them back within two years.

One day I was chatting with Volodya, who has a car that comes in handy when I need to move heavy items like beds. He learned that I was down to my last 100 rubles ($3) and pressed 500 rubles into my hand.

I protested. Volodya earns $500 a month as a professional company driver.

He insisted that I take the money, saying maybe one day I could return the favor. At the end of the next month, I was more than happy to bail him out with 1,000 rubles ($30).

Now Tanya was sitting across from me and asking whether I would lend her $300 to bring Sasha to Moscow.

Tanya sent Sasha to her mother in Baku when she started working as an entertainment reporter two years earlier.

She hadn't seen him since.

Sasha's grandfather had promised to pay the airfare but now insisted he didn't have the money.

"I don't understand what's going on in his mind," Tanya said. "I called him to ask about the money, and he said he was broke after spending $1,200 on a brand-new vacuum cleaner."

The old man had then regaled Tanya with the vacuum cleaner's technical capabilities. It could wash carpets, remove stains and even vacuum the carpet by itself.

"It probably washes his clothes and irons them too," Tanya said. "But how could he say he has no money when he could make such a large purchase?"

I looked into Tanya's sad eyes and handed over the $300.

Sasha arrived a few weeks later, and Tanya was so busy during his monthlong visit that I only saw her once. She then was so overloaded with work that we didn't get together for four months.

Finally she called and invited me to a party. She had $300 for me.

Andrew McChesney is deputy editor of The Moscow Times.