Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Neighbors' New Beds Blow Hole in Budget

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

My neighbors are a dear old couple without children. Ten years ago, Nikolai Ivanovich, an electrical engineer and veteran of World War II, retired and took his pension.

On our regular evening constitutional, we often share recollections and our experiences of life as old-age pensioners. My wife and I supplement our pension through journalism. Nikolai Ivanovich and Mariya Nikolayevna, however, subsist exclusively on their pensions. And although war veterans get a slightly larger than normal pension, it is still not easy for them to make ends meet.

"I heard on the radio," Nikolai Ivanovich once told me, "that the average American pensioner does a lot of traveling. When my wife and I worked, we could afford to go on vacation once a year to Yalta or Kislovodsk. Now, our pension is barely sufficient for a trip to the Leningradsky market. We end up having to tour all the market-stalls in search of cheap products."

We also use the Leningradsky market, which is not far from our house, and I have noted on several occasions how pensioners spend a lot of time going to and fro in order to scrimp and save a few rubles and stay within their meager budgets.

Nikolai Ivanovich calculated the breakdown of his family budget as follows: about 75 percent goes to food, about 10 percent to utility payments, and the rest to clothes, medication, presents, newspapers, etc.

Not long ago, on one of our constitutionals, Nikolai Ivanovich asked me whether I could help him to carry their old bed out to the garbage containers the next day.

"What will you sleep on?" I asked with some surprise.

Our neighbours had a very wide double bed in their bedroom that took up three quarters of the room.

My neighbor explained that he and his wife could no longer sleep in one bed. Either he would turn over or start snoring and wake his wife up, or she would stir, make a noise and wake him up.

So, to cut a long story short, they decided to buy two single beds and borrowed the necessary money for a six-month period. They tried unsuccessfully to sell their old bed to a second-hand shop.

The next morning, Nikolai Ivanovich and I, together with two younger neighbors, dragged the bed out of the apartment into the courtyard and dumped it by the containers next to our house.

Later that day, the caretaker for our apartment block came to my neighbor and demanded extra payment for transporting the bed to the municipal garbage dump.

"You won't believe how much he asked me to pay." grieved Nikolai Ivanovich. "Now I'll have to extend deferment on repaying the debt by another few months."

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.