TWIN CITIES UNDER LOCKDOWN
In this two-part travelogue, exclusively written for the Friends of Pskov website, Daniil Schultz – a friend of Perth and a resident of Pskov – takes us through Scotland in the early 1990s before welcoming us to his native Pskov during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of Spring 2020.
REMEMBERING PERTH PRE-LOCKDOWN
Early in the 1990s, together with my mother, I went on a two week tour to Scotland. Even though I was a small boy I remember this trip quite well. We stayed in Glasgow by the invitation of my mother’s Scottish friends Mike and Margaret, whom she met while working as a tour guide with the group of Scottish people traveling around Soviet Union. Besides Glasgow, we also visited my hometown’s twin city of Perth where we were honoured to meet the Provost.
It was a period right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when with our newly-gained freedom we could travel to any Western European countries. In Scoltand, we stayed in the village of Campsie Glen, just outside of Glasgow. Everywhere we went, we were blown away by the picturesque Scottish landscape. We saw beautiful green hills, herds of sheep, waterfalls and stunning castles. The landscape just seemed unreal. It looked so perfect. The Scots were very nice and welcoming. I think that we were a novelty for the locals as Russians seemed to be a rare sight in Scotland at the time. I became friends with the local kids Laura and Finlay, who were brother and sister. We did not have any problem playing together and I already spoke some English at the time, even though the local accent was a bit hard to understand at first. I also recall my mother and I being invited to visit several local families for dinner. I was touched by the kindness of the Glaswegians who gave us many gifts. On our part, we had brought vodka, caviar and some Russian gifts for them.
We had mentioned to our host that we would like to visit Perth, the Scottish twin city of our hometown Pskov. There were many partner exchanges at that time, and there were articles and news about Perth in Pskov, and we were naturally interested to visit. Much to our surprise, Mike called the city administration, and we were kindly invited to a meeting with the Provost of Perth. He invited us for tea and we spent about an hour and had a very nice conversation. The Provost asked us questions about life in Pskov and also told us about Perth and gave us books, and souvenirs of the city. One thing we were impressed with was how open and friendly he was. In Russia, officials tend to be less accessible.
I have several other memories about things that surprised me in Scotland. For example, we met a very elegant 80 year old lady driving a fancy car. Also, we visited a vegan cafe specialising in raw vegetables, which was a new concept for us. We were also impressed by the ancient sights of Edinburgh and also its zoo.
PSKOV UNDER LOCKDOWN
Pskov has changed a lot since 1990s and has become a contemporary city with all possible conveniences available in Europe. There are some good hotels and restaurants, and overall updated infrastructure. Like any other place, there are problems, as well. For example, a lot of our young people tend to leave for big cities in search of more lucrative jobs. Another issue is that we have a new industrial cluster being built and one of the new corporate residents is a company which could pollute the environment with toxic emissions. There were many protests in the city against this construction.
And now the biggest concern of course is the situation with COVID-19. Pskov is a rather small city by Russian standards and the main outbreaks are seen in Moscow and other metropolitan areas. Overall the situation is under control and various measures were taken even before the pandemic actually started. People prefer to stay in their homes but they can leave them for any essential needs, like shopping. Outdoor sport is allowed which is a relief for me but travel to other regions is limited and the state borders are closed for now.
Finally, I would like to say that I strongly support Friends of Pskov twinning initiative. I really think it’s an important and meaningful project. I hope we can renew our face-to-face ties after the pandemic restrictions are lifted and I will be happy to contribute to this. Perth is a wonderful city with rich history and wonderful people and so is Pskov. We are meant to be good friends. And we are sending our best wishes to the people of Perth with hopes of new visits and exchanges between our cities soon.
Submission edited by David Bonnar and Iliyana Nedkova, June 2020