Borders and Nationalities Melt Away Touchingly

Borders and Nationalities Melt Away Touchingly

by Kenneth on August 19, 2018
In American documentaries, the names of “Hermitage” and “Catherine’s Palace” are used interchangeably. Catherine’s Palace is known only by Tsarskoe Selo or “the palace at Tsarskoe Selo.” So I booked Catherine’s Palace thinking I was booking the Hermitage but I didn’t. I was a little upset initially at myself thinking I was going to miss something but when we got here I realized I had booked what I wanted to see to finish off my Romanov pilgrimage. Unbeknownst to me Catherine’s Palace was where the last family spent most of their time and, therefore, was where my Russia story started, as a kid.

I had 93 pictures in the palace, alone, to choose from and so I had to pick and choose what I wanted to show in the interests of time and from what I could remember.

I say, “what I can remember” because while I was walking through this palace I was holding back tears, on the verge of crying, the whole time.

I then show them pictures of the grounds and gardens, show Catherine’s Military parade dress, and the ceremonial and private offices of the Tsar (complete with the workaholic Alexander II’s cot). While not the strongest part of the presentation, I’ve started to use it to convey the emotion of the moment that I had where someone, my guide, started off as a complete stranger only 5 days before but had eerily similar interests to myself and had begun to notice things and say things that only my friends back home would. I cried even harder as the palace tour neared it’s end, because this was our last day and I would leave to Moscow the next morning.

Again, she noticed and asked what was wrong. I choked out an answer of “I’m fine.” but her look said she saw right through my answer. On the way back to the hotel, the driver even was worried something was wrong and pulled over to get me a water. While he was gone my guide turned to me and said, “ok, tell me what’s wrong..” like my friends would. I was in awe that I met someone so perfectly matched to myself, kind, gentle, had given up her birthday to be with me and not her family, and began to notice things and speak to me as my friends would.

I was worried that I’d never see this wonderful soul again because who knew when I’d be back. As I was unsure if I should show the emotion I was holding unsuccessfully back, would she want to share her contact info, i.e. Facebook, with me and open her life up to me?

By the time, we got back to the hotel the knot in my throat had disappeared a little and I said, “S Dnyom Rozhdeniya,” but immediately my eyes glassed over with tears. She saw, as she wished me well and said that she hoped I’d come back, and then as my lip began to quiver, she said, “let me hold you” and we hugged.

I tell this story in personal circles to show how invisible national borders had melted away and two hearts had forged a friendship that was counter to a narrative that I had heard all my life through documentaries and news but never personally believed, because I knew that that kind of person was out there and we could show the world differently.

I wrote her a glowing review to her company, crying as I wrote it, and got her a big “atta girl!” from her boss.

When I returned this year we picked up right where we left off and started planning the next year’s trip as we saw the city again. She was happy to stay in touch and “friended” me shortly after we finished up our sights. I hope for many more friendships just like that as I travel more and more.