A Macedonian girl in Moscow

Matryoshka dolls, Moscow by neiljs@flickr

Author: Marija Arsovska

“What a cold, cloudy and unwelcoming country it is, and by that I’m also referring to the people living here” – was the sentence I used to tell my mother in first year of studies in Moscow, Russia.

Coming to spend my university years in Moscow was never my dream, but it all happened very spontaneously and now I’m so glad I didn’t miss my opportunity.

At my first year at high school I chose Russian as my second foreign language just because I knew I wouldn’t have to do anything to get great marks, “and not that I would ever need it in life” – I told myself. But life follows its strange paths and in no time I was already in my last year at high school and that was when I met my new Russian language teacher who gave me my ticket to see the world. Thanks to her and the support of my family, especially my mother, by the end of the year, after my graduation I got a scholarship and was treading on the Russian soil at the Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Red Square through a Fisheye by Adam Baker@flickr


I spent my first year in Moscow learning Russian, because I hadn’t spoken it for the last four years at home, and getting familiar with Russian culture and Russian people (who came out to be far more difficult and unpleasant).

In Russia, 2 of 10 people know English, 1 of 10 people would stop if you ask them for some directions and only half of them will listen to you and try to help you.

But that actually wasn’t the problem; after all, you are the one that needs help so you’ll ask a hundred people if you have to. The biggest problem I had was the dormitory and the staff working there. When I first walked in the corridor on my floor I thought I was visiting some ruins left after the war and the room was nothing better. I spent the first week pitying myself, but shortly after the courses were about to begin and things started to look better. With understanding teachers and classmates from all over the world in the same position as you, you can easily find your place under the sun.

Apart from going to classes, I spent my time visiting the Red Square, the Kremlin, churches, museums, shops, old architecture buildings, and just walking the streets of Moscow and trying to feel the spirit. Everything was so big, so beautiful, so loud, and I was part of it, – that was one of the things that kept me going. By the end of the spring semester I already spoke Russian fluently, as my mother tongue is Macedonian language, and had friends from all over the world except from Russia.

Before leaving Russia for going on my summer holidays I prepared my documents for the university that my dean recommended to me and with my suitcase full of presents and me full of new experiences flew back home.

Moscow Sunset by Igor Gusarov@flickr


Today after almost four years in Moscow and three at the university, most of my friends are still foreign students and I still spend most of my free time visiting galleries, museums and exhibitions and I love Moscow.

After all this time I just got so used to it, to the 24/5 traffic jam, to the rare sunny days from September to May, to winters reaching 30 degrees below zero, to babushkas buying their daily food supplies and a bottle of vodka early in the morning. Now, almost like home, I have my favorite places to go to like the Carycino park, Zurab Tsereteli’s Art Gallery, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and many many more.

I even got used to the food which I really couldn’t stand at first. Now I can’t imagine long time going without “pel’meni” (dumplings filled with meat, potatoes or mushrooms), or “borshch” (a thick soup), “syrniki” (sweet cheese pancakes), and sweet “tvorog” (quark).

Russians have great history and culture, and sometimes I imagine how such a great people like Peter I, Ekaterina II, were walking the ground where I am standing now and it feels so good.

One of the things I like the most, except for millions of bookshops all over the city, are the celebrations. Russian people love their vodka and they just love not to have to work, so we have a lot of holidays throughout the school year.

The important dates for the country are marked by amazing celebrations. There are concerts, speeches, parties, the whole city is colorfully decorated and in the evening thousand of fireworks paint the sky of Moscow.

Worker and Kolkhoznitsa by Adam Baker@flickr


Almost all of the people I have met so far are just the same, cold and unwelcoming, and I still find people who don’t like me just because I’m a foreigner, but I got used to it and know how to handle it alright, because you are here on your own and you have to stand up for yourself, as no one else will do it for you.

On the other hand, I love the university I am attending. Not only it is one of the best economic universities in Russia, but it has also contributed to the change of my view to Russian people. All of the staff in the dean’s cabinet has been very kind to me from the beginning, and the students accepted me and helped me in my first year, and today they come to me for help with some subjects and I’m glad to help them.

The new dormitories are great, although the furniture is pretty much the same, I have 2 roommates and we did our best in decorating our room, so it feels more like home. We live on the highest floor which is why we often refer to our room as The Penthouse.

Moscow is a very, very expensive city and it’s sometimes difficult to get some extra pocket money, foreigners are not allowed to work by law, considering the fact that the most of Middle Asia is trying to earn money on the black market in Russia.

However, just like every big city, it has so many opportunities, so much it can give, if only you are not afraid to take the chance.


This is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writing Contest. The content of the articles does not necessarily represent the view or the position of Mladiinfo.

12 thoughts on “A Macedonian girl in Moscow

    1. Ola,

      u avtora est imja: Marija. 🙂 (The author has a name: Marija)
      And I believe she is aware of how vast, diverse, different and hospitable Russia and its people can be:), but this is the article about Moscow. In fact, I had the same impression with people in the capital: they are mostly terrible; but also amazing (especially, my friends).

  1. Moscow is not Russia! Moscow is a country within a country. I was really surprised that most people you've met were cold and unfreidly. For four years? May be smth wrong with you? I am from Sweden and when I was studying in Russia I made so many freinds! It was cool time!

    1. Vitagnes,
      I don't think you understood me well… I didn't say that about my friends (which I have a lot btw,and they are wonderful people – so there is nothing wrong with me)…. by cold nad unfriendly I was referring to the people in Moscow in general (not my friends), people you meet in everydays life, like in the shops, the banks,the visa department,the dormitories, even some techers.
      I don't expect you to understand, but that was just an impression of a person from the south, about the people from the north.
      If you ever have the chance to compare I believe you can easily see the difference…

      1. I think the best tip is to smile even if people are cold and unfriendly. Yes, I did not understand you well, however, by reading your post it seems that all Russians are rude and brutal. I met many people on the street who were helpful even much more than I expected.

        1. Vitagnes
          I wrote about the people in Moscow (please read the title carefully)
          I'm sorry, it wasn't my intention to present the whole Russian nation, and the words I used are cold and unwelcoming NOT brutal and rude. I would never say that the people here are rude, on the contrary they are very,very polite.
          There is a big difference between those words.
          And one last thing. I have also met many kind and helpful people (which I never said I didn't) but they were fewer in compare with the others.

  2. Hello Marija, that's a very nice article you wrote here.

    Two years ago i spent some time studying abroad and your perspective on people of our country and people of Moscow reflects the opinion of my others who come here every year. I was born and raised Russian, and even then i can often see this sort of unfriendly and cold side of Russia.

    I've once read an article somewhere, in which the author explained that we come off as unfriendly because we, as a nation, aren't fond of pretending and/or hiding our feelings. No fake smiles from the workers, no pleasantries – it all seems a bit unfriendly. Besides, Moscow is a very big city and people in the streets/metro have little time to stop and chat, as well as little willingness to be friendly to strangers. It's generally a cold world we live in, the more of us there are, the less time we devote to others, i guess.

    Ok, my rant is over, i just have a couple of questions for you, if you don't mind me asking. What uni are you attending? Have you traveled to any other regions of Russia? How come you have so few russian friends? Feel free not to answer if it's too personal.

    Thanks for reading:). Tim

    1. Hi Timofey…
      Well I think that is a resonable explanation. And although now I've become very used to that, that was my first impression.


      No I haven't traveled to other regions (except Podmoskovye) 😉 and that is why I wrote only about Moscow.
      Btw my russian friends who come from other parts of Russia tell me that people there are different, so I believe that you are right
      (Besides, Moscow is a very big city and people in the streets/metro have little time to stop and chat, as well as…) maybe it's because they have more quiet life.

      I don't have few russian friends, they are just smaller number than the friends I have from other countries. And here I'm talking about friends, not "znakomih" – of course russians here are a lot more.

  3. Hi,

    The article is so true:) I have spent 5 years in Moscow studying in one of the best universitties there.
    Now when I think back I miss MOscow so much, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but for the people there it is still quite challenging to accept foreigners. But perhaps this would change with time…

  4. Hi guys,
    I am agree with Vitagnes who is saying that Moscow is not Russia and it is a country within the country. Many russians would agree with this. The important thing to know is that a capital almost never represent a country itself. So I am completely agree that Moscow is a horrible traffic jams place populated by millions of unfrendly unhappy people, most of them came there to win "A Moscow lottery", searching better life, which for them is a life with more money, power or reputation. But actually such a people usually flooding almost any capitals.
    So I would suggest to travel more and explore not only Moscow in Russia, but Russia itself.

  5. Very nice story of your stay in Moscow.
    In fact i did expect to see that Russians are cold and unwelcoming. My one and only visit to Moscow was a disaster,I would probably never spent my money and free time to visit Russia again (at least until they learn to be bit more tolerant).
    The fact that I am from Caucasian Region made it even worse, our small group that went there to see our friend was attacked by skin-heads in daylight and in a metro station where thousand of people were present and not single one of them desired to help and we've been attacked only because my friend spoke different language and looked Caucasian.
    Thanks god, there were only 5 of them and we had 8 boys who handled them, but things like that makes you realize how pathetic these people are and society supporting acts like that is exactly the same.
    I am sorry to sound harsh but I guess it's time for progressive youth of Russia (if there is any left) to speak up against Nazism or you will turn into another Nazi state in 21st century.

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