Elektrishka - a Brief Encounter on a Train in Vladivostok, Russia
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
If your afraid of getting lost in a foreign city it’s good to follow the trolley or train tracks because you can almost always find your way back. But walking too far from the tracks can put you in an environment you were not prepared for. The day I took the trolley line north out of Vladivostok I didn’t get lost, but I found myself walking past a well fortified building with a high stone fence and several soldiers with automatic rifles watching the dirt path I was following. It was unnerving, but I just gazed away at the trees and I think I was humming to prevent my heart from racing. Nothing happened, but as I walked toward the sea I saw train tracks on the beach. I hoped that they were the tracks for a functioning train.
When I arrived at the tracks I could see a small platform to the south. Two people on the beach indicated that a train would go to town so I headed there rather that walk past the soldiers again. Shortly after I climbed the steps to the platform I was joined by a woman who was probably my age. She spoke no English, but managed to communicate to me that three trains would go away from town before one would return. For a few minutes we sat silently. Further communication seemed futile so we smiled and stared away at the trees. Although I was not hungry I remembered that I had a breakfast roll with me. I I took it out and offered her some. She showed me her bag full of vegetables and I made out the word dacha in her refusal. We sat and fed pigeons crumbs silently until she reached into her pack, pulled out a beautiful red tomato, and offered it to me. She was pleased to see my eyes light. I willingly accept this treasure after so many days without any fresh vegetables. But having nothing to say we quickly lapsed back into a separate silence.
We sat for almost a half hour until the gloomy skies that had been present all day began to drop tears one by one. The temperature was pleasant, and we watched the individual drops create dark spots on the platform in front of us. Gradually, so gradually, the time between drops decreased and the whole platform became dark. I opened my backpack and pulled out my umbrella. The woman next to me was not prepared, so I moved closer to cover her too. At first she tried to refuse, but I wouldn’t move. After a few
moments she reached up and positioned the umbrella angle to protect us both better. She pointed to the leaves on the ground and used different words seeming to be pointing out colors. I was not certain I understood until one of the trains going out of town came by. It was painted green and that was the word she used for the train and the green leaves. She also pointed out yellow and orange, but the only one I could pronounce was zillion, green. As she had predicted moments after the third train from town passed us the train going back into the city showed up. She sat to the left of the aisle and pointed to the seat next to her with a smile. I sat down as the train pulled away from the platform. She looked out the window across the aisle and pointed at the beach. The tracks were only meters from the water.
She motioned for me to go sit by the window looking out to the sea, then she followed me. I cannot express how beautiful the experience was. It was not just the view, it was watching it with my silent friend, and the train, and the place, and my good fortune at that moment. A boy about 12 sat across from us. We gave him my camera to take our picture before we came to her stop.
When she started to rise I reached out my hand and she held it. I said "Dasvidaniya" and she seemed surprised then smiled and headed for the door with the crowd. For a moment, I didn’t turn to look, but then I couldn't help myself. She turned back also and we stared at each other one last time. She blew a kiss