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Archive for Sunday, January 19, 1992

January 19, 1992

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Regardless whether they were hopeful or fearful, "apprehensive" is how Dr. Wayne Tilson and nurse Lori Heacock described Russians' attitudes about social, political and economic upheaval in their country.

"Some felt they would weather this like they weathered the changes in World War II," Tilson said. "Then there were others who were very pessimistic, feeling the whole place is coming apart, it's disintegrating, it's going to be the end here."

The two local health-care professionals toured Russian health care centers during a recently completed two-week trip that began after Christmas. They got a firsthand look at the social, political and onomic upheaval that has swept the country since late summer.

Heacock tied the different outlooks on the education level of the people. She cited as an example an argument between their guide and a taxi driver.

"THEY GOT into a discussion (and) we didn't know what they were talking about," she said. "Our guide is very much hopeful. She wants to move to a democratic society; she's set in to go through the hard years, and she knows this is what it takes.

"The taxi driver basically was saying, `We need someone to come in here and get this stuff straightened out. Stalin really wasn't such a bad guy.' There is a portion of the population . . . that is accustomed to having someone in charge and more comfortable with someone taking charge."

Tilson heard a lot of support for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and a overriding hope that he does well. Heacock said others were afraid for Yeltsin should times remain difficult.

One surprise Heacock and Tilson experienced was an adequate food supply.

"THERE IS a tremendously complex barter system," Tilson said. "It's gone on for several years. Nobody we talked to felt any particular apprehension over food at all.

"They all had gardens. They had access to other people who had access to friends . . . money and salary was not at all a way of doing things or an indicator of power or what you could acquire like it is here.

"The bigger factor was who you knew, what kind of relationships you had and where you could fit in the system."

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