"It’s all very well hosting the Winter Olympics, having a leader who likes to swim topless in icy waters, and having NASA pay you to take US astronauts into space, but it all seems rather meaningless when your country is simply not as free and open as it could be. This is not a feeling exclusive from pride and shame at one’s own country. It’s dangerous when people forget, that to honour and respect, one mustn’t invest in the object of affection a simple faith alone.
…When one sees people posing next to a Stalin look-a-like in a subway tunnel, it does make one pause to wonder what the hell is going on.
As I walk through another station later on, I see two haggard men with bruised and cut faces, begging. An old man meets a woman nearby, touching his hat and smiling. He takes her trolley, and they walk off, chatting amiably. Just like any other metro station in many other countries. But here it feels indicative of something more, of both a struggling alienation and a harsh world, and yet also a warm heart that will always live beyond the reach of the system it lives under."