Our flat on Kutuzovsky Prospekt

In 1987 my husband Robert accepted a temporary posting to the British Council office in Moscow. His duties were mainly to look after the interests of the British students and teachers who were based in the Soviet Union, but he also got involved in the events taking place under the Cultural Exchange Programme between Britain and the USSR, such as the visit of the Royal Ballet. He travelled to Moscow in April and the children and I joined him a month later. We were only there until mid-September, but those few months remain the most vivid and exciting of my life, and set the seal on my abiding passion for Russian culture.

We lived in a flat set back from Kutuzovsky Prospekt, not far from the Ukraina Hotel (now also known as the Radisson Royal, and provider of a spectacularly good breakfast, I’m reliably informed. When we went there for dinner in 1987 there was no point in looking at the menu – even though we were given one – because almost nothing on it was actually available). Our block and those surrounding it were all inhabited by non-Russians – diplomats, businessmen, journalists etc – and so referred to as the foreigners’ ghetto.  (This was the largest of several such complexes for foreigners in various parts of Moscow.) A sentry box guarding the entrance to the whole area was manned by militia men, who could be seen to pick up a phone every time we went in or out, reporting our movements to – who knows?

The flat was spacious and comfortable enough, but I remember a few drawbacks – the perpetual smell of boiled cabbage in the stairwell, the precarious-looking balcony, the worryingly rough metal joins on the children’s slide outside – and the army of cockroaches that scuttled away out of sight in the kitchen if you went in there at night and put the light on. This makes it sound awful, but actually I loved it!

While in Moscow this year we decided to go and see what the area looks like now. The apartment block was still slightly scruffy, but the grounds surrounding it were much improved, with lilacs and other trees providing shade for benches, areas of lush grass and water features.  I couldn’t tell who the inhabitants were now, but presumably no longer all foreigners. There was still a sentry box at the entrance but now, a sign of the times, manned by guards from a private security firm. They were quite relaxed about letting us in to look around the gardens and take photographs.

We retraced the route we used to take to and from the nearest Metro station, Kievskaya. The highlight of that walk for me in 1987 was calling in at the stationer’s on Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Ulitsa to buy lovely cheap exercise books and notepads decorated with the 1980 Moscow Olympics logo, or with designs celebrating the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution. Over the five months I bought so many that I haven’t used them all up yet – 26 years later! (I am a big fan of stationery…). Now Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Ulitsa is lined with smart shops, banks and eateries, including the inevitable Macdonalds, and the area around the Kiev station has been transformed into Plaza Europa, with flagpoles, fountains and striking modern architecture.

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Plaza Europa and the Kiev Railway Station

 

 

One Response to Our flat on Kutuzovsky Prospekt
  1. Barbara
    March 15, 2015 | 2:36 pm

    Thank you so very much for posting the photos of the very same building on Kutuzovsky, that also was my home for many years(1974-81) – brings back so many wonderful memories of our playground and beautiful international friendships that were born there.
    Greetings from Slovenia,
    B.

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