Days 115 - 119
England V Tunisia, Volgograd 18 June 2018.
As I type this, I’m sat on a train which is just starting a 27 hour journey to Nizhney Novograd (the City hosting Englands next game). I’m sharing a carriage with an Argentinian guy Called Facundo Carasa, who is a River Plate fan and we are already using the international language of football to get along famously. We have just passed the massive statue depicting Mother Russia, which is the tribute to the 2 Million Russians who lost their lives during the Battle for Stalingrad (Volgograd). It seems such a long time since I first set eyes on that dominating piece of art 9 days ago and I have a lifetime of memories from the city it looks over.
It is a city where I have learnt so much, I came to Volgograd hoping to learn a lot more about the wartime history of the city, (which held one of the worst battles in human history that we know of ;o)….), but leave it a wiser man in many aspects.
In keeping with the Aims of my Journey around the world, I have been overwhelmed with the warmth and kindness of the Russians in the city, they have been the perfect hosts. Over the past couple of years the scaremongering by the British press has (as it usually does), tried to convince everyone at home that, if you go to Russia, you will die within 5 minutes of entering its airspace. Basically a 12 foot tall muscle bound psychopath will rip all your limbs off, drill your eyes out, shit down your throat then tan your hide and use it for a carpet. Strangely enough I don’t think any England fans are currently adorning a Russian living room floor? I did meet a big muscle bound Russian football fan in the early hours of this morning, as I was walking back to my digs and slightly worse for the ware due to Vodka. The Russian said “are you English” and I answered in the affirmative. He then gave me a massive bear hug, thanked me and all England fans for coming to his country and stated ‘no politics, just friendship’. He then proceeded to rummage through his pockets as he wanted to give me a memento to remember him by. He could only find a very shiny 10 ruble coin and apologised that he could give nothing more than that and friendship. It was such a kind gesture that as soon as I got home, I taped the coin to the Green heart shaped stone I was given on day 3 of my trip whilst in Avebury and both of them will come with me on the rest of this incredible journey.
I have experienced some of the negative propaganda from The various members of the press out here. There was a reporter from the Guardian who wasn’t bothered about all of the great experiences people were having, just wanted to know about any bad stories people had. Another reporter who asked similar questions was mightily unimpressed when I told him it was all fake news and to go forth and multiply. I have to say that I did an interview with 2 guys from the ‘Times’ and was very impressed with them; they spent as much time telling me about their experiences in Volgograd as asking me about mine. They were really interested in the wartime history of the city and the reporter had been out with some Russian guys who go looking for remains of Russian soldiers from the battle. He explained how they’ed found a Russian officers body which was now going to be exhumed and given a full military funeral….RIP.
The Times reporter also confirmed something many Russians had said to me which is that Volgograd and Coventry are (and were the very first), twinned cities. This all dates back to WW2 when both cities were destroyed and the populations contacted each other and gave gifts and letters of support. This then grew and has continued, even through the Cold War. It was not something I was aware of, but as soon as I would say I’m from Coventry, the Russians would straight away tell me that we were twins….fantastic!
The scaremongering by the press has subdued the English support whilst in the city, with no one really wearing their colours or wanting to gather in large numbers. The obvious frustration caused by this was released in the stadium when England were in fine voice through the whole game, really bouncing behind the goal. The England victory made for a great party atmosphere and Mucho Vodka was slurped and songs sung in an Irish bar in town, until the need to move on to the next city drew things to a close.
People I have to mention.
Yuri the guy who’s apartment I rented a room in and was a fantastic host. I wish you all the best for the future Yuri. Joe who is from Newark who I met and hung around with in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup and last saw at the ‘Christ The Redeemer’ statue in Rio. Just happened to bump into him again, in the fanzone on the banks of the Volga river, which then led to us doing a live interview on sky within 2 minutes of meeting! Also Ellis & Clark who are 2 brothers from Brighton who I’ve hung around with for a few day and are also on this same train with me. There have been so many good people I have met, it’s the reason I love the World Cup, it’s the coming together of Humanity due to a common enjoyment.
This leads me to a final thought. On social media you can see a lot of hatred from within Great Britain, towards the English football team. This is the normal stuff caused by the religious divide in Scotland the same with Wales and Ireland and this again is a factor of manipulation by certain forces to push their own agenda. However also there are a good number of English who also seem to have a desire to see the England team fail. Obviously each to their own, but it’s a reflection of how divided the nation is and I strongly feel that the scaremongering of the press and other forces keeps the country in this constant state of divide; it’s as if they do not want a unified country which would possibly be a threat to their control…it’s a thought which is growing within me and I’m seeing it more and more……remember a divided country is easily defeated….whatever it is, its already split Europe back up again!!!
Please cut and paste the link below for some amazing pictures taken by Facundo whilst he was travelling through Africa…stunning!!
It’s now 24 hours later and I am in Nizhney Novograd. I had an issue with the accomodation i had booked, in that it was a scam (I never lost any money, as it was through AirB&B). It took a while to sort new stuff out but I’m now living with a Dr and her son. They won’t stop feeding me or forcing.... Yes forcing....me to drink vodka ........Terrible people these Russians!