All the Clean Ones Are Married: And Other Everyday Calamities in Moscow

All the Clean Ones Are Married: And Other Everyday Calamities in Moscow

by Lori Cidylo CIDYLO
     
 

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A New York reporter tells the story of sharing the daily turmoil of the post-Soviet era with Muscovites.

In 1991, Lori Cidylo shocked her Ukrainian-born parents when she told them she was leaving her reporter's job on an upstate New York newspaper to live and work in the rapidly dissolving Soviet Union. Taking her backpack, she set out for a country

Overview

A New York reporter tells the story of sharing the daily turmoil of the post-Soviet era with Muscovites.

In 1991, Lori Cidylo shocked her Ukrainian-born parents when she told them she was leaving her reporter's job on an upstate New York newspaper to live and work in the rapidly dissolving Soviet Union. Taking her backpack, she set out for a country undergoing its most dramatic transformation since the Bolshevik revolution. For six years, she lived on a shoestring budget in Moscow, in tiny, run-down apartments, struggling with broken toilets and indifferent landlords and coping with the daily calamities of life in Russia. Fluent in Russian, she rode on public transportation, did her own shopping and cooking, and shared the typical Muscovite's life. As the Russian world kept changing with lightning speed around her, she realized she had stepped into a fantastical and absurd adventure.

Cidylo's account of what it is like for an American woman to live in Russia is a dramatic tale full of insouciant laughter, in which the immediate sense of vivid experience shines on every page. With the sharp eye of an acute observer, she captures the momentous events no less than the everyday trivia: How do Russians address one another now that the familiar "comrade" is passé? Or how do you find your way home in a city where every block looks alike and the streets keep getting new names?

Lori Cidylo is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, and other publications. She lives in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Working as a newspaper reporter in upstate New York in 1991, Cidylo told her Ukrainian-born parents that she wanted to live in Moscow. The Cold War having only just ended, they were appalled. But she persevered, and for the next several years lived and worked in the capital as it quickly sold itself to the highest bidder. Fluent in Russian, Cidylo lived in a Muscovite apartment and immersed herself in the city's everyday life, which she describes with humor and compassion. For example, her efforts first to find a washing machine, then to use it, are poignantly funny. "What did you expect? This is Russia," is the usual refrain of her Russian friends to daily indignities. Many of her anecdotes focus on her experiences of close relationships and gender relations in Russia, which have been much less affected by feminism than in the West-though the Russians are enlightened in their own way. (In Russia, Cidylo writes, "what's important is not staying married, but having been married" as a sort of rite of passage.) Her feelings after the untimely death of a male friend and her relationship with a Russian grandmother who works for her as an upholsterer are poignant. Cidylo's light touch and wry humor make this a distinctive trip, offering insight into both sides of the formerly bipolar world. (...)
Library Journal
Cidylo, a New York newspaper journalist of Ukranian-Polish descent, made a life-changing move to Moscow in 1991. There she worked first as a translator, and, as economic conditions worsened, ended up a stringer for various U.S. newspapers. Despite continual frustration with everyday life in Moscow (her search for a washing machine, for example, takes on the fervor of a quest for the Holy Grail), Cidylo retains her sense of humor and makes every effort to adapt. She aptly sums up a foreigner's perspective when she writes, "Many of us don't realize just how ill prepared for life we are until we arrive in Russia." The title refers to the plight of a young woman in search of a "clean" male, made difficult because, according to Cidylo, Russian men largely ignored personal hygiene in the early Nineties. The only weakness here is the confusing chronology; Cidylo often confuses the reader by going back and forth between the early and the later years she spent in Moscow. Nevertheless, this fascinating glimpse of post-Soviet society during a time of turmoil and drastic change is recommended for large travel collections in public libraries. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A beguiling memoir by an American who arrived in the Soviet Union two weeks before Gorbachev was ousted from office. The daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Cidylo grew up in New York but was fluent in Russian. In 1991, working as a reporter for a small New York state newspaper, she decided that there had to be more to journalism than front page stories centered around the cow-tipping escapades of local teenagers. So she set off for Russia with a backpack and a vague plan to operate as a freelance journalist. Luckily, she landed a job with the Soviet press agency, TASS, which provided her with a one-year work permit and a catbird seat from which to observe Russia's "most dramatic transformation since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution." Cidylo remained for six years through attempted coups and a crumbling economy, living as a Russian amid economic and political chaos that she encapsulates in evocative vignettes of ordinary life. Like other Russians, she scrambled on the black market for "luxuries": a washing machine, for example, required an anxious foray to the seller's warehouse in the middle of a thick forest on the outskirts of Moscow. She learned to outfox the system, hiring the driver of a municipal bus to move her belongings from one apartment to another rather than face the frustration of dealing with the official Moscow moving service. Cidylo serves up amusing slices of Soviet life in her accounts of hanging a shower curtain, befriending a seamstress who would reupholster her couch, hoping for a date who had taken a bath recently (the title chapter). But there is also more emotionally charged material discussing the sad death of her friend Andrei, a doctor who fought for thewell-being of Russian women, and the attempted coup against Yeltsin that brought tanks back into the Moscow streets. More adventurous than cow-tipping.
From the Publisher

"A beguiling memoir . . . [Cidylo] serves up amusing slices of Soviet life. . . [E]vocative vignettes of ordinary life."––Kirkus Reviews

"Despite continual frustration with everyday life in Moscow (her search for a washing machine, for example, takes on the fervor of a quest for the Holy Grail), Cidylo retains her sense of humor and makes every effort to adapt. She aptly sums up a foreigner's perspective when she writes, 'Many of us don't realize just how ill prepared for life we are until we arrive in Russia.'" ––Library Journal

"Young women are particularly avid travelers. And they seem to be edging out their male counterparts: the 16-year-old daughter of a friend just went to France for a month with a school group composed of 28 girls and 4 boys. One can hazard a few guesses why this might be so: traveling is a subspecies of self-improvement, and a voyage out is not infrequently also a voyage of self-discovery, one that requires a lot of navel-gazing and journal-writing, activities that most young men, unless they're aspiring rock stars, are disinclined to pursue.

Of course, older women also hit the road, and at any age women experience the adventure of foreign places differently from men. There are universal constants: every woman traveling solo is harassed in the same manner the world over. So common are the questions, the answers should be included in their own section in every Berlitz phrase book. "Do you have a boyfriend?" "Do you want a boyfriend?" "Do you want to [insert lewd gesture here]?" On the other hand, few people are intimidated by a woman alone, so doors — and hearts — are opened to her more often. The best of this fall's new travel books offer proof of all these arguments through a lively sampling of female pespectives. 

Lori Cidylo, author of All the Clean Ones Are Married: And Other Everyday Calamities in Mascow (Academy Chicago, $23.95), quotes Baudelaire, saying the reason she bought a one-way ticket to Moscow in 1991 was that she was afflicted with gout du gouffre, a "taste for the abyss." Before that, Cidylo was working at a small newspaper in Binghamton, N.Y., covering stories that make aspiring journalists wish they'd considered a career in dental hygiene. "The epiphany came when my editor sent me to Greene, another small town in the area, to watch a mule dive into a swimming pool." 

Cidylo arrives in Moscow two weeks before the collapse of the Soviet Union. She isn't fording swollen rivers or diving into lagoons teeming with leeches, but the challenges are just as stiff: she's testing her ability to survive in a country where, in a single day, a package of sausages goes from 1 ruble and 25 kopecks to 195 rubles, and where, over the course of a year, the names of many streets, squares and highways (and even some cities) are changed to reflect the new order. 

"Often a street is renamed, but the old nameplate is still on the building and the new one hasn't been put up yet. Some streets have no name at all. There, on the facade, is a faint trace of the old nameplate, a spot where the paint is slightly darker, slightly cleaner...Walking down such a street is like reading an anonymous poem. No matter how lovely it is, it leaves you feeling a bit bereft." 

Cidylo has consumer as well as cultural adventures. She recounts with dry wit her encounters with an ultra-feminine translator named Lyudmila (who loves watching American moves not for the stars and their wardrobes but for the variety of sofas on display) and a proto-capitalistic drunk who sells light bulbs on the street (in the shops, a single bulb costs 50 rubles, if there are any to be had.) The only disappointment here is the lack of personal revelation; other than a mildly insufferable date with an odoriferous acquaintance name Boris, whose sweater "smelled like a butcher's garbage can," Cidylo prefers to remain mum about her romantic escapades, something the book's waggish title sets  us up to anticipate." — New York Times Book Review, "Best Travel Books of 2001"

“A fascinating glimpse of post-Soviet society during a time of turmoil and drastic change.”  —Library Journal

“Cidylo’s light touch and wry humor make this a distinctive trip, offering insight into both sides of the formerly bipolar world.”  —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780897335010
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
10/28/2001
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author


Lori Cidylo is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Economist, the Los Angeles TimesNewsday, and other publications.

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