NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Emine Ziyatdinova
Elevator doors open at the basement level. I walk down the dark hallway and knock on the door. I no longer notice how weird this place is, nor how strange that a 65 year old Russian man from Kazakhstan invites me to enter a spacious room that is cluttered with a variety of objects, from a stuffed Tweety Bird hanging from the ceiling to religious artifacts from the Russian Orthodox Church. “All these once belonged to different people who lived in the building and moved out,” explained Yuriy. He strongly believes that our meeting is destined and he let me be present in his life.
I met Yuriy for the first time last winter, one of my friends mentioned that he knew a psychic in Brighton Beach and gave me his phone number. Yuriy actually practices esotericism: he believes that numbers represent energy, and energy determines the nature of everything. He tells fortunes based on a person’s date of birth. Yuriy is convinced that he has a gift from God and can heal people, he is proud of himself because he, “helped two people to heal from cancer.”
I am too skeptical to believe in all of that, but he definitely has some kind of talent and knowledge about energy. I wonder where did this former Communist party official and teacher learn so much about massage therapy, or as he calls it, “manual,” therapy.
He does various water and heat procedures to deal with his heart or varicose vein problems. He is worried to get treatment from a free clinic because he does not have any documents which show that he is legally living in the US.
He is nostalgic about the free medical care system Soviet times, and he complains about how money rules everything in America. He still holds on to the dream he had when he came to the US, that he could build a life and rise up in society as he pours the tea sitting at the table that someone left behind in the basement where he lives.