“Two Years in Moscow” recounts the two-year time period during and after the August 1991 coup d’etat, its people’s attempt at democracy. Judi’s exceptional skills as a reporter as well as her empathy, curiosity and enthusiasm result in an absorbing read of both the political turmoil and everyday life in Russia, both for its citizens and for the restricted international residents.
She intertwines her settling-in experiences with investigative news reports she wrote for English language newspapers, “The Moscow Guardian” and “The Moscow Times.” Amid reports covering Russian orphanages, American POW’s, Night Witches, business opportunities for women, reproductive health issues, theft and violence, and high inflation, her memoir provides her own descriptive, slice-of-life anecdotes of living in Russia.
She endured doing without comforts that Americans take for granted. For example, in Russia, people did not have their own furnaces, but instead heat was pumped in from immense government heating plants to every apartment and workplace. There were no individual thermostats, but instead the government turned on the heat at the end of October and kept it on until early May. The level of indoor heat was set at the same temperature for everyone by administrators.
Judi gravitated to people. Many of her stories are quaint, funny, and heartfelt, as she talked about her mandatory automobile driver, her fellow office workers, people she dealt with at local markets, vacationers and more. When inflation devaluated the ruble, banks became overwhelmed with long lines of people wanting to exchange rubles for scarce dollars. Judi reversed the flow and exchanged her dollars for rubles. In the process, she watched four tellers make the exchange from their own purses. It pleased her to provide the tellers with a means to buy desperately needed goods.
Poverty and crimes increased as the government destabilized. Judi had arrived in Moscow when the biggest worry foreigners faced was having their windshield wipers stolen. Two years later thieves were stripping all parts of a car for sale on the lucrative black market. Criminals targeted foreigners robbing them of credit cards, passports, airline tickets and cash. Judi covered stories of an American journalist robbed at knife-point in a restaurant, and a couple poisoned and robbed by Russians who had befriended them. Judi saw it all with clear-eyed perception and yet, for the most part, she remained unafraid for her own safety.
She wrote with a scholar’s acumen, a journalist’s objectivity, and a humanitarian’s warmth to create a word-portrait of Russia’s hope for and failure to attain democracy. It’s a smooth read.
Readers may draw parallels between Russia’s political, economic, and social upheavals following the coup d’état and America today. Democracy is fragile, even in established countries. Americans now face challenges from within and abroad, misinformation and mistrust in our institutions, and the election of a president who seized control of government beyond what citizens voted him to have.
Paperback : 382 pages
ISBN-10 : 1943650888
I came to know Judi in 1999 when she returned to Denver area after she and Wayne retired from State Department assignments in Moscow, Russia, Bangkok, Thailand, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She formed a writers’ group within our Colorado Press Women membership. I was among the first five members of CPW Writers, along with Lyons Recorder editor Kathleen Spring.
In 2008 Judi broached her desire to write about Moscow. Year by year, chapter by chapter we fellow-writers reviewed and offered suggestions, talked, laughed and discussed Judi’s emerging memoir. Once she completed a reporter-style first draft in 2012, we suggested she project her personal anecdotes and observations to provide readers with a front row seat to life in Russia from her point-of-view.
Judi was a retired journalist of 40-years. Her news, feature and travel articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, the Lincoln Journal, the Albuquerque Tribune, New Mexico Business Magazine and New Mexico magazine. This was Judi’s first book as an author, which was published in 2018. She died in 2019.
First Place Winner 2019 National Federation of Press Women, Non-Fiction for Adult Readers for “Two Years in Moscow.”
Honored: 2008 Colorado Press Women Communicator of Achievement
Honored: 2012 Will and Susan Norton Award for Excellence in International Journalism, University of Nebraska.