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'Moscow's romantics will roam among
the sci-fi shelves
in a highly cinematic manner'

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My name is Sasha, and I have been living in Moscow going on 10 years

On the small/big village

I live on the southern edge of the capital, in Shcherbinka, where, as they say, Moscow has sprung a leak and some of it has poured out there. It's a bit south of Yuzhnoe Butovo, and my place is in what they call the 'private sector'. I was born far from Moscow, in North Ossetia, in a small town called Mozdok. I think that when you are a child the best place to live is the countryside. But when the time comes to try to realise your professional potential, the city is more suitable.

There aren't a lot of limits on what you can do in Moscow. Moscow gives you room to move and everything you need to do so. But there's the rub: sometimes having too much to choose from can overwhelm you. But actually, my comfort level in Moscow knows no bounds. Everything I have, my entire arsenal, I can wield here without any hesitation.

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On deceptive first glances

When I visited Moscow for the first time ( we transited through the city when I was in ninth form), it looked very grey and dusty to me. First impressions are often deceptive. Later, when I came here to study and got to know the city better, I was overjoyed to discover how green it really is despite its traffic congestion, its hustle and bustle, its noise and its size.

I am thankful to nature itself, the great, ineffable cosmic in-joke, for having once, long ago, set everything just so elegantly in motion that it all simply works. Here, in Moscow, it feels like no one interferes much with nature.

'There aren't a lot of limits to what you can do in Moscow'

Moscow is the heart of everything. It has its own rhythm, its heartbeat. Just look at the map, and you can see all these roads branching out of Moscow, going in different directions, like human blood vessels. The people are the blood, flowing into the centre during the day, and flowing out to the periphery at night. It fills me with joy to realise that I can do something good for the health of this heart.

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On the people who have come alive again

At first, I was only a librarian. Later, the position of staff psychologist came up, so I was able to get a job according to my qualifications. My first duty is to take care of the mental state of the library team, but actually, most of the time I work as a librarian with all the people who come to read.

My life's work is to make a positive impact on the environment and people's health. In my work, when a person comes to you, the important part is to see what is functional in the person, not just what's dysfunctional.

I like to see people come alive, to see them begin to respond and open up. When a person first comes to me, they are typically downtrodden, with the same thoughts spinning around in their head. They feel like they are in a box seeing the world just in shades of grey and expecting betrayal at every step. Through talking with them about it, I can almost immediately see them begin to realise things are not that bleak and hopeless.

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On predictable book lovers

I think a modern librarian or bookshop assistant ought to have a bit of a psychologist in them. Otherwise, they would not be able to connect with readers. The moment a person steps into the library, you should be able to guess the kinds of books they will be asking for. A student? Probably ancient literature. What would you like? Well, non-fiction, of course! Or The History of the Russian State. Another state? This time I guessed wrong.

Library visitors usually know exactly what they want. But there is a certain romantic breed of readers in Moscow. They will roam among the sci-fi or modern foreign novel shelves in a highly cinematic manner. Some of these characters are apt to pause a few times and pensively flip through a book or two, but those are very rare.

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How to meet people in the library

There she sits in her red knitted beret with a pompom, completely engrossed in the book she is reading. And he? I saw him reading before. Now his eyes are skimming across the pages, but he's only trying to keep up the appearance of reading. All he really sees is that red beret. Is this a scene from some trivial Hollywood movie with a predictable happy ending? I observe such scenes in real life, except for the red beret, which I made up.

But seriously, many people meet and start relationships in libraries. But who do these people take me for? The cupid of the library? Some fellow who has set sights on the proverbial red beret in the reading room will generally not approach directly. Rather, he will come to me instead with questions like 'Do you know what her name is? Does she come here often? What kind of books does she read?'. It would be fun to have a blind date with nothing to go by but three books the other person has selected to represent themselves by. Here are the books I would choose: Carl Jung's Psychology and Alchemy, Plato's The Republic and Max Frei's The Labyrinths of Echo series.

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On the benefit of long walks

I love Moscow for its bookshops — the sprawling and tiny ones, the cosy ones and those with endless shelves. I love its anti-cafés where you can go to play board games with friends. I love it for its greenery, Bitsevsky and Kolomenskoe Parks, the Boulevard Ring, the open spaces and cleanliness.

The theory of small steps fits right in here. The city is cleaner now because people take better care of it. It never even occurs to anyone to throw stuff away before they find a garbage can.

But there's more: Moscow knows how to solve problems. One time my friend and I went out walking in the neighbourhood. She told me about an unpleasant personal situation and we started struggling to find a solution. At one point, we turned into a side street. Without realising it, our perspective on the whole situation suddenly changed. We charted a few possible ways out of the impasse, and it did not seem so foreboding anymore. So here is my advice to you: when confronted with a difficult matter, just hit the streets of Moscow. Follow your intuition, do not ignore the side streets and try new routes. And you will come upon a solution. Or, if not, it will have been a great walk.

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The special Muscovites project is dedicated to the heroes of our city: ordinary people with their own views on Moscow. You can meet them in a café, on the street, at the theatre or the supermarket. Perhaps, you sat across from their table, stood in the same queue or were on the same bus late to work just yesterday. Muscovites, let's get acquainted.

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