Do we ever think about the people who work in our parks? Strolling by some fountain or admiring a bed of flowers, how many of us wonder who create all this beauty for us? Are they invisible? Did fairies do all this?
Each park in Moscow is taken care of by a large team of professionals. Landscape architects and designers, environmentalists and gardeners, historians and museum specialists, tour guides, security personnel, lawyers, art directors, event managers, workshop coaches, directors, press spokespeople, photographers, graphic designers, project managers and many others.
They all love their work and they work hard so that Muscovites and visitors can relax, enjoy the fresh air, take walks or bicycle rides, visit events, play sports or simply have a lovely time in Moscow's parks.
The photography exhibition marking the ninth jubilee of the Mosgorpark United Directorate will finally lift the "veil of secrecy" and introduce the people behind the beauty and cosiness of Moscow's parks.
Let's get to know them!
Photography exhibitions are one of the most enjoyable parts of my work. I have recently found out that I dial the printing studio's number more often than I dial my husband's or mom's numbers.
My name is Sasha Kalinicheva I was born into a family of artists and have been drawing for as long as I can remember.
When I tell people that I am a designer in a park, they usually assume landscape design. No, my work has nothing to do with plants. There is always work for a graphic designer in a park, such as to design informational billboards, advertisements, maps or signs.
Our park covers four different areas, so I have to travel a lot, often by foot. I never go outside without a tape measure and box cutter — I always have to measure things on site to make sure my design fits.
Working in a park, you really get into nature, and you learn a great deal about plants and animals. Once we had to design a stand showing local wildlife specimens from the bio-plateau of the park at Olonetsky Proezd. I got so involved I actually wrote the texts for the photo exhibition, besides painting the animals and birds you find there. I perused reams of material on beavers, ducks and seagulls. I occasionally impress strollers in the park with my knowledge of the eating habits of swans or the lifestyle of muskrats.
It's fun to work in a park. When I say I'm off to work, what I'm saying is that I'm off to a place filled with bird song and nice views outside my window. In addition, I can always take a break, get away from my computer and walk along the shady lanes.
I've been working in Gorky Park for 24 years. First, I worked as a storeroom manager, issuing rental skates, then I became warehouse manager, and now I oversee the rental outlets, manage the staff and help them with gear selection.
I walk about 5 km every day, checking things, talking to rental staff and making sure the grounds are clean. There has to be discipline — no enterprise can survive without it.
When you're really busy, you don't notice anything around you. Work comes first; when it's done you can admire the scenery. I always bring sunflower seeds or nuts. I try to go to the Neskuchny Garden whenever I can spare a minute. The squirrels there know me by now, some will even climb on my skirt or jump on my back. I bring them food.
Golitsyn Pond is my favourite spot in Gorky Park, especially in the morning. My working day starts at 8 in the morning, or sometimes earlier. I love to see everything around me wake up. I like it that people come here to do sports or yoga.
I've had a thing for culture since childhood. I sang in a choir and went to an acting studio. The desire to realise creative ambitions and a passion for music drove me to first get a degree in theatre directing, and then another in the performing arts.
In my job at Kuzminki, I am the scriptwriter, director and administrator of numerous public events. But it is at Ded Moroz's Manor House that I give my creative imagination full rein. I play the parts of the Old Man who tells tales, the Wise Owl, Kuzma Kuzmich the Kuzminki Forest Guardian, Koschei the Deathless, and of course the part of the winter magician-in-chief himself, Ded Moroz.
My greatest reward is to see the tears of gratitude on the faces of older people and the excited looks on children's faces. Working with children, I am always in awe of how subtly they sense falsity, how accurately they distinguish lies from fiction and fantasy.
The audience's requests to "say hello" to celebrities and people of consequence came totally unexpected. I remember one elderly poet asking me to give his autographed poetry book to First Channel news anchor Ekaterina Andreeva. I did give her the book, although I did not even know her at the time.
My day starts with a mandatory tool-bag check and a round of the park grounds, followed by a meeting at the engineer's office, where I receive my job brief. I do the urgent jobs first, then return to my routine work.
I have worked as an electrician in Taganka Park for 10 years. I lived in Tashkent when I was young, working as an electric train repairman in a railway depot. Then I moved to Moscow. Once, I went walking in Taganka Park and saw an "electrician wanted" job ad. I wrote down the number and forgot about it. Years later, when I retired, I found that note and called the number — it turned out the vacancy was available again. It was such a fluke!
Taganka Park covers two areas. I am responsible for the electric connections and proper operation of electric equipment in both. The park often hosts massive events, festivals and video shoots. It is my job to make sure all connections are insulated and safe.
The hardest part is to always be on guard and disciplined; my job has its risks and dangers. The other difficult part is that the electrician's job has no seasonal variation. You have to be there and do your job in any weather, rain or shine, or snow and blizzard. But I'm used to it, I'm weathered!
I go to the park to guide tours. In summer, sometimes I get to guide tours for groups of as many as 50 people, so I have to use my voice sparingly. There aren't so many visitors in winter or the shoulder seasons. I love the park in any season. It feels special to me.
It feels great to be on the same vibe with your audience. It's even more fun when your listener is genuinely interested to learn about the park, has signed up for the tour especially to pursue that interest and hangs on your every word.
I am in this career entirely by accident. A friend once needed a substitute tour guide. He is a historian. I graduated from an acting school. All I had to do was learn the text down pat and narrate it without looking too shy. I tried it, and it worked.
At first, I had no idea whether being a tour guide was even interesting to me, I just went with the flow. But after a while, I realised that this must be my thing. You cannot just learn your itinerary and recount it. Detail is of the essence in this work. The deeper you delve, the more subtleties you discern. Then you can tell people about them, share your insights with others. Isn't that fun?
I remember an amusing episode. Once, when I was speaking about the Round Pond in the park, built as a decoration on the royal estate, someone asked me if it was true that there is a hidden treasure on the islet in the middle of the pond, and that is why visitors are not allowed there. Any historical place is replete with legend, but the stuff people believe is just too much sometimes. On the other hand, with history as my witness, the weirdest of legends may turn out to be true.
I work with senior citizens. We learn from each other, we share ideas and knowledge, and we definitely share energies. It's the circle of life at work, a generational bridge in the true sense of the word.
I graduated with a major in Political Management. I have worked as a public cultural event manager and leisure manager since 2013, including the three years I have been working on the Moscow Mayoral project, Moscow Longevity. I admire those Muscovites who sign up for the project. They set an example of lively wit, resilience and endless optimism for me. They inspire me.
There is this charming older man that comes in for training — he does several physical activity courses at the same time, and he's 87! It takes him two hours to get to the park from his home, and he comes here at least twice a week. He often shares his life plans, saying how he loves to be active, and he really wants to meet some old lady to spend the rest of his life with, taking care of each other. "That's the way to live," he says. He is a widower, his children live with their families, he doesn't want to inconvenience them.
There are lots of multi-talented, creative people and athletes in the project. There is one woman who writes poetry and reads it at various events in the city. She is 84. She comes to Hermitage Garden to pole-walk and do some general physical exercise. Her friend is a painter who regularly exhibits with other artists. Last year her painted scenes of Venice were on display in the Italian Embassy.
When I joined Tsaritsino, I jumped right into work on an exhibition dedicated to Catherine II. I had to work with the design team, learn the exhibit lists and do many other things. Because of that, I got to know the museum and its exhibits really well in a short time.
I went to school to study Art History when I was 28. My first degree was in Psychology, but I always loved art, museums, and I read a lot.
I keep thinking up new exhibition ideas throughout my working day. I plan exhibitions one, three, five years ahead. It's like an endless game of Tetris. The exhibition plan is put together to make sure the rooms are never empty, the exhibits are interesting, and the topics resonate with visitors.
Tsaritsyno has 7000 square metres of exhibition space. The ceilings are up to 7 metres high in some rooms — hardly a fitting place for a jewellery exhibition. Some rooms, like the archaeology room, for instance, are semi-dark at all times and have a low ceiling. It would be impossible to enjoy oil paintings in such a room. We invent and combine dozens of possibilities for each exhibition.
The most exciting moment is to see how an idea expressed in a couple of words becomes an exhibition, how the curator's thought and the designer's imagination imbue it with a character, meaning and imagery.
Many funny episodes happen on the playground. Kids will be kids. They frolic, they make up games, it's fun to watch them.
I was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, then my family moved, first to the Volgograd Region, and eventually closer to Moscow. I was always good with kids and parents alike, so I took up this security guard job at Kuzminki Park when I retired. I am a social person, so this is an ideal job for me at my age.
I protect order in the park, I make sure no mischief takes place and no one bothers the visitors. My current job is to watch the playground and protect the safety of the children. When a child cries, I will comfort them. When I spot a child with no parents nearby, I help to locate them. Many park visitors know me. Kids recognise me, wave to me and go: "Uncle Sasha! Hi, Uncle Sasha!" The moms and dads trust me, they know they can always leave their kids in my care. It is satisfying to know that.
Why do I work in the park? I have asked myself this question a thousand times. And I have answered it. First, I love being social with people, this is what matters the most to me. Second, I love fresh air, the beautiful nature and forest critters. For example, I recently saw a fox. It sometimes visits the park.
I came to Gorky Park as a gardener. I dug, planted, watered and weeded. I did not plan on getting a managerial position. I even declined a promotion several times, but in the end, I agreed.
Our department mows grass, feeds and plants flowers and trees and clears up leaves. Ploughing, preparation for planting, planning, fertilising, planting itself, weeding, pruning, loosening... I think that's the full list! You can't always see all this work, but it's there. And it is crucial for the health of the plants and the park's appearance. Ignore a flower garden for a week, and it will look neglected.
The planting season is the most active period of work. Last October, we planted 88,000 flowers in the Parterre alone!
We use diagrams created by landscape designers. What they come up with using computers we bring to life in the form of real flower beds. This beauty never gets old. Nature is the best medicine. When I have too much work, I sometimes just drop everything and go to the Neskuchny Garden. After walking along the slopes and standing under the age-old trees for a few minutes, I return to my duties, calm and rested.
I come from a dynasty of art directors, so to speak. My aunt was the deputy director of Sokolniki Park, and my mother and sister also worked in city parks.
Any event requires a lot of preparation to look natural and smooth. Any idea involves a period of research and study. You look for ways to bring this idea to life, meet with partners, approve the technical details, assess the real possibilities of the territory and much more. This is what I do every day.
The people who come to the park have widely differing interests. It is important that each of them finds something they like here. One day a visitor came to the reception. He recognised his long-dead grandfather on one of the slides from the photo exhibition dedicated to Victory Day. The family didn't even know that photos from his army days existed. We helped them contact the archives from which we got the photos, and they found many more of them. All the pictures showed our guest's grandfather young, strong and happy! The guest later called many times to thank us on behalf of his whole family and especially his grandmother.
Ornithology, for me, is not a profession, but rather a lifestyle. While it involves animals, my work in the park is also connected with culture. We shape the birdhouse's exhibition and organise events.
I used to work on other aspects of the park's life. Originally, there was no ornithology centre. I offered the park management to create one. The administration supported my initiative. In 2013, we created a bird shelter and rehabilitation centre, as well as a space for falconry classes.
Today I oversee all project-related issues. Every day, I check up on the birds that have been brought here for treatment and find out what food and medicines need to be purchased. I use this information to make a general to-do list, and I also communicate with journalists.
The most important and difficult task is understanding animal psychology and the behavioural motives of birds. Once the birds recover, we release them into the wild, but many get used to this place and return.
There was a funny story with the black kite Shunya, who once flew away during a training session. He later came back and spent ten days sitting on a pine branch in the yard. He would come down for just a few seconds to steal food and then return to his watch post. We managed to catch him only thanks to an accidental encounter with a hawk with the symbolic name of Prokuror (lit.: Prosecutor). We brought Prokuror some food, and Shunya could not resist the temptation to steal it. The birds started fighting, and after that, the kite returned to the birdhouse.
I have demonstrated excellent communication skills since school. I knew how to get people interested in a story and could easily settle conflicts and disputes between my classmates using my diplomatic skills.
I got into the park sector by accident when I applied for a job at Krasnaya Presnya. They were looking for a person to join their press office. After a while, I was invited to work at Mosgorpark. You could say they summoned me "from the field to the headquarters."
At the press office, we constantly search for and process huge amounts of information. I can't say for sure at which point I stop thinking about work. Sometimes it feels like it only happens when I sleep.
I like coming to work 40 minutes early to plan everything, go over the deadlines and schedule primary and secondary tasks. I sometimes even write messages to my colleagues in advance, but I try not to send them before 9 a.m.
And then the work day begins. I answer calls from journalists, get requests for comments and filming, answer questions on social networks, handle releases and inquiries, approve photo exhibitions and think how to best announce new projects.
I have been working at the Russian Navy History Museum since 2019, but I first saw its main exhibit, the B-396 submarine Novosibirsky Komsomolets, long before that. This was the first ship I served on during my time in the Navy.
I served in the Northern Fleet and at the Russian Navy's Main Technical Directorate in Moscow for 31 years. In 2019, I was invited to work at the Russian Navy History Museum. I decided to keep my “naval watch” and I gladly share my experience with the younger generation.
But it all started much earlier. In 2013, the museum's employees approached me and asked me to help them restore the submarine's interior to an authentic state. There were plenty of inconsistencies. The museum's chief engineer and I got so enthusiastic about the reconstruction that we would work overtime and stay after hours. The transformation the submarine underwent can be compared to the colourisation of a black and white movie. As a result of our painstaking work, the entire colour scheme began to correspond to the original appearance of the B-396 Novosibirsky Komsomolets.
Today, in addition to my scientific, tour guide and museum exhibition work, I also spend a lot of time keeping the museum well-maintained, preparing it for visitors every day.
Naturally, we don't go hunting within the territory of our museum-reserve, but we do demonstrate how we train birds of prey and how wild falcons fly so our guests can get a feel for what things were like in the 17th century and see with their own eyes a spectacle that tsars and emperors used to take in and admire.
My workday starts with an inspection of the birds in the aviaries, then we weigh all our tenants on electronic scales. Every bird has got a logbook in which we record how it feels.
The most difficult part of my job is to establish rapport with the birds. No interaction is possible without understanding. You can only exert influence on the bird through love and care, the bird is free, and if it doesn't like something, it can always just fly away and never come back.
I remember this one time when a young falcon got scared by a flock of crows that were flying past and flew all the way to the Kremlin, where it then landed in Alexandrovsky Garden. There were people standing there and, right in front of them, it started calling for someone to take it home. The Kremlin's falconers helped bring the bird back.
It all started back in 1999 when I ran my own horse club in the country. I was quite successful at this business, managing the stables, breeding and selling race horses. At the same time, I was earning a degree in veterinary medicine from the Belyaev Ivanovo State Agricultural Academy. This year I got invited to work at the Kolomenskoe museum-reserve.
My normal workday does not start with a cup of coffee. For me, it's a different ritual that kicks off the day: the inspection. I go around the stables, greet the horses, check in with the guards to find out if anything happened during the night and check the utility rooms. If the weather is good and we have an early sunrise, the horses are taken out for a walk after 6:30 a.m.
I then head into the stables to check on the micro-climate. The stables must be cool and fresh. It's vital that a constant temperature of 10–12 degrees is maintained year-round. For people, it can be a bit chilly, but horses have a different form of body temperature regulation.
It's important to make sure that everything in the horse's sector runs smoothly. But in addition to that, I also establish cooperation with other stables and horse breeding clubs to share our experience. I also develop new projects for our stables to participate in the life of the museum-reserve.
There was this story with Ed Sheeran who lay down next by the main entrance arch before his Moscow performance. This made headlines in more than 20 countries. Our visitors also enjoyed it.
One of the most significant such projects in recent years has been the Media room. In just two winters, it has allowed us to arrange the performances of about 100 bands, musicians and DJs in a warm studio at the skating rink. It has now also been turned into a podcast recording studio.
What I like best are the small but sincere projects. Last year, we had a spontaneous performance by Noize MC combined with a presentation of his project, Noize MC Without the Orchestra. This took place at the Muzeon park of arts. This year we hosted a presentation of Levan Gorozya's new album. Very early in the morning, a retro minibus turned up at the main entrance arch. Anyone could go inside and listen to the debut album, Sunrise. Levan was standing next to the minibus, taking pictures with people, signing autographs, talking to his fans. There was a very sincere and low key vibe about it all, it felt real.
The park has a unique energy. People come here either when they're in good spirits or when they're feeling down, in order to feel better. Gorky Park is buzzing with positive energy. As you walk through the main entrance arch you enter an alternate reality and you can instantly feel it. Sincere emotions, the smiles that you see as you walk around the park watching people meet and be happy to see each other, watching children running around and seeing the way guests respond to our events, the way they're listening to music and dancing. That energises me to work more and come up with new ideas for how to entertain those who come here.
Even as a kid I was always coming up with various games for the local kids, holding hockey and figure skating championships in our courtyard. Then in school, I got involved in all sorts of extracurricular activities, dances, contests, festivals and carnivals. At university, there were concerts, festivals and event management. In other words, my whole life has been one never-ending festival.
The park really is the best spot for recreation, the only space where you can go for a walk and then attend some performance, drop by a café, rent a bicycle or something.
I always enjoy seeing happy visitors and receiving their gratitude and positive feedback about the park. Positive feedback is very important.
I used to see the park only as a visitor, but now I enjoy learning from my colleagues about things that never even crossed my mind before, that were simply never part of what I would normally have paid attention to.
When I was just a novice lawyer, I always enjoyed going to some park and riding a bicycle there. I would stop in some spot or other that I liked, open my laptop and start working. I never thought back then that one day I'd get lucky enough to be hired by one of Moscow's parks.
In my day to day work, I have to deal with lots of documents. I draft contracts and hammer out details with contractors and the partners of the park, I interact with suppliers, take part in the development of design documentation, draft agreements and documents for various events and I write official responses to questions sent in by various organisations and individuals.
I'm constantly learning something new. And it's not just ecology and botany that I'm learning about either. Through my work at the Vorontsovo Estate, I'm constantly learning new things about culture and history. Now I know the year in which the engineer Leppich started building his airship and what sort of messages were communicated through the various movements of a lady's fan at the palace balls.
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