No one remembers Lyosha’s real last name. Everyone calls him Rizhskii because he grew up in Riga, a western republic of the Soviet Union. Lyosha is creative guy. He directs movies and documentaries by trade; he has a passion for visual anthropology and he is a journalist and photographer. But it is his love of traveling and the somewhat extraordinary easy manner with which he meets and befriends people may be his defining characteristic. There might not be a single interesting person that Lyosha hasn’t met: he’s friends with artists, musicians, cultural scholars, filmmakers, human rights activists, all exceptionally engaging and charismatic people. In his youth, he traveled everywhere; he makes friends wherever he goes and many are still his friends today. Because of this, Lyosha is able to travel very cheaply and frequently.
Professionally, Lyosha is connected with one unique movement in modern day Russian religious culture, called the March of Peace. This is a march in which Christians and Muslims will walk together for over seven thousand kilometers from Kazan, traversing seven Middle Eastern countries to arrive at Jerusalem and Mecca. Christians, by law, cannot enter into the city, but all of the participants will march up to the walls of Mecca.
Lyosha’s apartment is rarely empty. People with different interests and nationalities from different republics of the former Soviet Union gather at his place.
His apartment is like a museum; it reflects the uniqueness of its owner. The bathroom has been turned into a futuristic laboratory with gold pipes and clocks on every wall. On the kitchen couch old tapestries lay alongside pillows with deer on them (the type you can find in any attic in the countryside), and delicate Chinese silk (choose your favorite, but it’s a shame you have to choose at all!). On the shelves he has handmade icons, porcelain figurines, games, and shaman’s bells. On the walls hang Eastern musical instruments. And of course, the collection of old irons that Lyosha treats with special care gives the apartment its unique charm.
Translated by Peter Sisson