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New Group activity: To write a series of episodes based on the residents of a small estate of villas in Cyprus.
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  • Svetlana Garshina
    Sep 30

    The last sunrays of the day kiss the horizon, the city is being embraced by the twilight. The languorous and heavy air is gently pierced by a soft breeze. Everything seems to lounge in peace and quietness. The downtown, however, is busy. It buzzes with the professional and amateur athletes nervously waiting to pounce into the city night run and leave everything they have at the field of competition. This tension-packed environment makes feel anxiety, have a good cup of espresso as a perfect tonic and beat a path to the washroom. Running under the moonlight feels different from during daylight hours changing the perception of the route, speed, efforts, spectators. Everything. My mind is inevitably devoured by hundreds of various thoughts. They hit me like a tidal wave. Time moves forward ruthlessly. It’s high time to bury the ghost of the doubts and jump over the mental hurdle. Competitive juices are stirred. Here I am at the start line, in the third row, ready to run like a scared rabbit. The gun is fired, and we start running into the grey under the moonlight. I feel the electricity rushing through my body and enjoy the tunes in my earphones. The first meters are broken through. We whisk around the central park, where I’m lucky not to stumble upon the bicycle parking stand while running into the light. I continue at the same speed passing by numerous spectators. They stand among the frenzied crowd. I can hear them clapping to cheer me up. “My team” - I wave at them, give a “thumbs up” sign and make a stride forward. Another piece of the distance is covered. I rush through the narrow street with the flickering lights. My nostrils are tickled with a variety of specialty coffee and gourmet bakery aromas flying in the air. Out of the corner of my eye I see people conveniently settled in their chairs, chatting, laughing loudly and watching runners. Soon their images disappear, music in the earphones still plays but goes sullen. I can only hear my heart beating and start huffing and puffing. The next step is my secret rendezvous with the mysterious hills I have to tackle in the pitch black. “One, two, three, four, five… One, two, three, four, five…” - I count desperately and keep going with all my efforts to catch the group of the fastest athletes. Turning point. “I’m coming back home” – I venture accelerating downhill. It takes a while to kick back into gear, but I don’t allow anything to infiltrate my mind. Like a night owl I keep hunting for the target. Some male runners pass me by, and I follow them. I see other runners still heading to the turning point and realize I own control over my pace. The race still brings me entire enjoyment despite fatigue and tiredness, with the wind washing through my hair. The same buildings, lights, road signs, benches, cafes, faces come closer to me. “Almost there”- I salute silently. Finishing gate. I catch a young lad, and we fight toe-to-toe for the last meters. I arrive at the finishing line with my personal best record. I punch the air with joy. I’m sweaty, drained but drunk with happiness. This is where I am. 
  • Svetlana Garshina
    Sep 20

    When you hear the words "homeless" you immediately imagine a mangy, as it often happens, drunk and smelly person with a swollen face. Such a character often evokes a feeling of disgust and embarrassment. Reality bites. Having become an integral part of our modern everyday routine, homeless people have become a shadow and, therefore, do not make passers-by help or just talk. Homelessness or rough sleeping is a phenomenon blighting both developed and developing worlds. This grievous problem entails certain social categories of people without a regular dwelling because they cannot afford or are otherwise unable to maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing. Homelessness can be objective or subjective, situational or chronic, forced or voluntary and induced by global, regional and local factors. People who find themselves living on the street due to various circumstances have no access to sanitary and medical aid, lack of opportunity to apply to clinics for assistance because of the difficult life situation. On-the-street people experience significant physical and psychological stress, easily pick diseases, become disabled, commit suicide or die unnoticed. Homelessness is not a disease of the body, but an acute social disease of cold hearts. However, the world is no good without good people who are highly compassionate about people and always ready to give a helping hand to the homeless or those, who have fallen to hard times. I had a chance to meet one of “the living angels” after I had watched a regular show on TV called "The Man on the Map", which told about Evgeny Kosovskikh, a small person who made a big difference in his city, region, the whole country and beyond. More than three years ago, Evgeny, known also as Doctor Zhenya, founded "Other Medicine” charity project in his hometown of Chelyabinsk, located to the east of the Ural Mountains, Russia. He was a student of the medical college when he decided to provide medical care to the homeless. "When I went to work on the street, I had no such goal to change everything at once. I believed that one out of a hundred would definitely return to normal life" as he tells in one of his interviews. Every Saturday, on his day off from study and work, Evgeny went on his own by his car to the gathering points of the homeless. At first, there were few patients. They took those visits with suspicion. Eventually more people came for Doctor Zhenya’s aid. They had various problems: some caught cold, others had a severe burn or frostbite, serious wounds or intolerable toothache. But each patient unveiled their aching hearts, which he tried to heal with his kind words. It worked. He still gently treats his patients calling them "wards", addresses them exclusively by name. They give him their shy smiles in return. They understand and appreciate that care they are provided with. Soon Evgeny’s project attracted like-minded people to join the team of volunteers. Donations helped them to rent a small van. Now they proceeded as a team to provide assistance, give out medicine, personal hygiene items, toiletries, food, warm things to the homeless and people in need. The team uploaded pictures and videos, financial reports and stories of their patients in their e-group. We, members of the "Other Medicine" online community, followed the news and updates. It is always incredible to know that a homeless person is on the mend, finds a job or returns to a normal life. As Doctor Zhenya says, "my soul is filled with joy when you see that the patient's leg or arm is healing, nothing threatens his life, or it changes for the better. Oh, man, I'm flying high!" Those visits are just a small part of the huge workscope volunteers do every day under the umbrella of the project. It’s required to to purchase medicine, sanitary items, essentilals, prepare everything, coordinate transport and resources. Last summer Evgeny graduated from medical college with honors, published his book "Other Medicine", based on the facts of his biography and stories of his on-the-street friends. I was entirely pleased to receive a firsthand copy of the book, signed by the author. There’s not a single line in the book to leave any heart untouched. Evgeny has also obtained street medicine experience in the Czech Republic and Germany. And here is a new step - a trip to provide medical care to the village inhabitants in the mysterious Guatemala. Upon his return from the South America, Doctor Zhenya will continue working on the project and visit his patients regularly. They already miss him and are looking forward seeing him again. The news about this project spread outside Russia quickly, and currently it is supported not only by Russian, but also foreign volunteers verbally, emotionally and financially. They eagerly send parcels packed with medicine, packed meals, sanitary items, warm gloves and mittens, socks and scarves to the distant city of Chelyabinsk. People may find themselves on the street not because of alcohol or drug addiction, sometimes circumstances drive them into a corner. Some people do not have strength to get out of the difficult situation, others are lack of courage to ask for help from relatives, friends and loved ones. Each of us, living on the sunny island of Cyprus, can turn around, stop and pay attention to someone "who has no one else to help." I sincerely believe that Doctor Zhenya may inspire at least a few people to cure of a staggering combination of indifference and sheer arrogance and help another person in a difficult life situation get up from the knees and get a second chance.
  • Svetlana Garshina
    Jul 5

    You know, I hate shopping, especially in summer, especially at the weekend, especially at lunchtime. My fridge was empty, and I had to go to the Philippos supermarket to get some stuff, including a loaf of bread. It was crammed with customers. They kept bouncing like penguins in the south pole and pushing their big trolleys in the variety of colors, scents and sounds. Thank God, I knew the route to the bakery section. I turned right and like an athlete attempting a 100m hurdle sprint I got to the destination. Having grabbed a loaf of bread, I tried to squeeze through the crowd in search of other essentials. There were large bargain bins filled with the ‘special offers’ waiting for their victims to be trapped. We all know those marketing tricks, don’t we? One of them contained oval-shaped hard drink bottles. Two men spoke perfect English nearby, with their gazes locked on them. They tried to figure out the number of bottles needed for the company. ‘Hardly do they know how to drink like the Russians do’. This beverage has its own ritual of drinking. It shall be savoured in the proper Russian fashion, with a slice of a pickled cucumber in hand waiting for you to finish it. Traditionally, this alcohol shall be bland, crystal clear, flavorless and odourless and made by distillation of wheat and rye, or even of potatoes. I never thought why Russians had made this booze the drink of their choice. Obviously, they decided not to mess around with other ones and start with the hardcore drink from the very beginning. From Kaliningrad in the west to Vladivostok in the east, with over 5,000 miles apart, drinking culture remains remarkably consistent across the whole country. However, there are some rules to be followed and respected. Firstly, there should be a reason to open a bottle: a birthday, a wedding, a funeral, a successful achievement or a business deal, a holiday, almost any event, considered special. Secondly, toasting is vitally important in the drinking sequence. The most common toast is “to your health”, which stands for “na zdorovie” in Russian. It usually comes first or second, thus preventing poor foreigners from the vacuous struggle to pronounce it as they get woozy. “To the host” is proposed to praise the family and friends. When drinking “to the dead”, Russians honour the dearly departed and never clink the shots. “To love” is usually the third toast and proposed with the shot in the left hand, then follow “to friendship”, “to the meeting” and plenty of other statements to mark the occasion. As a rule, it’s served ice cold in shots. Yeah, even a shot of this versatile drink can do miracles. It is usually poured first to others but never to yourself. Before having a shot or immediately after it, you may hear a loud exhale, as if to express the completion of the planetary mission. You will rarely see a Russian mixing the booze with other drinks, traditionally it’s drunk by its own. Sometimes flavors are added to veil the nasty taste and smell of the spirit. As soon as it is poured into shots the bottle shall be immediately removed from the table. Food always accompanies the beverage devouring session. Traditional snacks, referred to as ‘zakuski’ in Russian include pickled vegetables and fruits like cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes and watermelons, cold meats, salads and sandwiches and even sour cream. It helps to smooth harshness of the drink as it travels down the throat and bring more delights to the ritual. I filled my shopping basket with more items. The guys were still there, neatly putting bottles one after another in their trolley. ‘There will the party’. I could see delight in their eyes. I came closer. ‘Nectar to the lips, isn’t it?’ A mischievous smile spread across their faces. ‘Have fun and make sure you don’t wake up tomorrow with the Russian accent’. I headed to the till to pay. 

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