‘To hell with all of you’ Saratov pensioner runs into Russia’s State Duma speaker and gives him a piece of her mind
While walking in downtown Saratov on Friday, April 30, Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin had a memorable encounter with a pensioner. The 90-year-old woman, who introduced herself as Anna Alexandrovna, gave Volodin an earful about how Russian officials are destroying the country by lying and stealing. Recalling her own experience of living through the Second World War, the woman demanded an explanation for why Russia is being “plundered” today. Volodin later cited their meeting as an example of how government officials ought to interact with the public.
This week, Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin returned to the Saratov region — the place where he was born, started his political career, and first ran for parliament. While walking around downtown Saratov with Mayor Mikhail Isayev on Friday, Volodin encountered a 90-year-old woman who took the opportunity to criticize the Russian authorities for lying and stealing. Volodin’s supporters posted a video of the conversation on Instagram.
The elderly woman introduced herself as Anna Alexandrovna. She said she was born in a village in the Tambov region and that she was 10 years old when the Great Patriotic War (World War II) began. After telling Volodin about how hard things were during the war, Anna Alexandrovna began talking about the problems of the present day. “Why are the people still living so badly?” she asked the State Duma speaker.
Anna Alexandrovna expressed outrage over the case of Penza Governor Ivan Belozertsev, who was arrested on suspicion of bribery back in March. (During a search of the governor's cottage, the authorities confiscated 500 million rubles in cash — the equivalent of about $6.65 million). By comparison, Anna Alexandrovna said that she doesn’t receive any government benefits, in spite of the work she did as a teenager during the Second World War: “How is that? Are the [people] around there deaf and dumb? How many lies? Who are you kidding? I’m 90 years old and I have no benefits. What title was [Saratov] awarded? City of Labor Valour. But who did the work? Women and adolescents. These women are gone, but [one of those] adolescents is standing in front of you. You don’t pay me three cents, but they steal billions.”
“Look, please, turn down the lies. And tell everyone: people see everything. […] For me, for me personally, it’s a disgrace when the president gives 10,000 rubles [$130] for getting a child to school,” Alexandrovna continued, referring to the benefits President Vladimir Putin recently promised for Russian families with school-age children.
“I’m a simple Russian grandma. From a village in the Tambov region. Here’s what’s going on. For many years in [this] country they’ve been stealing, lying, and praying to God. How can a person make sense of this? Which God are they praying to? Tell me, what are they asking God for? When [they have] billions, billions...Well, to hell with all of you.”
Anna Alexandrovna added that as a child, she had to steal grain from a collective farm to survive: “At the time, we would have died of hunger otherwise. But now, why [steal]? […] Why are they plundering? Tell me, why are they destroying everything? Did you not know about it until I told you? You knew. You knew! […] The whole country has been destroyed, plundered, and it’s continuing. So my question is: will this ever end?”
“It will end. Everything depends on us. It will end,” Volodin replied, after allowing Anna Alexandrovna to speak, practically uninterrupted, for more than 10 minutes.
Speaking at the Saratov State Legal Academy later in the day, Volodin mentioned his encounter with Anna Alexandrovna, citing it as an example of how government officials should communicate with people. “We spoke with her. Moreover, we understood that [she was] emotional, everyone has feelings, but you have to listen. If you’re out walking and you don’t notice anyone, this is a big mistake,” Volodin said. “And when an elderly person wants to talk to you, we must listen and try to do everything to change the situation, to help. And of course, to make observations.”
Abridged translation by Eilish Hart