Quantcast

A crumbling Sochi hides behind Olympic facades

By Nataliya Vasilyeva

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 20 2014 8:30 p.m. MST

Thousands of people whose homes were demolished to make way for Olympic construction have been relocated, but many others are still waiting for new homes. Meanwhile, even as investment has poured into Olympic facilities, Sochi's slum dwellings remain standing: The city government told The Associated Press in a written statement that more than 100 apartment buildings and private homes have been classified as uninhabitable.

For many residents, the Sochi they live in bears little resemblance to the city they see on Kremlin-controlled national television.

"It's a parallel universe that locals to a great extent have no access to," said Olga Beskova, editor of the local website Sochinskiye Novosti, or Sochi News. "It has very little to do with how Sochi lives every day. So far, city streets are all dug up, residents have a lot of problems, and it's hard to see a happy ending after all of this construction."

The people on Akatsy street have petitioned for decades to get the government to classify the 1941 barracks-like building as uninhabitable and provide them with new housing, so far with no success. They put up their red "SOS!" sign in a desperate effort to call attention to their plight. City Hall has insisted that the government roads management agency is responsible for relocating the Akatsy residents; the road agency shifts the responsibility on City Hall.

The Akatsy house, in the village of Vesyoloye, is about three kilometers (less than two miles) from the Olympic Park, where the arenas and main stadium are located. Like thousands of private houses in Sochi, this property is not connected to city water or sewage systems, but residents have made do over the years by drilling wells and building outhouses.

Adding humiliation to hardship, the roads agency secured a court ruling ordering them to pull down their common outhouse, which stood on the edge of the new highway. Krivchenko's neighbor, Irina Kharchenko, whose family is seeking justice for 5a Akatsy in court, said the judge told them to "get yourselves a bio toilet."

Residents seemed embarrassed and reluctant to explain how they got around the problem. Some mentioned a bucket, while others pointed to an outhouse on the other side of the property.

Unusual for Russia, Sochi residents are not only willing to talk to reporters but stop them in the street and invite them over to see "what the real Sochi looks like."

Across railroad tracks is another barracks-type house with no indoor plumbing, where Vladimir Zarytovsky has been living for 43 years. Since a road for the Olympics was built nearby, the house and yard have become prone to flooding.

"You have to put on rubber boots if you want to go to the toilet," Zarytovsky, 56, said with a chuckle as he pointed to water marks crawling up the walls of the wooden outhouse and outdoor kitchen that reach a foot high.

His 29-year-old son, Igor, lives elsewhere with his wife and two children, but says he still loves the house where he grew up, even though it is crumbling.

What he resents is what he describes as the lies on Russian state television.

"I watch Channel One and get the feeling that I am living in paradise," he said. "It's disgusting to hear the governor and the mayor singing songs to Putin, telling him that everything is fabulous."

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS