A high concentration of people in a small area makes our most varying differences and interests more visible to each other. People watching in Moscow can indeed be fascinating.
Upon moving into our apartment in Moscow I noticed a strange large metal green structure outside our building.
It appeared to perform some use as storage space, but I could not imagine for what. I decided to inspect a little closer and found a most intriguing sign fastened to the metal frame:
“Moscow City Society of Nature Protection: PIGEON BREEDERS’ KENNEL CLUB”.
Although I have been to many places around the world and seen many things this was my very first pigeon breeders’ kennel club, so I was delighted a few days later to see that this metal contraption was not just a relic of a distant Soviet hobby, but a living, breathing, thriving pigeon breeders’ kennel club.
I could watch from my eleventh floor window every day as a small group of men would walk in and out of the pigeon kennel, release the birds, watch them fly for hours, sometimes whistling, sometimes waving a flag on a giant stick, and then somehow managing to convince the pigeons to return to their cage.
Sasha is one of the pigeon kennel’s most active participants. My main question for Sasha was what motivates him to come out almost every day to watch the pigeons fly. I was waiting for a financial response, but instead Sasha said, “They fly beautifully. I like how they fly. They go up really high, you can barely see them, and they can fly for up to two hours at a time.”
It turns out that there was a time when there were many pigeon clubs around Moscow, and they were government supported. However, with the introduction of a market economy and a need for more high rise apartment construction the pigeon clubs were left to fend for themselves financially and whenever a pigeon kennel was removed to make way for a high rise, the government never provided a new location for the kennel.
Indeed, that is what happened to Sasha’s kennel in another neighborhood which led him to join the pigeon club outside my apartment building.
It seems that pigeonry in modern Moscow has its share of ups and downs with not only the financial factors to deal with, but also the medical. Apparently, last year one of the pigeons had become a little too familiar with the regular street pigeon riff raff, resulting in an epidemic that left only 5 of the then 70 pigeons living.
Sasha invited me in for a tour of the inside of the kennel.
The expected odor was surprisingly not overpowering, and the neatly arranged boxes housing the pigeons who were laying eggs testified to the hard work and passion of Sasha and the other kennel breeders.
“When the eggs hatch,” Sasha said, “we then see who flies, and the others go to the market.” The costs of running the kennel are covered by such sales.
As a side note, I found that if you run a pigeon kennel you run into all kinds of interesting people to talk to as you watch the birds fly around in circles around your head. I suppose it’s kind of like when people only smile at you when you are pushing a baby in a stroller or walking a dog.
This elderly gentleman stopped by and we engaged in a conversation on the subject of what is happiness.
He said, “I have been studying for seventy years and I think what is the point of it all? I have seen so many perestroikas in my life it’s unbelievable. And why do they say they are having the perestroika? For the happiness of the people! Happiness is family, but all I see is separation and divorce.” He went on to explain that he is a scholar and that he still works removing electrons from atoms. “You know what we call that?” he asked with relish, “a striptease!”
There used to be many pigeon clubs in Moscow and now, according to Sasha, the number has been reduced to a total of about five. A lady walking by said that there is now a plan to build underground parking where this pigeon kennel stands, and she hopes that the pigeon club will be a reason to stop the city government in their plans.
Let’s hope that the seemingly unstoppable construction in this city and the fight for each square foot of land and real estate can find common ground with the unique interests of individuals such as Sasha.