My Story - The Russian Girls of Harbin
August 22, 2010
I spent last year teaching English in the 'Ice City' of China, Harbin, which is close to the Russian border.
During my stay, I spent few social evenings in mainstream Chinese society, instead gravitating to the clubs where Westerners and Russians congregated.
A frequent sight on these evenings were beautiful Russian girls, the majority of whom were studying Chinese. Many of them looked like super models, wore revealing dresses and drank heavily, raring to go!
A young man's dream you might think. But the reality was much different. I found these girls to have a self-destructive lifestyle of alcoholism, drug abuse and casual prostitution.
The story I am about to relay encapsulates the experiences I had with Russian girls and provides valuable insight into the female psyche.
One night, in the middle of a Siberian winter, I was sitting in a bar. This night was typical; a giddy concoction of electronic beats, pint after pint of lager and fractured conversation creating an endless pattern.
And then I saw her. Across the bar was a pretty young Russian girl, a typical sight, but there was something different about her. She was a thin pale girl with black hair and a black dress, and curiously on her chest were tattooed two blue love birds facing each other in song.
She held a fag loosely in her hand and surveyed the club with a mild sneer. She had a unique presence and I couldn't take my eyes off her.
Now don't think this will be a bawdy tale of sexual conquest. I had been in the city long enough to observe the tricks and dangers of these girls. The Russian girls I knew gave the impression of being promiscuous but in reality they used sexual suggestion as a weapon. They can drink their own bodyweight in spirits and expected the guy to pay for the night. It was a common sight to see a man hunched over the bar in the early hours of the morning, his sexual hopes fading into a boozy blur as she casually talked to a friend.
Many of the girls also practiced casual prostitution; they would lead guys on and ask them to make an offer. They seemed to reason it was like casual sex with a cash bonus. The willing men were usually wealthy students from Africa who were kitted out like their rap idols, wearing basketball shirts and oversized jewelry, and had an insatiable lust for white girls.
For girls who shunned this behavior the price of dignity could be high. One girl I knew worked all week on top of her studies in a bar for only 8rmb (80p) an hour. She could have earned a month's pay in one degrading night.
It took me a while to reconcile prostitution with these often intelligent and charming girls, but sometimes they would hint at a familiarity with the underworld and it gave me a glimpse into the degeneracy of their homeland.
One night, two girls casually told me with utter indifference that a boy in their dormitory had been missing for a week. They had been knocking on his door and phoning him but to no avail, so eventually the Chinese security guards checked the CCTV footage of his corridor and it showed him entering his room one night with three Russian men, and the men emerging five minutes later with a body bag. He had gotten involved with drugs.
I was not naïve enough to imagine I could tame the girl I saw at the bar. I had an English friend with a Russian lover and it was like watching a cat toying with a mouse. She would scold him for neglecting her emotions one minute, then criticize him for being clingy the next. Rare moments of warmth and affection were spread out between long Siberian wintermoods, with the smallest misdemeanor provoking a public dressing down.
I wondered why she insisted on playing the role of a cruel mistress but the more I knew her the more I realized her persona was the tip of the iceberg. I saw a scar on her wrist, and her friend told me that she had been living with a boyfriend in Russia and had cried every day for six months upon coming to China. These girls were damaged goods and more trouble than they were worth.
The Russian girls of Harbin were like the Sirens of ancient Greek myth who lured nearby sailors to shipwreck. But there was something unusual about this girl, so I decided to speak to her.
I introduced myself and found her name was Daria. We immediately started laughing together. She had a quite a cruel wit but a sparkle in her eye. She was only 17 and her parents had sent her to study in China against her wishes and she loathed it.
Over the next few months we became good friends. She was a difficult friend. She would stop contact for long periods of time and borrow money I never saw again. It was almost certainly spent on a low-grade hallucinogenic drug popular with the Russians, which took her to 'a beautiful alternative reality.' I persevered because I recognized something true in her.
One night I saw her looking very ill and weak in a club, no doubt because she lived on booze and fags and it was taking its toll. She was asking for money from a guy and he and his friends were being abusive and laughing at her.
I picked her up and took her to McDonald's to get something to eat. She ate and cheered up under the bright lights and gaudy childish artwork on the walls. As our conversation developed I asked what would make her happy.
Love, she replied. I was shocked. Maybe there is a Russian boy I can be with forever. I looked at the love birds tattooed on her chest, and saw the damaged child inside. I sat with her until sunrise.
Daria taught me that despite their sexy and dangerous veneer, the Russian girls desired what all women innately want; love, a family, a good home.
In another life they could have been loving wives and caring mothers but like a nation hit by an atomic bomb, they grew up on ashes of Soviet destruction and were robbed of everything but their sexual desirability, which they weaponize to dupe men.
We in the West should take warning in the fact these damaged girls are a product of cultural degeneration and a shattered economy, and wherever these circumstances arise, so will they.