28-year-old Natalia Dudina is a rare sight among those who work in metro stations in St. Petersburg. She’s young and she dreams of being a teacher for the physically disabled. She knows sign language and can read people’s lips, a skill certainly very helpful in metro stations where noise can be deafening at times. She’ll graduate to become a teacher this year. But for the time being, she works at Chyornaya Rechka on the Blue Line. She sits surrounded by piles of of confectionery and drinks, newspapers and books, providing a service to those commuting from point A to B, home to work, work to school. The best-sellers, she says, are bubblegum and newspapers.
She’s been doing this since she was 16, that is for more than ten years now. She stopped in-between to work at other places but ultimately came back to the same job.
“I guess the ‘climate’ here is really nicer than on the streets or somewhere else… In summer, you are escaping the heat and in winter, you are warming up,” she says. She spends up to 16 hours a day underground for work.“It’s very noisy and foot traffic is very high,” she adds with a smile and a twinkle in her eye as though it doesn’t matter to her. At the end of the day, Natalia says she has no favorite stations. As long as the metro station she’s working at is close to home.
We become part of the system. I’m part of this system that transports people. I feel like I’m part of this ‘universal goodness’. We’re feeding people. We’re educating them, we’re selling books and magazines and chocolates.
The name Chyornaya Rechka means “black river” in English and is a reference to the river nearby where Alexander Pushkin had his fatal duel. The station is fashioned in a muted manner. In contrast, the light and bright Pushkinskaya station on the Red Line is built to celebrate the poet’s life and works.