Brave New World

When we prepared for the 1st Russia-ASEAN Youth Summit, we decided to meet with some people from Southeast Asia residing in Moscow to find out why they decided to make Russia their home.

My first interviewee was Lenin Magallona. He was born in the Philippines, and grew up in a happy family; but once he came to Russia he found himself reluctant to leave.

"To all of us, the USSR was shrouded in secrecy", recalls Lenin. "Back then in the Philippines, all that we had about the USSR were the magazines Soviet Union and Soviet Literature. We could only speculate about the USSR; no one really knew anything about it."

From the late 16th Century till the end of the 19th Century, the Philippines was a colony of Spain, and then until the mid-20th Century it was a dependent territory of the United States. Due to its history, the Philippines was always politically and culturally orientated towards the West and, ultimately, to capitalism. The Americans did everything they could to foster negative attitudes towards communism and the USSR among the Filipinos.

In spite of all this, Lenin Magallona found himself connected with Russia right from his birth (which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the February Revolution). He was named in honour of the greatest Russian revolutionary. We should also mention that his father, Prof. Merlin Magallona, was not only the dean of the Law Faculty of the University of the Philippines, but also the General Secretary of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines. The elder Magallona was exposed to leftist ideas when he pursued his studies at Oxford. At one point, this prominent international lawyer even served as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. On several occasions, he visited Moscow.

Lenin himself came to Moscow in 1985, when the World Festival of Youth and Students was held in the Soviet capital. About 26,000 delegates from 157 countries took part in this event.

"To me, it was simply another world", says Lenin. "In the Philippines we said things about the USSR, and formed our own opinions, and here I had the opportunity to observe Russian life first-hand."

Upon returning to the Philippines, Lenin went to university, but vowed to further his studies in Russia.

"All of my friends were extremely negative to the USSR and communism", recalls Lenin. "Most of them chose to further their studies in the US or Japan. My father, however, suggested Germany or the USSR. Of course, I chose the latter. To be honest, I had no doubts regarding my choice."

Thus Lenin arrived in Russia, where he studied biology at the Russian Peoples' Friendship University. It was here that he met his future wife, Katya.

Lenin's wife is a sociable, energetic lady. Together, they have set up what is called a Waldorf School – a school that offers an alternative approach to raising children, which include close parent-child communication, developing children's imagination, and playing together – in their home. The walls of Lenin and Katya's flat are decorated with all kinds of children's crafts and toys; and recently they decided to liven up their entrance with a brightly-coloured mural.

In his flat, Lenin has a room which serves as his creative space. "I always loved to draw", he says. "It started when I was eight years old. Since then, I have accumulated a large number of paintings. We sell some of them, take some to the Philippines, and kept some here with us in Russia." Lenin has a website on which he showcases his work: magallona-gallery.com.

 

Lenin also enjoys woodwork: making benches, candle holders and even children's playhouses. Lenin gave a large painted playhouse to his daughter, Leia, who will soon be three years old.

In general, Lenin feels absolutely happy in Russia. He believes there are many reasons to love Russia, and Moscow in particular. "I read a lot of books about Russia before I came over," says my interviewee. "but I saw everything in a completely different light when I was here. And I realised that I actually knew so little about this country!" According to Lenin, he is still trying to make sense of our country and people today.

Lenin believes that Russia plays and will continue to play an important role on the world stage. According to him, Russia has her own unique path of development. "I hope that Russia and her people will remain honest and open in the face of globalisation, which affects us all without exception," he says.

Text: Tatiana ANDREYEVA
Photos: Roman KUZNETSOV

 



Contacts

Rooms 501-502, 5th floor
of the MGIMO-University's New Building
76, Prospect Vernadskogo, Moscow 119454 Russia

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel. +7(495)225-38-18, +7(495)234-83-61