It was in April 2011 when I attended my first Russian Small Animal Veterinary Congress in Moscow. We were staying in Hotel Gamma or Delta on the outskirts of the city, a cluster of not very inviting Soviet style high rise buildings next to a Disney style Russian utopia village and in walking distance to Stalin’s bunker.
The restaurants had closed and the only place offering some entertainment was the brightly lid hotel lobby which had the charme of the waiting room of a railway station…..and yet, there was one person who was filling the room with his presence: surrounded by a group of friends and colleagues, keeping a busker with a Balalaika well fed and watered and making sure that no-one else was without a drink ( mainly vodka of course….) Sergey Sereda was holding court…..
Sergey Sereda is the President of the Russian Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Getting to know this man, you soon realize that there is no place for “normal” – surrounded by high rise buildings inside the Garden Ring in the center of Moscow, Sergey‘s clinic had a garden with sculptures of animals both around and on the building.
When entering his clinic the view immediately fell on the waiting room walls which were covered with photos of the rich and famous (or infamous…) visitors who had passed through the door before me.
When the Rolling Stones toured Russia and Keith Richard decided to adopt a street dog, surev enough the person to see was Sergey.
Progressing through the well equipped small animal clinic, one finally reached a small circular staircase leading to the study of the great man, right underneath the roof of the building.
Entering this place felt a bit like visiting London or Istanbul – you will never grow tired of it and there would always be an item you had not spoted before: on the walls and on his desk were decorations, sculptures and all sorts of membrobilia, posters and medals, stuffed animals (hopefully no patients….) and more pictures of Sergey and his famous visitors. One could imagine that the whole room was to some degree a reflection of the coloujrful personality of the man himself.
When writing my “unusual request” e-mail to Sergey, I knew, without knowing him personally too much, that it probably would meet the mind of a kindred spirit, also bearing in mind that the last time I had seen him was two years ago when he entered the stage at the Moscow State Circus (he was looking after the animals there as well…) as master of Ceremonies in a convertible vintage car!…..
Meeting Sergey again in St.Petersburg and sharing the stage with him was not only a great privilege, it was also great fun.
This was – of course – extended into the night, when Sergey entertained – as his English had at this point miraculously improved – his friends with stories about his colourful life at the hotel bar.
On the last night though, he and some of his friends took me aside and before I knew what was happening, something light blue was dangling from my jacket : a Sergey the 1st medal which – as far as I understood it – assures me from now on always a full glass when wearing it in his presence while on Russian soil.
Excellent I thought – a great thing to have indeed, especially as it came along together with an invitation to join Sergey at some point in the future on a trip to Sibiria.
I might just take him up on the offer……..
PS: At the conference in St.Petersburg Sergey released his memoires, which must be a brilliant read, but until now they are only available in Russian.
You bet though that I can not wait to have my hands on the first English version…..