Weird Games of the Rich

Wealthy Russian businessmen like playing at being homeless

A joke has been aired on a Russian television channel in which a rich Russian man, a so-called "new Russian," desired to become a homeless person and to experience poor people's problems and troubles. That was just a staged TV joke, but some businessmen thought that it would be a great idea to try out in real life.

Homeless people from the Russian city of Novosibirsk (in Siberia) helped this journalist find the founder of a firm that offered very unusual services to very rich clients.

The Novosibirsk railway station has become a home for a homeless man named Yury. "I know everyone from here, I mean everyone like me. One fine day a man drove his nice car up to us, got out of the vehicle, gave us some money to buy vodka and said that he wanted some man to stay with us for a couple of hours. We agreed. He brought the man in the evening. He was wearing ragged clothes, he smelled too, but one could see that he was not like us. I came up to him and asked him what had happened. He answered that he had come from another city and that he had been robbed in a train. He had a drink with us, we hung out with him, but in a couple of hours the same car arrived, he got in and was gone. We were shocked. In two days he came back again. He picked out a woman, the ugliest one, gave us some money again, and then brought her back in an hour. There are a lot of weird people on the railway station, but that was something extraordinary."

The name of the man who organized such an unusual form of leisure activity was Igor. "Me and my friends went to Moscow three months ago. There is a man there, Sergey Knyazev, a pretty famous figure in show business. He organizes very unusual events for Moscow aristocrats - pajama parties, women's wrestling, he organized a carnival in Cyprus and a ball of virgins in Venice. Knyazev's latest project is about making rich people experience the life of a beggar, to let them know what it feels like to be homeless. We talked to his clients and realized that there was a good demand on such kind of business.

"We have already managed to do something like this in Novosibirsk. For the time being, we have only 15 members in our closed club. They are all rich people, successful businessmen over 40 years old. We met a rich man who was tired of everything in his life. He said that nothing could entertain him, that he had traveled all over the world. He was terribly bored. We suggested that he to play at being homeless. At first he was surprised, but then he found the idea pretty entertaining and eventually agreed. We gave him ragged pants, horrible boots, a worn out coat to wear. Our makeup artist made him look like a real beggar. After we took him back from the adventure, he could not say a word. He called us back the next day and said that it was awesome. He told his friends about his experience and they decided to try it as well. This is how we started.

"Our clients have nothing to be afraid of. When they 'play,' we watch them closely, we have everything under our control even if a police officer stops them. Of course, the clients do not know that we are watching them all the time. In addition to that, it is very easy to come to an agreement with real homeless people. We just give them some money for a bottle of vodka and all the problems are settled. This entertainment lasts for only three or four hours."

Were there incidents when a client could not stand such a grand change in his life?

No, they usually go from the beginning to the end. First of all, they are not used to giving up. Second of all, they do not want to waste their money. There was a man who failed to stick it out it till the end. When we were watching him, we saw that he was totally shocked. Looking at the life of a beggar from the outside cannot be compared to the real experience.

Do women go to your club?

No, we have not had any women in the club yet, but I think that we will find something for them too. Most likely, they will wish to play at being a prostitute. It is an open secret that businesswomen entertain themselves that way.

Igor was not really willing to tell this story. There is nothing surprising in this, for this business involves wealthy people who do not want to make their extravagances public.

Why do rich people find it pleasant to dig in a dump? A correspondent with the Vecherny Novosibirsk newspaper posed this question to a doctor of psychology, Igor Lyakh.

"Such firms have existed in the West for a long time already. A wealthy businessman has a wide choice there: to go to jail, to live in a fascist concentration camp where they are treated like real prisoners of war. Rich people do this because they want to be entertained. They have traveled everywhere, they have done everything, so they want something special that they have never had before. Since there is no other planet to go to, they have to try more things. Previous diversions are not pleasant anymore, so one has to feel hungry for a certain time in order to bring back the taste of life. Tourism was used in socialist countries for such purposes: a camping trip with as little comfort as possible was a very good way to make a person experience the immense pleasure of a hot shower and a warm soft bed.

"The desire for something absolutely different excites a good feeling. There can be other reasons found too: Russian reforms have brought uneducated and foolish people all the way to the top. This made their personality split: he used to be a cargo handler, but now he has millions of rubles at his disposal. That is why going to a dump dressed like a beggar is a fine psychological therapy. There is another aspect to it too - the feeling of guilt. It often happens that rich people become rich by making other people poor. That is why they think that staying in their shoes for a while will be a redeeming factor. I think that such firms are needed in Russia. Russian wealthy people are currently undergo struggling to survive too; they are often haunted by fears."

Ekaterina Zalesskaya

Author`s name Olga Savka