The city of Yaroslavl, Russia suffered a major blow yesterday when an airliner crashed during takeoff from its airport, wiping out all but two members of the professional ice hockey team, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. The disaster is tragic enough to sadden any reader, but I found it especially jarring because I will be living and volunteering in this small city for almost two months in 2012.
When I signed up to volunteer in Russia through Cross Cultural Solutions, I was surprised to see that the program was not in a major city like many of the other countries’ programs, but in modest Yaroslavl. I began to research the thousand-year-old city, finding some short Wikipedia articles and blog posts here and there. I never imagined that my first spotting of Yaroslavl in the news would be so grim.
Upon learning of the crash, I immediately thought of another recent tragedy in Russia: the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski in April, 2010. It made me wonder how many other major accidents occur in Russia (and the other former soviet republics) that are not broadcast in Western news media because their death tolls don’t include politicians or athletes. I’ll admit, a small part of my curiosity (or paranoia?) is due to the fact that I will be traveling to the country next year. But I’m certainly not the only one who has noticed a trend. President Dmitry Medvedev has called for immediate improvements in the safety standards of the Russian aviation industry and its aging aircrafts. Time will tell how seriously his call is taken.
My thoughts are with all those mourning in Yaroslavl today.