Babushka is the Russian word for grandmother. In our apartment building, the front desk attendants are of a certain age that they could be grandmothers, so of course I call them the babushkas.
The babushkas take their job very seriously. They monitor who goes in and who goes out, and if they don’t know you, they will stop you and ask what you are doing here and who you are here to see. One afternoon I came home from running errands to a babushka who waved me down to let me know that two people from the Embassy came to visit earlier that day while I was gone.
One time a person was parked in our parking spot in the garage and we told the babushka, and they quickly took care of the matter. Another responsibility of the babushka is to give us our monthly utility bills. And without fail they will wave you down and make sure it is paid.
Of course most of our communication is non verbal. I use Google Translate and hand gestures the majority of the time. Somehow, we understand each other fairly well. With each week of language lessons I am able to communicate with them better. A few weeks ago I said good afternoon (добрий день), and I got the biggest smile from one of the babushkas.
They also have other responsibilities that may or may not be work related. They take care of watering the plants in the lobby, and will give you a big smile if they see you bringing home flowers or a plant and compliment you on it. The babushkas act as a grandmotherly figure to those in the building and dote on the little children who live in the building. I have heard stories of the babushkas making sure you are dressed properly in the wintertime, making sure everyone wears a hat and has a good warm coat and gloves on before they go outside, and I completely believe that the babushkas would do that.
I think each building should have a babushka. We would all benefit from babushkas in our lives.