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6 Sep, 2007 02:49

Homesick for Russia - 80 years later

A 95-year-old Russian woman is celebrating her birthday in North Africa. Anastasia Shirinskaya lives in Bizerte in Tunisia, where she's known as a living legend.

She emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1924, but after more than 80 years abroad she is still pining for Russia.

Anastasia Shirinskaya became an Algebra teacher. And she is still one of the best loved people in Bizerte, a port on the Mediterranean coast in Tunisia.

Everybody from here has heard of her, from the Mayor of Paris, who grew up in this town, to the local market traders.

“She taught us in the lycée and told us stories about Russia with such love. She's like a living legend for us,” Said Hosh Saussey, local resident, explains.

But for her, Tunisia has never felt like home.

“People think that this is my house. But I will disappoint you all, this is not my house. I have been paying for it every month since 1938. I have not got a house here, I have not got a car, and I have not got any money in the bank,” says Anastasia Shirinskaya

She still writes using the old Russian alphabet, which was abolished after the revolution in 1918.

Her house is full of Russian books, icons and photographs. 

Every New Year she raises a glass in the hope that in the coming year she will make it back to Russia.