Personal Guide to Moscow Comfort Dots

Illustrator, YouTuber and feminist Nika Vodwood on her relationship with the urban environment.

Following her high school graduation, Nika Vodwood, known online as nixelpixel, left the small town of Stupino in search of a new life and new opportunities. She now lives in Moscow, making popular vlogs about her life and zines about intersectional feminism.

It’s almost a social norm to hate the cold weather here, but short winter days don’t really bother me. Winter in bleak Moscow has many advantages, one of them being cozy and warm clothing. I have many good memories of snow and frost: cross-country skiing in the park with my dad, building snow tunnels after school. I actually have these vivid memories of following my mom around the city on all fours like Balto when I was about six, just rolling around in the snow and being a kid. All these things definitely shaped my positive attitude towards winter.

The city is best in the early morning or late evening, when there’s almost no one in the streets. Any other time feels overwhelming and stressful – on multiple occasions men have deliberately frightened me for fun, tried to have a conversation, followed me home. I can’t stand people fighting in transport. My Moscow is a city of comfort zones, or more like comfort dots. I can rest in my favorite cafes or at friends’ homes – these are the havens where I can recuperate. Here I had a picnic with my subscribers; there I have dinner with my friends after work; this is the movie theater we used to go to with my ex.

I make zines about intersectional feminism and try to weave feminist theory into stories with my main characters: Puppy, Hedgehog and Kotik. They’re just these good kids who do stuff and learn to accept and respect each other along the way. I print new issues, stickers, postcards, and pins – controlling all steps of the process. That’s why post offices, print and stationery shops are important dots on my personal Moscow map. These are the places to which I’m happy to return.

My relationship with Moscow is pretty shallow. This is just a big city like any other, the only difference being that my loved ones and I are here. I don’t feel any connection to the city’s history. Accepting Moscow is difficult, but it’s also the place where I’m experiencing my youth in a way I couldn’t in Stupino. Many things happened to me for the first time here. Stupino doesn’t intrude into one’s life like Moscow does, which is probably the reason this city has changed me so much. I became a better person here. I wouldn’t want to romanticize the stressful urban lifestyle, it’s definitely not the ultimate conveyor belt that produces tolerant and open-minded people. Overpopulated and congested cities like Moscow lead to people having unhealthy lifestyles. But life in the capital definitely puts you into more situations that make you question your beliefs in a positive way, from the way people dress to who they f**k.