Left Maria, Subway No.4

Right Units in 147 San Andresito Centro Commercial, Hampton Court

When I first came to London I went to this Latin American Carnival in Burgess park. It happens every August. It's a big carnival, maybe the biggest in Europe. They sell traditional food and crafts. There's a program of singers and dancers. It was very enchanting for me. I made a lot of friends there, and then I started visiting Elephant and Castle. The people in Elephant and Castle have a spirit. I could see it straight away when I came here. I could feel there was something for me
I am married to an Ecuadorian, but I've had a long standing interest in Latin America. I grew up in Russia, and when I was 16 I volunteered at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I met the Mexican Ambassador, and I became very interested in that country: the mystery of it; their knowledge of the universe. Then when I was 23 I was invited to Peru to do a personal exhibition, in Cusco. So I've always had this link with the Maya and the Inca culture. First, that was reflected in my art, but now I practice energy medicine, which is the spiritual practice of the Inca people.
On an energetic level, Elephant and Castle is very vibrant, very dynamic; there's a real sense of people wanting to achieve something. You have the market there, so there's always movement. It's full of life. There are many different faces. And it's got its spirit too. Some places don't have a spirit, they just have lots of different, disintegrated bits. Elephant and Castle, for me, is truly integrated. When I first came to here, when I didn't know the area, I could feel the energy of all these stories, all these opportunities in the area – I felt that it was somewhere where things happen, where people can develop, a place that has something for your soul. This isn't on a logical level, it's the feeling of the place.

I think the regeneration is positive, but it’s also difficult. When things change, we have to let go of other things, and we have to have time and space to grieve about what we lose. I look up at that huge new building, and I think it's a really big change, but I think it's inevitable too – it reflects how fast London develops. In a way it reflects the mindset: how people think today. You take the people in the old houses. I don't know if they will go in this new tower or not, but at least it's in front of them. It's going to change their consciousness, and set their standards higher; everyone's affected by the environment they live in.  At the same time it is very important to have the history; to keep and share the memories.

That would be my wish for the new Elephant, that there are educational activities around the history of this area. I think it is good for people to know what was there before. It lets you see yourself in perspective. I think a knowledge of the present is missing for many people. That's why many people get stuck in this situation where they keep phoning their homeland, whilst at the same time they are changing because they are living here. I think this makes a lot of distress. I say this as an immigrant. I think it's distressing if you're in a country and you know nothing about it, if you don't even speak the language. I think it's very important, as an immigrant, to study the history of the new area you live in. You breathe the spirit, you get new information and build it up. I think it grounds you more into where you live. I think that's what you need to do to feel at home. From what I see with my clients, many people in London feel lost, that they don't really have a place to stick to. I would like to see more things that allow this kind of grounding.

I come to Elephant and Castle to buy food, and herbs for myself and my clients. Sometimes we post things to Ecuador, because there is a postal service there. There are a good selection of Latin American shops [name street??]. In my family, I cook mainly Ecuadorian food. So I buy lots of things, especially grain, like morocho and tostado – they have 5 or 6 types of grain which they cook differently. I learnt all these recipes from my husband’s family, who live in South London. I buy Andean herbs, such as Hierba Luisa, and Morchata, from the shops on [street??]. They sell ‘Bano Esoterico’ too; this is relaxing, like bath salts, it takes all the bad energy from you: if you've been worrying all day, this helps make it go away.

I like London. It has lots of freedom and opportunity, compared to Russia. Here, I’ve been able to follow my heart, and develop my practice. I’ve set up the Luminous Way foundation with some other practitioners, and established my own online journal, called Gladelic. It would have been difficult to do this in Russia.