Russian Pelicans in London

I bet you didn’t know it. Yes, pelicans in St.James park are Russian. But it is not the most extraordinary part of the story.

Russian community in London is rumoured to be between 200 and 300 thousand people and is not seen as a good thing by everyone. Londoners are OK about the 600,000-strong French force, but are wary of Russians. An Englishman knows what to expect from someone who has the misfortune of claiming the French language as native (They would always act French), but Russians are unpredictable.

They had been an enigma wrapped in mystery centuries before Churchill coined the phrase.

Russians splash on luxury in Arabic ways, kill each other like Italian crime bosses, and wear diamond ear-rings for jogging. They do not care a bit about the Queen or monarchy, but grab titles whenever they appear on the market. There’s a legion of false Barons and Earls, with title certificates forged by Polish fraudsters. Of course, I paint the devil blacker than he is, and lay it all thick. We, Russians, love to exaggerate. We can poison half the city to see one man off, y’know.

The story of Pelicans in St.James Park can’t provide the key to understanding Russians, but  it shows that it is not their choice to act in inexplicable ways. It is their country of origin that works on them regardless of how far and for how long they’ve been separated from each other.

Pelicans appeared in St.James park in 1664. It was a gift of the Russian Czar to the King of England. The meaning of this gesture eludes me. Did the Russian Czar want to say, “hey, bro, don’t be as snobbish as these birds seem to be”? Or was it, “Charlie, mate, that’s a new kind of dove bred to deliver parcels. Send me something nice back”?

For centuries Pelicans lived in the park, until only one was left standing in the 1970s.

Whoever was responsible for them in London decided to go back to the source, as the tradition dictated. So, the Soviet government was asked if they could replenish the population of penguins.

The Soviet government shrugged and send some more penguins from Moscow Zoo to England.

And then strange things started happening. The population of smaller birds was suddenly declining.

Londoners were growing suspicious of the giant birds, with more and more fingers pointing at them as culprits.

No, said whoever was responsible for pelicans then, it can’t be, for the birds only feed on fish.

Noooo, said the public, these pelicans come from the Communists. One can never know what those commie keepers inculcated in them birds!

With time, however, pelicans adapted to the Capitalistic St.James environment.

They’ve shown themselves as people-friendly. They take benches by the lake and sit there with park visitors, enjoying a bit of small talk and

and helping with crosswords.

Yes, it is true some of them were caught way over at London Zoo stealing fish. How on earth did they find out about zoo keepers giving fish for lunch there, is beyond me, but Russian intelligence has a history of success in the UK. Perhaps, it rubbed off.

And so, the dispute of whether pelicans were good or evil died out, replaced by the general consensus: even if they were evil, royal care got them reformed.

All was calm and peaceful (doves kept disappearing though), until that fateful moment in 2007, when a pelican was filmed red-handed in the process of devouring a birdie.


I think I can explain this eccentric behaviour.

In the Soviet Union, fresh fish was a thing humans didn’t have, for it was in short supply like most other foodstuffs. It is more than likely that Moscow keepers were keeping the fish. For themselves. And the pelicans were given the rights of hunting for anything that was edible. And once the pelicans tasted blood, they couldn’t be reformed. It’s like drugs.

Now. Just wait until the Russian community in London gets nostalgic about the 1917 Revolution.  Just wait and see.

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