Flowers For Teacher In Russia

This week most Russians weren't thinking about the summit or even about their bickering politicians. They were busy doing the same thing you might have been doing - getting the kids ready for the first day of school, CBS News Moscow Correspondent Richard Threlkeld reports.

Detsky Mir (Children's World) was bustling with parents and children doing last-minute shopping. It's expensive, what with the recent inflation.

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Blue jeans, a pair of shirts, pens and markers, a warm jacket. It cost us both our monthly salaries, says one Russian couple.

Natalia Levochkina is an electronic engineer who's barely earning a living as a social worker until they can pay her back wages. She's doing a bit of last-minute shopping with her children, Yulia, 8, and Kolia, 12.

"We've spent about a thousand rubles for each kid," she says. That's about $200, a little less than the family's monthly income.

"Food prices are going up," Levochkina says. "I hope things don't get any worse."

Both children are excited about returning to school.

"All the kids dress up," Kolia says. "The boys will wear suits. The girls will have ribbons in their hair."

Flowers for teacher were the last thing on Levochkina's school list - $10 for two small bunches of carnations.

"They're the most expensive part," she says. "You can't buy them a year ahead."

The first day of school is a very big deal in Russia. And you wonder what the teachers, who haven't been paid their salaries in months, are going to do with all those flowers.

The last we saw of Yulia she was starting third grade. Nobody can say what tomorrow will be like in Russia. But we're pleased to report that today at least, at Primary School No. 554, everything was, as the Russians say, "narmalna." (Everything's OK)

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