March 01, 2003

A Spring Day Feeds You For a Year

A Spring Day Feeds You For a Year
Time to plant the potatoes. Igor Shpilenok

The arrival of spring to our tiny village of Chukhrai – population 18 – means that soon the rutted, ice-covered, puddle-riddled forest road that connects us to the outside world will become passable.

Slowly, the babushki and dedushki emerge from their hibernation. All winter I had observed subtle signs of their existence. Wispy columns of smoke rising from the chimneys of their two-room log cabins. Runner tracks in the snow left from early morning forays in a horse-led sleigh to gather firewood. An old man covered from head to toe in torn, dirty, yet warm telogreika (wadded clothing), sitting on an overturned pail in the middle of the frozen river, his fishing line disappearing into a hole in the ice.

My husband Igor and I set out on an expedition down the six-mile lifeline to the next village, from which a paved road leads another 15 miles to civilization. We load our sturdy Russian UAZ army jeep–perhaps the only modern invention to reach this village aside from electricity and television–with axe, chain saw, winch, crowbar, and rubber boots.

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