March 01, 2021

A People on the Brink

A People on the Brink

Zinaida Savelyeva is of pure Vote descent on both sides. She is the last fluent speaker of her native language, and knows its songs and poems by heart.

Living alone since her husband’s death, Zinaida often spends her evenings in the dark. The electricity has been turned off and the candle on the windowsill lights up only a portion of the table. Without her, the village of Krakolye in Leningrad Oblast would be a ghost town in winter. There are few true locals left, the seasonal residents have fled the frigid weather, and Krakolye is a wilderness of shuttered houses. The village is slowly dying, and that process was only accelerated when the school was moved to nearby Ust-Luga.

And when Zinaida goes to bed, she might lie awake for hours. Heavy building equipment is operating close by, and the noise is bad. Something – a gas pipeline, a road, a port – is always under construction around here. The thumping and thudding make it hard to fall asleep.

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