December 24, 2023

Cards from Piter


Cards from Piter
Samples of some of the designs from last year's contest.  Cozy Spb

“We wanted to make a contribution to a universal love for St. Petersburg, albeit with some kind of creative aspect,” said Yana Mityayeva, co-author of the “Postcards Just Like That” project. “And we also wanted to show that one can do something simply from the heart. We wanted to prove to ourselves and the world that one can simply share kindness with a neighbor, a stranger. And we are not alone in this, which means it’s worth it. Maybe it’s naive, two crazy women writing letters and sending them to strangers. But naive we are, and maybe this is our happiness.”

Three years ago, Yana and her mother Tatyana, both of whom are independent tour guides in the city, launched a project that allows anyone to receive a piece of St. Petersburg. They share their love of St. Petersburg anyone who asks, by sending postcards from St. Petersburg to anyone who doesn’t live here. (Only to addresses within Russia, however.)

“For me, St. Petersburg is my hometown,” Yana said. “I feel good in it, I probably love everything about it – from Kupchino to Murino. If I’m leading a tour, and we approach St. Isaac’s Cathedral, I might say something and tears may fill my eyes. There is such beauty and it was created by humans.”

Originally, the pair were going to purchase postcards from bookstores, and send them out. But that proved too expensive. So they asked a friend of, artist Maria Sukonkina, to draw something original based on the city. Her illustration of St. Isaac's Cathedral kicked the project off. But what followed was a new idea: the “Draw Peter” (Рисуй Питер) competition, in which artists submit card illustrations, and the winning illustrations become part of the collection of cards that may be sent out to those who request them.

“We were shocked,” said Yana. “We thought we would get a couple of works… but 300 responded. We chose 18 winners, bought some of the prizes ourselves and found our first partner, the artist Natalia Nanieva… We found a printing house and sent the first postcards in February 2021.”

By the second year there were a thousand submissions to the competition, and in the third - even more. Winners receive a pack of their postcard designs prtined, as well as prizes from sponsors. Last year the top prize was a ticket to St. Petersburg, and this year it was a certificate for a one-day hotel stay. Yana said she wants the competition to give people the opportunity to realize their potential.

Yana said she believes that they receive so many entries because people love the idea that a free postcard with their drawing on it would please others.

“Recipients write back saying that now they have postcards hanging on their refrigerator. They look at them and think about St. Petersburg,” Yana sad. And people of course write back, and letters fill boxes with exchanges of kindness.

“We have gained a lot, created a community of kind people who are ready to share love,” Yana said. “One woman even sent us seeds from Krasnodar.”

Over three years, the Mityayevs have sent out almost three thousand postcards to different cities, villages and villages, including to residents of Kukmor, Buzuluk, Voronezh, Engels, Barabinsk and Svetly Yar. And now the authors want to make the project financially viable. They have bought the rights to several of the most popular postcards and opened a small online store. This year all proceeds went towards the competition.

“This is important for us, because everyone wants to have a purpose, to be needed,” Yana said. “And this project allows people to realize themselves and feel needed. And when we made it so that people could input comments, we saw how important this project was for them, and how important it was for them to receive something from St. Petersburg, a piece of the city with our love. And the gratitude that comes from people stimulates us and reminds us that all of this is not in vain.”

Excerpted from Bumaga’s email newsletter, “Inhale. Exhale.”

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