text & photo: ARTHUR ARTEYEV

Dead-end on Izhma river

It`s no longer possible to get to Chernoborskaya village, the republic of Komi, by following a 25 km dirt road. Not many of those who live in Izhma have been here either. 80-year-old Zoya Kaneva is the oldest resident of the village, who still goes hunting on her own.
Chernoborskaya village is a sort of Macondo from "One hundred years of solitude" by G. Marquez, our dead-end in taiga. Life goes its own way here. And in this village there lives a wonderful old woman, who has more than thirty children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. There are strong women in the villages of Komi...
We were led to the village by Anastasia Kaneva - the graddaughter of Zoya Yakovlevna. She spent her whole childhood here with grandmother.
We left Sizyabsk in the morning, crossed the bridge to another bank of Izhma river and drove for about 20 km in Shelyaur direction. Nastia called her uncle, who lives in the village, and he took us to Izhma by boat.

Zoya Yakovlevna understands everything you say to her in russian, but always responds in her mother tongue. She was born in Sizyabsk, in the family of reindeer herders Yakov and Anna Vokuyevy. She was the youngest of three kids, she didn`t go to school and went with parents to tundra. She stayed in Sizyabsk till 7th grade and then moved to Chernoborskaya village.
The hostess served the table for us. It was obvious that the visit of people, and there is usually only a few guests in the village, is a real holiday for her. The mushrooms, fish, the potatoes and berries - it`s all self-grown, eco-products. The house of Kanevy family stands on a beautiful bank, brushed by the wind, there are no mosquitos here. The blue river and the green horizon of the other bank can be seen from the window.

I started by working at the farm in Chernoborskaya, in Lyamchin. I milked the cows, took care of the sucklers. Then I transferred to a local animal farm where they bred silver foxes.
In Chernoborskaya Zoya Vokuyeva got married to a seaman Egor Kanev, who used to be called by his fellow countrymen Kuz Egor (long Egor) for being very tall. The newlywed lived in a small house with the relatives of the husband.
For six years we`ve been going to tundra with my husband, tending the sheep, - remembers the hostess. - When I was fifty my husband died. He was six years older than me. I was left alone with the kids. The youngest one - Vladimir - has just turned eight. I had to raise them all by myself. I couldn`t get a maternity leave, spent my days at work, and the evenings in the forest hunting, looking for mushrooms and berries. I used to come home at three at night, got some sleep - and at five in the morning I was off to work again.

Zoya Yakovlevna is a "heroine mother", she has ten children: eight sons and two daughters. Now she has more than thirty grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And even one great-great-grandkid. Zoya Yakovlevna lives in Chernoborskaya with her son Vasily. He`s almost fifty, but there`re no job nor wife to find in the village. There is a coulple of other people also living in the village. In winter there are only three residents who stay in Chernoborskaya, in the summer, when people come to their countryhouses for vacation from Sizyabsk and Izhma, the population grows to seven people. There are also two dogs, two cats and a horse.

Children and grandchildren often visit Zoya Yakovlevna. They bring her food and pension. There is a telephone and cell phone service in the village. The residents also watch the news on satellite TV. Sometimes electricity cuts happen. Electricians are fly-in/fly-out employees here, they turn the electric generator on for two hours in the morning and five in the evening.

In the winter Zoya Kaneva puts on her hunting cloth luzan, gets on wide lyamps and goes off to check her hunting area.
I have no shotgun, I just put snares and traps, - she says. - About three hundred snares. Since eight o`clock in the morning and till the late evening I wander in the forest. I catch quails, grey-hens and grouses. Sometimes I catch a marten. The snares must be checked in three days. I`m not afraid of bears and wolves. There are not that many wolves here, and bears have their own tracks in the forest. We don`t get in each others way. If something happens I can defend myself with a coybed (hunting stick with a shovel on one side and iron tip on the other).
The secret of long life as Zoya Yakovlevna believes is in living in an ecologically clean place, constant work, walks in the forest and positive and curious attitude to life. Even a coulpe of hours spent in Chernoborskaya village can charge you with positive energy for months, and Zoya has been living here for sixty two years.
Zoya Yakovlevna is not only the eldest and respectable resident of the village, who remembers its entire history. She is like a soul of Chernoborskaya, that keeps the village alive.
How wonderful would it be if Chernoborskaya village would come to life again.
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