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Kolya’s Journey:

Kolya’s Journey

June 30, 2015  |  Galya Morrell


While waiting for the weather we busied ourselves inside of Anna’s urosa. Urosa is a summer home. It looks like a yurt but is build of wood instead of skins. Anna invested her small pension in it, collecting penny by penny from month to month to buy materials and pay for construction.

More rains and mosquitoes have arrived. Ignorant, we thought that the conventional gray flying beasts were deadly, but only when the new ones – gigantic orange ones have taken their place, we understood how wrong we were.

And it was all worth it because now Urosa stands high above eveyrthing – the sheds, the cows and the mud – glowing in all the seasons and all the weathers. Even on the darkest and rainiest of days it it is luminous inside!

The days passed by. Occasionally we would go out and meet some other people living along the road. Each time our humble «introduction» visit would turn into a feast. We would swim in the ocean of kumis and hold on horse blood sasuages as floaters in order not to sink.

In the evenings we sang songs, danced and talked. Taatta conversations can go forever – about cows and horses, droughts and rains, new born babies and those who look at us now only from the walls and from above.

The Road was still unpassable. Sun was losing the battle to the Water, and each morning Isabella and I would spend more time on making irrigation chanels on the road simply to be able to open the gate. And then on one early morning Anna heard on the radio that the new storm, a more severe one, was just around the corner. So we decided to take a chance on leaving. The only way to travel was in the tractor’s scoop but we knew that it was not an assured jounrey: there would be times we would need to walk and cross the flooded areas in a small inflatable boat.

We quickly arranged the scoop: logs were chairs and hay in pillow cases were cushioning. With two horse tails we will chase away the mosquitoes.

If I were a poet, I would write an ode to the tractor’s scoop. You can’t live a life without it. Pensions are delivered in the tractor’s scoop, and so is mail, food and other essentials. Tractor is a taxi, a delivery truck and it is also an ambulance.

It runs on the Road of Life, back and forth, when nothing else can.

Our friend Kirokan, the one-eye extreme tractor driver, once told us that it is easy to ride in the rain – then the tractor slides like a boat. But when the rain stops, then the real extreme begins.

So many people ask us – so why can’t the road be good? And we can say to this: the road is good most of the time. To be precise, it is good for 9 months of the year when everything is frozen. But in the summer things get complicated…

Land is tender here. It is so vulnerbale, like a Northern character… It may look rough – but it is tender inside. One truck will make a trace on the grass, the second one will turn the trace into a muddy path, and the third one will make a path unpassable.

Wounds inflicted upon nature won’t heal fast. It takes up to 60 years for the «scars» to dissappear.

Climate is changing. Rains come along with droughts and forest fires. And then there is a silk worm. This catapillar is small, but it’s appetite is insatibale. It can devour a hectar of taiga overnight. What looked like a thick forest some days ago, today looks like this.

Exposed to the elements, permafrost is melting faster than ever.

On a road like this, one becomes fatalistic. Disaster is inevitable – it will happen sooner or later. But Vasily – our tractor driver – takes it easy. The Road is not a drama for him. If we get stuck, he will take a cable and winch and then drag himself out of the mud.

Live dangerously – the motto of macho explorers from the West – does not apply to residents of Taatta. They live in «accomodation mode» – the best they can – adapting to the forces of Nature…

And now about Kolya. He is following us in a small red chinese tractor that looks like a toy. He tries hard to keep up with our powerful Belarus, but he can’t. Niether can he go up and down steep hills. So, we wait.

Kolya’s journey is of a special kind. He is going to the hospital, to a big town – for heart surgery. So, for him it’s his life journey.

Kolya is a quiet guy. His voice is soft, almost a whisper. And soft are his manners. Those who don’t know him well would say: «Oh, he is such a shy guy.» But to surive on the road like this one must be tough. And Kolya is tough. It’s just his toughness is not for showing off.

Kolya is a tractorist – and a good one. He tends the horses, milks the cows, cuts wood and does everything else everyone does in Taatta. You can say he is an average guy.

He raised two sons both of whom are now dead. But he still lives and smiles like a kid when small good things are suddenly happening.


As we go through the thickets of taiga I keep thinking about this road. Sometimes I see in it only absolute indifference. But Kolya and Vasily tell me that I am wrong. The Road sees us, knows us – better than we know ourselves. It watches us as we go and it helps us to move on, or sometimes – when we need it – without knowing it – it makes us stop and think… And we need to be grateful for what we get.

Interminable hours in the mud… The Road of Life develops a unique sense of place and a unique sense of time. Nothing here obstructs your vision – suddenly you can see through the trees and through your own self.

We get stuck and we move on. We have to make new roads. That’s why everyone travels here with a chain saw and an axe. You may be lucky to go from point A to B, but you won’t be able to return the same way.

Kolya tells me about some strange creatures – one legged giants who used to live along this road and may still live here… Strange things happen on this road, he says. But it does not mean they are all bad.

When I look at him I see that he and the road are made of the same texture. He was born for it. And he fits it well.

People like Kolya live and die here.

This journey was the last one for Kolya. It is impossible to accept or to describe, but that’s what happened.

No one is at fault. No one to be blamed. Kolya’s heart was big. But it could not fit all the sorrows of life and then suddenly burst into pieces. His heart’s ligaments were torn, they could not stretch any longer.

I will remember Kolya as I saw him on the last trip to Cherkeh. Kolya’s life was not a sequence of dramatic events. It consisted of achievements that most western people would characterize as «small» and «non-significant» No one ever applauded him… No one praised him. No one called him a hero. And he never thought of himself as one.

The Road will remember him. It won’t cry. It won’t drop a word. It will remember him in silence. His soul must be still here – flying above the Road. Seeing everything. Remembering everything. We will meet again, Kolya. We will meet soon.


Thank you to all those who continue to support my work and occasionally are crazy enough to jump into a frozen river to see if the whole thing is real!

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