Taatta Island: Taatta Island

June 21, 2015   |   Galya Morrell


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And now we are stuck. The road is gone and the water only keeps rising. Overnight we turned into islanders, even though our beautiful island can not be found on any map.

Living well in Taatta means mastering the art of adaptation. In Taatta it’s a never ending process.

People here adapt through their hard work, loyalty to informal basic values and flamboyant imagination. Praskovia Petrovna Matannakova is 93 years old and she still sews tableware and storage containers out of birch bark, runs a huge family and welcomes unsolicited strangers in the times of Flood.

In excessive cold to excessive heat they run their “Island” – the Island of Taatta, and they do it well! And they have such an incessable appetite for life!

In Taatta live the people who love what they do. They are cowboys and horse-herders, they are builders and gardeners. At the same time they are all artists – painters, singers, sculptors, architects, blacksmiths, you name it… But most importantly – they are optimists. Their lives are incredibly hard. They have seen so much sorrow… Even the smallest of the tragedies they’ve lived through would send an average metrosexual to a mental institution. But this land quenches people like steel. No matter what they endure, they know how to stay sane.

I am thinking of my friends who live for years on anti-anxiety and anti-depression pills in Paris, London or New York. And want to say to them today: ”Come to Taatta and you will recover overnight!” You will never feel flat again, you will never feel dried out.

Everything here is made with love – from butter to water. Everything comes from heart.

And everything comes through hard work. We are in the middle of the Flood, there is so much water, everything is drowning in it – houses and cattle, and yet the water we drink comes from underground. It was been made back in the winter – with an axe – when thermometer drops to -60C. Now it’s kept in the permafrost cellar along with fish, meet, cranberries and other essentials”. Even in the hottest of the days the temperature in the underground freezer is between – 11°C and -20°C.

There is no running water, and the outhouse is far away from home. But Life is good!

We have already learnt our first lesson in Yakutia. Here nothing is black and white. Here very often a loss means an acquisition. Separation means inclusion. And an unfortunate detour suddenly becomes a destination.

The flood gobbled up a road we were planning to travel on, and Taatta – a stopover – suddenly became our promised land. We were not planning to stay, and now – even if an emergency helicopter somehow lands here tomorrow and offers us a lift – we would not want leave.


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!

© Copyright 2010 Galya Morrell. All rights reserved.

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