The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
The left side of Sheshurino, our little village, clings to Lake Nagovye, and the right side to a forest that is all downed trees and bogs. A glacier passed our way in the dim and distant past, leaving in its wake boulder-sized stones, sand, and lakes like platters of pristine sky.
The woods are flush with wild strawberries and bilberries, the bogs with cranberries and cloudberries, and mushrooms grow all over the place in fall, even right up to our porches. And the woods are gloomy, thick with conifers and clearings that aren’t clear at all. Which is why the wildlife – the moose (that handsome devil), the wild boar, the bear, the wolf, and no telling who-all else – has a soft spot for the place we call home.
From time immemorial, people have been making their homes along the waterways here. The rivers carried the trade in furs and the flax that is the gold of the North. We had a state farm in Soviet times, and a flourishing one it was too. Its name was Struggle. And struggle we did, if not with drought, then with bad harvests. Even so, though, we lived well enough. Think about it – we had a cow in every yard, a pig in every sty, and lambs. We planted potatoes and carrots, beets and cabbage, plenty for the family and some to sell. There were apple, plum, and cherry orchards everywhere. We weren’t poor, no indeed. The haymaking in the river floodplains and along the lakeshores was good too: all that succulent, tasty grass! And we planted flax that turned the fields sky-blue when it flowered.
And so we lived through good times and bad. Our village used to be part of a nobleman’s estate. General Kuropatkin, a hero of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905 and a progressive thinker, spent his own money to build a post office, a school, and a hospital with a maternity ward. The state farm was huge, encompassing 12 – count ’em, 12 – well populated villages. And there were old folks who had lived here forever. One old gal, 102 if she was a day, remembered her granddad going off to war with Napoleon. Before the Soviets came, our lands had been in Pskov Province though later, for some reason, they made them part of Tver Province.
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