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RU
EN
2016
TRAVELS

"Yuri's" Island: on the opposite side of the ferry

How does a dachas island on Irkut exist and where to find a ferry almost in the city

story & photo
ANTON
KLIMOV
JONAS
BICKELMANN
LENA
GALITSCH
story
story & photo
I have watched this district many times from the "Angara" resort, from the top of the hill. I saw the confluence of the rivers Irkut and Kaya and a house right on the spit. I wondered what that house was. And only recently I got to know that there is a ferry further along the river. And I decided to go to it.

Anton: Yury was surprised that we were interested in his house. I said: "You live in a park, almost in the town center and in a real forest. Anyone would envy you". "What is there to envy? There is nothing really good about it".

Lena: Throughout our walk we had two topics — on Yury and dogs. Almost all the men that we talked to were called "Yury". And almost everywhere there were dogs or conversations about dogs.
Anton: The second Yury lives in Siniushka district. He comes here from time to time — to fish, and roam in rubber boots in water up to his knees.
Anton: There are another two or three houses behind the fence nearby. The base of the Emergencies Ministry, as the second Yury told us. They have their boats there, a waterway connecting with the river. That’s why there are anchors on the gates and you can see that they are made by hand. They live and work there, but we didn’t find anyone at the base. We stood by the fence, waiting for someone to come out to us; we tried energetically to attract attention. The dogs were barking loudly, but no one came out.
Anton: Speaking about the ferry, the first Yury said that there used to be something but probably it had been burned down. Only a deserted boat was left. The second Yury said that it seemed there was something. Then we met a man and he told us with certainty: "Walk on for four kilometers". And we walked. Between the Irkut River and a district that smoothly changed from vegetable plots into a firmly fenced in industrial zone. There was almost everything there - cranes, auto repair shops and dumps.

Jonas: We quickly left the town and suddenly all around us started to look different: forest, river bank, and dacha plots. In a way it reminded me of the place in Germany where my grandma lives. Except for this sort of industrial zone nearby.
Anton: We walked and walked and walked… We set ourselves up for the four kilometers that Yury had been talking about. And suddenly we saw a boat. It turned out to be the ferry. A cable, a bucket as a balance weight and a boat. And a ferryman: Yury, of course. The ferry ride costs the same as a ride in a marshrutka-minibus — 15 rubles one way. And a couple jumped into the boat with us. Lora and… Yury. The fourth one.

Lena:
I’m not sure you can call it a ferry. It is just a small boat. The ferryman himself lives on the island. They work in two shifts — he and another man. And as far as I could understand there used to be a peninsula and later it became an island because the river changed course.

The ferryman asked us why we were going there. And we told him that we were interested in looking around. Anton was telling everyone: "These are our guests from Germany. Lena speaks and understands Russian, but Jonas doesn’t speak or understand it".
Anton: Yury and Lora livened up: "Wow! Foreigners!" And their main question was: "Why did you bring them here at all? You could take them to Ust-Barguzin". As we approached the land they said: "Let's show the Germans a Russian dacha. They have probably never seen one". And everything happened at lightning speed. We left the ferry and they went: "Let's go, let's go, and hurry up". They walked pretty quickly and a new world was opening up around us.
Anton: I tried to take pictures on the run. I took a picture and ran to catch up with them, so as not to get lost in the narrow little streets, in that limited strangely cut up space that you can only reach by ferry, or by ice in winter or by off-road car through shallow water. Some even manage to bring a car over here further down river. For taking the harvest out, I imagine.

Due to its inaccessibility this place has an atmosphere of its own, and there are only a few new houses with siding. Somebody has built a huge three-storey house. People say he is a nut-case: there is no sense in investing big money and effort into this place.

Lena: The houses are old. The house we were in is 40 years old. Yury spent his childhood there. And he showed me right on the house itself the level the water reached from time to time. You can see the evidence but the house continues to stand.

Anton: There is a lot of old long lost esthetics there — the Soviet kind, dacha style, with all that stuff, cauldrons, and photo wallpapers, with special color combinations.

Anton: To bring the harvest to the town is not an easy task for Yury and Lora every time. This time they came to look after their harvest. They have to either make arrangements with someone who owns a car or to carry all the bags to the ferry on their own. And it is about a ten minute walk. They do several trips in a day — to carry something away and to heat the stove for the veggies not to freeze.
Lena: They have seven people in the family and eight hundred square meters. An old woman next to them has five people and six hundred square meters. Everyone has greenhouses that they make themselves. The garden plot provides the whole family with the veggies. Those who have money buy ready-made greenhouses and hire people to install them.

Anton: And a tiny little house that doesn’t even belong to them but is their aunt’s — Auntie Lena.
Yury works as a firefighter for the Emergencies Ministry. He had just came back from Ust-Kut, he told us how they had been taken there to a mountain top by helicopter and were set down to the land by cable. They managed to localize the fire, everything was great. He gets paid 21 thousand rubles for his work. Lora does dog breeding. I didn’t get if it is her profession or a hobby. But the whole family has an attachment to dogs — they were constantly showing us pictures of various dogs. And were asking the guys how they live in Germany.
Lena: What does it remind me of? Some Germans were building houses at my grandma's in a village near Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. There are fences there too. The houses are different of course, not like these dachas. But the houses have the same blue window frames and they were always whitewashing their houses too. It is very homelike both here and there because everybody knows each other. And you can feel it at the ferry: everybody was talking with each other about something. And with us too.

Anton: There, everyone lives so close to each other that on the way back on the ferry our fellow passengers told us: "You are the foreigners that were at Auntie Lena's". And they gave us a lift to the bus stop.
1
For the German project participants both Irkutsk and "The City Otherwise" were supposed to start not with the historical center but with the town districts. They are closer to everyday life and further from stereotypes. Among ourselves we called these walks "landing operations": small groups of 2−3 people with an Irkutsk participant as a guide headed off to places where tourists usually don't go. It turned out that it is not only tourists who don't go there: our Irkutsk participants were in many places for the first time too. In some cases the group had an extra task (for example, to find various layers of the place), in others they just had to follow circumstances and their own interests and to observe.

We chose three stories for publication. Strangely, all of them took us to the rivers. Although that coincidence was quite understandable: Irkutsk was built on rivers and made a living out of them. Nowadays this connection is not so obvious but it hasn't vanished.
1
For the German project participants both Irkutsk and "The City Otherwise" were supposed to start not with the historical center but with the town districts. They are closer to everyday life and further from stereotypes. Among ourselves we called these walks "landing operations": small groups of 2−3 people with an Irkutsk participant as a guide headed off to places where tourists usually don't go. It turned out that it is not only tourists who don't go there: our Irkutsk participants were in many places for the first time too. In some cases the group had an extra task (for example, to find various layers of the place), in others they just had to follow circumstances and their own interests and to observe.

We chose three stories for publication. Strangely, all of them took us to the rivers. Although that coincidence was quite understandable: Irkutsk was built on rivers and made a living out of them. Nowadays this connection is not so obvious but it hasn't vanished.
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