On the opposite side of the ferry line

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Story: Anton Klimov, Lena Galitsch, Jonas Bickelman
Photos: Anton Klimov, Lena Galitsch

Many times I watched this district from the resort “Angara”, from the top of the hill. I saw the confluence of the Irkut and Kaya Rivers and a house right on the spit. I wondered what that house is. And only recently I found out that there is ferry further along the river. And we decided to reach it.

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Lena: Throughout our walk we had the one topic – on Yury. Almost all men that we talked to were called “Yury”.

Anton:  Yury was surprised that we are interested in his house. I said: “You live in a park, almost in the town center and in the real forest. Anyone will envy you”. And he said: “What is there to envy for? There is nothing really good in it”.

Anton: The second Yury lives in Sinushka district. He comes here from time to time – he goes fishing, roams in rubber boots in water up to his knees.

Anton: There are other two or three houses behind the fence nearby. The base of Emergencies Ministry as the second Yury said to us. They have their boats there, water connection with the river.  That’s why there are anchors on the gates and you can see that they are made by hand. They live, work there but we haven’t found any one of the Emergencies Ministry base. We were standing by the fence, waiting for someone to come up to us; we heartily tried to attract attention.  The dogs were barking loudly, but no one came out.

Anton: The first Yury said about the ferry that there used to be something but probably it was burned down. Only a deserted boat was left. The second Yury said that there was something probably.  Then we met a man and he told us with certainty: “Walk for four kilometers”. And we walked.  Between the Irkut River and a district that smoothly changed from vegetable garden plots into the densely fenced industrial zone. There was almost everything there – cranes, auto repair shops and dumps.

In September 2016, the German researchers of “Gorod inache” came to Irkutsk for two weeks. Their first day was spent in different areas of the city in the company of  local participants. We called these walks “landing operations”. For the Germans it was an opportunity to see not a tourist city. For locals  – to observe Irkutsk through different eyes. We chose three stories for the publication. All of them weirdly got us to the rivers. Although that coincidence was not without reason: Irkutsk was built on the rivers and made a living of them. Nowadays this connection is not so obvious but it hasn’t vanished.

Jonas: We quickly left the town and suddenly all around us started to look differently: the forest, the river bank, that territory with gardens. It reminded me a place in Germany where my grandma lives.  Except for some industrial zone that was nearby.

Anton: We walked and walked and walked… We set ourselves up for four kilometers Yury was 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. And of course his name was Yury. The ferry ride cost the same amount as a ride in marshrutka – 15 rubles one way. And a couple jumped to our boat too. 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 understood there used to be a peninsula and later it became an island because the river changed the course.  The ferryman asked us what for we went there. And we told him that we were interested in looking around there.  Anton was telling everyone: ”Here, the guests from Germany. Lena speaks and understands Russian, and Jonas doesn’t speak it and doesn’t understand”.

Anton:  Yury and Lora livened up: “Wow! They are foreigners!” And their main question was: “Why do you take 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 probably have never seen one”. And everything was at a lightning speed. We left the ferry and they went: “Let’s go, let’s go, and hurry up”.  They were walking pretty quickly and a new world was developing around us.

Anton: I tried to take pictures on the run. I took a picture and ran to catch up with them, not to get lost in the narrow little streets, in that limited strangely cut space that you can only reach by a ferry, or by ice in winter or by an off-road car in small water. Some even manage to bring a car here further down the river. For bringing harvest to the town, maybe. Due to the inaccessibility this place has its own atmosphere and only a few new houses with siding. Somebody has built a huge three-store house. People say he is a nut-case: there is no sense in investing big money and efforts 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 evidences but the house continues to stand.

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

Anton: To bring 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 ten minute walk. They do several trips in a day – to carry something away and to heat the oven for the veggies not to freeze out.

Lena: They have seven people in the family and eight ares. An old woman next to them has five people and six ares. 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 even doesn’t belong to them but is of their aunt – Auntie Lena. Yury works as a firefighter for Emergencies Ministry. He just came back from Ust-Kut, he told us how they were taken there to the mountain top by a helicopter and were getting down to the land by some cable rope. They managed to localize the fire, all 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 that 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 by 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 whitening their houses too. It is very comfortable both here and there because everybody know each other. And you can feel it at the ferry: everybody was talking with each other about something. And with us too.

Anton: There all people live 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.