Galina Zaripova

Galina Zaripova, Bashtala village, Republic of Altay: Nothing else to give up


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 A nice-looking woman dressed modestly but tastefully walked out of a grocery store with a nearly empty shopping bag. Her name is Galina Zaripova, and she's a mother of three, an engineer and a mathematician. She is 42 and lives in the small village of Bashtala – not far from Ust-Koksa, our regional center. “You barely purchased anything. Didn't the store get its delivery?” I asked her. She smiled at me and said, “The prices are crazy, I wanted to buy yogurt for my kids, but it’s way too expensive. We’ll have to do with bread and milk. To be honest, I'm often shocked by not only the prices, but also the quality of the products. We really like apples, and we can afford one kilo of them a week, but these apples look like they're made from plastic. Our apples in the garden won't be ripe until August, and we don’t even store them for the winter, but instead try to eat all of them at once with our children. We do grow a lot of cabbage, though, and eat it throughout the winter – in salad and soup. We also try to eat cabbage while it’s fresh, because it has plenty of vitamins.”

We continue our conversation as we walk. Galina is on her way to meet her youngest son Svyatoslav, who is 8 years old, at music school. As we walk, she tells me about her 15-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son.

“Right now it’s all about my children’s education. They'll enter a specialized college, since there is no future for them in our village, and they need some kind of profession. They help me out a lot in the garden; I don’t know what I’m going to do without them. But I can’t hold them back, they need to decide for themselves whether they want to come back to the village or go to the city once they’ve gotten their education. It’s their decision, and I won’t pressure them. I myself don’t need any modern comforts, and if I wanted to, I could have moved to the city a long time ago. I have a college education and I could definitely find a job. But I prefer to grow my own vegetables and tend to my household. I have my own fruit garden, my own wooden house without the usual conveniences, and I have enough land. We used to have a cow and a horse, too, but then I fell ill, became disabled and couldn’t take care of the cow anymore. I separated from my husband, but he still helps our children and sends us money sometimes. It's not much, but it still helps. He's always off trying to earn money in different cities. I have to feed my three children and myself on just my pension.”


Looking at my interviewee Galina, I kept thinking, “She has such bright eyes, always smiling, and talks about all her problems with such serenity, such dignity, and no complaining at all.”

All of a sudden, Galina stopped, looked at me intensely, and said, “There is simply nothing else for me to deny to myself and my children, but I don’t see this as a reason to feel down. We have great air, clean water, fertile land, and our climate may be quite severe in the winter, but we're used to it. It’s beautiful here, and the people who live here are mostly nice and kind, and we're still alive and kicking! And maybe it's actually a good thing that we can't afford various sweets and fruit. I am not just a little concerned about grain and oil becoming more expensive, I’m extremely worried about it. But we’ve seen worse times, and we still managed to survive. I spend 80 percent of my pension on food, and the rest on clothes and shoes for my children, as well as books, notebooks, and different payments. But, as they say, God is with us, and we're blessed just to be alive, to have water, clean air and the sun shining down from above. This morning, I had a glass of milk. For lunch, I will cook potatoes – I’ll simply boil them with the skin still on. My children and I really like it this way. Yes, my favorite dish is skillet potatoes with fried cabbage and whole-wheat bread. We’ll have lots of apples in the fall, and I'll make jam from currants and raspberries. We’ll also have lots of blackberries from the mountains. Plus, I'll make pickled cucumbers, and sauce from peppers and tomatoes from our garden. We have everything, all we need is our health and our strength. When I was ill and basically in a coma, that’s when I learned to cherish life and accept it the way it is – with all its difficulties and setbacks.”

Galina looked at her watch and said to me smiling, “Well, it’s time to pick my son up from music school. His teacher says he is very talented!”


Author: Marianna Yatsynshina

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