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Vitaly Rodkin

Vitaly Rodkin, Ust-Koksa village, the Altay Republic: We have the earth

15.06.2011

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Early in the morning, a car parked next to my house, and a minute later Vitalik (short for Vitaly) was standing at my door holding two 3-liter cans filled with fresh milk straight from a cow. “Hold on, I'll bring sour cream and cottage cheese, too,” he said. This well-built and decisive man – Vitaly Rodkin – hasn't even hit 30 yet, but he's already a father of four.
 
“He's my treasure,” his wife says smiling. “We have three daughters and a son, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, while Vitalik is the breadwinner for the family. In the winter, he makes furniture to sell, and customers come to him from big cities. In the summer, he works at a construction site. He can do just about anything – milk a cow, make cottage cheese, sell milk and sour cream to our neighbors and then on top of that, he goes to work.”
 
I asked him, “Vitaly, you have a cow, your own garden, and you know a lot about agriculture, since you grew up in a village. What things do you think influence food prices in stores?” He explained: “It’s obvious – our agricultural industry has collapsed. Even if we do grow something ourselves, we spoil these products with additives. It’s cheaper to buy Chinese vegetables and fruit, because they don’t spoil for more than a year. I guess they store these products in formalin. We buy whatever is cheaper, and dealers make a fortune. The products expire before they even reach consumers, and that’s why all the products are filled with all sorts of additives. And worse yet, the cost of these additives is included in the price of the product itself. Add shipping costs, dealers, trade add-ons, and that's your store price.
I try not to go to the store at all. Instead, I buy everything I need at the wholesale warehouse. We have enough here, because we have the earth. Sometimes, in the morning, I drink a glass of milk with bread and think about how good it is to have a cow, and how lucky our children are just to eat healthy. It’s scary to think of all the children raised in big cities, who are often sick because of this nonsense being done with food products. Even here in the village, you can’t find any healthy products in the store, so what could there be in big cities, where people have no time or place to grow their own food? I know people who want to live in the city, because cities provide better salaries, stability, and comfort. But I think that it’s actually best to leave the cities. If you have your own household, you'll have your own income and independence, and you can stay healthy and raise your children.
 
When I was very small, my parents moved to Gorny Altay from Nizhny Novgorod, from a nice apartment. It’s been years since then, and they've never regretted their decision to move to a village and have their own household. In the beginning, everything seemed strange to them. To have a cow, plant a garden, build a house, and raise two children. But eventually they got used to it and settled there for good. My father and I learned carpentry, and we started making furniture. Then I grew up and served in the army. Now, my wife and I live in Ust-Koksa. We have our own house, run a household, and I have my own craft. There are more customers who want to buy my furniture than I could have ever hoped for, and I just have to work hard. The kids are growing up. We spend quite a bit on food, more so in the winter, and about half of our income in the summer. My wife and I like sweet things, but it’s dangerous just to buy sweets now. We have enough though, and we don’t need anything extraordinary. I’m surprised that people even talk about price policy on TV, but the prices are still rising. So what’s the policy, if it never goes further than mere talk? There's no decrease in prices, just price growth. You can’t trust promises.”
 
Vitalik got ready to leave, saying that he needed to get to the construction site. I paid him for milk, sour cream and cottage cheese, returned clean cans and walked him to the gate. When he was getting into the car, he turned to me and said, “I just remembered! My favorite dish is fried potatoes! I know you're writing down this interview and hoping that someone will find it interesting. But I’m an ordinary person. I just stand firmly on my two feet, love my country and believe that our nation will eventually stand up for itself. Really, who’d be interested in this? There's nothing special about my story; there are so many stories like mine in Russia.”
 
And after hearing this, I realized I thought to myself, that yes, there are indeed many stories like his in Russia – but I wish there would be more!
 
I came back to the house, drank the milk that my guest had brought, and had a completely different understanding of what he'd said, “We have everything, because we have the earth.”


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