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Leonid Kaloshin

Leonid Kaloshin, Ust-Koksa Village, Republic of Altay: Life mission

08.06.2011

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Leonid Kaloshin is an incredibly interesting person. A former civil pilot, he's very cheerful. He's also a person with very strict principles, and at the same time, a person who has made his dream come true. “I always wanted to create a library, a place where both children and adults could go; a place that would be bursting with life, and where the desire for knowledge would never subside.” Leonid made this place a reality – it's located in the village of Ust-Koksa on Sunny Street. Fifteen years ago, Leonid started collecting books, bit by bit, in his own home – and now the library has turned into an extensive and constantly expanding treasury of various publications. It has everything from school books to philosophical works.
 
Leonid will turn 65 this year, but that doesn't keep him from being active. In fact, he's always busy with something. Apart from books, he is very interested in growing rare plants; he even built a remarkable greenhouse for vegetables. Throughout the year, you can smell a blooming lemon tree in the library, and the windows are always adorned with plants. Enticing smells always drift in from the kitchen, as well.
 
“For me, food is definitely not the main thing, but I do know what a well-cooked dish is. I’m a good cook myself. For example, if you grind up fresh carrots straight from the garden and homemade sour-cream with just a bit of sugar – it’s quite delicious.” Just listening to Leonid talk about food and the importance of farm produce makes you want to run to the kitchen and cook exactly what he's just talked about. It was wonderful to learn about scrambled eggs made with three home-produced eggs and a bit of basil and parsley that you have to fry with high-quality fat bacon and serve with a glass of dry red wine.
 
“Today for breakfast I had five dried apricots, a few raisins, oatmeal, ginger and cinnamon. Just added boiling water and let it sit for awhile, and then added honey. It was absolutely delicious! Come over for breakfast and I’ll make you some! I promise you won’t regret it! I’ve been making this breakfast for myself for nearly a year, and the doctors say it’s very good for the heart. Grapefruit is too, but I can’t afford to buy it very often. In general, I have a sufficient variety of products. It’s not like I have to deprive myself of certain products, it’s just that I don’t need much. I try to buy my products at a wholesale warehouse that's nearby in the city, and I rarely go to the store here. I spend most of my money on building things. Right now I need to build an archive for books, because we have so many. The little house just can’t hold them all. This library is my life’s mission.”
 
We're riding in his old Soviet car, which he endearingly calls Vovchik, and he takes a sharp turn. He does so with the ease of a former pilot, and we continue to discuss food. “Our country’s main food-related problem is that the government doesn’t really support producers. People buy everything abroad, and even the genetically modified organisms in those products don’t stop them. So, the money goes straight to foreign farmers and intermediaries, whereas our farmers can barely make ends meet. The prices are going up at a high rate, and dealers are getting richer, while ordinary people are forced to leave stores empty-handed. Can you believe that buckwheat costs nearly 200 rubles per kilo? I really think the government needs to provide for supplies of domestic products and stop importing products. Also, Russian farmers should be able to sell their own vegetables, milk and eggs. Dealers drive expensive cars, apples are imported from China, tomatoes – from Turkey, and grain? You don’t even know where it comes from. The stores are stocked with products that people don’t want to buy. And at the same time, our farmers don’t know where to sell their milk and cottage cheese.” Leonid takes another sharp turn, and Vovchik stops next to his house, which also happens to be the library. A notice on the front door says that it’s a public library, open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and closed on Sundays. A group of well-dressed children is waiting for Leonid at the door. “My readers are already here,” he says, smiling.
 
I hear cheerful greetings, and the library opens its doors. I suddenly notice a pretty pink almond tree growing next to the entrance and think to myself: it’s so good to have this former pilot – Leonid Kaloshin – living in our world.


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