Valery Petrushchenko

Valery Petrushchenko, Zamulta village, Republic of Altay: “Self-made”


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Valera (short for Valery) is a craftsman who lives in a spacious wooden house, keeps bees, breeds goats and tends a garden.
“My wife Olga and I don’t need much. If we have 500 rubles to last us a week, it’ll be a good week, since we can buy tea, cookies and bread. We produce everything else ourselves. I have the beehives right in my garden, and the bees hibernate in the house’s basement, where I also store potatoes in the winter. I have 16 bee families, and they provide me with plenty of honey. We drink goat milk every day, and make cottage cheese to give to our neighbors and friends. We have enough of everything. Plus, I can always swap honey for berries and fish.
When I go to the grocery store, I look at the price first and only after that at what kind of product it actually is. I like good tea, but it’s expensive. And to be honest, the store never carries real high-quality Indian tea. When we roast potatoes now, we use lots of oil, but we used to barely grease the frying pan. We definitely live better now though.”
Valera sat down on a small bench, took out a hand-painted psaltery that he’d made himself and started to tell me a story. He touched the strings lightly and I barely noticed his hand movements, so it seemed like the music was coming from somewhere off in the distance. He told me about his life, his service in the army in the Gobi Desert, about how he learned to keep bees, about his favorite music and his dream to have beehives in blossoming fields. A gray cat came and lay down in Valera’s lap while he was telling me about his bees and goats. Then Valera’s wife Olga came over and invited us to have tea with milk.
“Let’s call my interview ‘Self-made,” Valera said, “because we really do produce everything. I’ve started to really appreciate this lately. Even though we spend all of our money on food, we wouldn’t survive without our own garden and livestock, because no one would provide for us. After all, the government certainly doesn’t care much for us.”

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