Irina Tsarenko

Irina Tsarenko, Zamulta village, Republic of Altay: Yegorka


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Irina and I sat at a table made from cedar in a new wooden house built by Irina’s husband Oleg. The couple has a son who is 3.5 years old. He’s an active boy. While Ira (short for Irina) was sharing her thoughts about food with me, he was busy painting a picture of his parents, house and mountains, and showing us his toys. Among Yegorka’s (nickname for Yegor) toys, there were quite a few hand-made ones. Everything in the house was actually hand-made! And when you look out the window there, Zamulta offers you a marvelous mountain view.
“When my husband and I had Yegorka, we definitely changed our food habits. Oleg was always careful in his choice of food products, and I was a lot more careless about that, even though I was educated as a biologist and understand a great deal about the pros and cons of different types of products from a scientific point of view.”
Irina is 39 and her husband is the same age. He’s a builder who specializes in various types of construction work. Ira used to work as a journalist and librarian, but now is a stay-at-home mother.
“Our favorite dish is ‘draniki’ – potato pancakes. My ancestors are from Belarus, and this dish is traditional Belarusian cuisine. Yegorka likes these pancakes a lot, too. We also like different kinds of hot cereal, and vegetables cooked in various ways. I bake as well, and make various salads. We buy milk from our neighbors for Yegorka. We don’t have our own cow, because it’s too much work for us. Oleg is constantly working, and I’m very socially active. I also take care of the garden and do housework, so it’s just easier to buy milk than have a cow.
We have everything we need. After Yegorka was born, I started to be very careful about buying food products. I always look at the ingredients. We live in a village, and natural yogurts can’t be delivered here. And most of the ones that are sold here have preservatives, additives and artificial colors. That’s true for many other food products, as well.
I’m very concerned about the situation with poor-quality products. There have been so many times that I bought oats and they were bitter and inedible. I think maybe people are more careful about such things in big cities. When I make a choice to buy something, I don’t look at the price; I’m mostly concerned with the quality. Only after that do I think of whether we can afford it or not. I think special surveys should be carried out, and people should be asked what their needs are. That would be better than simply supplying low-quality, cheap products that are heavily advertised. The government needs to really understand which food products are in high demand.
I think the climate plays a big role in influencing the price of food products. For example, a couple of years ago, the Altay region experienced a drought, and wheat harvests were poor, so we immediately saw a rise in flour prices in Gorny Altay. We’re directly dependent on the Altay fields, because grain, oil and sugar are delivered from there.
Ultimately, though, I think our problems are related to politics. If the government doesn’t regulate prices and make a reasonable budget, and also ensure that high-quality food products are supplied to stores around the country, the economy isn’t going to change for the better, and people’s health will then be jeopardized.
We spend about 80% of our income on food. Among the people I know, most would say the same about themselves. People work in order to feed themselves, but their health deteriorates because of poor-quality food products and chemical additives. This can’t go on for much longer. You start to really think seriously about what’s going to happen once you have kids.
Yegorka’s birth further promoted our healthy lifestyle and made us even more careful in our choice of products. It’s actually become our mindset now. Do you agree, Yegorushka?” Ira said with a smile on her face as she hugged her son.

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