andrey shapran
Washed ashore
Zoya Nikolaevna has found a way of helping animals to find food faster in the harsh climate of Southern Kuril Islands. She is not scared of the like most of the people here.
«If I meet a polar bear, I will speak to him. What will I say? I will tell him the story of my life».
I met her at the cape for the the first time. I noticed the black figures of dogs on the snow-white field from the distance. A little further a lonely human figure was bending over a dead walrus, washed up on the shore. I came up and we started talking.
She feeds the dogs, ravens, seagulls and white bears
ыгr name is Zoya Nikolaevna, she is 66. She tried to retire three times. The first time was when she was 50. She often goes to the spit and cape Kozhevnikov, behind the village – she says, she feeds the dogs and cuts up the bodies of animals washed ashore, so that it wouldn`t lay there decomposing for too long. Zoya Nikolaevna has 5 dogs. They all follow her to the spit looking for food.

She cuts into the wombs of walruses, that were washed ashore with the storm, so that animals and birds could eat the meat, and then she leaves. The dogs start eating the carcase, then come the seagulls and ravens. And in the end the white bears approach. She knows: the bears will inevitably come. They always come. A bear can eat a walrus in one fell swoop. Only the animal skin remains, that will be rotting until the dogs come and eat it.

She tells about a time, when for thee years in a row an old white bear come to the cape. She was coming there everytime to feed him. She would put the walrus meat for the dogs under a wooden bulk, and throw the pieces of flesh on the roof for the bear, so that the dogs couldn`t reach it. But three years later the bear disappeared – «he was old, and must have left to die», – suggests the woman.


Life in Rykarpiy

Her father was a reindeer herder, she was born in Chaunsky district of Chukotka. When the soviet power came and took her father. The man disappeared, and then the whole herd they once had. "How many reindeers did your father have", - I ask her. She says - 10-14 thoudans. Her father never came back, mom got married again. That`s how she found herself in Rykarpiy.

The time of her life, just like the history of her country, she divides into two halves – there was a good life (before the democrats), and the second one is modern.


You will recognize her at once: a black little figure hunched over in a snowy desert, always followed by five dogs.

A black winter coat, green gas mask bag, that she found on the shore, and a stick in her hand - for walking the snowy cape or cleaning the corpses of the snow, or in case of an unexpected meeting with a white bear. Probably, the last one, as the Rykarpiy legend says - a bear will never attack a man with a stick. She carries a knife in her bag that she carefully wraps in a piece of «Far North» newspaper and then hides it in an improvised case – a plastic shampoo bootle with no top. And that`s the whole travel kit of the Chukotka citizen.
When I was young, I though, there`s only one love in the world. And then I found out there`s a billion of them...
— Zoya Nikolayevna
While we were walking along the shore, bypassing the corpses of walruses, covered in ice, Zoya Nikolayevna was telling me that there are 5 walruses left in Rykarpiy, and probably the corpse she found on the spit this morning, was one of them. She doesn`t know why these animals wouldn`t leave the village. But she says, it`s like with the birds: when all of them leave the North, some of stay. They die in time – because of the hunger and cold weather. She calls them a "ransom for the ground". May be the walruses have the same «tradition».
Sun send-off


She said a curious thing once:
«we go to tundra to say goodbye to the sun». It turned out that in late autumn or the beginning of winter, when the sun comes up for the last couple of times to leave the sky for the whole winter, she comes there to «see it off».
A sun send-off is a truly rare, almost forgotten tradition.





God knows everything about us. He even know how many hair is on your head. Don`t ever be scared of the bears - they have their own life. Walk with no fear.
— Zoya Nikolayevna
– I`ve seen the bears many times. But these animals are always on a big distance, - then she points out to a sever places where she met them, while we`re going to the cape. - Never run from a bear! – you won`t succed. Take a stake or a stick, put it under your head and stay like that. A bear`s mind is different from human`s, it sees as danger everything that is taller than him.

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