Quiet life in remote Siberia

In the remote and secluded Western Siberia (Russia), an almost isolated place with the frozen rivers in winter, the lives, and work of the people continue quietly.

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The area used to be a vast prison on the banks of the Ket River in Tomsk, Siberia, Russia, now sprouting simple wooden houses, isolated from the rest of the world.


Every night at around 4:00 am, Olga Voroshilova and her husband, Yevgeny Sadokhin, sat by the Soviet-era radio and shouted into it a string of repeated numbers. That is their routine: transmitting the weather data from the weather station near their home.


“Shum-5. Shum-4. Can you score? Report, I am at Shum-5 station, ”said Mr. Sadokhin, who transmits data from a remote meteorological station on the Ket River.


The couple's job (photo) was to collect measurements from the wind vane and barometer close to home to report to the Regional Weather Authority headquarter. The two, with their daughter Ksenia and another family, moved here many years ago. They leave their jobs and apartments in the capital of the region to come to this secluded place, enjoy the life of freedom, immersed in nature.


The meteorological station is designed as a simple hut, without phone networks or Internet lines. They receive packaged food from the local Weather Agency headquarter, but not regularly. Sometimes the food is just a few bars of chocolate, but they are also willing to share with New York Times reporter Emile Ducke, who recorded the report there. In the photo, Ksenia gets warm after swimming in the river.


Although its zigzag and relatively small, the Ket River was once part of an important road in Siberia. After building a canal in the late 19th century, it is the branch connecting Russia's two largest rivers, the Ob and Yenisey.


The harsh weather here ravages the roads, freezing them in winter and mixing mud and pebbles in the summer. Driving distance is calculated in days and weeks. People had to move on the Ket River before the trans-Siberian railway was built.


In the early 1900s, to move from West to East Russia, whether peasants, merchants or Tsarist army, had to travel by railway. Gradually, the Ket River retreated into the past.


For the residents of the weather station, Ket's seclusion promises to give them freedom and openness. To them, this place was like the end of the Earth, not a prison with dark walls and barbed wire. Several prisoners were arrested and exiled in the village of Narym, near the place where the Ket River meets the Ob River.


Aidara, another community on the banks of the Ket River, was home to a religious group separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. They made up the majority of the village's about 150 inhabitants. For them, distance means protection.


In winter, when the temperature fluctuates from minus 30 to minus 50 degrees C, the river becomes a zigzag and solid "ice avenue". The villagers of Narym will drill holes in the Ob River, near the mouth of the Ket River, drop nets and catch fish.


And the loggers in the Katayga community, where there is no bridge over the river, have to wait until the river freezes before they can load the wood into trucks and distribute them.

With no priests living here, Russian Orthodox Christians in Katayga have to wait for the priest from the neighboring village to visit. But the priest had to travel in 6 hours crossing roads and ferries, so he rarely frequented. So Marina Prosukina, Katayga resident, broke the rules on behalf of the priest leading Sunday prayers and anointing the crosses of the faithful. Usually, Orthodox women do not undertake this task.


But even such strict regulations and rituals must "surrender" in a remote place like Ket. Therefore, along the riverbank, people feel a special order of freedom.


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