THE BEGINNING OF THE WAY

Journey across Kola Peninsula

Four thousand kilometers. Plenty of interesting people. All in to understand the North deeper and fall in love with it... Our impressions are more than something that can be seen... it was felt and run through. Around Barents is not just a project — it is part of our lives. Each day changes us just like water wears out a stone...

During our journey we met people who understood their vocation and followed the ways they had chosen notwithstanding any obstacles. They are not just dreamers: they bring their ideas to life. They do not try to explain that it is hard to live and work there. They just doers! They start and they have it done. Each and every one of them is a power station generation a huge amount of energy. They speak their languages, and express themselves in all ways possible. Gifts and talents are meant for being invested and multiplied. The gift turns into wealth only if it has its fruits. A man who once sowed the seed of his talent looks at the result it has, and enjoys it.

The first day of our journey, the final packing, the checkout of the equipment and the outfit. We filled up the gas tank, it's +30°C, it's a hot day in every sense...

We are leaving for our journey...

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Monchegorsk

As long as a man keeps moving, he lives...

The beautiful city of active people. It resembles St. Petersburg with its broad avenues, large windows and spires.

The vivid impression of Monchegorsk in the evening it that it is a sports city. On our way we've met a lot of people. Some of them run the sidewalks of the streets, others ride bicycles, and there is also a yacht club.

Monchegorsk is a city of lakes. An interesting man lives near one of them who can take a kite after his work and go to harness the wind element, balancing on a board, enjoying the fact that it climb the mountains, try all these kinds of sports: speed riding, sup-surfing, telemark, snowboarding, kite surfing, you can enjoy fishing, go industrial climbing, organize hikes, keep 7 pairs of shoes for different sports, which doesn't suit for walking in the city — this is one and the same man, his name is Sergei Lavrentiev.

We walked along the green forest paths at the foot of Voronia Mountain. It's amazing, but in the blue spectacles the world seems even warmer... The suburbs of Monchegorsk that are on the other side of industrial complex, suddenly surprised us by large fir-trees and twisted birches... When he goes down a steep mountain with us, he fastens up. He appreciates every moment. As a true daredevil. he is aware of his responsibility, he says that you must think before you do something. Time is precious for him.

“Children are pure love” — his son is five years. 35 years old wise man, who has learned, probably, from ants crossing quickly a forest path all together and working for good without a chief. He stresses the importance of the education; we think he is special, for example, at the age of three he already learned to read. He is like an unusual tree, rooted at the foot of the mountain, accepting favorable conditions and getting stronger, getting over winds, twisting and weaving amazingly the branches of his life.

Three sisters

They are three sisters. The big sister, Zoya, told us about her family. The youngest one, Anya, is a pupil of 5th grade. She goes hiking from infancy, does martial arts and goes skiing. The middle sister, Sonya, has visited The North Pole after writing a successful essay and qualifying for entry. And all mentioned above is very typical for the Shedov family. Their parents met one another in a tourist club, and taught their children how to go hiking from little up. Now the sisters involve their acquaintances in taking long walks.

Apart from tourism, Zoya is engaged in social activities. Together with Natalya Bekryashova and three other people they organize flash-mobs, festivals, sport events even for physically challenged youngsters. This action group organizes events at care facilities for children and keenly share their impressions. They go to the Khibini Mountains and talk about the “Girls' Spit” waterfall. Natasha runs back over waterfalls not far from Alakurtti — she was born there, and now studies in Monchegorsk. Sometimes they go to forest reserves, but on one-day trips only as it is forbidden to make fires there. They know that their future depends on social conditions and want to work in their specialization. We believe that girls like that will be happily settled in life.

Lovozero

Time is changing in the rain, it's getting so smooth...

The Virma river twists, separating areas of Lapp and Komi people.

Boat garages stand along the river banks. The weather is dry and warm. We go slowly and listen to the supreme silence. Our Lovozero guide is a skillful woodcarver Vladimir Chuprov.

Vladimir was born in Naryan-Mar that is one of the most remove places of Barents region. In the midst of absolute silence a motor-boat sound, dogs barking and vrooms look like this place's talk about life, beauty and history. There are new seedbeds near houses. The river is here and there crossed by small bridges.

We arrived at an ordinary garage by appearance which inside turns our to be a workshop filled with a smell of wood, materials, intermediates, notepads with drafts, an enormous vacuum cleaner and instruments (most of them were made by the master himself). We see a powerful air pump switched on, a drill buzzes, and an elegant deer profile appears from a tiny piece of an antler. After that it will be grinded in different ways, the accessories will be fitted with the help of various fixings and devices that can be called art objects themselves. The milestone of work is done here at workshop, after which the Master finishes it at home.

He is especially proud of his Lapp knife that is a delicate peace of workmanship (bone, wart, carving, inlay). Vladimir calmly tell about its bent shape: it is needed to ensure that the knife does not set against a leg if one sits down with the knife attached to his waist.

What can be said about his house? This is a place where peace and love live. His pretty wife Olga moved from Murmansk and now they have two kids — Sveta and Semyon. Blue eyed Semyon feels shy of visitors and peeps out from behind the corner. See you tomorrow during the fest.

Summer Saami Games

At a fair in the frame of the festival we met a family that made traditional leather bags, Saami shoes and Komi shoes which were made of reindeer fur.

It is said that in the 90s they had to sew such big souvenirs to survive as the source of extra earnings.

Polina Anisimovna Nagaychuk worked as a milkmaid on the farm. Now she works as a watchman. Nadezhda Anisimovna Artieva had worked in a trade center since 1988 where she learned to make things of fur. The husband of Polina Anisimovna works as a reindeer fur dresser, her son is a reindeer-breeder and is working in the tundra now. Her daughters bead. It is a common thing for the locals. The fur sewing is no wonder in Lovozero.

It is a painstaking job to make furs. And the family carries out the whole procedure from reindeer grazing to leather currying or fur dressing and sewing. They buy reindeer fur from other reindeer-breeders. They curry leather themselves. At first they soak it. They fasten skin in a small water reservoir for ten days, and then they tan it five times in a willow bark solution. After that they tumble leather with hands. It is a very difficult procedure and your hands are aching afterwards. They laugh and say that it is a pleasure to sew it after that. We pay attention to the bag buttons with carvings that are made of bone. Handy women say that Vladimir Chuprov has made it for them. We have already got acquainted with him.

Maria Gavrilovna Medvedeva presented herself as Maria. She is a kind and smiling woman who is wearing a Saami costume with shamshura (a headwear made of broadcloth and embroidered with beads). She invites us to sit on the skin. Once we started talking as the rain began. Maria covers us with flower dotted cloth and we are not on the bank of the river anymore, we are in a chintz tent as in our childhood under a blanket. We are three people and it is very cozy in this house. We are smiling to each other and it feels like we have known each other for ages. Time is changing in the rain, it is getting so smooth. Recalling this meeting and our talk, we thought that it had been for an hour but in fact just 10 minutes. Maybe, it is like a fast dream when you are able to see the whole picture, feel something inexpressible and then you wake up and notice that it has been only for a few minutes.

Maria Gavrilovna presented us a book “The Saami Games”. It is written in two languages: Russian and Saami. All the games that she described in the book are from her childhood.

She has 6 children and 11 grandchildren. She is a native speaker of the Saami language. She tells us proudly about her grandson who teaches others to speak the Saami language correctly. She is modern and talks to her granddaughter on Skype. A book “Saami Writers Anthology” has recently been published and includes her stories about the childhood. She has a complicated life. She says that her mother died very early and then her father died because of heart-disease. She tells us about it sadly and remembers the place where she lived, a submerged village Voronje. Her favorite fancy-work is beads. She has recently started to embroider the picture with tin threads.

We paid attention to a bag with a traditional fur patchwork. The bag is almost 90 years old. She inherited it. Women wearing Komi-Izhemtsy costumes told us a story about the nomads who were going from the Izhma river and there was no feed for reindeer. People came to the North and brought the culture and the traditions of these people.

Kandalaksha

Where is water, i can even build a sailing fleet...

We are driven through a green pine tunnel. The cranes are flying in a V-formation. There a bird cherry tree bushes, juniper bushes and huge poplars. Kandalaksha lies to the south of Murmansk.

They announce dinner. There is a real samovar on the stones. It is stoked by cones. Earl Gray tea seems so unusual. We can hear the birds calls coming from the high pine trees. This place is called “Japan”. It is said that “the Chinese lived there earlier”.

Stas Golubev. He graduated from St. Petersburg Restoration College. He is a woodwork restorer, the architectural heritage restoration. He worked is St. Petersburg for a time. Then he decided to return home. And he has no regrets. He says that he wouldn't exchange this forest with all the mosquitoes for anything.

He started fencing when he was seventeen. It was the first time he used a weapon. He is engaged in reconstruction now. It is a restoration science corresponding to archaeological digs. The replicas of tools, weapons, clothes, armor and hairstyles are reconstructed. Some people just “swing sticks and swords”, others are engaged in a “practical reconstruction”. They reconstruct details and replicate costumes. And there is an “experimental archeology”. Ethnic articles, constructions are reconstructed. This is more global... Some people are interested in a society, some are interested in handicrafts and for some people it is a lifestyle.

There is a visual teaching method of History that you can touch. It is called Living History. It is a 15-minute walk through the forest to get to the basis of the future construction site for reenactors. We see a half dugout in front of us. It was a typical construction in nine or ten centuries. The stoked this way according to the laws of the ancestors, so to say.  We open the door and there is water inside, Stas explains that a drain well hasn't been made. The second construction is planned to be made. “Sukhara”, dead pine trees, have already been prepared. They have very dense and light timber that is similar to an oak timber structure... This is environment creation for further, more serious development.

The reconstruction is getting popular in Russia. Nine projects have been implemented within two years. It is good for physical development. Despite of the fact that there are a lot of weapons, there are no injuries. They are constantly trained to hit and to estimate hitting force. A combat rule is “there are few reenactors, don't reduce their number”.

Stas wants to finish what he has started most of all.

Zelenoborskiy

Children are our reserve: they should go in for sports from very childhood...

We're walking along a forest trail and feel wooden shavings under our feet. We're treading softly, springing as if it was a carpet. There are 400 dumping trucks of shavings here. We're climbing a mountain with an antenna. Due to this power mast “there is 200 meters more of ski run having light now” says Igor Ilyin. We remember him very often as he is the person who sets a good example for us.

There is a house, a school, a forest trail and a ski-roller asphalted track. They are not just next to each other but one after another. It is a village Zelenoborsky from the inside. There is a cafe on the left for all the passers-by and there is a HPP on the right. Just around the corner you can find this place that is full of life and it is Igor who warms it up.

He went skiing in his childhood. He had become the strongest young sportsman by the end of the school days. He took part in championships in Russia. He was one of the top 10 sportsmen and he also was the first. He entered the branch of Lesgaft Academy in Monchegorsk. In 1994 he won the 50 km race in the Russian Championship. He was included in the national team of Russia. In 2000 he won a friendship ski-run. All his results were counted in total for Monchegorsk, the Murmansk region. It is a city where he studied.

When he came back to Zelenoborsky, a ski school was in the process of closing. “We decided that we must open our own school”. It was not easy as Igor said. It was almost impossible. The school was founded in 2008. It is the only branch of the Olympic reserve school in the Murmansk region. They took on lease two lakes, began to strew the tracks with shavings, began to lay the light. They paved roads with asphalt for roller skating, organized Youth TGC-1 Cup competitions. The competitions are for children from 7 to 17. At first four cities took part in the competitions. Sixteen cities and about 300 participants have taken part in the competitions this year.

He doesn't say “I”, he says “We”. He is telling us with enthusiasm about his engagements and he is listening to us with interest. He proves that the position doesn't make the man, the man makes the position.

This is how you can do your business by ourself in a particular village! He has won and he has been the first. Even how he is overcoming difficulties and fighting for a place in the sun for his school. He is so into his business so we can say that he burns as the Olympic Torch.

Nikolay Mikhaylovich

The old are very wise, they joy in children...

Cuckoos are calling to each other without stopping in the forest. You're listening without counting. There are a lot of them... And you understand that you will live not just for a long time but forever...

We are turning circle-wise. There is a simple wooden house with two windows facing us. Grandpa Kolya is sitting on the right and waving at us.

I felt like calling my grandmother and mother. You need to be close to your family in case something happens...

Grandpa is waving his hand at us... he is getting smaller and smaller disappearing around the corner. We keep on moving and he stays there. It all began here...

When Nikolay was young, he took part in the building of Kumskaya hydroelectric power plant. He saw everything that was happening. It was a glade instead of his house. Now his house is surrounded by the forest. The trees are getting closer and closer invading the territory. He talks to birches and asks them not to block the glade near the river. It is very close. You need to walk a little bit stepping over stones. Trees don't care: they grow here and there...

There are boats by the side of the river. A huge ant is crawling along a rope. Grandpa Kolya is complaining that they have eaten the entire lower log on the inside. Neither kerosene nor a bug killer spray kills them. He says that bears come to his glade to trample the grass. They are good, they are not naughty.

It's a pure harmony to live in a house. Nature is close, water and dandelions glow in the sun...

Now grandpa is looking attentively at the nature around him. He remembers the animals and the birds that he had earlier. He remembers his cat that slept on the back of the dog, the hens grazing behind the house next to the rock. The forest is here now. He remembers his rooster climbing up on the roof, all the living creatures and their harmony... And he remembers that humans destroy nature. One swan is flying now though there were two of them yesterday... The ducks in safety with Nikolay Mikhaylovich. Their flock is nesting near the boats.

There are funny names on boards: KRAB, YO-MOYO II. One boat is wooden and very old but grandpa bails out a boat, takes care of it. He says that this one has already been lying inverted under this fir tree for two years. Its owned passed away... He sighs and says that is his turn soon. He is drying his eyes with his fingers, recalling that his son was ill and his pain hurt his wife. At first his son passed away and then his wife. And then he says quietly that his second wife is in hospital now. They met each other five years ago when he was seventy-five. Now he says that nobody needs him...

His patched-up sleeves, his darned collar, and his faded cap beautify him. It is his story and his life... There is a sign of the corner of the house “It is dangerous for life, think!”. Nikolay Mikhaylovich lives in a flat in winter. Sometimes somebody breaks into his house and his barn and “behaves naughtily” as he calls it. There is a proper warning sign, you must think.

We were driving along a sandy road with shadow spots on it. We were maneuvering around the stones lying here and there on the road. We were driving and thinking... We didn't waste our time in spite of hundred kilometers of turnings, the ups and the downs on the road. When we were there, they told us that it was Karelia... This is our journey around the Murmansk region...

Niva Cascade

Rainbow drops in impetuous water splashes...

Earlier a hydroelectric power plant was just an interesting building for us which we fixed our eyes on while we were passing by... Now we have seen how it works...

Our first meeting was in a TGC-1 office in Kandalaksha. Andrey Yurievich Zharnikov, the director of the Niva HPPs cascade, met us. He is a power engineering specialist from generation to generation. His father also worked in a hydroelectric power plant. Family continuity in power engineering is rather common. There are even third-generation dynasty workers.

Own pictures of each power plant decorate the office. Each power plant is like a child for him. He remembers all historical periods, events and people. There is a huge sheet of paper with a small chart with underlined lines and arrows. It looks like a working plan. It's not easy to manage such a big mechanism...

The very first HPP was built on the Niva river on the Kola Peninsula in 1934. The whole chain was named after this HPP. The Niva river is picturesque and rises in Imandra Lake and ends in Kandalaksha Bay. Earlier there was another HPP on the Kola Peninsula as it turned out. It was wooden and built in 19th century in a village Kolvitsa not far from Kandalaksha. Only the basis of it remains now. Now days HPPs aren't wooden but there is one feature in their design. The first power plants can be defined by beautiful decorations but the subsequent power plants have simple decorations because irrational expenditures were stopped in the Soviet era...

The first HPP that we visited was in Zelenoborsky. We met Vladislav Alexandrovich Saranskiy, the director of the Knyazhegubskaya HPP. At the beginning of his career he worked here as a foreman. While showing us the surroundings of the HPP, he is telling us about his workers and says that this job requires devotion and punctuality. Electric power supply mustn't be stopped. The example of such a worker is Evgeny. He is a hydro turbine equipment maintenance technician. He had studied, worked and lived in St. Petersburg for 10 years. And then he decided to go back to Zelenoborsky and work in a power plant. He says that he is needed where he was born.

Vladislav Alexandrovich goes to work by bicycle and he sets a good example for other people and his workers. There is a parking lot for bicycles next to the entrance of the building. The life of each worker is closely connected to other people in a power plant.

They are like a big family and they solve their problems all together. For example, taking care of children, meeting relatives. They solve any problems all together.

You won't get to Zarechensk whenever you want. There is an Iovskaya HPP. Andrey Sergeevich Vidyakin, the director of the power plant, is not the only one power engineering specialist in his family. His cousin set a good example for him. Besides managing workflow he takes an active part on the development of the school in Zarechensk.

We couldn't refuse the offer to visit a spillway... 150 cubic meters of water per second. The water flow is of tremendous force. It's not a maximum. It is impressive and even a little bit scary...

While we were walking around the power plant, we met Ivan Balkin. He has already heard about our journey and saw our car earlier. Ivan is from Monchegorsk. He had been working in Borisoglebsk for five years. Now he works in Kandalaksha and makes a business trip to Zarechensk to supervise the modernization of the power plant. “Big cities tire and don't make you come back, I like the provinces more, time will show what happens”.

We were told in Zarechensk that there was one more HPP in fifty kilometers down the road. Grandpa lives near it. he took part in the building of it. We didn't know his name, if he was there of where to find him, but we made this spontaneous decision to go there. It was a fifty kilometers gravel-sand road where you could hold WRC rally stage. We were at the dam of the Kumskaya HPP. Though it belonged to he Niva HPPs cascade we were in Karelia as it turned out. It was Karelia in five kilometers after Zarechensk. We were rewarded for this difficult trip — we had a nice conversation with an interesting person.

The final stage was a village called Nivskiy. There was the oldest HPP. The power plant looks like a big ship inside. It is surrounded by water. There are buttons, levers and turbines. There are old wooden hand rails on the stairs and chandeliers on the ceiling. There is a portrait of Kirov on the wall. Yuriy Dmitrievich Tsepelev is still working in this power plant. He has worked there for more than fifty years. He told us a little about himself. The life of the power engineering specialist is a science. The knowledge for him is vital. Now he is training new workers, he wants to share his working experience.

We have visited several HPPs of the Niva Cascade within three days. Both traveling and communication took a lot of time. We have driven about five hundred kilometers, but it was worth it...

Kovdor

Children make us stop for a while, look at the world closely...

We are having a bird's-eye view of the city. On the left the pipes are blowing out clouds. There are open-cut mine embankments on the horizon. Our coffee is as black as wet asphalt. It isn't picturesque here. Rather graphically. There are lines of houses, roads, pipes and lines of electricity cables lines crossing the sky. Long shadows of pedestrians look like silhouettes that are doubled up and cut with scissors.

An art school smells repairs. There are freshly painted easels in the cloakroom. Ekaterina Novikova and her daughter Masha welcome us. Masha is drawing with fiber pens. Ekaterina feels shy though she was recommended us as “a genius of the place”. She was offered a job in The State Russian Museum, in Petrozavodsk and in Murmansk, but she chose her own city, Kovdor. She was born and grew up there. She says that she loves the North and nature... Once she even wanted to become an ecologist-biologist.

She studied in this school where we are now. She didn't plan to get into art. She went to study at Roerich Art School “for company”. She got to the restoration department by chance, she didn't even realize what this profession was like. After that she entered the Academy of Arts to study by correspondence to obtain higher education. She remembers professors with thanks. She is telling us that she always loves “ancient things”: the Indians, primitive people, the Saami. During her studies, she wrote a diploma in petroglyphs in Norway, Karelia and on the Kola Peninsula.

We are walking around the city, our leader is red-haired Masha. She stops to tear off a sticky birch leave and carries it to her mother. Children make us stop for a while, look at the world closely paying attention to details. Their drawings are ingenuous, bright and decorative as petroglyphs. They leave their bright palm prints not only on sheets of paper but on the walls.

It's been 9 years in an art school. Ekaterina is a part of a young creative team. She is more interested in work with children. She is glad to communicate with them. She has never regretted being here. You can find pros and cons everywhere. There are some troubles in a big city, but regular life is always the same... It is convenient to bring up a child in a small city. Everything is near. You can visit any cities to gain impressions and to communicate during your vacation. Everyone is a hero of his place. A hero is not a high-sounding word of regalia... Modesty and kindness can be a discovery. It is important to find and distinguish it.

Kolvitsa

We're sitting in a summer house. and making conversation...

On the way to Umba we turned into Kolvitsa. There is a house among tall thin pine trees. It belongs to an artist and a sculptor Valentin Myzdrikov. In the natural ease of the artistic space bushed of cranberries, blueberries and leaves of wild strawberries are growing, current berries are growing stronger and there are sweet last year's berries that we've tasted with tea. Raspberry bushes are neatly tied up to stakes. Alpine hills surround this place where every stone is special. There are following buildings: a house, a bath-house, an octahedral summerhouse with a fireplace in the center. Pieces of knotty pine logs spring out of the fireplace, sometimes they reach the benches where we are sitting. Art is everywhere: a mosaic is on the top of the table, at the entrance there are half-finished work pieces made from whimsical tree outgrowths. There is one yard for two, a common territory with his friend ecologist. There is no fence between them. There are some snags in the yard that seem to come alive. Valentin treated us as members of his family and asked us to stay at his place

We're sitting in a particular place, in a summerhouse and we are making conversation... It is about artists, art, life and meetings. We remember stories and people. He is working in Zelenoborsky right now. He lives in Kandalaksha. He has a summer house here. He says the thing is in contrast, we need it in pictures and in our life. There is wood texture and a whimsical wart. Where are also dry logs with traces left by bugs, rough work pieces and smooth waxed figures that we received as a present.

There a lot of places sleeping the house. Friends and guest often come here. There are some unfinished and not yet decorated works next to the wall. There is a bergenia on the painter's case. Inside everything is hand made. We go upstairs and see different works and prepared canvas that are from the floor up the ceiling. We are going outside to make sketches tomorrow. There are plasticine sculptural objects on the windows-sill. There are jars and vases with flowers on each window. There are branched horns in the corner. It is a present.

There is one image, a legend: a boat jointed with images of a man and a woman. You can see this idea in pictures, sketches and plasticine. You are able to see the same boat in the forest track behind the gates in the direction of a waterfall.

In the morning you can see sunshine on wet leaves in the yard. This night we spent in the artist's house, talking until late at night... You can hear the sound of the waterfall when you're in the yard. After breakfast we went toward the sound of falling water. We are walking along a path together with red Utah resembling a fox. The dog has found a squirrel on the tree and has been barking for a long time. We are walking along narrow paths among pine trees covered with moss. The basis of the old wooden HPP is to the left of the waterfall. We're moving along a sandy cliff. There is a slope further. At the edge the pine trees have already leaned. Their roots look like tentacles. There is a huge boulder above the cliff. It will fall down in few years. Sand is a bad basis even for such a big stone.

After a walk with Valentin went to paint plain-air. He found a good place for painting. A house with a ramshackle long chimney made for bricks is to the right. The Kolvitsa river is in the center. A mountain that looks like a hedgehog is in the distance. We're talking about perspective, space and art movements. We are passing by houses. In one house people treat us to a smoked perch. In another house people just greet us and then stories... Each house has its owner. A photographer comes here, a poet comes there. People from St. Petersburg live here. And “your people from Murmansk” stay here.

An idea came to Valentin's mind. And it came true here on the banks of the Kolvitsa river. A stone is a story. It helps people to find out what place it is.

The Tersky Coast

A man in the seas is a man in the front of God...

The Folk Fest in Umba takes place once in three years and lasts for three days. The first on ewe spent in Kolvitsa, then moved to the Umba River bank just in time for round dances and a fair, and later in the evening we communicated with the Fest participants on the White Sea shore not far from the Black River. Three years ago during the previous Fest we were deeply impressed by the view of traditional clothes against the primeval nature — sky, sand seashore, stones, forest paths — all of it creates harmony.

We visited a place called Tonya Tetrina — it is a piscatory settlement, and earlier there had been plenty of them on the Tersky Coast, but now it is a history. We went to Olenitsa in hopes to visit the local farrier, but he was not home. Then we moved to the shore and were attacked by the birds protecting their nests. On the ebb we found some ikaites — the so-called “horned stones”, then saw a very unusual bird with a long orange beak, and moved forward. It was extremely rainy and windy in Kashkarantsy. We sat in our car, drank warm tea and watched a lighthouse.

The road painted our car brick-red so thick it was even possible to finger-paint on it.

Fir-trees take the form of the Uspenskaya Church hipped roofs. The river divides green banks, and the sun highlights islands through clouds. We cross the river to the shore of high grass and peonies in blossom.

A woman approached us. She had painted a house in light blur, and her clothes were than covered with paint drops. Page color was a “forget-me-not” kind of blue, and reminder of flowers that were everywhere there. The woman was the local School Headmaster, and she told us different stories about past and present times of her home village. She looks in the future with hope. The new school was built not so long ago, and now Varzuga is a good place to live, especially in comparison with Chavanga and Chapoma where they fly by helicopters to read poetry and give concerts.

There we visited the place people come to this settlement for — the renovated wooden Uspenskaya Church. This church is a very special place, and we had to do our best to fit it. Father Afanasiy showed us the church's sacred objects, and then we talked to the Senior priest Varlaam about the freedom of faith, relations between husband and wife, education of children, and the main thing — finding the life goal. As it says, “Look for the Kingdom of Heaven, the rest goes with it”. The rest is a means towards the goal, but cannot be a target itself. The priests talked little about themselves always changing subject to the church and stressing that they are people of this church and everything happening there had a meaning only there.

Bishop Mitrofan, who had served as a Senior Priest of the Uspenskaya Church in Varzuga for the last 15 years, told us about his life. He was designated for the North: first served in the North Navy, then continued his service in a different way — he took the vow of monkhood — obedience, chastity, non-possession. What made him make that choice — the mystery of God's chosenness. Now, after years of his service, once almost-ruined church is restored.

Tests and sorrow make people think and seek. For everyone who comes to faith a new life begins. There is no place for the past, no sin is possible. If a child is raised in a Christian family, it is grace, harmony, basis of vital force and happiness. For children like that faith is as natural as breath.

The bishop admits that this place is hard to live in. There is a lot of grace and reverse, through the clashes with pagan traditions. Pomors are special people, they have a feeling of the “small motherland” — they lived here, they live here, and the others are just guests and arrivals. They have fundamental principles: they are bread in readiness to die, and the sea is the meaning of Pomor life. Fishing is tough, when you put to sea you bid farewell to the world. Deep understanding of life, readiness to go for good make gluts unimportant. Before going to the sea a Pomor puts a white shirt under a transom board. Pomors talk directly to God, and it is proved by various sayings like “A man in the seas is a man in the front of God”, or “The one who never put to sea never prayed to God”. Closeness to God creates the Pomors' faith — true Old Belief and tumid pride. They talk to God directly — without priests and churches. Pomors are always in the sea, they have no time for congregations. They keep their emotions deep down showing nothing on their faces.

We continue our journey with blessing.

Tonya Tetrina

We have a strong feeling that we will come back here again...

When we traveled along the road by the Tersky Coast a car stopped in front of ours, and someone asked us whether it was Tonya Tetrina we were going to. It was our first meeting with Alexander Borisovich Komarov. Later he would tell us that he never stopped to talk to strangers, but then his inner voice whispered to stop. We followed the red pickup truck along the shore passing by tiny brooks, pine-trees and shining sunlit White Sea.

We saw several grey-tree-color buildings, boats, spread out nets... My friends used to tell me about this scenery, and how I could see it all myself. I could touch it all, breath in the smell of algae and salt water.

We move along the coast, small shells look like sunflower seeds. Two birds fly above us — one right over the other — we have seen something like this lately on sculpture made by Valentine from Kolvitsa. Just a few minutes ago we had to step over puddles setting our feed on multi-colored stones, but now the water went back. On the shore we saw three eggs that looked like those stones, and when we were coming back we failed to find the eggs again — that is the way they veil themselves.

We filled our cups from a copper sea kettle and talked enjoying blinks on the water. This place is full of history, each thing tells stories about life... people have to come here to stay and try to feel it. Here we finally got the difference between a wash-basin and an ewer. Everything is real here — it is not even an open-air museum — it is life. There is the sea breathing with its ebbs and flows, White-sea fish, sailing, salt-boiling in March and laminaria that can be put into both a salad and an after-sauna bath. One can chop wood or collect an armful of white twigs by the shore and put them right to the fire that takes your breath away...

One can swing between the sky and the sea. Nets flutter in the wind nearby. All furniture in the house is made of oddly twisted twigs, walls are filled with 18th century bricks. The night is as bright as the day, and the history is all over the place guarding our dreams.

Alexander is a true master — he knows what he wants and he can do it. His work gives him satisfaction.

Early in the morning the sea bubbles, and Alexander Borisovich's grandson shows us pictures of a seal that climbed on a stone right next to their house this morning. We have a strong feeling that we will come back here again... To listen to the gramophone and the sea... All songs are about love...

Polyarnye Zori

Dancing is more than hobby, but still means less than life itself...

Pigeons in the central square here are just like those in San Marco, Venice. A nice old man sells spring onions that are carefully put on a newspaper. Music coming from the Cultural Centre creates the holiday mood, especially for 17-year-old graduates celebrating their school-leaving.

Have you ever met a man who gave a name to a town? We have: Alexander Zaitsev says he won in the newspaper competitions by suggesting the best name for the town. This town does not have only a beautiful name — its face is beautiful too. This small town surprised us. It is comfortable to live in, cozy, the cleanest and the best groomed in the Murmansk region. It is filled with modern sports grounds, a stadium, a colorful kindergarten, beautiful alleys where people practice Nordic walking. The Red Book flowers are not rare on the lawns here, just like the general clearness of the town. Just like inside an atom, everything centers on the Power Station here. We went to the Information Centre of the Kola Nuclear Power Plant where Tatiana told us about history of the region, development of fossil fuel resources, and explained the necessity of a nuclear power station to provide energy for all mining and refinery industries of the region.

Pillars of vapors rise from the surface of Lake Imandra. It is a chilly and a rainy day today — the best one to go on a tour around the trout farm not far from the Station. Strong wind blows a helpless umbrella out of my hands and raincoats snap like flags. It is Europe-like beautiful inside — alpine gardens, perfect lawns, sport facilities, well-maintained houses for workers and guests. Nurse-ponds are full of fish — from fry covered by nets to protect them from birds to giant fish two arms lengthwise. We throw fodder, and dozens of nimble middle-sized trouts come for it instantly. Sturgeons that look so much like black arrows dash about smelling the water surface with their barbels just like cat-fish in aquarium.

Polyarnye Zori is one of those towns that are so hard to leave. People from other regions come here, and we will certainly visit this hospitable town again.

As it often happens during our journey, a number of roads brought us to one man, or more specifically, to the “It's Detox” team.

Vasya and Igor started dancing together 10 years ago, later other guys joined them, and now there are five members in their team. They follow their dreams overcoming various difficulties, they succeed but never stop as they strive for more — for displaying their talents, multiply it and share with the others. Sometimes wisdom does not depend on age — it feels like The Three Wise Men sit in front of us, the men who know riddles of the universes and see the meaning of connection between generations.

When they opened their school, they had two dreams: to get people start loving each other and to help them find themselves. Thanks to break and hip-hop the preach love adding that dancing is just a means. They have always supported those who never stayed for long and left to find themselves. Children thank the guys for teaching how to dance and for helping them develop their talents.

Dancing is more than hobby, but still means less than itself. Lessons bring emancipation and self-actualization, self-expression through dancing... The guys used to win in different competitions, but now they work for their students who are now good enough to participate in serious contests.

The guys work for free getting others to help them — find buses for trips or concert costumes. Vasya gives an example of a chain: you get a talent and give two, you get two — give four, and so on.

They faced difficulties, but they have always got a feeling that someone helping them. They say they believe in God and see His assistance.

“At first we had only one place to dance in, but now we are well-known around the region and we have three halls where we can work full-time”. The town administration and the mayor also help. It is important to see the prospects rather than conflicts between generations.

“We want all our days to be special and extraordinary”. The main thing is to find yourself as one can work and live anywhere. Now they live for a moment unaware of what is gonna happen tomorrow. Vasya says that he is now at the crossroads, on the verge of something bigger...

“We want to mean more than a child hobby — we want to live for people. Our school has been a very important stage that taught us how to see children, but now we want to move on. We have not chosen direction yet, but there is a strong feeling that it will be found soon”.

People around say that we have to find a proper occupation. Thoughts like that crossed our minds, but they mean we have to give up our dreams, and we are ready to fight for it. This is a battle inside each and every person, and everybody chooses his way himself. Successful people write books that become bestsellers. Vasya quotes one of them, “Life is a period between your comfort zone and your dream”. He says that he realized his dream three years ago, and adds, “If your dream feels unreal to you — it is a real dream indeed”. And he asked us, “Do you have a dream?”

Pirenga

This place lets the flights of the creativity in ...

One never wants to leave a cozy place. Here you can go on painting again and again... There are boats against “Shanghai” that is a number of fisherman's houses behind the fence. These houses look as if they were made of various things brought by the sea — rusty iron, wooden boards in peeling paint which color is far too hard to guess...

Pine trees against the sunset. The ring of the inner lake. An arbor with blown away staircase. Pirenga coast. Stones and snags in the foreground, and the background changes colors inspiration from. On can stroll along the coast picking flat stones up and throwing them to the lake to leave ripples in the water. Or one can go further and find gray snags on the beach that remind of a broken boomerang, flamingo or Moses' Rod.

Impressions cannot always be pictured — they stay within us like our little secrets under a piece of glass, and if we ever start recollecting these memories, we will have to simply brush grains of sand off this grass to see ourselves inside — small people strolling around the coast.

Only a few people know about a tourist center on Lake Pirenga because it was created for he “Norilsk Nickel” workers, but now the center is privately owned and open for everyone. People from all parts of Russia — from Murmansk to Kamchatka — come here. Downhill skiing champions choose this place as a ski lodge during competitions held on the Alpine skiing complex slope nearby. Some ten people take care of this place, and many of them not only work here, bu live in this small town with it's own infrastructure. treatment facilities, sewerage system, substation and four big cottages. We got acquainted with an old man who had been living here since 1988. He was engaged in building this center when he worked for the “Kola GMK”, then he was the director of this tourist center. He knows everything about it, and tells us about young larches and cedars here. Nikolay Petrovich says that there will be nuts in the hear future.

We walk around this center together with it's young director — the local Marquis of Carabas, who “inherited” these hectares. Alexey took the responsibility to trigger those mechanisms that were rusty once. “We have a lot of problems, but all of them move us forward!” — this is his approach, and it makes us believe that in some years the place will change. Impossible is nothing — even a golf course here. Pure air by this lake, water from the well — there is everything for self-realization in the form of opening a restaurant (a long-lasting dream of Alexey): he once thought to stay with family in Spain and start his business there, but spent in that country three months. came back to collect all documents and decided to stay in Russia. They moved here to Pirenga, and Alexey does like this place. He tells us about fishing: one can catch here bull trout, grayling, trout, lake herring, perch, pike. We were lucky to see a pike (just like that one from the fairytale) basking on the coast. Wildlife is fascinating: hares and foxes run here in winter, a bear family was seen outside the territory. His work means communication with tourists. He is always occupied enough here!

Chef Sergey enjoys everything about kitchen. He has all his conditions fulfilled here, any cook will envy him! He comes from Saint-Petersburg, worked in Kandalaksha, and he had no idea where Pirenga was until he was invited here. He fell in love with nature and he is delighted with his work. Sergey proudly tells us that he once slept for 3 hours only to make food for 60 sportsmen. He has a dream-kitchen: a big stove with stone panels that keep warm within for long, a large table in the centre, an exhaust that still waits in the wings, and devices for cutting and whipping by the window. The restaurant is a heart of Pirenga. We saw it being built... The ceiling is partly ready, lamps are hung up, the two-layer floor is half-laid with parquet boards, walls are by a third covered with ornamental bricks; there are calculations in pencil written over plaster, and everything works notwithstanding all of it. There are no doors or other obstacles here, and we freely enter the holy of holies — the kitchen — where carrot is being cut with a large knife, a frying pan is being warmed up by the stove ready to cook fish, plates are decorated with sauces ready to be filled with fried pieces topped by cucumbers and garlic powdered with paprika. Bon Appétit!

Apatity

Even soil starts to sing from such an enlightenment...

Each brick should have its place, our roots is our foundation.

Porcelain clay. Glaze. Apatity. The “White Sea” series manufactures seem real; true ceramics could have looked that way if it had ever existed on our peninsula, but it happened so that there is no pottery in the North. There are no materials and forms that fit. Only bricks can be made from the northern loam..

Potter's wheel moves like a disk. The form is being made in the hand of a craftsman in the very centre, purposeful motion makes rims even, a sponge takes excess moisture away; a simple wooden stick removes everything unnecessary. The wheel's movement slows down, and the finished form has to be carefully cut with a firm touch of a string.

A cast-iron pot form can easily be made with one hand; a barrel form is more difficult to be made. All instruments are simple and even primitive: a string, wooden sticks, patterns, a sponge and a water bucket — potter's hands should always be clean. An apron the color of clay is sewed by her own design. The material is called affectionately as “glinochka”.

Her own form occurred to Masha one year ago. Potters take traditional forms and remake them passing through themselves. Masha used to do pottery in the mornings only when senses are clear. This work requires the master to be a bit “in itself”.

Potter's skills mean making ten similar products, at the same time Vologda craftsmen who shared their experience with Masha work by eye. First she measured clay on scales, but now she heads for the weight. Accurate eye is being trained at children classes as well.

Pottery does not need much power — it is all about techniques and understanding of your body. Products are balanced, pleasant to be kept in hands — fingers find stucco moldings themselves. Masha says that instead of ergonomics, she likes the concept of “proportionality”.

Among the plethora of things we directed our attention to an ocarina. It is a penny whistle, a “singing clay” — Masha first saw it on Solovki islands at a Cherepovetsk craftsman. There are still some art colleges where people are being taught to play these instruments. Some teachers not only teach how to play, but make these instruments as well.

Her trip to Vologda has a great meaning. She had always worried that she does something not in the way Russians do, but it turned out that she makes it as Vologda people do...

Thanks to pottery Masha Golubtsova experienced the power of folk art and understood herself.

Kirovsk

Sun blinks glance off the yellow polish...

The Khibini Mountains in the snow, clouds lie on their tops. Wheels on concrete meeting-points of airfield sound like a metronome, and it feels as if a herd of 400 horses rush towards us before we see a bright-colored car swiftly rolling around a bend in the line. Sun blinks glance off the yellow polish. Racers seem crazy in the race, but they are calm and restrained in life — they do not risk if they are not sure. Speed is not just a form of relaxation, but a recharge for their inner energy as well.

An old airfield is just another abandoned town territory for some people, but it is a place to fulfill his dream at for Oleg Nasonov.

“Everybody watched films about sports cars, dream about them, tried to organize something. We wanted it to be like in “The Fast and The Furious” — and to have excitement, adrenalin, speed. Where were 10 cars at our first competition, 20 — at the second, 40 — at the third, and 50 participants during our latest race. After that we became popular in the region, and officials started to disperse us. More cars mean more problems”. After a while they stopped to disperse us and even began to support — now officials provide us with fire-engine and an ambulance.

Everything is based on their initiatives, they build and repair cars themselves. There are various people in their team — from organizers and assistants to DJs and electricians... “We have a beautiful runway. Concrete gets dry really fast, hitch is fast, power is good — we have an ideal straight line”.

In the winter we prepared a 3-km circuit thanks to people from all around the region: guys came here on old cars that got frozen, they got stuck half-way, but urged to participate. Many people here want to make races better and more interesting. Not so long ago they bought a telemetry to have a correct time of races.

Motor racing is an expensive thing. There are few of those infatuated with it. They drive rarely, cars are often disassembled in garages. There are races in summer and restorations in winter — there is no perfection, only perpetual process... For Oleg riding a nice yellow car with white rims is not enough — he wants to compete; you either win or lose, that is what keeps them moving forward improving their skills and cars...“I lost the racing the previous year as I do not have much experience. It is hard to train — you ride once or twice, and something happens to the engine that means you have to start reparations again... It is better to wait till the racing and know that your engine breaks down for a reason”. This car is not to be used in town — it jingles, trembles, twitches and needs a lot of petrol. It is made for speeding on a straight line...

Oleg frankly answered our question, “I give in every year”. And he always thinks that is is for the last time... There are complications both during organization and with the car... Last year it was extremely hot during the race, and 400-horsepower engines overheated from the temperature and burden. Oleg broke his engine in the last race and had to repair it in the winter. He did the running in just before the racing.

It is true that sometimes people cannot explain or excuse their actions getting pleasure in the process itself. People like that change the world around them thanks to this passion.

Musta-Tunturi

Chapel bells echoes into the history of this place...

On our way to the Rybachy Peninsula we saw various means of transport like trucks, crossovers, buggies, quad bikes and motor cycles. People from all over Russia come here constantly in pursuit of sceneries, fishery, adventures, the sea, the North and history.

The Musta-Tunturi mountain range is translated from Saami as “the black mountain”. Now it is an open-air museum, people from all nooks and crannies of the world come here, the guest-book is full of responses written by tourists punch-drunk with what they saw here. It feels as if the war ended only yesterday... and this place exactly was its most northern part.

Our guide and friend Anatoly Yurko has been here several times, and he often told us about the Rybachy and the Sredny Peninsula. This is a place he always wants to come back to. We are here just because of people like him. The sea in the distance looks turquoise. One can lie on soft land covered with cowberry and daze into the sky. This place is not just about beauty — it is about our history.

People come here all the time. There is one aim that unites them — to help the museum. Yuriy Alexandrovich welcomes everybody and tells them about this place's history in detail. There are few buildings here — a small museum, trailers and a chapel. The bell has been set not so long ago, now it rings constantly in the name of the fallen and the alive, for the sake of Russia.

When you come here, first you have to climb a 93-meter-high mountain rage. Different questions and thoughts appear when one is there on top... There comes an understanding of how hard it was to win this piece of land over for those who stayed there forever. Each and every meter here was exposed to machine-gun, mortar and sniper fire. Disrupt metal pieces, shot-perforated iron and case remaining lie on this land as a memento for us. Tough fights were held here to provide us with an opportunity to climb here enjoying the scenery and paying attention to the cloudberry, blueberry and crowberry in bloom. It is difficult for plants to put down roots here — there are only dwarf birches on stones that look like grass... Soldiers has been lying here as well untouched for many years... “Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten”.

Yuriy Alexandrovich says as a geologist whom he had been for 40 years: “Each piece of land here has been searched, there are no mines here anymore, children may walk here freely”. This land is meant to carry memories for generations to come.

We reach the small building of the museum. There are exhibits at the entrance — rusty guns, shields from fights, mortars, cannons, howitzers... There is a live history lesson inside — with photos, weapons and everyday trivia. The list of 3500 warriors killed on the Rybachy and the Sredny is hung up on the wall. Yuriy Alexandrovich draws our attention to a neatly carved wooden sculpture of a boy made by a German soldier... “They should have better pursued art rather than fight...”. This is the place where Constantine Simonov first read “Wait for me” to the gunners and wrote a poem. A Red Navy man Bukin came with the words “Farewell to the rocky mountains...”, then Zharkovskiy wrote music for them. On photos sailors in their caps stay without helmets, young submariners play with a dog and paint stars on boats, soldiers write letters, reindeers carry missiles... They drew the enemy's fire and died... But killing is not the thing we need a civilization for...

“I enjoy living here, I got used to it after all these years... it is much better than in a town”. He shares his secret of keeping good spirits: one have to keep moving all the time. Yuriy Alexandrovich traveled around the world: he visited Acapulco and Teotiuacan in Mexico, Lima and Machu Picchu in Peru, Ceylon in India, he s much interested in ancient civilizations. But even in those heavenly places he always dreamt of these very hills.

“What you get from people depends on who do you meet”. He adds that people in the North live in communism but do not notice that. Everything they do they do together because live unites them. He told us about respect, about a woman's role in the North, about love to a human being, to the Motherland, to mother and to children. Love is a driving force.

Teriberka

They are the life of this place — from the very beginning of it...

Women in remote settlements may look so beautiful and well-groomed. They have enough time to do their hair and nails, to dress well, to get small dogs, to make their nice houses and flats engaging... but external manifestation is not the point. It is in their inner lives and their fulfillment. Sometimes you see what is really important only when you cannot get all you want. They deal with what they have, and surpluses are a luxury. It can be compared to a discreet palette of ancient painters who could not afford expensive bright colors. In a discreet coloring like that one can see not only all the minute shades and nuances, but the deep meaning as well. That is why the Academy of Arts recommended northern plain airs to visit so as to start seeing, and to distinguish something that is hard to be seen.

For Sergey Malinin this car trip to Teriberka is the first one ever. Usually he goes there by bus after office hours on Friday. He remembers himself traveling since he was 6, when he went to the outskirts of Yekaterinburg by tram and then walked his way home guided by the TV tower. There was no fear then, and there is no fear now.

Now he mostly travels alone. “When you travel alone, it consumes you”. One needs to seize an opportunity, to feel the light, to get absorbed by the scenery and to get used to it. Early morning or still watches of the night, one picture is just a moment... a moment that is sometimes composed of hours, days and weeks of waiting...

All seas are different, The Barents Sea is a special one. Sergey tells enthusiastically about what he has seen — the steely mirror of the sea, silhouettes, contrasts and weather. “Teriberka is a place if solitude. Here you feel yourself differently”. Winds, stones, tundra... this style of communication with the nature is not for everybody as we all have our own comfort zones.

There was a borderland here earlier, but now the road is open, and the bus goes to Teriberka 4 times a week... But there was a time when there was no road, only a stream ship went to Teriberka, and people from Teriberka were called “Brits” in local newspapers.

8 kilometers away from the settlement we met Teriberka inhabitants who organized a small weekend picnic. There was one acquaintance of Sergey. Her name is Svetlana, she is a weather station worker. It is no wonder that Sergey has friends like that since the weather is so important for photographers and travelers. funny, interesting, smart, beautiful. They are never depressed and love the place they live in non-conditionally. Although not everybody was born here, all of them are heroes of this place. They treated us with their spongy Teriberka bread with red fish and amazing stories.

“When you are sad, better go to the sea shore and regain your powers”. It is easier to communicate more often in a small settlement like that as everything is so close. They recollect their memories about the kite-surfing school where they teach children and hold competitions.

A dream of living in a house by the sea is distant and frustrated for many people. But it is common place for people in Teriberka. They can go to the sea coast any time they want to breathe, watch, enjoy and worry about a seal on a stone when they see a killer whale's fin nearby...

Teriberka lives with hopes for the future. Having undergone everything throughout its 5-century history, it is ready for the future to come. Of course, this place lives due to the development of industry, but not only thanks to that — it lives because of its people who may look plain, but the thing is that they are the life of this place — from the very beginning of it.

Albert Belikov

I don't know what music feels about me, but i do love it...

He is a musician with a boundless and over-the-top passion to music and sincere love to life. He inspires people around him. It feels like everyone loves him. When we walk around the city, people constantly shake hands with him, sometimes he sees acquaintances even from far away... and they, of course, prove to be musicians, or people who are connected to the world of music this way or another...

A book about a little drummer boy read by his mother was his favorite in childhood. It all started at the “Rovesnik” club. Someone asked him, “Can you play? Do you want to?”, and he sat behind the drums, beat them with arms and legs, repeated and started to study. His first band was called “Romantiki”, they had to educate themselves, no one explained how to do it right — he just played every day, lent an attentive ear to the music, made every effort. The very first day in the army he was admitted to the orchestra. He never lost his wish for the music, and he continued to play after the army.

They went to Moscow with their “Postscriptum” band. They were lucky to see famous musicians' rehearsals there — it was their priceless experience... “A musician should not only read music, he has to play it”. He plays from 12 to 14 hours a day, as severe competition makes them work on themselves all the time. It is not only about perfection, but self-organization as well. A year later he got a phone call from Murmansk — he was invited to play in the “Melodrom” music bank. “I feel like home when I am on the stage, there is no nervousness — I simply enjoy the things I do and derive a special pleasure from the music”.

He cannot imagine himself engaged in anything but music. For many hours Alik tells us about music and life — music fulfills his life... Music and songs appear to him themselves — it is a gift he can change nothing in . He has started organizing a band recently, the band that will inspire others with its songs, that will talk about hope and will make people think. “I do not only want to play music — I want to deliver love and hope to people”. It is important for creative work to be saturated with meaning and interaction — when musicians play synchronously, you feel dense energy. Only professionals can do this to you. It is impossible to distinguish one sound from another, and it feels like everything is easy, just like in a fairytale when gusli plays and you fall to dancing... this can only happen when a master plays this gusli. “It is not enough for me, I want everything to be cool and to have meaning, I want to make people listen wondering why they do so”.

Words must have meaning, otherwise the world will collapse. We talked about the word “passion” — on the one hand it is keenness, on the other hand it is patience and suffer. When these two sides come together, something valuable emerges...

Vitaly Sinitsyn

Ideas appear to him as easily as his songs...

His surname is Sinitsyn (Titmouse), but he sings like a nightingale. He says that he has no idea of the notes — they are just small black commas to him... Music sounds in his soul and heart, only God knows what is inside his head.

We see his ideas that get patents every now and then and are brought to life. Now his disposable cups that already have tea bags inside are produced nowadays. Ideas like this appear to him as easily as his songs. “Well, what have you done again?”, one of his acquaintances always asks him when they meet.

He received five patents, and he will get another one next month. Its idea was developed in cooperation with his partner from Khabarovsk. A chain of interconnections, phone calls and meetings results in people you start to work with.

“I have a loads of ideas, so many that I even stopped writing them down as every idea has to be realized. A patent is not always an option, and many ideas are lost”.

He came to Murmansk from Rostov-on-Don to get “jeans, bubble gums and going abroad”. He sailed. After well-known events in the 1990s he went into commerce. He did everything — traded in the streets, sold honey, herring in barrels, bananas in trucks. He even served in the police, but after some time he went back to the commerce...

He had worked in the USA for two years, but after 9/11 he came back. He wanted to move to England then, even started collection money for his wife and himself... But after that he decided to scrutinize the way people live there: in this city he found people who worked there, and at a cup of coffee he understood that he will always remain alien there. To live there happily one needs much money and a high status. He had none, so Vitaly found a boat that was about to sail to the port of Grimsby, and got fixed up in a job there! He communicated with the locals, and made a conclusion that England is not an option for him.

He needs to be here in Murmansk, with his supportive and ready-to-give-any-piece-of-advice wife, and his son. Vitaly suggests he has got it covered because he thinks positively and does not fear to move on. “No matter how bad it feels, it will get better soon”.

The spirit of Murmansk is a special one. He likes this city. He fell in love with it at first sight, he was appealed bu the attitude of people towards each other, they are easy to communicate with. Friends, communication, things gained, ties... it is cold here, but he enjoys it. He loves jazz and blues. “I have been thinking about creating a band for a while. We even started once or twice, but only now I have professional musicians, a rehearsal hall, and instruments”.

“I wonder who ever came out with the word “stability”? It never happens, I suppose... the Universe keeps moving and enlarges”. Vitaly worked for various companies, but he is not cut out for such kind of occupation. A person like that cannot be warm in office, he needs to keep moving all the time. Now he has a number of businesses — commerce, translations, cartridge refill...

He takes risk sometimes, he is often lucky — but not always... Sometimes he has to start something he has no idea of (just like with herring and clerical aids). In 2007 he got acquainted with his former rival, they merged and work together ever since. That's the point — one may become a success even working with a former competitor.

Victor Filyk

A man is bigger than the place he lives in...

When you walk around the Polyarnye Zori street you cannot fail to notice a tent with a cross... It is bright and calm inside, but the main thing here is the place where the seeds of God's Word sown in the people's hearts, which, if accepted, will give harvest a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown...

There is a proverb about a good seed; it says that it all depends on the soil — if the soil is good, the seed will grow. If it is rocky, birds will eat it; if the seed puts down short roots, it will fade; but if the soil is nice, the seed will come up and have fruit. In the beginning of the 1990s Victor Filyk seeded his word, bred it, and it sprouted and started to ear...

Victor spent his childhood in Ukraine (lived there until he was 17). He knew almost nothing about Murmansk — the Kola Peninsula seemed as distant as Africa, China or Australia. The only thing he remembered about it was that the Khibini mountains were situated there, as it was a frequent question from the Geography professor at school.

In the beginning of 1990s, when the old ideology had collapsed they started to organize spiritual concerts with songs and speaking about God. This concerts were a big success. They emerged on a place of a “spiritual desert” with a communism heaven “not red, but vinous”.

A church was established — it was a community of Christians of Evangelical Faith. They bootstrapped it and spread over the region little by little. There were loads of people with plethora of questions and they tried to find answers. People came to the ministry, and three months later was the first baptism — were is not just religious people, but publicly profess their faith. Victor was 25 then. He planned to devote ministry in Murmansk for 4 months, and then stayed for a year... He had neither citizenship, nor understanding of what was happening to the country and what will happen next. The number of parishioners grew. Victor and his wife continued their work over the years... When they were expecting their first child, they decided to become Russian citizens and stay in Murmansk as long as it would be needed. They started to equip their home and raise their children.

Someone once said: “If you live 10 years in the North, you are no longer a stranger here”. Victor Filyk is not a stranger to Murmansk at all — he came here 24 years ago, and never lived anywhere longer than here. He got used to the North and he liked its people right away: the weather conditions make people compassionate to each other, make them help and aid each other as well. People here worship friendship and good relations.

Northern people have a missionary spirit — they come and go, they are not so attached to one place. They move all the time, share what they have and are always on their inner mission.

The level of education in the North is higher than everywhere else and the situation with the church is the same. Intellectual seed in Christianity is very important. Bible's Christianity is reasonable: the only thing one has to do is to understand its logic. The church tries to organize the Bible knowledge, so that parishioners could follow the Bible principles and ideas.

The friendship between different churches in the Barents region started long ago... They have just come back from Finland, where they have the same problem — their youngsters leave hometowns to get proper education and not everybody comes back. This affects the life of the church as well. Northern churches have a significant interest in cooperation: they have various joint events, meetings, conferences, concerts. A good example of it is the international child choir “Hooray” (Jippi in Finnish). Church carries the message of reconciliation — in different cultures and languages, people can be together. All of this unites not only the church, but also the people.

Each person has vocation in which he has to follow the Lord. “A man is more than the territory where he lives, no matter how beautiful nature was not — it is only environment created by God... Man incomparably more than that”. God can move the person to one or another place, but it is important to know that if he put you in a place where you are, you've got to do the best to fulfill your mission, be a blessing to the place where you are.

Nelly Makeeva

There is a future life in a those branch curves...

Screams of seagulls that created a colony on a roof nearby are a better wake-up call than any rooster. In the morning we moved to Nikel and this is our final trip around the Murmansk region. Dark asphalt contrasts with fresh stripes, pointers and dash lines. The road goes up and down, swings around hills and lakes. Traffic signs replicate these swings, and look like candy lollipops that stay along the road.

Rain passed and painted asphalt by reflected color of the sky. Feeling the coolness and freshness. The rain itself, we have not caught, it was only a small footprint... The road to Nikel is the sunniest and the hottest during our trip.

We will not dissemble, with Nelly Makeeva, we talked before that day at the festival in Umba. We had been talking for 4 hours... and after, Nelly refuses to eat, saying that she was filled with fellowship with us. We learned the story of her life, even before birth, which in itself is incredible: in a Siberian exile, without doctors when Dad was 52 and my mother 42, and if not for the old Lithuanian who knows...

Who knows the way our life creates all the events and meetings, such an amazing and ambiguous, where so many questions...

I remember the first time I saw Nelly's works on a tree 10 years ago: it was a painting that was deeply intertwined with the lines of nature. There was a future life in those branch curves... It is hard to explain — it can only be felt just like Nelly had once felt it while walking around her Northern town — “like from above has opened a shower, and there such grace.” There is incense on chimneys of Nikel, it is hard to be seen on a sunny day, but if one squints his eyes, he might see joyful blinks through his eyelashes... These paintings have occurred to Nelly not so long ago... Now her watercolor paintings represent flowers and Ukrainian poppy fields — these are her child memories.

Her incredible zest for life did not come from nothing. Her story may be put in a book — an epic work with a number of epochs inside. Her dad's, mom's and aunt's life stories against a Siberian barrack in the background, or Ukrainian plants, or the Arctic region under construction. There are details like a blanket father's love, and her aunt's parcels from the USA, and Nelly's striking meeting with her future husband. There is always a place for an amazing hero that might look like a minor character at first, but Nelly says “these people are jewel boxes”. Episodes are so astonishing that, shall they be described in detail, the tale might look improbable. But she remembers absolutely everything from a grease drop over cheese to be sent to her father in prison, to her feelings from dragging a case through the snow, and to being called for a serious talk when she had only a brush in her hands... She remembers folded colorful pencils that would not paint, but she urged for bright colors, and now she uses them in her own works. There was feeling of detachment, a real friendship and a school reference that was about to ruin absolutely everything. But her life is full of stories not only from the past, but from the present as well...

“Light from Space” — the name of one of her paintings that was chosen to be a picture on a jar of cream as a result of a contest organized by a British company “SteamCream”. The cream has run out long ago, but boxes with memories of them still live keeping buttons, photos, a diamond ring, brushes, crayons from the childhood, green boots, chocolate bar pieces, a child blanket, a bottle of perfume and letters...

Sometimes life seems to be a Rubik's cube that has to be assembled in similar colors, but the chaos of various pieces has its harmony as well, and proves that it has a meaning, too. Life is the sovereign good. Everybody has the right to be born, and the right to live. And we don't even want to imagine what could have happened if this late and unplanned child would have never been born. We have to accept the life as it is and right now. And we need to love... to give it and be ready to accept it as well.

Kola Peninsula

Life is the best book, heroes are everywhere...

During the journey and after it we understood that the thing all people talk about is love — love to their work, to those who surround them, to the place they live in. It always sounds sincere. They talk about love that cannot be put into words, love that was once shown to them... It cannot be touched, but sometimes it seems that this love can be sensed...But how do we share it with those who are reluctant to participate? It it takes patience, time and trouble to debug a mechanism so that the clock worked.

It is blissfully wonderful to find yourself an ordinary person. Many of our interlocutors in the very beginning of our conversations told us that they are just plain men. But they are people who received the gift of love, and they live happily, and it seems that they fail to mention problems around them and do not bother to think of difficulties. They start doing what they want, and often they do not think about themselves and the things they can get afterwards. The onlooker might thing of them as crazy and reckless men. But they do not blame life for troubles — they rather charge the others with energy, have hope for the future, never stop doing what they like and give themselves to the world around.

Our journey took us a whole month, and we are finally home! There is a tub wheel turning washing away the smell of fires, sandy roads and salty sea. Time washed away details, but some memories gradually become brighter and brighter. Meetings, talks, long roads — there is a puzzle of four thousand kilometers with colorful paintings, but the picture is not frozen — it lives, breathes, grows and changes all the time. There is a unity in fresh memories, words and photos...

Every one of us creates a world around — a world of our friends, home, work, and hobbies. We can influence the things that surround us. This might not change the world globally, but we have to remember about the worlds of our own... It does not take much to change yourself — the only thing you have to do is to start changing....