|Written by Effie Elfer, February 24,2003 friend of Peace Fleece|
Effie Elfer is a student of Environmental Studies who is presently in Russia doing language, history and cultural studies in St Petersburg and Irkutsk (near Lake Baikal). She grew up on a small farm in Vermont and contacted me in search of a Russian farm where she might work this spring. I suggested Sasha and Ludmilla Korneva's farm in Istra, about 1 hour NW of Moscow.
I hope that all is well in Maine. I just returned from Moscow this morning. It was a glorious weekend, the weather was warm and sunny, something Petersburg does not get very often. I had a free day on Sunday and so arranged with your friends Irina and Boris to drive us to Istra to visit Luda and Sasha. It was wonderful to get out of the city for the day. I invited along my frind Kate who is also studying in the same program. She has been studying Russian as it is her major in college and lived in Moscow last semester. She was delighted to go as was I.
Luda and Sasha are wonderful people! I met Luda's mother as she joined us for lunch. I also met Andre and Fydor, her two children. Anton, her middle child, was not there. I did not know that Luda and Sasha had a little one. He was quite a delight. He could smell the chocolate Kate brought from the other room and when he came inside from playing he immediately wooed babushka (grandmother) into letting him have some. Later as we chatted over tea, he peeked into the living room several times. We all thought he was being awful quite. I assumed he was taking a nap. But to our discovery, he had gone entirely though Kate's backpack! Everyone was on the floor laughing as he had eaten her entire tube of tooth paste and used her toothbursh to brush his teeth! Boris commented that Andre was going to grow up to be a customs officer!
We sat at lunch and heard a bit about the Korneva's story, how they came to farm and what they were doing, dreams of fininshing the house, planting peonies and consturcting a manure pit. Luda and Sasha spoke of their school days and asked Kate and I about our school experience. Luda asked a lot about my family's farm and about other small farms in the US. She said that she asked so many questions because she wants to learn of other, possibly better ways to farm and make a living at it. I told her that was the same reason that I was in Russia and we toasted to "new ideas", drinking some of Boris' homemade black mountain ash liquor.
Korneva Family in front of their new home, Jan.2003
Korneva Sheep with lambs, January 2003
They are very busy, even now milking twice a day and lambing soon. I am seriously considering returning to their farm for my independent study project. I have learned that from Irkutsk I can fly back to Petersburg and then take the train. If I was to do this, I would probably be with them for 3-4 weeks, mid-April to early May.
The Korneva family is very unique, yet they struggle with many of the same issues as small farmers in the US. How to make a viable living and provide for their children? How do they keep their children on the farm and instill a love for farming in them? How do they diversify and make the transistion from a collective farm to a private farm? Both Luda and Sasha had some wonderful things to say. Their love for the land is very strong. Sasha told me the story of how you came to meet him and how you come back to visit more out of human relationshop than business. He said that you tell him your problems and he does the same to you. You cry on each others shoulders and all is well.
I told Luda that I would love to come back and work with them but I did not comit to anything as I do not know what Siberia is going to hold. I am very interested in Luda and Sasha as I think that we could learn alot from each other. My Russian is coming along but is still very basic. I do not want to let this deter me.
I wanted to write you to let you know of my visit. Wishing you the best, Effie Elfer
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