No people, no problem for reclusive
forest dwellers in Belarus
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[August 20, 2018]
By Vasily Fedosenko
YUKHOVICHI, Belarus (Reuters) - Tamara and
Yuri Baikov knew it was time to move away from their village when one of
their ducks wandered into a neighbor's plot of land, only to return with
a wire deliberately threaded through its beak.
Since then, the husband and wife have lived for more than a quarter of a
century in a primitive hut in a forest in northeastern Belarus, close to
the Russian border.
"There are no people - there is no conflict," said Tamara Baikov, who
says she loves weeding her vegetable patch and would rather plow a
hectare of land than venture to a city.
Life is simple for the two 69-year-olds. There is no electricity, so
they read by torchlight. They take the water they need from the river
and cook with a wood-burning stove.
Their chickens and ducks provide them with meat and eggs. Their goats
give them milk and cottage cheese. Manure is their only fertilizer for
growing potatoes and vegetables.
Daughter Veronika is their main contact with the outside world. She
brings any additional supplies they might need from a store, and also
sells their produce to generate some income.
"Our Veronika sells all this in neighboring Russia. Plus a pension, we
have enough to live on," Yuri said. "We cannot leave our animals and
birds even for a day - and we don't want to."
They live on a small farm they built in 1992. The nearest Belarussian
village, Yukhovichi, is 15 km (9 miles) away, while Russia is a few
hundred meters across the river.
They used to live in Yukhovichi as farmers, keeping cows and poultry.
But dwelling near other people did not suit them -- the injured duck was
[to top of second column]
Yuri Baikov, 69, his daughter Veronika and her friend unload fodder
for poultry at his small farm, situated in a forest near the village
of Yukhovichi, Belarus, June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
In late 1991, the local authorities gave them a piece of land in the
forest and one night in May 1992, they left together with Veronika,
five cows, some groceries, tools and nails.
They spent the first few nights under a linden tree, covering
themselves in plastic sheets for warmth.
Veronika grew up and eventually moved beyond the river to a village
in Russia called Davostsy. She now has a 16-year-old daughter of her
own called Angelina.
Tamara and Yuri stayed in the cramped hut that was initially
intended as a temporary shelter. They had planned to build a proper
house, but a lack of money and bureaucratic hassles prevented them
from doing so.
They like to listen to Russian radio stations to keep up with world
news. But mostly they enjoy the solitude.
"Silence is very good - only grandma is not silent, she talks a
lot," Yuri joked, referring to his wife.
(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)
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