Once the sea was here
01 // I return to the village of Bezhin Lug. It’s been exactly a year since my last visit. I want to photograph Maria Ivanovna one more time. She is 86 and has lived in the same place her entire life. I find the house on ‘Small Street’ fairly quickly. Her daughter meets me in the courtyard and I ask the permission to enter the house. Maria Ivanovna doesn’t speak during the shoot, just stares intently into the camera lens. My work is accompanied by a non-stop commentary from her daughter, who is anxious that the stove in the house is lop-sided and that the room hasn’t been decorated with rushnyk cloths. These have ‘decayed’ and have been deemed useless. She doesn’t want for the stove to end up in the shot.
Maria Ivanovna doesn’t utter a word and patiently poses, taking no notice of her daughter.I ask her to sit on the bench by the entrance to the house for the last shot. We come out to the courtyard. Maria Ivanovna follows me and sits down in silence. We don’t speak. For some time only the clicks of the camera are heard. Then the silence descends again.
I have to make it to many other places today. I thank them and begin to pack my equipment and say my good-byes.
Maria Ivanovna gives me a nod and suddenly, unexpectedly, motions me closer to her. I come over and for the first time she speaks to me: “Would you like to know what was here before?” “Yes, of course,” I reply politely and get ready to listen to the history of the kolkhoz that existed here at one time.
Maria Ivanovna stands still for a moment, looking somewhere far off, and then says: “Once the sea was here”.
Then she returns to the house.
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