My schoolmate Rita told me about an extraordinary woman she knows. I thought to myself, “How? All year around alone in the village?” It surprised me so much that soon I was on my way to the Pskov region in Russia. Lyudmila Vyacheslavovna introduced herself as “Lyuska.”
Lyuska is the only inhabitant of the village called Tolokonnikovo in Pskov. The only amenities she has are a cellphone and non-permanent electricity. Her house is located about 5 kilometers away from the nearest settlement.
Lyuska is the one and only resident of the village of Tolokonnikovo in Russia. The only amenities she has are a cellphone and non-permanent electricity.
We immediately had a connection with Lyuska. She is a sociable, open, and hospitable person. She always has some treats for a guest.
Her daughter and grandson take turns visiting Lyuska. She helps them with potatoes, pickles, fresh fruits, and vegetables in summer. During the summer season, she also has real neighbors, Yulia with her husband and Rita with her son.
All the things she can’t make herself, like sugar, salt, bread, matches, or cognac Lyuska gets delivered to her house by relatives or neighbors. She has a cellphone, after all – a true sign of civilization.
“Roads, as well as salary, football and cinema are sh*t!” – says Lyuska
For a 70-year-old, Lyuska does an overwhelming amount of work every day. She has been taught this since childhood
Lyuska is 70 years old, but tasks around the house are just her everyday struggles in order to survive. She does everything herself – from wood chopping to preparing the sauna on Saturdays to roof repairs. The house is 130 years old, after all.
“Go away, city girl, you will hurt yourself with that axe,” she told me when I tried to help
Her day starts at 4 a.m. She dresses, cleans up, chops some wood, brings water, starts the Russian stove, and prepares food. There are no wells in the village, so she brings water from the stream. She even uses a saucepan instead of a kettle to boil water. The rest you’ve seen in the comedy classic Groundhog Day.
Summers are busier than winters – she has to mow, weed, stack up hay and then sell it for goat’s milk
“I love you like a bun with butter, I cherish you more than any chops,” Lyuska said to me while filling up my plate
She makes soups and pies on a Russian stove according to her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes
Lyuska has a sense of style and doesn’t miss an opportunity to show it. “Everyone is jealous of me. I don’t wear Soviet clothes, I’ve got everything from abroad,” – says Lyuska
Every piece of clothing in her house has a story involved
“Quilted jackets I own are my aunt’s Lipka’s. Once during the war, she gave eggs to fascists so they wouldn’t punish my mother. But someone snitched on her to the Soviet army and Lipka was sent to Norilsk prison for 10 years. Although her stay in prison turned out well. She even sent home a sewing machine,” Lyuska remembered.
To this day she wears her mother’s coat from 1937, which in her words is great, and looks brand new.
New shirt from an old men’s shirt and an apron? Piece of cake. Lyuska designs her own haute couture
She has no equal in designing and sewing her own clothes. Every cloth in her house has a purpose. Sewing for her is relaxation and entertainment.
In this photo, she is sewing a new pillowcase on that sewing machine from Norilsk.
Lyuska even cuts her own hair
Lyuska’s mother holds a special place in her heart and she does everything the way her mother did
Lyuska with her mother’s portrait.
Her mother’s handicrafts are carefully stored in a chest. There also are books, icons, prayers, and her own poems
Handicrafts are taken out and used only on special occasions, like holidays
“I’ve never used lipstick. Mom didn’t like that. Eye pencil only. Foul language is also not allowed to not hurt mother in heaven,” says Lyuska
If she can’t go to the church, she reads Akathists at home and prays according to her mother’s books. She prayed for me when I left, so I could get home safe
Lyuska is like a magnet. I came back to celebrate New Year with her and upon my arrival, the number of inhabitants in Golovkino had doubled
I crossed the doorstep once again to feel like a true villager
We changed clothes, pumped up the water from the basement, dug up a ditch, filled up holes in the eaves with a cloth, and prepared the sauna
“New Year is not a holiday to celebrate, Christmas – yes!” Lyuska admits that she was raised like this
In her childhood, Lyuska’s family neither decorated a Christmas tree nor gave gifts. Her mother made some pies and that was it.
Lyuska didn’t have any decorations, so to decorate the tree branch we found outside, we had to use candies from Saint Petersburg and cookies from Moscow.
We managed to complete all the housework just before Vladimir Putin congratulated us on the New Year
We heard fireworks in the closest neighborhood, 5 km away. I left on January 1st. Lyuska said she would not clean the house for 2 days so that my journey home would be easy and stayed alone waiting for other guests
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