Personal experience

I moved from the Lower to the Arctic

In search of ourselves, the boldest of us are changing professions, environments, cities and countries. Everyone is looking for their place in the sun. It is desirable that it is under a palm tree. But it happens that you find your house in a completely unexpected direction, for example, in the Arctic. In a place where people come no more than a few days. Look at the mountains of snow, the polar night, the northern lights, deer, walruses, polar bears and leave.

Olga Smirnova from Nizhny Novgorod tells Life around how the cold Arctic has become a dear and beloved in five years of her life.

About moving

I never imagined that I would be in the North. I spent almost my whole life in Nizhny Novgorod. Born, studied and worked. In childhood, she dreamed of seeing the northern lights, but it always seemed something unrealistic. So she lived with the thought that this could not happen. There were offers from friends to go on a trip to the Polar Urals, but I always refused, explaining this by the fact that I could not stand the wild cold. Now I live in the North, and I like it.

I didn’t get to the Arctic from the Lower immediately. Through Moscow. Five years ago, my hometown seemed boring and slow to me, I wanted movement and drive. I packed up my bag with my things and went to the capital, where it seemed to me that life was in full swing.

I was immediately lucky: I instantly found an apartment, and literally three days later - a job. I got a job in a good company, was engaged in the development and promotion of the site. Then the routine began: in the morning you leave for work, two hours on the road, all day at the office, late at night you return home, ate and slept. By the weekend, there is no more strength left for the activity that I was traveling for. I did not find an interesting life in the capital. Moscow ate me for six months.

In the fall of 2012, friends invited me to visit the North in the Nenets Autonomous District, in the city of Naryan-Mar. Unexpectedly, I agreed to go there for the weekend. I went first of all to people, out of place. It was the end of November, daylight is very short. When it arrived, it was dark, nothing really could be seen, except for the falling snow. The weather was no colder than in Moscow. Mentally imagined a geographical map that I am now at this point - near the Arctic Ocean. My head was only a distant realization that I was in the North.

Then I came back here for the New Year holidays. On the second trip, the city was completely immersed in the polar night, that is, there was no daylight at all. Very unusual sensations. I remember how much I was lost in time. But this did not stop to explore. For the first time in my life, I saw reindeers, we rode snowmobiles on the tundra and went to the Nenets shaman in a plague. All this was wild exotic for me.

While I was in Naryan-Mar, I was offered a job in the specialty on the local television station Sever. Without thinking twice, I decided to say yes. In the capital for six months, everything turned into a boring monotony. Leaving Moscow was easy.

There are no roads in the area. Around the boundless tundra and a huge number of lakes

Adaptation and Breaking for Civilization

At first, everything was outlandish in Naryan-Mar. I studied the city and people, got acquainted with the life and features of the mentality. And two months later, I began a wild withdrawal for the benefits of civilization.

Naryan-Mar is the main and only city in the entire district, but very small, modest: the population is only 25,000 people. In the capital of the Nenets okrug there were no familiar things that are in the big cities by default. Almost no entertainment. At that time there was not even a cinema, there were no theaters and concert halls, there were no shopping centers - you can generally forget about shopping here. People are bought clothes on business trips or vacations. Someone orders through online stores. Good, high-quality clothes cannot be bought here. About branded silence - it simply does not exist.

There are no convenience stores in the city. In Nizhny I could calmly go for yogurt at two in the night, but here after ten in the evening nobody works. Plus there are no large supermarkets; to stock up on everything you need, you need to get around at least three stores: a general grocery, a separate bread store, and a separate meat store.

In Nizhny and Moscow everything was and nothing was noticed. Maybe all these things are not so much needed, but the very realization that you always reach out and take, buy, go, reassured. In the North, deficit is especially acute. I wanted something, but there was no way to get here and now.

In the Nenets okrug, you are isolated from the outside world, which the locals call the Great Land. Getting there, in fact, is possible only by aviation. Although it is not so far from Moscow, only 2.5 hours of flight. Often flying there, to St. Petersburg or even neighboring areas is quite expensive. And if you are planning somewhere on vacation, you automatically add another twenty thousand to your expenses for tickets to the capital and back.

There are no roads in the area. Around the boundless tundra and a huge number of lakes. In the summer, you can’t leave the city further than 40 kilometers. In winter, you can go to the mainland on a road laid directly in the snow along the winter road, but for this you need a large SUV. To freely move around the district in any season, you need your own plane or helicopter.

Prices are higher than in Moscow or Nizhny, because it’s difficult and expensive to bring any product here. Delivery in the summer on water by barges, in the winter - on the winter road. There is a time of debauchery when the navigation has already closed, and the winter road has not yet been done. Or vice versa, when the winter road has already melted, and the river has not yet been opened. At this time, products come to us in the district only by aviation.

From this price is almost two times higher. If in Nizhny Novgorod a loaf can be bought for 35 rubles, then we have 68. A liter of milk here costs an average of 100 rubles. My brother was visiting this summer, so he went shopping with his mouth open. Photographed all the price tags and sent to friends.

Such moments were clarified gradually. But along with the breakdown of civilization, I began to undergo a reappraisal of values. She began to analyze what I really needed and valuable.

Acceptance of Northern Life

The north either accepts you and then does not let you go all your life, or you do not pass a strength test and leave after the first two or three months. I stayed and, as one song says, “put my heart in the cold snow”.

I liked and surprised a lot. For example, I saw with my own eyes an air minibus. The villages in the district are not connected by roads, so instead of buses there is small aviation. A MI-8 helicopter or an AN-2 plane flies and makes stops in villages. It is almost impossible to buy a ticket for such a minibus in advance. On the day of the flight, a live queue is formed at the box office. Tickets are sold at loading, the amount of baggage for passengers matters.

I discovered new products that now replace everything for me. These are local fish, venison, cloudberries, and I also tried raw meat and deer blood. For residents of the tundra, this is not a delicacy, but a vital necessity, a source of vitamins. Of course, they don’t drink blood in circles, they’ll "ayburd" it. Reindeer herders slaughter a deer, butcher and eat fresh raw meat, dipping it in salt and fresh blood, as in a sauce. This is a normal diet. Without meat, living in the North is very difficult.

When you say the word "Arctic" to a person from the mainland, a picture appears in your head: deserts, icebergs, ice, snow. The Arctic is not only the desert of the North Pole, it is much wider. There is enough life here, and it is completely different. Such a severe way is not very clear to the urban man, especially from the metropolis, but those who have visited the plague of reindeer herders at least once say: "These people are much happier than us."

Once I went to Moscow for a drive, but I realized that life was being burned in the bustle of the capital, and not lived. Fuss, traffic jams, lines, stress, half life on the subway - not what I need. In the North, time flows differently. Moreover, Nizhny Novgorod is slower than Moscow. And Naryan-Mar is several times slower than the Lower. Strange, but here I have time to do much more than in big cities.

Those who at least once visited the plague of reindeer herders say: "These people are much happier than us."

Nordic adventures

For two months I lived at a weather station, on the very coast of the Barents Sea. I came there to shoot documentary material about meteorologists in harsh polar conditions. And she chose for this the most difficult time of the year - the polar night.

I’ll destroy all the myths that there is some kind of romance in this profession. These are harsh, hellish everyday life. Meteorologists have been living in the same place for years. At that time, there were three people at the station. The boss was not on vacation for three years, and his wife was there for two years without a break. Flight helicopters do not fly to them, there are no roads either. Once a year with the ship "Mikhail Somov" they import everything they need. They order products, building materials, equipment. Sometimes reindeer herders bring them fresh meat. There are no fresh fruits and vegetables at the weather station, like any perishable foods.

In the morning you get up, you flood the stove, bake bread, cook food. Water in the summer from the well, in the winter they cut snow in cubes and put it in barrels, it melts - it turns out the water. Every three hours, meteorologists provide weather reports on the radio station.

After working on television, I began to engage in tourism. I traveled a lot and flew around. Then I saw the wildlife of the North, the strict Arctic landscapes and the empty semi-stony tundra, which gives an unlimited sense of freedom, energizes, gives strength and always beckons back.

Participated in the organization of the first women's snowmobile expedition to the Arctic by March 8. It's funny that the Internet cheerfully picked up this topic, people began to make fun of the harsh female entertainment. As a result, they even talked about us on Channel One in the show "Evening Urgant".

Last summer, we organized a volunteer environmental program in the Nenetsky Nature Reserve on Matveyev Island. In the Soviet years there was a lighthouse town and several families lived. Now the lighthouse is operating in automatic mode, and all domestic buildings are dilapidated, collapsed, a fairly large area was in construction waste. We flew there to restore order. One of the main volunteers turned out to be three sisters who lived as children on this lighthouse 45 years ago.

In September 2016, the Englishwoman Sasha Dench flew to us. In Russia, she was nicknamed Lady Swan. She flew on a motor-glider through the migration of a small tundra swan. From the nesting places here, in the Nenets Okrug, to the wintering places in England, where it comes from. This is the craziest of ideas. We accompanied Sasha to the Arkhangelsk region for the first day by helicopter, the rest of the days by plane.


The question of returning has already disappeared. I calmed down. True, in the five years that I have been living here, I have definitely packed my bags for five times. Every time I thought that I would leave and I would never return. And always something stopped. My last couple of “comebacks” were not even taken seriously by friends and relatives.

Now I understand that all my desires to leave had one reason: I can’t sit in one place for a long time. I need to move, periodically ride expeditions in order to live quietly on.

Six months ago, I returned to Nizhny for business on six months. It was both very useful and very difficult. After the North, I realized that the bustle of a big city is not for me. From the useful - I solved a lot of working issues, spent time with relatives and friends. I also noticed a contrast in people. In the North, despite the harsh living conditions, people have more positive, kindness and openness.

I do not want to leave the Arctic anywhere except on vacation or a business trip. I feel comfortable here, good. I feel at home. I will not say that my life is easy and careless. But I do not have significant cons to leave. More precisely, I don’t see them anymore, they have become absolutely not important against the background of what the Arctic gives.

There is one point that annoys. But this is a feature of the life of any small city when everyone knows each other. You live as if in an aquarium. Now I have learned to ignore, but initially it was difficult.

In the Arctic, everything is very balanced. The harsh polar night is compensated by the stunning beauty of the northern lights. Short summer is a polar day when for two months the sun does not set at all over the horizon. The stinginess of winter colors is an autumn riot of color. All the trials and difficulties that the Arctic is preparing are generously rewarded with something wonderful.

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