First I took Julia Taleeva to help me to get acquainted with some of the elders in the village of Khongurei. First we went to Julia’s aunt, Aleksandra Germogenovna Taleeva, the oldest woman here, born in 1927.
I usually start after introducing myself and the ORHELIA project to ask about the family, about parents, grandparents and children. In the case of Aleksandra it figured out to be a very tragic story. Aleksandra Germogenovna’s father died in prison after being denounced as an enemy of soviet power in the 1930s. The reindeer where confiscated and her mother had to work as a herder during the time of the WWII, when most of the reindeer herders went to the front. The time after the war was not easy either. Aleksandras husband went to prison for some years for loosing some reindeer in the herd of the Kolkhoz. They had seven children, but now only two of them are still alive.
When we went through old photographs, I come across a picture of Aleksei Taleev, Aleksandras brother, the father of Julia with another Nenents in the army hospital. It comes out the he served the army together with a good friend I know from my last visit in the village of Nelmin Nos Mikhail Trofimovich Ardeev.
Julia discovers some other photos of her father, one of them with three reindeer herders posing while smoking cigarettes. This picture was probably taken, before the Nenets where settled in Khongurei and still migrated in the tundra around the small settlement of Ledkovo.
Aleksandra is switching from Russian to Nenets language quite often and I let Julia ask her questions in her mother tongue, feeling that it is quite difficult for her to remember the old times and tell about her life to a complete stranger. I hope I will translate the Nenets parts later with the help of my collegue Roza Laptander who is also part of the ORHELIA team.
As a symbol of her past as a wife of a nomadic reindeer herder, the Nenet’s woman’s bag is hanging in her sleeping room. In former times this bag accompanied every woman during her whole life and was put with her into the grave.