“I don’t understand. Where will you go?”

“Somewhere. Anywhere. Sasha, this place is killing me. It is killing our daughter. You hear her cough in the night? Do you think this is a normal thing? Do you think people in Kursk or Vladivostok have such children that sound as though they should be in a tuberculosis ward?”

“In Kursk or Vladivostok they would not have such a good job as Norilsk Nickel has given me. Given us. This apartment. The dacha in summers. Are you forgetting that?”

“Are you forgetting the stinking fogs? The dead forest? My grandmother told me these steppes were covered with pines when she was a girl. Living trees, Sasha, not  twisted stumps. You know what I think when I see them? That they show what will happen to me if I stay here.”

“This is my home, Vanka. I am proud to live here. Norilsk is not for the weak.”

What Pegman Saw

Tallnakh is now part of Norilsk, the northernmost city in the world. The population of 175000 mostly work for the Norilsk Nickel mines, which began  operations as part of the gulag system of forced labor prior to World War Two. Prisoners reportedly worked in the nickel mines as late as 1979

The town is closed to outsiders, but you can watch a short film (from which these two photographs were captured) here.


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  1. k rawson

    Superb writing. Love what you’ve done with this. I watched the film (and was moved) and you couldn’t have told a more fitting story from the inspiration.

  2. EagleAye

    Yeah, if the trees aren’t living through it, it’s time to leave, for their daughter if nothing else. There’s many beautiful places in the world, that won’t kill you slowly. Brilliant writing. This slow disaster was a new one on me. Thanks for the info.

Don't just stand there.