|2004-11-07 - The yugahirs as told by Ljuba
It´s the 7th of November, temperature is -25°C(F) and our
winter gear from Moscow hasn´t arrived yet, so we´re quite cold!
´´Snowy winds begin roaring again through the empty evening darkness and,
ever lost up there,
I hear massed choirs call my name in songs of sadness,
songs of love,
an old hymn of quiet suffering,
to which I rise effortlessly across the void
and take my part.´´
Poem by Ljuba, yugahir woman in Zyryanka.
´´We don´t have much hope for a good future, on the contrary´´ ,Ljuba almost whispers,
´´and so it has been, since we first came into contact with European Russians.´´
We came across this wonderfully generous, warm, intelligent and
spontaneous woman when we first visited Oglne, a small coal industry town, located 65 km:s west of Zyryanka on the worst dirt road I´ve ever traveled on by car. At that time, a month ago, she had just begun her work as a handicraft teacher at the local school, trying to teach students how to use their vivid dreams to create exiting patters by drawing or by other types of handicraft. An ancient yugahir craft which is almost dying and which Ljuba does her best to keep alive.
´´When the Russians came to stay forever in the region, some hundred years ago´´ ,she continues in a tranquil voice,
´´there were more yugahirs than any other tribe. There were so many of us, that people used to say when the polar lights lit up the sky, that this was light coming from the many campfires made by yugahirs. Today the yakuts have overtaken this position and we´re almost dying all together as a native tribe.
There´s only a thousand of us left, maybe even less. Nobody really knows. And that is part of the problem. All this mixing between tribes and people are killing us. We´ve got the same problem as all other native people around the world.´´
The downfall of the yugahirs began, as with most other native people around the world, when they first ran into the white man and all his destructive ways. Alcohol, unknown diseases (the common cold has wiped out many tribes on earth), aggressive violence, a total lack of sensitiveness and of understanding and, that apart, the mixing of blood has put the yugahirs at the verge of extinction.
´´The young one´s don´t care about their background and history´´ ,Ljuba continues,
´´they think our traditional ways are dumb and ancient. They look at themselves as modern and prefer to move to live cities rather than to live in the bush.´´
The majority of yugahirs today live either in Zyryanka or in a small village, Nelimnoye, which is located about 50 km:s south of here. We´ve tried to make our way there, but it is beginning to look impossible.
There´s no roads, ever, and the only way to get there at the moment is by helicopter, which is extremely expensive. (We would have skied there, but since our winter gear hasn´t arrived, it is hard. But than again, we´re working on it. Nothing is impossible along the Kolyma.)
´´I am sad that you won´t be able to visit Nelimnoye´´ ,Ljuba states,
´´we´ve at least kept one important part of our ancient tradition there. Fishing. Historically we´ve always been fishermen, who traded in furs and meat with the reindeer hunting yakut. But today, even we have to hunt to survive.´´
The arrival of perestroika turned out to be a catastrophe for the
yugahirs. During the Soviet era life was considerably better. They had lot´s of money, social security and one didn´t have to over work to survive. Today, there´s no money and some, Caucasian Russians of course, reckon that Nelimnoye is worse off than Dante´s inferno.
´´Almost everyone in Nelimnoye´´, Ljuba explains carefully,
´´are out of work today. Everyone has to fish and hunt only to survive. Some yugahirs also cut trees during the summer, transport to Zyryanka and sell here.´´
´´What about shamans?´´ I ask, ´´are there any left?´´
´´Nope´´ ,Ljuba answers,
´´I´ve heard that the yakuts and even still have practicing shamans. We don´t. We´re Christian today. ´´
When we´ve finished our interview with Ljuba, we accompany her to her mothers house. A mother which turns out having plenty of special gifts, like understanding dreams and what might occur in the future. (See the previous dispatch) For me personally, Ljubas mother exactly what I imagined a true shaman would look like in reality. Just like any ordinary old lady. With a specifically optimistic manner and a down to earth way of being. A person free from of all the ridiculous acting that I´ve come across amongst many false prophets all over the world. That
includes plenty of bad drumming, shouting, the use of smoke and fire and a lot of poor acting. But than again, having said that, I was surprised at the mothers house when I noticed a birds wing and a piece of hare fur hanging over the kitchen stove. So I ask Ljubas mother, pointing over the kitchen stove:
´´In what way do you use this?´´
´´Well, I use the bird wing to wipe bread crumbs of the table. Can´t find these things in shops today. And I use the fur to clean the table.´´