Stories

My grandma’s field

Russia.

My grandma’s field. 2013 – 2018.

Grandma was born in 1930. She died the same year — she was sick and choked on a cough. Parents examined her — the child wasn’t breathing. They lit a candle and sat nearby. After a while, she inhaled air through her nose and began to breathe on her own. I’ve always thought that grandma was immortal because of this story. Isn’t it too much for a person to die twice, is it?

An abandoned house in my grandmother’s yard

When grandma was 11, her dad returned from the winter war, he managed to build a cow shed and went to the Eastern Front of World war II, where he went missing in action. Grandma used to say that they wouldn’t have survived the war, if it weren’t for the cow.

At the age of 15, she was given a bag of textbooks, put bread there, showed her which way to go and sent ‘to the city, to study’. She often told how she was trudging under the sun of Khakassia where no one was around to ask for directions or water.

Dried plants on someone else’s fence on the way to our garden

Her education consisted of 7 grades of the rural school. She kept saying, ‘I ran barefoot through the corridors’, meaning that they’ve never started serious studies. But even in her 80s, she remembered by heart the theorems and poems that she learned at school. She never continued her education, after the war everyone had to work, so grandma returned home and worked as a milkmaid for three years. Then she left for Krasnoyarsk, where she was learned as a seamstress and hired to work in a tailor shop. Grandma sewed men’s coats. And then a whole life has passed.

Granny sews by touch

In her 80s she started to lose her sight, she lost one eye as a result of the disease, the other eye got almost blind. It did not mean at all for her to stop being independent and quit her business. Even sewing, she never gave up sewing. Now my grandma was waiting for me, I set up the sewing machine and watched her groping, but confidently mending sheets or a shirt.

Covering material in our garden

We talked a lot, and our communication was an important part of my life. I took a very few photos of my grandma, more often the photos showed the common things that connected us in recent years — her garden, house, our walks, my flights. After my grandmother passed away, a void formed — it is a space where now there is always silence, and my memories are not enough to fill it. For me, shots of our common years have become not just memories, but a continuation of our communication.

The path to our garden

She often quoted her mother’s words, ‘Living life is not a field to cross’. Being a child, I didn’t understand the meaning of this phrase, so I imagined my grandma, walking across her field, alone with a bag of textbooks, all day under the sun, without water. She’s crossing a field. She has crossed it, but I don’t want to go away, I want to spread out everything that I know about her, on this field.

it’s me. as if through my grandmother’s eyes. In fact, her vision was even worse
May beetle on white flowers in our garden
In the last few years, I took care of the garden myself and grew plants as my grandmother taught me
My grandmother is sitting by the window waiting for us to go for a walk
In the last 2 years, I have lived far away from her. Here is the ground from the window of the plane when I flew to my grandmother for the last time

Natalie Rutova

Natalie Rutova (1987, Krasnoyarsk) is an artist and photographer who lives and works in St. Petersburg and Krasnoyarsk. She is a member of the Russian Union of Art Photographers, a student at the Academy of Documentary and Art Photography “Fotografika” (2018-2021). Research interests include memory and rethinking of previous experiences, family and place, and the nature around it all.

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