Dachaland Once More

Summer begins and along with it dacha season.

The whole dacha insanity industry kicks off in millions of Russian families as soviet era parents start trying to persuade the younger generations to load themselves up with stuff, get onto overcrowded suburban trains, and go start the potato farming fantasy that sustained their parents, spiritually and nutritionally in 1983.

 Boxes full of nonsense need to be carried to a 600 square meter plot 50, 100, 150 miles outside of Moscow, where they will sit for the summer before being brought back on those same trains in the autumn. Cucumbers that you could buy in shop 20 yards away, on your way home after a 12 hour working day must be planted in your own private agricultural dream world. There will be no laying on Saturday, Friday evenings that could be spent walking the green boulevards of a half deserted city, must now be given to ill tempered hours in traffic jams on the filthy highways out of Moscow, or for the poorer, crowded metros and trolleybuses, the trains and then death trap minibuses at the other end.

 If it were my choice I would kill every last vegetable in that dacha and plant grass and flowers instead, then let them grow wild around us as we sat on a summer’s day determinedly idling. I would take the broken fridges and the sheds full of half empty paint tins and huge bails of rusting wire that: “might come in handy one day” and throw them all. I would burn the wooden frames of the rickety green house and all of the old papers, the astrological, gardening almanacs and 9 year old TV guides featuring lifestyle pieces on Oleg Gazmanov. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv_OgysforQ And as it all burned I’d get the kids and we would go all Shawshank and dance around it like wind injuns.

 But it’s not my choice, it’s the choice of someone whose brain lives in a world without supermarkets full of fresh produce and where a week’s work is 30 hours of cake eating, tea drinking and grumbling about the sausage shortage. The dacha was the only place that many people worked: the middle classes or the intelligentsia or whatever we call that huge swathe of soviet society who worked in research institutes planning to reverse the course of rivers and build radio links to Absurdistan, they went to the dacha in April and felt good to be planting and sawing and hammering.

Everything else has changed, but suburban trains full of old people with sacks full of gardening gear sitting next to tired and irritated adult children: that doesn’t change.