The Dacha Life near Minsk

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

July 12th, 2015

Dacha 4Family friends of mine in Moscow have a Dacha near the birder with Belarus, about a 90 minute drive south from Moscow. Driving out of any of Russia’s cities for more than 30 minutes immediately gets you out into the countryside, and the Russian village way of life immediately takes over.

Eggs, milk, and cream are all obtained from the local orthodox church, who usually keep chickens and cattle on their land, some with fully automated creameries. (Cleanliness is next to Godliness and has the odd sour sweet aroma of full cream milk). Mushrooms of course are sourced from the woods – all of which require just a five minute walk into before, without a good sense of direction, it is possible to get totally lost.
Dachas themselves refer to properties that were given as gifts by the Tsar, or more recently the Government. Most true Dachas are tied to military service of some kind, ours was presented after WWII to a Great Grandfather in the Russian Airforce (he fought in Stalingrad). Consequently most Dachas are on a large plot of land reserved for the purpose, a communal affair with numerous properties, often gated, and sharing a common theme – in our case the Dacha compound was close to a Russian air force base, meaning SU27’s would routinely go through their paces for upcoming airshows.
However, armed with a copy of Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is Within You” – which is part promotes living off the land and seeking self fulfillment through working it, I set to work as a Gentleman Farmer, tending the radishes, cucumbers, sorrel, and tomatoes, and supplementing these each breakfast with Holy Eggs, and in the evening with Wild Mushrooms and the occasional Brook Trout I managed to catch.
Tolstoy knew what he was talking about though when it comes to religious spirituality and the pureness of the peasants (from where we get the expression “the salt of the earth”) after happily harvesting several pounds of apples from the orchard I realize I them have to wash and peel them to keep them for winter use. It took hours…by which time I was truly having sensational visions.
The evenings though bought respite, donning Tolstoyesque peasant smock, and enjoying vodkas and copious amounts of Karavan tea by the Samovar.
Out here, the summer evenings are long, with fresh air, fruits of the earth, and good living. Russian summers are good for the soul, and equally good for ones peasant spiritual credentials. This long hot summer is not passing me by.