Elderly & Isolated In Siberia | The Stories Of Former Female Reindeer Herders

Natasha Serotetto, part of the nomadic Nenets community, gathers the reindeer before migration.

 

Photographer Oded Wagenstein is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From the project ‘LIKE LAST YEAR’S SNOW’.  To see Oded’s body of work, click on any image.

 

Liliya Yamkina (Born. 1944).
As a teenager, she was the only one in her clan who knew how to read. She said she still remembers how important she felt when she read everyone their letters and formal documents. However, the importance of her reading skills to the clan was also the reason that her father prevents her from going to college to become a teacher. Now in her apartment, she writes love songs about the Tundra and her dream is to publish them in a magazine.

 

The “Chum” – home of the Nenets. Yamal Peninsula, Siberia, Russia.

 

In the remote village of Yar-Sale in Northern Siberia, live a group of elderly women. They were once part of a nomadic community of reindeer herders. However, in their old age, they spend most of their days in seclusion, isolated from the world they loved and their community.

 

Pudani Audi (born.1948).
Like her ancestors, who have wandered the frozen landscape of Northern Siberia for thousands of years, Pudani was born in the tundra and roamed since birth. She was a leading herder, leading the precious herd through one of the most extreme environments on earth.
In this portrait, she is wearing a fur hat, the sole object she was left with from her wandering days.

 

A forgotten couch.

 

(* Like Last Year’s Snow – a Yiddish expression, referring to something which is not relevant anymore.)

 

Angelina Serotetto (Born.1942).
She was part of a family of shaman women, and her mother taught her to read the future using sacred objects from nature.

 

A packed sled, ready for migration.

 

It took a flight, a sixty-hour train ride from Moscow, and a seven-hour bone-breaking drive across a frozen river to meet them. I immersed myself in their closed community, and for days, and over many cups of tea, they shared their stories, lullabies, and longings with me.

On this series, the memories and longings of the past, represented by the images of the outside world, are combined with the portraits of current reality.

By doing so, I tried to give their stories a visual representation. One that could last after they are already gone.

 

Autipana Audi (born.1941).
During her lifetime, Autipana experienced many sad losses. She lost her husband, son, and daughter to diseases, and a few years ago, her entire reindeer herd perished to starvation during a cold wave. Almost unable to walk, she spends her days mostly limited to her bed.

 

Necla Audi (Born. 1928). Although Necla was 89 when this portrait was taken, she declared that she insists on returning to live with the migrating community. At the far left of her bed, a picture of her two sons, taken when they were young. Now, both of them are herders in the tundra.

 

Zinaida Evay (Born.1946) and her cat Persik (“peach” in Russian).
Zinaida was married for many years, and she shared with me that she had a beautiful and loving bond with her husband, right to his last day. Now, after he passed away, she is living in their small apartment alone, with almost no one to come and visit.

 

All images & text  © Oded Wagenstein

 

 

See also:

THE VOID WE LEAVE

By Oded Wagenstein

 

 

 

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