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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Russian Rubles and A Rough Summer at the Dacha

dachaIt’s said that one out of three Russians owns a dacha, a generally-small summer cottage, occasionally one room, usually without running water. There’s a well to pump water outside, along with the ubiquitous Russian rural outhouse. There’s also a rush-hour on Fridays to get to the remote outskirts of cities, whether by car or by train. In economic times like these, the dacha, for those who have one, is more important than ever for the vegetables raised there, harvested there, and pickled there for the long winter ahead.

Summer 2015 started out in May with almost 50 Rubles to the Dollar. Now, in mid-August, it’s russian-rublearound 64 Rubles. Times are rough and 22 million Russians out of 143 million live below the poverty line. About 15%.

Half of the population fight for simple economic survival.

About 20% can be said to be comfortable.

An opinion poll was just released, reports TASS, in which respondents calculated $354 per month as enough to live on. Barely. In the cities it was more, and out in the villages much less – about $268, while pensions are approximately $144. And that’s an improvement.

dacha-1-350A dacha may be a family’s only hope. In hard times, the country house, or shack in many cases, can become a primary residence in a pinch. The fruits and vegetables are generally not enough to live on year-round depending on the size of the land plot, but they really, really help the average resident. Most grow potatoes, for sure, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchhini, carrots, beets, cabbage, radishes, turnips, cauliflower, dill, onion, and rhubarb. If there’s fishing nearby, or room or a warm enough climate for apple trees, strawberries, blackberries, cherries or grapevines, all the better. A simple wood-burning stove can increase residency to three, and sometimes, even four seasons out of the year, if enough provisions are put in store and water can still be found.

But more than the economic side, which is quite important this year, the dacha signals a Russian dacha2self-sufficiency, a certain strength of character and reliance on individual effort, important given the reality of life under Putin. It’s a traditional country lifestyle practiced since the days of Peter the Great when he gave away land to the elite classes, the word “dacha” hailing from the word “to give”, in Russian.

It is from the dacha memories, whether one’s own place or that of friends’ or relatives’, that most very Russian knows about long summer days and nights, shashlik on the grill, sitting around outside, chatting, and getting back to nature. Forests nearby provide good hunting grounds for mushrooms and long walks. Should there be a nearby banya and birch branches, you’re indeed fortunate. Flowers and beauty surround the small patches of paradise, some wooden homes brightly painted. It’s a way of life where one needs to take a firm stand if there are noisy neighbors or loud dogs interrupting the calm reverie of the retreat.

thMaybe this break from the hustle and bustle, congestion and pollution of the city gives the “dachniki” hope for tomorrow. Along with some fruit and veggies, how much more does a comrade need, when he has peace and quiet and a view of the stars?

This summer, we’re all praying that this will be enough. With incursions againt Ukraine and now Ossetia once again, the average Russian needs a place to chill and reflect before the real chill of Russian winter sets in during autumn.

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