Town within a city.
People and their habits
Part 2. Residents of detached houses tell about their environment
Photo: Marina Serebryakova
Story of Nina Ignatyevna
How a log cabin came from Minsk to Osipovichi
Nina Ignatyevna Mukhomor was one of those who came to the capital after the war. A senior citizen, she is loud, decisive, and appreciates kind people, as always. She has been living on the territory she received together with her brother for 70 years. It's not far from Arloŭskaja Street in Minsk.

Nina Ignatyevna Mukhomor was born on a homestead in Asipovičy district, she knows all mushrooms and berries. The house where she grew up together with her brothers and sisters was burnt during the war. Her personal story includes a chapter with a rescue of Orlik, a partisan horse.
As an adult, Nina Ignatyevna worked in a kolkhoz (a collective farm in the USSR) for a while but she was badly paid. Nina Ignatyevna gave up and left for Crimea to work, then to Belomorsk, the cost of the White Sea. She returned to Minsk in the 50s, and lived at her sister Anna's house for some time.

These were times when the land around her future house was merely a field marked with wooden sticks. Together with her brother Viktor, they brought a log cabin from the village, and the woman proudly shows how thick the logs are – they chose logs themselves.

She managed to work on a bicycle factory in Minsk for some time, then went to another factory where she did a paint job for 28 years. She retired in 50 due to health hazards and worked in a heating house next to her home for additional 18 years.
Nina Muhamor. Transcript
– Did you look for a job here?

– I arrived in Minsk and I needed to get a residence permit. [Sister's] husband is a veteran of war, and he registered me. I started to work on a bicycle factory. I worked there for some time but I didn't like it.

– And then you built a house with your brother?

– Then my brother Viktor returned from the army and arrived here, in Minsk. He was also registered and he worked as a carpenter on a car factory. He made everything, including doors and windows. He made it when the log cabin was still in the village.

We cut trees when we were given some free wood as fire victims. Fire victims were given everything at that time. And then people built houses as best they could.

– Did they give you trees in Asipovicki district [Mahilioŭ region]?

– Yes.

– Did you cut it yourselves?

– Yes, we did it ourselves. And I did it myself. I ensured that the wood was smooth, flat, and symmetrical. Do you see this thick wood? (points at the walls) There is a lot of spruce, we cut it into panels, because people had never colored floors in the village, they didn't understand it. We took those panels, polished them. Dried up, they were so white, as if they were burning!

– How long did it take to make the log cabin?

– We couldn't transfer it for a long time. They didn't give us a horse, because kolkhoz didn't have it. They had two tractors but… Oh, I can't express this grief. Logs started to decay. And we had to rent cars to transfer the log cabin to Minsk.

And we were building again, hired people, laid the wood. But where could we get money? No nails, no panels – we couldn't buy it, we had to obtain it you know. We got it in warehouses. I had to get acquainted with people to get some slate.

– You told that when you had come here, there had been a field only.

– Over there where the tram is turning around, there was a house surrounded by signed wooden sticks, dandelions were growing. We marked 500 or 600 square meters (5,382 or 6,458sq ft). And we had a pit in our street. Water was flowing there and then down to the river.

– Who moved here? Did they build houses themselves?

– Yes, they obtained territories and constructed houses themselves. The factory or the district executive committee gave those territories, I don't know exactly.

– Did everyone make kitchen gardens?

– It depends on the owner. When I started to work in the boiler house, girls used to say that I had a museum, not a kitchen garden. Why? Because it was clean there, as it is now. I cultivated cucumbers in September, they grew up to the apple tree. And I used to pickle 20 jars of cucumbers. And I gave it out! To all, to neighbors. I didn't sell it.

– Do you know your neighbors well? Do you know everybody?

– Why should I know everybody? I knew only when I started to work here. I hadn't known them before, because I didn't have time for it.

– Do you like it here?

– Why not? I like, I like. When I came to the village, my sister lives there. "Nina, you are the happiest person!" she said.
"And why?"
"Because you ran away from the kolkhoz."
"Yeah," I replied.
More freedom, more responsibility
Built in place of homesteads, Hrušaŭka microdistrict remained one of the spots where neighbours greet one another and the oldest cutivate cabbage. A citizen of Minsk, Egor Vinyatsky lives here. Together with his friends, he rents a small house and calls it Prastora (Space), Khata 18x63 (House 18x63).
Photo – Piotr Markielaŭ
"My grandmom is from Minsk but god knows where she lived – her father was repressed. I'm a citizen of Minsk and lived in a flat up to 14, then my mother and I moved to my stepfather to Sieĺhaspasiolak.

Previously, I was in detached houses only on vacations. Summer, friends, the forest, hikes to the quarry and a neighbouring village. Genuine adventures. I liked it in the new year, as if Santa was somewhere nearby. I dreamed of living there in winter and maintain fire in a wood stove. And here I am, I live in Grushevka and will celebrate the 3rd New Year here.

How did I happen to live here? I had a company of friends who were crazy about squatting. They wandered looking for a place where they could woop it up or hold a meeting," Egor tells.
Jahor Viniacki, part 1. Transcript
– What is an inner suburb? Your first associations.

– Small houses, narrow streets and fences, chimneys rising from the roofs.

– Is it appealing to you?

– Yes, it is. It's nice that every building is not made in accord with a typical project but by one's own hands, colored in a particular way. Every owner put something special into it. Nevertheless, styles look alike – platbands, fences, slate…

– What about communication, are there any peculiarities?

– People know one another better here. For example, in Sieĺhaspasiolak, we had a habit to greet a person loudly, if one knew him or her well. It depends on how well you know this person. If you are not sure, you can nod, in case you live in the same street.

Bonds between generations are more noticeable here. One can see that there are senior citizens who spent all their lives here and know one another. There is also a younger generation of our parents. They hung out in the same street and know one another too. You can feel it more strongly than in a block of flats. Well, you leave your flat, take a lift and go away.

– Does it concern the amount of space for communication?

– It seems that we have a backyard… However, it doesn't always work like that.

By the way, inner suburbs are also about long-distance lorry drivers. In the golden 2000s, three drivers lived in one street of Sieĺhaspasiolak. Trucks stood in every street, which didn't make neighbors happy. In winter, drivers started engines at five in the morning and heated their cars with blowtorches… It was noisy and stinky.
If to imagine that there are no 9-storey blocks of flats on the horizon, it seems you are in the suburbs. There is sound isolation – you don't hear a large highway that is a ten-minute walk from you. There are no drafts that you can feel in Uručča microdistrict.

But you have to look after the territory near the house youself – occasions when the housing maintenance service cleans something are uncommon. Does it mean more work than in the house? Yes. The more freedom you have, the more responsibilities it implies.
Where are the borders of your territory?

- Up to the fence and a part of the road beyond it, to the second half of the road. Dogs feel it.

- What thing can you see in a detached housing area but you can't see in a flat?

- A fire. Flats burn too but it is not that spectacular. I saw my stepfather's house burning. It was built by his parents. The fire was enormous with smoke spreading all across Sieĺhaspasiolak. It was a horrific scene. My stepfather had a lot of equipment and so many disks! All his life. The dog was lucky – it was warm and he was left on the yard.

- How important are inner suburbs to the city?

- If we speak from pragmatic point of view, it seems that it doesn't need them. Everybody would live in those... human ant-hills. I would say that this is an ecological area but it all depends on owners. I pour the slops onto the territory because I don't have a drainage, the toilet is outside. People often dispose of their waste with the help of fires.

It hard to say whether the city needs it but it is a cosy place.
Jahor Viniacki, part 2. Transcript
– We have freedom of action. I can make noise whenever I like. You know I can wield a hammer in the middle of the night… This is a more free space; you interfere in people's lives to a smaller extent.

– And people interfere in your life to a smaller extent?

– Yes, people interfere in my life to a smaller extent. You can keep animals, dogs and cats. May be, I will have chickens next year.
Not the the housing maintenance service but people should take care of their houses
In fact, everything depends on Viktor and those like him. The law says that every detached house must have a drainage and must not pour the slops onto the ground but not everyone has it. A majority of residents know exactly what temperature they have in the house in winter and how much it costs, what kind of land they own, how to trim the trees and water them during the heat.

But isn't it too much work? They say dwellers of detached houses are concentrated on their land, smell like peasants and are not interested in the municipal property.
Viktor Grapov has lived in Paŭnočny village, another workers' suburbs for almost all his life. Viktor is 25, he shares a house with his parents.

"When I was three years old, my parents rented a detached house, later they bought their own. I lived all my life in inner suburbs and it's difficult for me to compare it with life in a flat – I lived there for a year or two.

But my friends live there. I feel that we have different problems – they talk about relations with neighbours, door phone issues... I'm a kind of person who doesn't like to be interrupted. Various people live in flats and sometimes tackling problems with them may be emotionally unnproductive.

Speaking about money, probably, I need a bit more money to look after the house – the foundation, roof, insulation of walls, to change the insulation... I know that the solution of the problem depends on me. This is about responsibility – in a block of flats everyone bears it but anyone may say that it's not his business. But I know that nobody will clean outside the house instead of me, nobody will look after the roof. Here I make a decision how to live, and I like it."

Personal archive
"Yes, we clear snow and leaves ourselves. When you work 12 hours a day it's better in a flat – you came, slept, and left. But I work till 4 p.m. and I know that my family and animals are waiting for me there, and I should take care of them. And this is natural for me.

When I need something, I turn to relatives and we do it together. For example, we look after our big dog."
Viktar Hrapaŭ. Transcript
– I've decided to cultivate tobacco plant this year and my mother helped me. She planted some flowers before. "You need to do it this way, you need these plugs and you plant them at this particular time. After that, cover it…" It was a nice cooperation and a nice topic to talk about.

– How often do you leave your house? When you are at home but not in the house.

– It depends on the weather. When it's good, I wander back and forth for half an hour. I have a dog and I sometimes go out to smoke a pipe, because I don't like to smoke in the house. When I had a tobacco plant, I used to collect it.

– How well do you know what was here previously?

– It was Paŭnočny village before. I know that a lot of Gypsies lived here and live now. Speaking about my house, it's difficult to say. When we came, nobody had lived there for many years.

The man who sold it to us told that it had been divided into three or four parts.

– Do you know or communicate with your neighbors?

– It's a weird question because our neighbors are all different. Some of them lived here, then moved, and their relatives stayed here… Yes, we greet one another but I understand that everyone has their own lives and we don't have any warm relations. But it's strange that there are neighbors two or three doors down whom we do not greet. And there are people some 15 houses doors down from us and we greet, though I don't know who they are.

– To what extent are you responsible for what's going on in the street? For example, someone spilled out some garbage… Right in the street.

– When I go home, I pick up the litter I see, though it may sound strange. Again, a difference of inner suburbs is that I know that everyone has their own house and territory and they clean it up. I have one too. [I don't throw litter], because I see these people and I know that they will have to pick it up.
Viktor likes to walk in his quarter and doesn't like trips "to the city" very much. The "city" is everything that is situated beyond the Mahilioŭskaja metro station.

"Еду з працы напружаны, бачу родныя месцы – і расслабляюся. Наколькі патрэбны прыватны сектар у горадзе? Гэта пытанне добрае і складанае. Я не займаю нейкую пасаду і не магу зрабіць аналіз. Але адбылася так, што мая маці набывала хату менавіта ў прыватным сектары, і калі б выбіраў зараз – я выбраў бы тое ж самае".
"I return from work stressed, I see my native places and relax. How important are inner suburb to the city? It's a good and difficult question. I don't occupy a high position and I can't make an analysis. But it happened that my mother bought a house in a detached housing area. And if I had to make this choice now, I would opt for the same."
Special project of the Green Portal

Text, photo: Anna Volynets

Chief editor: Yanina Melnikova
Design: Anton Surapin

The author of the project thanks Polina Vardevanyan, Pavel Nishchenko, Yuri Taubkin for their assistance in preparing the material; heroes of the texts who shared their life, authors of the photos and used materials.