We were soaking wet when we got to the house of Vladimir’s parents after our visit to the Gulag camp. As the parents and brother Alexey heard the sound of the two bikes they came out to greet us. Mrs Sannikov greeted me with kisses on both cheeks and a bear hug, like a long lost son that had returned. She spoke without end in Russian. Although I couldn’t understand a single word the love extended to me didn’t need a language. I felt at home.
One of the words used very often in Russian is “kak” that means something like “What?”, depending on the sentence context. Mr Sannikov came to greet and welcome me to his home. He worked his whole life in a steel factory that manufactured some kind of weaponry. He was most interested in the KLR. As he got to me his first question sounded like “Kak gehad?” My honest reply in Afrikaans was “Nee geen kak gehad nie”.
Mr Sannikov reminded me so much of my father. Mr Sannikov had his own vegetable garden filled with all kinds of vegetables. Mrs Sannikov started with supper with us sitting around the kitchen table. Vladimir and Alexey out of the city had much to tell about their families and children. The grandparents listened proudly to all the news about their grandchildren.
It was the same day the commemoration of the start of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) for Russia. They got involved in the war only in 1941. On TV old patriotic movies were shown, which the father, still Communist in heart and soul, enjoyed. The sons laughed and said only one word: Propaganda.
Supper was fantastic. The table was filled with the freshest salad and vegetables directly from the garden. We also had young garlic from the garden. It was opened and sprinkled with salt and then eaten. The cheese and cold meat was from the local magazin, as the bottles of beer. Mr Sannikov stressed the point that they bought only Russian products in the magazin.
We spoke about the war and Alexey and Vladimir had to translate. Mr Sannikov lost all three his brothers in the war. He held his fingers in the air: 26 million Russians died during the war.
Later the night I had the chance to enjoy a real Russian sauna, a banja. Vladimir hit my body with a bundle of Siberian branches tied together like a small broom. It is said that it helps with the blood circulation.
When I went to bed I was really exhausted. I was for nearly eleven hours on the road. While lying on my bed a thunderstorm broke loose outside. I was glad that I was not outside.
The next morning we again had fresh produce from the gardens for breakfast: spring onions and fresh garlic sprinkled with salt, bread, cheese, cold meat and huge quantities of tea with berries added to the tea.
And then it was time to say goodbye to wonderful people whom I most probably never will see again. Mr Sannikov gave me a mug made in the factory in which he worked. Since the demand for weapons decreased there wasn’t enough work anymore. As a result the factories produce now many different things, also mugs, of a superb quality. This mug will become my permanent travel companion.
The KLR carried me to a little-known corner of Russia. In a house with no running warm water but so much warmth and love I was at home for one night. Even when travelling alone in Russia is really hard, I know I am going to miss Russia very much. Thanks Vladimir, Alexey and Mr and Mrs Sannikov!