The first 10 pictures in the slide show above are those of my friends. Anastasya is the daughter of Natasha and Sergey. They were both born in Bratsk, but are still not considered burunduki (Russian for chipmunks), i.e., the true native Siberians, because their parents were not born in Siberia. They came to Bratsk, as most of its first inhabitants when the construction of the Bratsk dam started in 1950's. Thus only Anastasya is a burunduk.
Natasha and Sergey both work hard. Natasha originally graduated from a university as a meteorologist, but at present works as a clerk in the Russian taxation service. She spends some evenings and Saturday mornings at a college to earn a diploma in economics. Nevertheless, recently in the process of another of the frequent reorganizations of the Russian institutions she ended up with more work and a smaller salary!
Sergey works for the largest aluminium producer in the world, the Bratsk Aluminium Smelter, where he works in the maintenance of the portal cranes. He was telling me that they have a very good experience with rather old portal cranes made some 30 years ago in former Czechoslovakia (the country of my origin). They still suit better the harsh Siberian climate than the latest cranes from western Europe with full electronic control that is often breaking down because of large temperature difference between the summer and winter.
Alexey is Sergey's brother. He has a small private business, and so he was free to organize his time, and to drive me around Bratsk. Although he does not own a car, he is hiring an older car with a driver to conduct his business. Alexey's and Sergey's mother is of Chinese origin, but speaks only Russian, and considers herself a Russian. But her cooking is an interesting mixture of Chinese, Russian and Central-Asian cuisine.
Alexander and Nadezhda are Natasha's parents. Their older daughter and grandchildren live in Canada. Alexander is of Cossack background. His grandmother was Turkish. She was found by a Cossack unit on a battlefield in Bulgaria, where she was lying besides her killed mother, about one or two weeks old. It was in the late 19th century, when the Cossacks were helping to liberate Bulgaria from the Turkish occupation. The commander of the Cossack unit was childless, and raised her as his daughter.
The other pictures (11-23) show complete strangers I was watching one morning from my window in the Natasha's and Sergey's apartment with a view to a busy corner with a bus stop and a 24-hour convenience store. (But the way, prices of goods in this convenience store were still the same as in the big supermarkets.)
( Alexander deceased on July 31, 2003.)