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pictures by Layla & Sasha
text by Layla

My cousin Misha remains as vivacious and spontaneous as I remember him from childhood. One evening, he walked through the door and announced that first thing in the morning he was driving a car to Ulianovsk, the former Simbirsk, the birthplace of Vladimir Ilich Lenin, 950 km towards the Ural mountains, that famous range that separates Europe from Asia. We couldn’t resist such an opportunity and so, the next dawn Sasha, Liouba and I headed towards sunrise.

Through Kolomna:

The river Voblia miltsov.org/travel/photosрека Вобля), border of Moscow and Riazan’ regions:

Going from Montreal to Washington D.C., as an example, or say Paris to Berlin, even when one passes through natural reserves, the road leaves the impression that humans are the primary occupants of the world and that everything is trimmed and cleaned up for their use and pleasure. The road to Ulianovsk, although is the same in the number of kilometres, humbles this impression and presents human population as scarce, appearing sporadically in the vastness of the unknown.

Upon leaving the Riazan’ region we passed through the single spot, of approximately ½ km, that conglomerated all the food of Russia.

Food shacks, restaurants, truckers and cows.

The Eatinger

The Eater


Raspberry Ringing

Little Darling Spring


Visiting Natasha

Cafe Rally


Ruslan and 1000 trifles

The Volga Girl miltsov.org/travel/photosbut where is the Volga?)

More colourful and luring places

It’s a busy place

Little Masha, Mashenka, and further down, we get the promise that more is coming in the future

After the intensive food-mall, we left the world of temptation and entered Mordovia, a space free of any commercial advertising, where we could stare out at the scenery and actually see the endlessness of what we know not and the limits of our vision and horizons. Periodically, there were free maps posted under protective shields and information on the importance of respecting nature and keeping it clean, of social cooperation, and astronautics. Unfortunately, we haven’t captured these pictures and will have to go back for them.

We stopped at a local “supermarket” miltsov.org/travel/photosунивермаг) in Mordovia and heard the local customers and the personnel talk in a completely unfamiliar to us language. Of course, we had forgotten that Mordovian is in the Finoo-Permic and Ugric linguistic group, which is spoken in Finland, Estonia, Hungary and related languages as spoken by the Sami, Karelians, Udmurts, Mari, and a few others. Liouba was fascinated. We chatted a bit with the locals, got provisions, Liouba ran behind the store.

Any Russian speaker who has seen the hilarious Russian “translations” of the famous Ring of the Lord films would have doubly enjoyed the trip through Mordovia. It meant much more to us, since the translations took into account the racist implications of the “good”, “bad”, and the “primitive” designations in Tolkien’s books and the various connotations in the films. We had fun “translating” further as we drove through this yet unsoiled land.

Local architecture.

Local chicks cackling on a bench in a spirit of community.

A lunch break.

A little house on the prairies

The Russian prairies.

Approaching the Ulianovsk region we frolicked atop the rainbow miltsov.org/travel/photosif you squint well enough, you will see us up there)

and then carried on with our trip


A memorial for the veterans of WWII. While the various dimensions of time occasionally intersect in historical monuments, there still remains the problem that monuments dissect time and separate the wholeness that fuses the future, present and past into a flowing quantic momentum, vibrant with mysterius energy, because the monument focuses on a personality or a symbol or a mythological moment in time and excludes all that is dynamic, interactive, and fluid, all the forces and the possibilities that made each soldier possible and each revolutionary both a reality and a dream, each war, moment of love, birth and sacrifice a part of the cosmic unknown and unheard symphony. And yet, at the same time, it is the treasured memory of where we came from, that mysterious memory of the flesh which we cannot escape.

We found Ulianovsk to be a remembering place.

Volgaand remembrance:

Karl Marx breaks out from beneath the weight of capitalism and our future generation erupts free.

Baby Lenin with his mother.


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