According to the statistics for 2018, there were about 10 million more women than men living in Russia. The numbers are getting even more astounding when you look at the group of age 65 and older - there are almost two times less men than women. They are dying younger from alcohol, insufficient health care or hard and risky work, while their wives are getting older alone, becoming an archetypical Russian babushka. As many others, I’ve never seen my grandpa, but my granny was always around, at least at Siberian measures.
Maria Antonovna Olkhovskaya, my grandma, turned 92 this August. She has 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Her life was extraordinary but not unique. She was born into a family of old believers in a small hamlet in the Siberian taiga. Being a war child, she suffered from hunger and hard manual labour. She got four years of school education and lived in a village her entire life. When she was young, she worked in a sawmill and took care of everything at home. She kept 10 heads of livestock at the same time as a huge vegetable-garden. I started to photograph my grandmother 5 years ago, when I realised that I want to keep a memory of her, and the beautiful world that she had created around herself. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine that this story would have a new twist.
In the winter of 2017, my grandma got very sick - like people her age get sick for the last time. In spring she gradually got better, but for the family it was clear that she couldn’t live so far from the city anymore and take care of the house, where there isn’t even tap water or a proper heating system. In autumn, as a widow of a World War veteran she received money from the Russian government to buy a better apartment for herself. In December, she moved to the city for the first time in her life. Her new one-room flat she jokingly calls «a castle» is in the centre of the Region of Tomsk.