Copyright © 2020 Matteo Buonomo

[...] it does matter that all these Annas, Mavras, Pelagueyas, from dawn to sunset should be grinding away, ill from overwork, all their lives worried about their starving sickly children; all their lives they are afraid of death and disease, and have to be looking after themselves; they fade in youth, grow old very early, and die in filth and dirt; their children as they grow up go the same way and hundreds of years slip by and millions of people live worse than animals, in constant dread of never having a crust to eat; but the horror of their position is that they have no time to think of their souls, no time to remember that they are made in the likeness of God; hunger, cold, animal fear, incessant work, like drifts of snow block all the ways to spiritual activity, to the very thing that distinguishes man from the animals, and is the only thing indeed that makes life worth living.


From the book Peasants and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov (1897)

I knew that Siberia meant "The land that sleeps". This is all I knew. But it was all I needed to know to decide to go.

That word has been inside me for a long time, so I decided to go.

Siberia is the biggest region in Russia. It covers 75% of its territory, here earth challenges human survival with some of the most inhospitable living conditions reason why it has amongst the lowest population density in the world. Besides its geographical hugeness, it is also a metaphorical place, a season of the soul, it has no defined borders or political entity which actually brings the name of Siberia.

I travelled by train, on foot, hitch-hiking without planning anything, trying to be as instinctive as possible. I allowed my sensations and my fears to drive me up to remote and forgotten villages. So, at some point, I realised that the direction did not even matter anymore.

I walked, and when I saw a lineament, a scar, a tattoo or a certain fatigue that transpired a story that scared or interested me then I went closer and asked a place to stay for the night with a note with few words written in Russian.

In this way I found myself to share intimacy with those people, to feel part of those families. I often found myself, drunk with vodka to fall asleep staring at a wooden ceiling.

To scan this journey as a metronome, I had the pages of Peasants and Other Stories by Cechov. Those pages could have been the caption of the situations I was living. They held the essence of what I was seeing and of the spirit of the people I was meeting.