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24 Aug, 2009 11:34

No road, no food: remote village strives for life

Residents of a small Russian village are struggling for life. Local authorities have stopped sending food supplies to a remote settlement that has no shops and only five ageing residents.

The villagers are now taking legal action to have their only road repaired.

Is there a road?

For the people in a remote rural village in central Russia life is simple. Surrounded by nature and living in basic huts, it’s a dramatic contrast to the likes of Moscow around 300 km away. But something is disturbing the peace and threatens the lives of the villagers.

The heart of the problem lies in the road. That’s if you could even describe it as a road.

It’s extremely uneven, narrow and surrounded by trees. People from the nearby village, mostly old, are being forced to walk four kilometers along the path to reach the nearest shop and buy the essential food items they need to live.

That’s after the local administration of Demidovo stopped sending supply trucks to the village carrying supplies, because they said the road was too dangerous.

Dangerous shopping

The result is an extremely bumpy ride, but rather than improve the state of the road, the authorities decided to leave the five remaining villagers to fend for themselves.

Seventy-year-old Evgeny Egoronov has difficulty walking and struggles to make the weekly two hour long trip:

“I have to use a barrow for support as my legs have been letting me down recently. I have to walk to the next village every Tuesday. Good weather or bad, snow or rain – whatever”.

Those who could, left the village long ago – out of 25 houses only five are still inhabited.

But some are refusing to abandon the place they’ve called home almost all their life and so instead are taking the local authorities to court.

“We only filed a lawsuit after one of our women here, the most energetic and active, died,” said local resident Vladimir Luzganov.

“A neighbor of mine once fell right on the road on his way to the food store; we only just saved him. It’s difficult even for me, and I don’t consider myself frail yet”.

We can do nothing – authorities wash their hands

But the local authorities deny that the people’s lives are in danger and when asked why they don’t help, they replied they simply don’t have the funds.

“The money earmarked for road building in our budget is not enough to improve the road or build a new shop,” said Vasily Panin, head of administration for the Demidovskoye settlement in Vladimirsky District.

“I realize there are very old people who have great trouble walking to the shop; I feel for them, but there’s nothing I can do about it personally”.

But that decision might change when the case goes to court.

If it falls in favor of the residents, providing them with a food supply or an improved road, it will create a precedent for other remote villages. With more than 200 in the surrounding area a significant backlash could ensue.