Human Interest

Russian dachas, an effective refuge from Covid-19

By Ignacio Ortega

Moscow, Aug 27 (efe-epa).- The traditional wooden houses with large plots located in the Russian countryside, also known as dachas, have become an effective refuge from coronavirus since isolation and social distance are guaranteed.

“I have never spent so much time in the countryside in my entire life,” Dmitri, a retiree who owns a dacha some 50 kilometres from St. Petersburg, told EFE.

Russians normally spend time in the dachas during summer, since these houses, except for those made out of concrete or bricks, are ill-equipped to withstand Russian harsh winter.

But 2020 has been an exception in every way. The pandemic pushed many people in the countryside, especially the elderly, who were forced to spend lockdown in their apartments in large cities.

The countryside became a good alternative for those who didn’t want to spend the days of confinement in the city, and the early end of winter and an unusually warm spring contributed to it.

Since the end of March, the dachas have been filled with people who have no intention of returning to the city until temperatures drop below zero.

Many parents sent their children to the countryside with grandparents, as schools closed and, until June, kids attended online classes.

“It is the best summer I can remember. There have never been so many children to play with,” says 12-year-old Dani, whose grandparents own a dacha near the historic city of Gatchina, in the Leningrad region.

One never gets bored in the dacha. If the weather is good, the children walk several kilometres to the nearest lake. Although the water is cold and there are many mosquitoes and horseflies, the lake is clean, there are no factories nearby and it is safe.

Health workers believe that the chances of getting infected in the countryside are much lower than in the city, although health services are often insufficient in many rural areas.

Most dachas’ owners have known each other for years and often invite people around. As is the case with Liubov, who likes to meet friends in her garden, while her grandson runs around.

Unlike the city, where people don’t take the use of a mask and gloves very seriously, rules are much stricter in the countryside.

Nobody can enter the few shops that can be found in the area without a mask and it is surprising that, compared to Moscow and St. Petersburg subways, everyone wears one in the bus.

Apart from health security, the Russian President’s decision to grant paid vacations also had an impact on urban exodus.

“It has been a blessing. Living in the dacha and getting paid without working. I sign up every year ”, says Masha, who works in a theatre in St. Petersburg, while carrying a cauldron full of wild fruits that she collected in the forest for her friends.

There are always things to do at the dacha. Every day, Sveta collects lettuce and tomatoes from her garden to make a salad.

“I don’t want to go back to the city. I can’t breathe in my apartment,” she says.

There are no strawberries this year, but her grandchildren help her to pick raspberries and other wild fruits, whose vitamins are essential to strengthen the immune system for the winter.

Liubov prefers to cut the grass with his lawnmower and care for his fruit trees, while Katia has no time for hobbies. She owns a garden and several greenhouses.

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