Connecting / Places of My Heart / Russia & Beyond

Sent to Siberia

Russia's Old Believers (Староверы) were persecuted for their religious beliefs, and exiled to Siberia Photo: Helen Holter

Russia’s Old Believers (Староверы) were persecuted for their religious beliefs, and exiled to Siberia
Photo: Helen Holter

Friends keep asking why I don’t post much about my trip to Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railway – a $25,000 ticket that truly was “a journey of a lifetime.”

It was out of respect to my employer, who bought the ticket and sent me to Siberia to shoot on-the-fly videos, take photos and write stories about these incredible destinations that are my employer’s expertise for 30 years, and as they say – “at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.”  I loved using my Russian and meeting so many Siberians who adore this diverse land.  I think I made the right decision, waiting for some time to pass so my employer would reap the rewards of all the publicity and marketing of my efforts before I diverted attention by re-posting on my own personal web sites and on Facebook.

In all, I created more than 20 videos, shot 3,000 photos, and wrote countless stories about this legendary land that was the stuff of my high school “Dr. Zhivago” imagination – from Ulan Ude  and Tarbagatay to  Irkutsk and Kazan.  I loved meeting so many Siberians, with long conversations in Russian about everything from world politics to their own lives, and how their ancestors ended up in Siberia. My work is posted on my employer’s web site, YouTube channel, and used in marketing collateral.  I selected a few of my favorite videos below, which I shot, storyboarded, and created. (Click on the photo and the video will begin. If you click on the YouTube icon, it takes you off this page and directly to the original YouTube video and story with text, detailed information, etc.)

This  first video was the most complex, with multiple angles and two separate trips with the Siberian conductor to get the shots I needed in a very short time.

I shot two videos of the Old Believers (Староверы), having just traveled 45 hours from Seattle to L.A. to Moscow to Ulan Ude, and then by bus to Tarbagatay.  Pretty jet-lagged! It was wonderful talking to them in Russian, and hearing their stories of religious persecution.

I was quite surprised at how much viewers like this “on-the-fly” video I put together of a visit to a Soviet apartment in Irkutsk, and having tea with Tatiana.

Finally, no story about Siberia is complete without listening to Russian Orthodox Church bells.  I caught this on a summer Sunday morning in Irkutsk, just as church services were ending.

I’m grateful to my employer for giving me the gift of Siberia – a place I could only dream about growing up, and read about in my Soviet studies.  I will never forget the people and places of this complex, pristine, and intriguing land…  Большое спасибо!