The Earth´s circle. Kolodozero

Ekaterina Solovieva

2009 - 2018

The village of Kolodozero, deeply concealed in the woods of Pudozh, is located on the border between Arkhangelsk Oblast and Karelia. Fifteen years ago, these places enchanted three friends from Moscow who were strolling around the north and searching for the meaning of life, and most likely, themselves as well. In 2001, they jointly gathered resources and started building a new church to replace the old one that was burned down back in 1977. One of the friends, the redhead rebel and punk Arkady Shlykov, who graduated from the Moscow Spiritual Seminary, accepted the ordination in 2005. This event was intended to change the life of the village, to breathe new forces into it. Unfortunately, the indifference of the Russian northern hinterland turned out to be stronger than the sincere spiritual impulses of friends and Arkady himself. A full-fledged parish from local residents in Kolodozero did not work out. Despite the huge number of friends who came to visit the house of the priest from all over the country and from abroad, Arkady was alone. The locals loved him, asked for help and for any religios needs, but he was very worried that the people did not go to serve in the church. On February 12th 2018, I have got sad news from Kolodozero. Priest Arkady Shlykov suddenly died after a heart attack. He was 45 years old. All the years he lived in Kolodozero he took all the problems and sorrows of the people of the village very personally, helped them selflessly. He used to spend hours hitchhiking to the remote communities to baptize, read the funeral service or just serve in the temple. And at some moment his heart gave up. After the priest's death the village feels empty. The church is closed, services are not held. People continue to live their lives, the are still to realize what man they lost. This story is about the cold and the warmth of the Russian North, and about a man who just wanted to bring light and faith to people.

Russia, Karelia 2009-2018

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  • Father Arkady baptizes a baby right in the water of the lake. In the summer months the priest always baptized people in the lake, just as the early Christians did. He always entered the water in full robe. In recent years, due to health problems, he began to baptize from a boat.

  • Night winter road to Kolodozero. The village is located 1000 kilometers from Moscow. You can reach it by car or by train from Moscow to the city of Nyandoma, and from there you can take a taxi to Kolodozero, which is 180 kilometers away. Twenty years ago there were no normal roads in the district, but there were buses. Now the public transportation is totally terminated. Therefore, Arkady used passing cars to get to distant parishes.

  • A Christmas play for village children takes place right in the house of the priest. The club and the church are too cold - the temperature outside in January 2017 reached -45 degrees centigrade. A festive presentation for Christmas is a long tradition. The performance was arranged by Arkady's friends, musicians and artists who came from Moscow. Children were always looking forward to holidays and gifts.

  • The house of father Arkady is more than 100 years old, it is very large and stands next to the church on the lakeside.

  • A local resident in balaclava came to visit his neighbor to sing carols. It was a custom in the northern villages to go from house to house with Christmas carols. Unfortunately, this tradition is almost lost. Now people do not remember the lyrics of carols, but simply put on masks and go to house doors, pretty drunk and sing indistinct songs with obscene lexics.

  • The girl was first to wake up and looks out of the window on Christmas morning. Sleeping nearby are children who came with their father to visit farther Arkady for holidays. Their father, Alexander, father Arkady's closest friend, sleeps in the same bed. 25 years ago, Aleksander, Arkady and another friend Mikhail decided to connect their lives with Kolodozero and revive the church and the parish in the village. Mikhail crashed to death in a car accident in 2009.

  • Arkady rinses the laundry in the lake ice-hole. Living conditions in the village are very harsh. There is no running water, heating is from the stove. Very few people helped the priest with the household and he had to cope with everyday problems on his own, which he was not always good at.

  • Tatiana is resting after steaming in the sauna. Bathhouses in the villages are put on the lake shore. In the background you can see the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, which father Arkady built with his friends and where he became a priest in 2005. Tatiana and her husband, Vitya, were often helping Arkady with the housework, taking care of domestic animals, and working in the garden. Tanya suffers from a weak form of schizophrenia and takes pills.

  • Father Arkady leads a procession with the believers after the service in the temple at a remote parish. Arkady served in five parishes, 50 or more kilometers apart. He did not have a car, he caught a ride to come for a service, baptizing or marriage. People were always waiting for him.

  • Children rest during a break in the school of Kolodozero village. In 2017, there were 19 students in school. Primary school was transferred to a nearby village. They also wanted to close the senior school, but the locals, with the help of Fr. Arkady's friends from Moscow defended the school and prevented its closure. The closure of a school in a northern village means that it no more than ten years to live. Young people leave without having the opportunity to learn, educate and teach children.

  • Pashka, a pupil of father Arkady is resting on the Russian stove in the house of the priest. A cat named Smiley sits nearby. Pashka is from a dysfunctional family. His parents, who lived in a nearby village, are alcoholics. They did not care much for their son, he lived on the street and begged for food. Since 2011, he began to live with father Arkady. He became his father instead, took care for his education and upbringing. At the of age 18, Pasha left Kolodozero for Petrozavodsk, where he decided to study automechanics. He did not finish his studies and is now doing occasional jobs for living.

  • A local resident uncle Pasha, a former sailor, and now a fisherman. This is his main occupation after retirement. He provides enough fish for his family and for the family of his daughter, and still something is left for sale.

  • An old boat cast on the shore of the lake. It is overgrown with grass, even the trees sprouted through the dilapidated wood of the boat. People in Karelia, living along the shores of lakes, fish with nets, going a few kilometers off the shore with their boats. Fish is the most important component of the diet of villagers, who live from subsistence farming. They have their own vegetable gardens and cattle, pick berries and mushrooms in the forest, go hunting. There is no work in the village, and pensions are very small. People are used to rely only on themselves.

  • Lena and Vitya are Muscovites who bought a house in Kolodozero in 2012. They are very religious and planned to go to the temple to father Arkady quite often to sing during services. Unfortunately, Arkady often served in distant parishes, and there were very few parishioners in Kolodozero. In the last years also health problems and addiction to alcohol added on. Vitya and Lena lost the opportunity to go to the temple in the village where they bought the house.

  • Arkady is walking on the ice of Korbozero, a lake in a neighboring village. He carries a drill for winter fishing. Arkady never knew how to fish, and the drill is for his friends, who hope to catch a lot of pikes and cook a fish soup.

  • Arkady's guets launch christmas fireworks on the frozen lake. This is a traditional firework, which symbolizes the star that marked the birth of the saviour. The fireworks are always arranged on the night of January 6-7, after a long christmas service in the temple, which also satnds on a hign bank of the lake. After the fireworks, everyone goes to the priest's house, where the table has already been filled with festive dishes. The feast with songs continues until the morning, the guests then sleep until the evening.

  • Arkady sits alone on the porch of a house in the neighboring village of Korbozero. The story of the revival of the parish began as a fairy tale, the young people were full of hope. Alas, not all dreams were destined to come true. One of his friends, Misha, died; Arkady, no matter how hard he tried, could not attract local residents to the church. He very much suffered from his loneliness. In his youth, Arkady took a burden that he would not be able to carry.

  • A cat sits on the windowsill father Arkady's room. The window is wide open, it is freezing outside. There was always a mess in the room. Arkady was a very unassuming man in everyday life, he did not notice the dirt and disorder around him. He made a lot of effort for others and did not care at all about himself, his comfort and health. That is what ultimately killed him.

  • The coffin with Arkady's body is carried out of the church to load it into a van that will take it to the cemetery. The procession following the van stretched for a hundred meters. A priest said touching words at the memorial service: "I think that even there, in heaven, Arkady is still stirring porridge with a spoon and waiting for friends."

  • A girl holds Arkady's portrait and watches as the grave-diggers fill the hole with the coffin with earth. She will leave this portrait on the grave, next to the cross. Now people from all over Russia and from abroad are coming to visit the last refuge of farther Arkadiy, as they used to visit him at Kolodozero. Many believe that he was a true Russian saint of the new time.