Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The Village of Hutava
I grew up hearing relatives speak of an exotic Russian village called Hutava located in Western Tarist Russia (Now Belarus) near the city of Drognichin.  Although I never visited the place, it was as real to me as New York City or Chicago.  While researching my story I came across a series of color photos from Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky, the photographer for the Tsar.  Prokudin-Gorskii as tasked to make color images of the Tsar's vast empire. Many of his photos, now residing in the United States National Archives, had been digitized and made available on line. From them I constructed an imaginary village consisting of a church, an inn, and several dozen izbah, Russian peasant homes.

A color picture of a Russian village circa 1904

Hutava Surrogate 
Present day church in Hutava
The village I grew up in, Rockdale, Illinois, was populated by many first generation Eastern Europeans and faintly resembled Russian towns I saw when I was stationed in Russia.  Slavic food, gardens, fences, clothing, and chicken coops all took me back to America in the 1940's, making it easy to reconstruct my story's location.  My experience as a weapon's inspector in the Soviet Union and four years of Upper Michigan winters, provided me with a first hand knowledge of bitterly cold winters.

I made my village exotic enough to pique the readers interest in a distant land, but familiar enough to engage memories of their home life.  Who does not recall aromas of food, the smell of fresh cut grass or hay, cold rain, and warm sun?

Tourists in exotic Hutava
Photo by Morton Steinberg
 Copyright © 2010 Debbie Kroopkin
My quest for a location now complete, it was time to populate the village.

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