Drinking water is brought in cans from other villages. The water pipeline, through which the village was running water from Bolshoy Uzen, was scrapped by unknown persons in the middle of the 2000s. The inhabitants used ponds, in which melt water accumulated in the spring. But three years ago, the last pond dried up.
There are almost 300 kilometers from Saratov to Ufimovsky. An asphalt road remains in memory of the powerful state farm, of which the village was once a part. Asphalt has not been updated, it seems, since the time of the conquest of virgin lands. A continuous ice crust 16 kilometers long gleams under the winter sun. 2 kilometers before the village, the car suddenly gets up - the steppe drift has driven a whole snowdrift under the hood.
I'm walking. A Chevy-Niva is making his way through the crossings, a young man in a new uniform is driving. The border guard screeches on the ice. Requires a passport to establish citizenship. He announces a warning and threatens with a fine: you can only be in the border zone with a special pass. It is not easy to imagine a spy who would agree to voluntarily visit the Oktyabrskoye MO (it includes the Ufimovskiy). But the officer is vigilant: he accompanies the press to the very entrance to the village, where residents have already gathered, and, standing on the side of the road, listens attentively to the conversation.
Usually the sovereign people of the inhabitants of Ufimovsky, on the contrary, do not want to hear. “You are unprofitable, they say. Unpromising village,”the villagers repeat the statements of officials.
Masked pensioners, stomping, hide from the wind behind the metal canopy of the bus stop. This is the only site in the village that is cleared of snow - the other three streets are covered with snowdrifts that have caked together during the winter. “Zaburanit - you can't pass. Once a local native was brought home to be buried. The hearse drove to the stop, and then - nothing. I had to put the dead man on a sleigh, residents say. If someone gets sick with us, the ambulance will not get through. We won't make it to the doctor on our own either: young people are in the city, in the whole village there are three men with cars."
The fields around the village, which once belonged to the state farm, are cultivated by large agricultural holdings from other regions. “They don’t help the village in any way, they don’t even want to send a bulldozer after a storm. They say: our workers are not here, the pensioners shrug their shoulders. - But we have worked on the ground for 40 years! Mukhatova Ekaterina Ivanovna lives on that street. She has been a milkmaid since the age of 14. Now he is a disabled person of the first group. Doesn't she deserve help? It turns out that you have worked - die?"
Without water, they bathe both bedridden old people and nursing babies in Ufimovskoye. “My youngest grandson is three months old. In the morning we get up, shovel a pan of snow in the yard - and onto the stove. There is nothing else to wash the diapers with. Imagine how much snow needs to be melted, how much gas to burn, but we also pay for it,”says Evgenia Gubanova. Evgenia Mikhailovna is 66 years old. She worked as a calf and milkmaid on the state farm.
“See that bump near the road? There was a ten-cube barrel underground. The state farm brought real drinking water there for free,”recalls Biganym Tugaeva, who worked as an accountant.
On the edge of Ufimovsky, a water tower turns black. Previously, water was pumped to the village from Bolshoy Uzen. Each yard had speakers. Plum trees, apricots, cherries grew under the windows, cucumbers and tomatoes in the gardens (and this is a semi-desert climatic zone). But in 2004, someone dug up a 36-kilometer section of the pipeline and took it away for scrap. “We heard tractors in the steppe and asked the workers. They said: it's none of your business, the regional authorities decided that because the pipes were rusted,”the interlocutors recall.
At first, the villagers did not understand that a disaster had happened. Water from Uzen has always been considered expensive. After its disappearance, the village continued to use almost free water from the ponds. There were four ponds. Every spring melt water flowed here from the steppe. The stock was enough for a whole year. In this way, the water supply of many Trans-Volga villages is arranged.
But ponds need to be looked after: in winter, make snow ramparts in order to retain as much water as possible in spring, to clear the reservoir of silt and reeds. The state farm has collapsed, there is no other farm that could do this in Ufimov.
The last pond dried up in February 2018. “In the morning they drove the cattle, but there is no water. The ice subsided. It's empty under it! " - Amangeldy Biktasov, a former machine operator, gasps. “The next year there was a pile of snow, but there was not enough water. How the cattle suffered - the water is black, everything is in mud! We drank in a week."
For three years the village has been using only imported water. Once a week, ZIL with a cistern delivers water fifteen kilometers from Demyas. Water is poured into an underground reservoir next to a dry pond. “The water is salty. It is even impossible to swim in it: if you heat it up, flakes fall out, the soap does not foam,”residents say.
But even this kind of water has to be saved. “After breakfast, we will wash the dishes, but do not pour out the water. I wash the dishes in the same basin after lunch and dinner. And you can also wash the floors with water after washing,”local housewives share their secrets.
“Those who do not have a car defend industrial water from a water truck and drink. Those who can go to Dergachi, at every opportunity, collect drinking water there in canisters in reserve. In the regional center, flowers are watered in a flowerbed, and we, living people, disappear here without water,”the women are indignant.
Residents of Ufimovskoye pay for gasoline for the water carrier - 500 rubles from the yard for each visit.
How to erase a village from the map
Former state farm foreman Kanatkali Sarsenbayev wrote to all authorities for three years, trying to return water to the village. The regional construction ministry, the governor's helpline, the public reception of the State Duma deputy Vyacheslav Volodin answered word for word: "The water supply to the village is carried out in a regular mode." In the summer of 2019, the pensioner turned to Putin. The presidential administration sent a two-page response, informing the villager that his Ufimovskoye had a water intake, a pumping station, a water tower, underground networks 1.8 kilometers long, seven standpipes and a local pond with a capacity of 24 thousand cubic meters, filled to 45 percent. “The pond is filled with precipitation. Water supply to the Ufimovsky settlement is carried out daily according to the schedule."
Once an unknown person called Sarsenbayev: "Grandfather, you need too much." “In the evening we lock ourselves up, grandfather says: we ought to let the dogs go. I answer him: it's okay, if we die, then for the people,”says the widow Biganym Utepovna. Last summer, the 83-year-old elder died without receiving any help from the authorities.
The problems in the village have even increased in recent years. Residents found themselves not only without water, but also without pastures. Previously, villagers grazed cattle on the empty state farm lands. “The new owners have planted everything with sunflower. We are now spinning around a dried pond and at the former base. Remember, in Soviet history textbooks there was a picture - a peasant on one leg? Now it's about us,”Biganym laughs sadly.
“We used to live pretty well on our personal subsidiary plots. 12-17 cows were kept, not counting the sheep. Now we have two "slingshots" left. Many have slaughtered all the cattle and are not planting vegetable gardens, because there is nothing to water with,”sighs Zhibek Biktasova.
Zhibek Khasanovna worked for 40 years as a kindergarten teacher (the kindergarten in the village was closed for a long time). Her pension is 8 thousand rubles. After paying for water, electricity and gas, the money is barely enough for food. “We store two or three sacks of flour for the winter. We bake the bread ourselves, the shop in the village was closed ten years ago. For shopping, you have to go 50 kilometers to Dergachi, which is almost 1,000 rubles more for the road,”says the pensioner.
In the late 2000s, a rural medical center was optimized. The nearest doctor and pharmacy are now also in Dergachi. It was especially difficult last spring, during the quarantine. Villagers say that the police were on duty on the road and did not allow them to leave the village, even for medicines.
A yellow school bus pulls up at the stop. The village school, like everything else, was closed in the last decade. Now children go to lessons 17 kilometers away to the village of Oktyabrskoye. “Recently there were snowstorms, we sat at home for two days,” says the grandmother of the seventh-grader Yevgeny Gubanov. “Muhammad is already 13 years old, but I always see him off with a flashlight. The bus leaves at 7.30. In winter at this time it is completely dark, there is not a single lantern in the village, but it is full of stray dogs."
Muhammad looks at life with optimism: he says that it is warm on the bus, the food at school is delicious. The only trouble is that after school there is nothing to do in my native village: "In Oktyabrsky there is a stadium and a playground, but here there is only a spider web."
Golden rain does not reach the ground
Residents of the Trans-Volga villages complain about water problems every year. For example, in the summer of 2020, the village of Mayanga, Balakovo District, was left without water: local wells drilled in the middle of the last century dried up. For three weeks, a fire engine brought water to the residents. In the fall, residents of the village of Blizhny, Novouzensky District, recorded a video message to the Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin - here the Chertanla River is catastrophically shallow, there are no other sources of water nearby. In December, the residents of Semeno-Poltavka of the Ershovsky district turned to the journalists: the local pond is less than half full, the water supply system, built in 1967, is silted up, and the street pumps are almost not working.
Ten years ago, the regional authorities stated that there was a “critical situation” with water in the Left Bank. Officials estimate that the villages are provided with water for 50 percent of the need. 160 thousand residents drink substandard water.
Steppe rivers - Bolshoi Irgiz, Eruslan, Bolshoy Uzen, Maly Uzen - become very shallow in summer. Therefore, water is pumped here from the Volga through the Saratov irrigation and watering canal, and then distributed over rural ponds. The cost of the water includes the electricity bill for the pumps, and it turns out to be gold. In 2020, 46.4 million rubles were allocated from the reserve fund for pumping the Trans-Volga reservoirs. But this is not enough.
The villagers have no money, and the water itself is physically lacking: the reservoirs, built in the middle of the last century, are covered with silt and overgrown with reeds. Clearing is expensive. For example, last spring the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources announced the start of work on Bolshoy Uzen near the village of Miloradovka, Krasnopartizansky District. Cleaning of the 1.15-kilometer-long site from silt deposits, reeds and sunken logs was estimated at 27 million rubles.
Over the past decade, regional officials have reported on the launch of regional and federal programs several times, promising to spend hundreds of millions of rubles on water for the Trans-Volga villages.
Two years ago, the Saratov Region joined the Pure Water national project. For six years in the country it is planned to build and reconstruct more than 2 thousand water pipelines, wells, pumping, treatment plants, etc. worth 242.6 billion rubles. Quality water should be received by 5 million people. The Saratov region has been promised 2.5 billion rubles. So far, two water pipelines have been put into operation to the village of Ust-Kurdyum in the Saratov region and the village of Poludenny in the Ershovsky region.
Russian Construction Minister Vladimir Yakushev notes that the national project is not progressing quickly in all regions. “The first task that we faced in 2019: we needed to effectively spend 5 billion rubles on 85 constituent entities of the Russian Federation. We transferred exactly half of this amount to the next year. That is, we were not ready to sell even 5 billion in the volume of our huge country,”the minister said in October at the All-Russian Water Congress.
For two years, the regions "learned to prepare design estimates, construction went more actively" and now, the head of the department is sure, "we can say that we have moved to effective work."