A Rural Rapper

A family story bought by an abandoned house in dying wood, and inspired in a new life.

As it usually happens, a nice smooth asphalt road ends just right where the agro-town ends, which is also the center of the village council. Behind the railway crossing, the so-called pit road with asphalt patches begins. Enemies definitely shall not pass, but the locals, well, they will put up with anything.
I approach a turn to Sloboda. At this point, even the frailest asphalt disappears completely, and ahead of us lie three kilometers of a dirt road. I pass a farm that is living out its last days, bare spring fields and hills until I run into a sign of a settlement. Right behind the sign, I can see a beautiful wicker fence and an old hut. However, the closer I get, the more life I notice around me. Outside the gate, I am greeted by Sergey, the owner of the hut. Although he knew about my visit, he did not waste time – when we met, he was tearing nails out of old floorboards.

– I dismantled the wooden floor in the house, just poured liquid concrete screeds. And as for these boards, I'm going to use them to lay the floor on the second floor – shares Sergey about the work done and his plans.
For the beginning of April, the weather is beautiful, almost summer-like, with the west breeze blowing. Onto the porch of the house comes Radim, the son of Sergey. He is two and a half years old and was born here, in Sloboda, right in this house. Radim does his best to repeat everything after dad. So while Dad is using an iron hammer and a nail hammer along with six-meter longboards, his son is carrying a small plastic saw in his hands and a similar plastic hammer which he uses to knock on a small wooden board.
Soon comes Yulia, Sergey's wife, and Radim's mom. She invites us inside and puts the kettle on the stove.
Half of the house is lived in, and the other one, apparently, is under renovation. I asked the host how his family managed to get here. It turns out that Sergey leaving his job contributed a lot to the decision to move here, as the family had to figure out where to live. The couple saved up a little money, but that wasn't nearly enough to buy an apartment in Minsk. So they had to look for cheaper housing. Besides, the man had always dreamed of living in a wooden house.
Previously, Sergey worked in the circus as an air gymnast and traveled around the world for four years.

– I've seen enough of these enormous cities. In 2015, I came home and went to live in the forest.
Now the house doesn't look anything like when the couple first saw it. The owner has changed everything. He ripped off the wallpaper and cleaned the walls. He poured liquid screeds in one room, and now he is doing the same thing in another. He set up a decent bathroom: a bath, a shower, and a toilet – all by himself. Completely remodeled the veranda, built a well. The hazelwood fence was also built by Sergey. The pit garage is still a work in progress.

– Как-то я познакомился с человеком, у которого есть косилка для кошения камыша, ею заготавливается камыш. И вот он ездил в Европу, работал с камышом там. И я у него увидел камышовый потолок. Мне понравилось. Посмотрел, что у нас тут недалеко растёт камыш. Вышел зимой на озеро с серпом, накосил его и довольно быстро сделал потолок. Потом сделал стены, отделал студию звукозаписи камышом. Оказалось, это очень хороший звукоизолирующий материал. Теперь вот в будущем планирую заниматься камышом в серьёзных масштабах, сделать из увлечения бизнес.

Говорят, Беларусь – край блакітных азёр. А озёра в Беларуси стоят невозделанные.

– Что значит невозделанные?

– Вот камыш растёт. Зиму отстоял. Пришла весна. И дальше этот камыш либо гниёт, либо дальше стоит, а на второй год он уже не пригоден для заготовки и дальнейшего его применения. А если каждый год этот камыш собирать, то он будет заново расти и каждая тростинка будет расти пригодная, ровненькая и будет обновляться. Европа уже вышла на этот уровень давным-давно. Бизнес на камыше отлажен, у людей есть рабочие места, есть камыш.
А камыш – это, реально, клад, тем более что конкуренции почти нет. Работать на озере с ним приятно, зимой на солнышке с серпом или даже на косилке.
Construction ambitions and desire for freedom developed in Sergey when he was still a child. In Orsha, he lived in an ordinary apartment. When the boy was 9-10 years old, he ran away from home because he needed his own personal space. At that time, he had already learned brickwork and used this skill in the basement of his house. He installed doors, but the electric light in, glued wallpaper, and together with his brother, they set up a stage and practiced rapping there in the basement.

– That's how I learned everything. I started building things from childhood. (Laughs)
The locals accepted Sergey well.

– I stopped by the village council today, and Frantsevna [the chairman of the village council] said to me:
"Your Sloboda needs to be demolished already. I'm going to demolish it." To which I replied: "Better give it to me." And she told me: "Take it then, the whole village is under your responsibility."
Sloboda, like most Belarusian villages, is dying out. This year alone, three old people have died. There are two old ladies left. Relatives want to take one of them to the city. There will be one left.

– I'll live here alone, keep up Sloboda, – sums up the man.

- Aren't you bored here by yourself?

- No way! We have different guests constantly coming to visit us from the city. They probably miss this. It's fun for them to come down from the city to a village, to nature, to sign up for a recording studio, and relax. In the city, you feel really tense when going to a studio to record something because it feels like you're going to work. But when you come here, it feels like going on vacation, and you even get to use the recording studio.
– I'm a musician and a rap artist, and at the same time, I am my own sound engineer. I started making music as a child. In 2005, when I was 13 years old, my brother and I released our first album with 25 songs on it. From that moment on, I never stop writing songs.
It is very peculiar to observe this combination of rap and country life. After all, most people associate rap with the city outskirts. However, Sergey is not very fond of the city.

– What's life like when living in a city apartment? –- ponders Serey. – You come home from work, have some food, watch TV, spend the night and go back to work.
Concrete walls, concrete ceiling, concrete floor, everything around is concrete. There is nowhere to hammer in a nail, and no walls cannot be moved; you can't use the space the way you want. To go outside, you need to go down 15 stories in the elevator, and your house has 500 owners. But here, you have your own land, your personal home, your property. You actually feel like the place is yours—a master in his house, a master in his land. And if you're already the master here, then you're already the master in your life.
– Wasn't it scary to move here, to an abandoned village?

– Right-right, different people asked me: "What are you going to do? And what if you need a doctor?" But I usually get this from people who would rather transfer responsibility for their life, for their children, to someone else. Well, if we suddenly find ourselves in need of a doctor, we will deal with that issue. I also met many people who tried to dissuade us:
"But there is no toilet." Well, if there is no toilet – build one. If you're not good with building things – earn some money, give this money to people who can do it, and they'll build one for you. It's the XXI century when technology allows you to live anywhere –
– even if you climb a tree on a mountain, you'll have Internet access and all other things.

– Are you going to send Radim to school?

– We don't plan to yet and will try to hold out on homeschooling until the fifth grade. Unless, of course, he says that he wants to go to school. The choice is his to make.
Maybe when he turns six, he'll say to heck with your dzyareўnya (village), I'm going to live with grandma in Minsk, where there is a normal school nearby, an apartment, children playing outside the house, and I'll come to visit you now and then.
– Can you imagine? To be six years old and say something like this? We won't make him stay – they laugh. – Well, maybe not at six years old, but at eighteen, he can come up with something like that for sure.
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