“I felt completely calm in the foreign country, in the city beyond the Arctic Circle, surrounded by Russian colleagues. Probably, that happened because I had been expecting a visit to Norilsk since 2002, when I first visited Krasnoyarsk. As soon as I arrived there, I saw the Yenisey River and asked how big the river was and where it flew? I was told that if I went along the stream to the north, I could get to Norilsk. And I wanted to go to the end of the river. This is how I learned about Norilsk.
Many people go to Russia and visit Moscow and St. Petersburg… Vladivostok sometimes. I love these cities. But Norilsk attracts by the fact that it is different, it is unusual. I suddenly got the opportunity to come there – and it happened. After all, if you have a chance to go to a place you have never been before, you should not miss it!
Of course, I was interesting and unusual for the locals too. I understand that foreigners do not often come to the small closed city.
I communicated with English teachers from the local schools mainly, who invited me to share my teaching methodology with them. They impressed me by their interest, involvement, their energy. Some of them speak English really well. Especially considering the location of Norilsk. It is not a capital, not a large city, where you can easily find an option to practice the language. Norilsk is a closed place where there are not many tourists and travelers. Most of the teachers have never been outside Russia, have never visited England. Despite this, my Norilsk colleagues and I understood each other perfectly.
We continue to communicate on social networks, where, by the way, I created the hashtag #normalfornorilsk, publishing photos of the things that were strange and surprising for me and regular to Norilsk people. For example, cars under snow piles. If you do not remember that you left your car near the entrance, then you will not find it until spring, because at night everything was covered with snow up to the roof. You can look at these photos of mine on Facebook. I was very pleased with my Norilsk adventure. Hope to come again”.
Text: Natalia Popova, Photo: Natalia Popova and Hugh Dellar's personal archive