National Geographic : 2014 Jun
Siberian Train 131 villages,” and he wanted “to offer something of my own.” Everyone lived in a temporary settle- ment on a patch of dry earth by the river. “ There were hills all around, quiet, no people...the end of the Earth.” There was a romanticism in the roughness of BAM life: He would wake up at 6 a.m., walk out of his tent to brush his teeth in the river, have breakfast with the other young BAM laborers, then spend the day doing con- struction work, cracking jokes, and tanning in the summer sun. At night the group would light a fire and play guitars. Komarov can no longer remember where ex- actly the camp was located. A heating plant of red brick and metal sits rusted and unused. “It hurts that all this labor was in vain,” he says. “We tried, really strived to achieve something, and it turns out that today our work isn’t needed by anybody.” We slog through the mud, following a path that takes us to the riverbank. Komarov picks up a handful of small stones, rubbing the wet earth in his fingers, trying to conjure up a memory of where he lived and worked and slept and sang so many years ago. It was around here, he says. Or maybe not. We stand for a few minutes, not say- ing much, looking at the slow current of the river and feeling our shoes squish into the mud, then turn around and walk back toward the train. j Two staffers celebrate the birthday of medical director Vera Scherbakova. In the background is a portrait of Matvei Mudrov, a pioneering 19th-century physician who is the train’s namesake.