Balcony, Country House, Garbage Can or the Lifecycle of Things

Balkon, dacha, pomoika (balcony, country house, garbage can) or the lifecycle of things

This phrase will instantly cause a smile on any Russian’s face. And will not be understood by a foreigner.

Soviet times of deficit of everything forced people to be frugal. An old, out-of-fashion or not used for a long time, unbroken or broken thing could easily have a second life some day. No idea when, but when this day comes – you will be happy you have not thrown it away.

antresol2However, apartments are small and Russians are normal people, who do not like hoarding. Now, at least in Moscow, paid storage facilities (very similar to ones in the US) have become available (although not used by vast majority of people). But back then no storages existed. A typical 3-room apartment had an “antresol” – a small storage unit, located under theceiling above the corridor from the apartment entrance to the kitchen. Typically, people stored valuable season-related things there – skates, camping tents etc. It was about 3 meters long and had two doors, one on each side. When you needed to extract something from there, you had to guess whether the object is closer to one side or another. It was a project to find something there.

balkonHowever, that storage unit was never enough and there were no other storage units inside an apartment and no shared storages in a building. So people used the next available storage – balcony. Climate here, as you know, is quite harsh and it snows a lot. Most balconies were non-glazed, therefore they could serve as a storage only in summer. Things that got to the balcony during summer were in danger of getting wet, frozen and spoiled during winter. So people moved them to a “dacha” (country house). Because one day, when you will really need these things – you will be happy you have them and it will be no trouble to drive to your dacha and bring the treasure back.

DachaAnd only when there was no hope (or no place at tiny dachas) – the thing was moved to a garbage can. Quite often it was disassembled before thrown away and the most valuable parts were kept.

What is interesting – times of total deficit of everything ended almost 20 years ago. But even now generations of 30- or 40 – year-olds have troubles when dealing with clutter. Sometimes we just cannot throw away old things. I wonder whether people in their twenties have this problem as well or they are free from it…

Leave a Reply

  • KC - 5 years ago

    Some of my friends in Hong Kong have something similar to an antresol, most likely due to the premium space can run. Thanks for the posting!

  • Ambrose - 5 years ago

    Hello Tanya,

    Thank you very, very much!

    I am curious to know about a little more about Dacha’s and I would like to ask a few of questions if that is OK?

    1. How did the Dacha’s tradition come to being?
    2. When did Dacha’s become popular?
    3. How did people acquire Dacha’s? Did people have to buy them or were they given to
    people during the Soviet era? Was everyone entitled to one?
    4. Have Dacha’s changed during post Soviet times?

    Once again, thank you!

    Kindness and best wishes to you

    • Tanya Golubeva - 5 years ago

      Hello Ambrose,

      For Russians, dacha is much more than a country house – it is one of the cultural phenomena. Thank you so much again for the great questions – they inspired me to start writing a separate post about this topic. I hope to publish it some time soon!

      You will also find an incredibly amusing chapter about dachas in the Lenin Lives Next Door book! Jennifer conveyed her experience of visiting Russian dacha of her friends in such a fun and candid manner – I enjoyed reading it and laughed a lot. It will be not easy for me now to write on this subject, but I will try))

      Thank you so much! I have another fantastic topic to write about!

      • Ambrose - 5 years ago

        Hello Tanya,

        Thank you very much for your lovely reply.

        I am certain that you are quite busy and that your wonderful blog takes considerable time to maintain.

        I suspect that you have very high standards and that this is important to you, so I will look forward to reading your reply on Dachas when you are able to do so. I am sure that it will be very worthwhile waiting for.

        Kindness and best wishes to you.

  • Derval - 3 months ago

    LOL I’m from Brazil and do quite the same thing to this day…