Shoina is a village on the coast of the White Sea. Houses in Shoina are being covered with white sand which comes from the beach. When it was built in the 1930s, the land was covered with forest and moss. Then, in the 1950s, the sand started coming in. At first, the three houses of the lighthouse keepers were covered. Sometimes a building could be covered with sand as quickly as overnight. As a local, Natasha, said “one night we were just able to take the last things out of our old house and then the wind started blowing again, and the roof of our old house got covered with sand, like it was waiting for us to take the last of our belongings out. We were trying to save the motorcycle, and we didn’t know if we would be able to get out”.
As local meteorologist, Natasha says, she uses her attic to enter her house now. She cut a manhole in the roof and has put up a ladder to climb into the house. “It’s very comfortable”, Natasha says “you get out right on the ground and go wherever you want”.
As Natasha says, some of her neighbors’ houses are already under the sand. She says that some of them were already covered by sand when she was still in school. However, she notes that “it got faster during 80s, when all this Perestroika happened”. And in the nineties in the new country, after the USSR collapse, the boats stopped arriving at Shoina village, salaries were delayed for months, and the only local store was out of food.
“And the dunes started approaching really quick. Like they felt it.”, recalls the woman.
“Like it all goes to nowhere”, says Natasha, crying.
Officially, Shoina has a population of 375 people. It has been said that there is no unemployment and getting a job is easy. There is also an army base nearby. People say that sometime ago they could get money right out of thin air, literally: there is a space launch facility “Plesetsk” used both for civil and military needs nearby, so the pieces of the rockets – the rocket stages – were falling down around the village. The people collected them and converted them to their needs or turned them into scrap metal. However lately, the missiles have disappeared so the Shoina people collect berries instead.
People don’t know why the sand has arrived. Some say it is because the fishing boats have damaged the sea bottom and sludge was moved out of its place, so the sand started rising from the sea bottom. Others think that the animals and trucks damaged the grass around the village and unleashed the sand.
The local small hospital is being dug up by a tractor, as it is state controlled. It takes an hour and a half to get the sand out of part of the house. The tractor driver, Sasha, says it takes ten hours to uncover a house completely. He says he doesn’t like his job: “I dig one house out, and the others are mad at me!”. An hour of tractor work costs roughly $70. Nobody in the village can afford a ten hour tractor job, and the government pays forty hours for all for a month.