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Experiences of a Dutch Journalist





Life on Sakhalin, place of exile

In 1869 Sakhalin was officially announced to be a zone of penal servitude and exile. We were crazy enough to go there voluntary in October 2000. Following an impression what it is like to live there now.


Let's answer the most frequently asked question first: Where the hell is Sakhalin? It's an island close to Siberia in the Russian Far East. We live in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, what simply means 'South Sakhalin'. The oil platform is in the North (near the 'O' of Sea of Okhotsk). Emile has to go there now and then. Usually by train: fifteen hours...


Our house is on the compound 'Zima', which translates in 'winter'. There's about 90 houses in total, from two room rotator apartments to four bedroom castles. 


The Van Kerkoerle residence. We were assigned a three bedroom castle (lucky bastards). We asked them to count Tigre as a child...


The interior. Fully stuffed with American furniture.


Tigre completely settled in. He thinks it is a bit cold though, and only sticks his nose outside for a few seconds every day.


The office building of 'Sakhalin Energy Investment Company'. The bus you see left in the picture brings Emile from and to the office in the morning and evening. During the day it takes a 'shopping route'. Now and then we reserve a company car.


Lenin still stands on the main square in the centre of town...


Junction close to the big market.


You really need fur to keep you warm, in January it's -35 during the day sometimes. Some of the locals even have to wear their hat at home:  in many apartment blocks central heating and electricity are not working. There's not enough coal for the whole city... At Zima we don't have any problems; we have our own power plant.


I convinced Emile I needed a fur coat too. All the local women are wearing it. Very warm indeed. Freed from wearing thermal underwear.


Painting teacher Natasha Kovalevski. She a famous painter around here. Next to her my first oil painting. It's a lot of fun to do.


Natasha's husband Viktor. Next to him the Dutch girl Rian I go to painting class with.


More teachers... Russian teacher Natalya Khaletskaya. Very strict. If I don't make my home work she gets angry...


Frozen sea, about forty kilometres south of Yuzhno-Sakahlinsk. This was in November. In the middle of the winter, you simply can't get there. Roads get really bad in winter.


Ice fishing on a lake about fifty kilometres north of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. It's the most popular sport in winter here. We haven't tried yet (too cold!), but will do in March or so.