Mother Russia

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This grand memorial to 1.4 million wasted lives looms over the factories lining 40 km of Volgograd waterfront. Standing in silhouette against the sunset Mother Russia is theatrical, overstated, profound and deeply moving. We walked in silence through the surrounding gardens, struggling to comprehend the events which took place here in 1942.

We had left Volzshkiy in light winds and clearing rain for the short trip downstream to Volgograd. In the big double locks the girls ogled while Maxine and I toasted safe passage through the our last Volga sluice. There is strong current after the locks as the entire river system channels between narrow, golden sandbanks. Reedbeds and forest line the shores until the bleak factories of Volgograd come into view.

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At Pellegrin boat club we tied up beside a grand Jaroslavitz class motor vessel (ca 1938). When I am too old to sail – not, I hope, for 2 or 3 years yet – I would love to bring one of these skinny-ribbed, purposeful vessels back to Sydney for my twilight tinkering. Gun-metal grey, with bold Cyrillic script and old car tyres adorning the topsides, what a sight, powering up the harbour on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

We were greeted warmly by sailors we had met at the Volzshkiy regatta a couple of weeks ago. After a typically noisy Russian welcome with cockpit toasts, T-shirt exchanges and blessings to Mother Russia, sailing boats and the world in general we retired below for a splendid galley creation of Rosie’s.

It is a short trip downstream from here to the entrance to the Volga-Don Canal. That is where the Black Sea commercial fleet divides, half going east down to Astrakhan and the Caspian Sea, the remainder powering up the Volga. It is only 100 miles from here to the Caspian and I have looked longingly at it on the charts, but we just do not have enough time. In Astrakhan the Volga delta is a wildlife heritage area but the Caspian Sea itself is big and not entirely welcoming (geographically or politically). In any case, autumn is not far away and time is of the essence. That excursion will have to wait for another day.

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