Relisa Granovskaya: A Ghost of the Uranium Town

NewEurasia publishes the works of the winners of the “Exit Permit” Visual Arts Awards of Central Asia, which was completed on July 14. More results are available on the website of the contest

NewEurasia publishes the works of the winners of the “Exit Permit” Visual Arts Awards of Central Asia, which was completed on July 14. More results are available on the website of the contest.

A 32-year-old photographer from Tashkent, Relisa Granovskaya, became the winner of the nomination for the Photo award. For the contest she presented her work made in an abandoned mining town Yangiabad. NewEurasia talked to Relisa about her photo in more detail and about the feelings she has regarding to migration processes.

Photo by Relisa Granovskaya, the winner of the Exit Permit Awards

Relisa about her picture:

I took this picture a few years ago in the mining town of Yangiabad. It is a town people fall in love from the first sight. It is in German style: there are no buildings higher than three storeys. A small, stylish, cozy town. The town was founded in the early 50s, when uranium was found nearby. They began to mine it. Then the ore was exhausted, the mine was closed, but people continued to live there.

My friends and I vacationed there every summer, probably about five years in a row. Once we got there, we fell in love and began to come every year. We bought an apartment there, for about $ 100. Its owner sold it to us and left.

Earlier there were far more locals in this city than there are now. And every summer I watched as they leave, as houses collapse, simply from the fact that there is no care of them. People from Yangiabad move to Tashkent, Russia, Germany.

So, two years ago I decided to go and see what the city turned into, to make a story about it. It happened that the whole story fits into one picture. I was with a companion, and I took a photo of the house in which we had an apartment. We walked around and looked, and then I saw a shadow. A frame was taken spontaneously, intuitively. I remember well seeing a shadow, and my heart ached, from the fact that a lot has disappeared and will not return anymore.

Many would like to stay. There lived a family with two children in that house. They said – we love our city, and they tried hard to survive. The house was intended for demolition. They said: “We will leave when the house will collapse completely.” And when I arrived, I have not seen them.

Our apartment was on the top floor. The roof collapsed, and the last time when we were in, there was already dangerous to be there. And we just abandoned the flat. No one can sell it – there is no water, there is no gas. This house was on the highest street, with beautiful mountain views from the windows. Now no one lives in this house, it is meant for demolition and clogged. The doors boarded up.


Yangiabad Poems by Anna Bokk:

There was a fairytale town on earth

The town does not exist anymore…

Love reigned in that town

There is no love yet

People visited each other

There is no one to visit anymore

They did the housekeeping and went fishing together

There is no one left to go fishing

A musical fountain near the Palace

Drew audience for a disco

There is no fountain, not even the Palace

All dances came to an end

There are no more fish-yards, where we used to sunbathe

No childish laugh… there are only old men

To live till the death in the dead town

With a vain hope to believe in and wait for the better

This town is not a fairytale anymore

This town is a sad past

Too bad for those who do not have anywhere to go, who are left there,

And now a fairytale is only memories of those who lived there once.


Relisa about herself and her photo:

 I came to photography because of my dad. He was an amateur photographer, he shot a lot on different cameras, and then we printed photos together. I remember well how we locked ourselves in the kitchen, hung red rags, took equipment, printed, and experimented. Then he gave me a camera, first film one, and then I had a digital camera, and I began to take more and more.

Several years ago I made ​​a choice. I worked as an office worker from 9 to 6. Along with it I  filmed at the weekend. And I realized that I needed to choose. I did not give as much time to photos as I would like. So I decided to stop everything else and deal only with photos. I made this step into the unknown. And gradually, I started turning hobby into a permanent job. I have been working only with photography for more than 4 years.

Many photographers of ours leave. They reach a certain level; it becomes narrowly in Tashkent for them, and they move on. In the last couple of years there are a lot of young photographers who seek for developing and achieving something. And what pleases me is that many people realize that you need to learn. My favorite Uzbek photographers are Vladimir Zhirnov Ernest Kurtveliev Viktor Antonov and Victor Vyatkin.

Relisa about migration:

I do not want to leave Tashkent forever. At least for now. I travelled around the world enough; I saw how people live in other countries. Tashkent is very close to me. I have never met such flavors as in Tashkent. And I hear it from many people. A loved one of mine lives in Europe and suffers from the fact that there is no smell there like in Tashkent.

It is a possibility that I might leave, but not now. Periodically, I go somewhere, come back and realize that Tashkent is my home. I am not talking about the whole Uzbekistan, it is only about Tashkent. It is special. It differs from all over the country.

Almost all close friends of mine left. At some point, I felt alone: they went abroad in one year somehow and were surprised that I did not want to leave. I love Tashkent. I am a patriot of Tashkent. I love it for the people, streets, sunsets, sunrises, and hot days. For our nature, for everything. Apparently, I am not ready to leave yet.

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