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Reindeer Herder’s Daughter in France: My Dad is Santa Claus

586323b2c14a3"There is no word holiday in the Evenk language, - says French researcher Alexandra Lavrillier. They have bakaldyn that means meeting. So reindeer herders’ holiday is considered more important than the New Year." Alexandra knows what she writes about. A few years ago she arrived in South Yakutia to collect material for a dissertation, to learn the language, life and culture of the Evenks. Then she married a reindeer herder, has given birth to a daughter, and even became a teacher in a nomadic primary school.
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Evenk writer Galina Keptuke told me about this woman. Here everyone knows of the Frenchwoman, who fell in love with a nomad and settled with him in the chum (a kind of teepee). But not everyone knows what attracted Alexandra most - reindeer herder Pavel Vasiliev, or the world in which he lives. Not by chance ethnographer Alexandra Lavrillier wrote in one magazine: "My heart is beating from the vastness of the taiga. You do full circle, and there is nobody around." Unfortunately, the doctor of anthropological sciences at the Sorbonne University of Paris didn’t manage to salvage a marriage, but she is still trying to save the dying culture of small nationalities, for example creating multi-media aids for the study of the Evenk language and distributing them among all national villages. "And most importantly, - Keptuke says, - another Evenk appeared in this world, our Nadya." The girl with an unusual name – Nadikan - who speaks three languages, all Evenks (there are only around 37 thousand of them in Russia), consider her as their compatriot. "Our child! She knows our language, our traditions; she is of her father's roots. In the autumn we cried when seeing her off to France. We're disappearing people, we cherish every child. Nobody wants to die: neither man nor ethnos."

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Now Nadia goes to school in Paris: nomadic school is good, of course, but the French education is better.

Once a nursery teacher offered to children to tell what their parents are. Nadya was telling long that her dad travels the country, where even in May snow doesn’t melt, that he rides reindeer, drinks tea from a metal teapot, casts spells against the storm, goes fishing and hunting, wears legs of loon as a decoration, makes cheese, pouring milk into reindeer guts and hanging them over the fire… But no one understood her. "What is he? - wondered everyone, including teachers.- Shepherd? Hunter? Why does he live in a tent in such a cold, among the skins? He has no money for a normal house? Or is it your pure imagination?" The next day, Nadya silently removed a photo from the wall - her dad in national costume among the reindeer - and brought to preschool. Then the little Frenchmen gasped: "He is real!", and then cried out all at once, interrupting each other: "Clear! All is clear now! Your dad is Santa Claus!!!" Nadya then became very proud after it, called us here in Russia: "In Paris, no one has such a father like mine. All children envy me."

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By Natalia Radulova

Source: Ogonyok magazine