Karolina, was born in 1979 in Poland. She graduated from landscape schools in both France and Poland: l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage de Versailles and Warsaw University of Life Science. She is based in Paris where she works as a freelance. Fascinated by other cultures, vanishing, traditional and contemporary alike, and landscape in its pure form, she travels extensively, mainly focusing on exploration of mountain regions in Northern and Central Asia. Among her interests are the photography of individuals and open landscape “grande paysage”. Recently, her interest turned to photo reportage and urban landscape.
Every morning, professor Sarabdek goes to his garden to look at his mountain. In the air you feel first the crisp Pamirian cold, but the real winter and snow up to a man’s waist is coming later in January. The mountain above the village is his favorite. He does not know why. Maybe because its snow hood is powerful and dignified. She is the pride of the whole village Roshorv. The professor stubs out his cigarette and goes home. His daughter tosses water around the entrance and begins to sweep. It is dusty here all the time. This Pamir Mountains are a snowless desert. The dry, crisp air chokes. Inhaling deeper you get the impression that your lungs begin to cover with a thin layer of sparking frost. Winter is coming. Frost nips in the face. Local cover their faces with scarves to protect them from the cold wind and dust. Dust rises suddenly, without notice. Sometimes you do not know what is worse: the frost nipping your face or sand or in the eyes and your chattering teeth.Professor Sarabdek has been retired for 6 years. Before he was an English teacher in the Roshorv village, just like his father just as his sons and daughter. His family comes from the Bartang, as for many generations have before. The professor was born in 1950. He does not remember his mother. She died when he was a year or two old. At the age of 4, his family was resettled by the Soviets to collect cotton in lowlands of Kum Sangiru. However, people were not used to the high temperatures of 40 degrees and they began to die. They sent a letter to Stalin asking for permission to return. This time, Stalin turned out to be gracious, and after three years of resettling, they returned to Roshorv. As a young man, he studied in a capital city of Dushanbe serving in the Soviet Army. He had the privilege to do his military service in warm countries of the Union: Azerbaijan, Dagestan and Georgia. After his service he returned to his mountains. He married a doctor and together they had 10 children."When was better USSR or present? "Why talk about the past if the world goes forward? At the time of the Soviet Union, religion was forbidden and people were fired from work if practiced. Farmers could raise animals only for personal use, but not more than 20 sheep or goats. They could not have horses or bulls. Today, you may have them as many as you want. Earlier medical care was free, and in severe cases, doctors sent a telegraph to Dushanbe requesting a helicopter. Nowadays, you have to pay for health care. Fortunately, there is the Agha Khan Foundation, which helps and covers half of cost of treatment. It might also send a new helicopter soon. During Soviet times, every local initiative was destroyed. There was a physics teacher who built hydro plant for his own use. Men came and order him to stop it" Now Sarabdek thinks about another solution: heating his house with bio gas. Electricity in Roshorv is not very reliable, but is free. It is only enough for lights in the evenings. Wood in Roshorv is precious, because it is rare. The Pamir is a mountainous desert and except for a few poplars and willows nothing will to grow. Women pick up all branches and twigs, sweep leaves and stalks and put everything in a stove. Men get up at dawn and set off into the mountains in search of firewood. It is hard to find something bigger than twigs and small branches. Men wander kilometers collecting anything that will burn. To get thicker wood they need to ride two days away, to the border with Kyrgyzstan. Therefore hills, farms and farmland are tidy as like an English garden. The spaces are wild and natural, but you will not find a withered twig.Sarabdek’s dream is to plant as many trees as possible. He plants them everywhere. At the airport, where His Holiness the Aga Khan arrived, he planted apricots trees and arrow poplars. Above stream near a mill, he planted willows and poplars. He just doesn’t plant along fields, as shaded patch of frost destroys crop, and here it is very hard to cultivate anything. At this altitude of 3000 m the strong wind allows only cereal, potatoes, carrots and onions to grow. Life in the village happens slowly, according to the seasons and the rights of nature. In the spring, potatoes are planted and cereals are sown. Summer is harvest time and in the autumn men mill their flour before the water powering the mill freezes over. During the winter, weddings are organized. The only public work in the village is teaching. People live from their agriculture and money sent from Russia. From selling their animals or knitted goods they can buy oil, sugar and rice. From an economic point of view, it is one of the poorest regions of the former Soviet Union, however they are very sociable, hospitable and community spirited. Roshorv village is made up of the Ismaili, common throughout the Tajik Pamir. The Ismaili are a progressive branch of Islam, labeling them to other groups as heretics. For centuries persecuted, they found their refuge in the mountainous regions of Asia: Pakistani and Afghani Hindu Kush, Iran, and here in the Tajik Pamir. Khorog, home to 28,000 is one of the biggest Ismaili cities. The rest are scattered in villages in the mountains. Ismailis don’t have mosques, but houses of prayer. In small villages like Roshorv, one of people’s homes can become a prayer one for an evening. In the mountains people pray in a silence, without screaming and screeching through microphones. Faith is a matter of personal spiritual development, and not part of the propaganda aimed at the salvation of the whole world. Their spiritual leader is the Agha Khan, educated and living in the west. The 49th imam instructs his followers to follow the ways of the present day. He urges people to learn English, as it is considered to be a language of science and to learn to use computers, themselves a tool for learning. Aga Khan helps here more than president. He builds schools, hospitals and bridges. During the civil war and recent riots in 2012, he called for peace and not taking arms. In the place where there is no mobile phone connection and newspapers come late, today during a dinner, we talked about the referendum in Scotland and the Russia invasion in the Crimea. At night, wolves approach the village and you hear dogs barking for long time. Tonight they caught one sheep.
Little Gulguna, like most children around the world, goes to school at 8am. This Morning, like every morning in the Bartang Valley starts by rearranging the room from bedroom to living room. She swiftly collects the flowery mattresses, quilts and pillows, and places them in pile in a corner of the room. She covers a neatly stacked pile of colorful mattresses with blankets, patterned with flowers and Marco Polo sheep. Pamiri kitchens sparkle as if from tales of the Far East. Walls are adorned with colorful carpets and rugs; vivid vinyl tablecloths decorate tables and cupboards, and flowery shawls grace women’s heads. Dad lights a fire in the stove. First morning smoke spreads throughout the room. It chokes and attacks the eyes. After a while you become accustomed to it. They say that apparently it's not healthy to breathe smoke, but it's better than freezing in winter at 3000 meters. It’s cold and windy outside, but inside the family begins to enjoy pleasant and blissful warmth wafting through the room. After the winter, you need to beat fabrics and clean everything, because of the smoke. Old houses can be recognized by the blackened beams on their ceilings. For breakfast, Gulguna enjoys a bowl of her favorite shir thai. Shir thai is a milk tea with salt and margarine added, perfect to dip pieces of homemade bread into. She is just about to leave the house, when mum fixes her hair and helps her put on her backpack. She goes to school happily. Lessons begin when all the kids are present, so there are never late. Roshovr, a village in which Gulguna lives is made up of the Ismaili, common throughout the Tajik Pamir. The Ismaili are a progressive branch of Islam, labeling them to other groups as heretics. For centuries persecuted, they found their refuge in the mountainous regions of Asia: Pakistani and Afghani Hindu Kush, Iran, and here in the Tajik Pamir. Khorog, home to 28,000 is one of the biggest Ismaili cities. The rest are scattered in villages in the mountains. Their spiritual leader is the Agha Khan, educated and living in the west. The 49th imam instructs his followers to follow the ways of the present day. He urges people to learn English, as it is considered to be a language of science and to learn to use computers, themselves a tool for learning. Women may or may not cover their heads. You often see them walking with their long black hair free in the wind, conversely, some may opt to due to the harsh, hot and sandy climate. Muslim women in this part of the world are free. Their position in society may have its differences, but could be looked upon as equal to that of men. They can learn and they can work. If they want to study, they go to university and afterwards, they marry a man they chose.
The best meetings are always in the kitchen, because they are most intimate and sincere. There are no unasked questions, but only timid responses. In the kitchen people talk about life, about men, about dresses, love stories, and unrequited loves. There are no cultural or religious differences. Tajiks, including Yaghnobi people, are Sunni, where a woman’s position is often discriminated against. Pamiris are Ismailis, they practice a progressive Islam often earning them the label heretic through this progress.
"Here in the Pamir Mountains, women are free, they are not like other muslims who live only for cooking and cleaning. They go to school and then go to college in Khorog.” Ismaili women, who can be considered Islamic feminists are educated, some of them even work. Their position in society may have its differences, but could be looked on as equal to that of men. Most marriages in Sunni Tajikistan are arranged. Polygamy is permitted up to a maximum of four wives. Tajiks get engaged at 18 and then marry two years later. In European culture, the young become very quickly independent from their families and young couples live on their own. Tajikistan is different. Because of a difficult economic situation, one's mate comes to live in the new family circle, so the decision of who is to live under a common roof is also a family decision. Love between married couples is considered not as important as loyalty to blood relations. A man’s world and that of a woman are clearly divided here. Women take care of the household and raise children. It is instinctive. Men, if they have a chance to work, they work, but certainly never refuse a glass of vodka. When they drink they become rash, harsh, mirroring their surrounding word. They know that drinking, and the behavior it prompts is bad, so they keep their families out of this world. Maybe it’s why the worlds between men and women remain distant. The kitchen is a woman’s world.
There is always a paradox in war; that it shows us how life continues. This is a reflection, a look at Afghanistan, but not the one we already know well from war, the Taliban and women who wear the burqa. It focuses instead on the people who - in the presence of war which offers only uncertainty and violence - have the courage to live, smile and walk calmly in the streets. The photos examine how everyday life is negotiated despite major political dramas, how people manage to find everyday joy, pleasure, beauty, poetry, rap and freedom. Tired of wars, these people try to live in peace. At least they pretend to live in peace. They are born, they die, they love, windows tremble, bombs continue to explode, but children continue to go to school. Life goes on.
The wedding guests are dancing. Anyone who wants to come is welcome. Hopefully there will be just enough space to dance.
A wedding ceremony takes place in the big summer room. Guests dance in pairs and then they leave the dance floor for the next. A wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. If the young couple comes from the same village, a ceremony starts at a bride’s house and
The groom’s family goes to the bride's house to form a wedding party.
Girls on their way back from school.
Musicians are greeting guests at bride’s house. The tambourine is a local traditional instrument.
The leftovers from the yak.
To kill a yak, men bind its legs, put it down, hold it and one of them cuts its throat.
Butchering the yak. As the custom, the neighbors receive a piece of meat, ready prepared and boiled.
Catching a yak. A few wild yaks are brought from a distant Murghab. One was chosen to be culled for upcoming wedding party.
Kids are jumping from one roof to the other.
Physical education classes. In the village there are two schools, primary and secondary. There are 180 students.
A woman takes water from a spring. The water from the spring is used for drinking and cooking. For washing and cleaning, people take water from a system of irrigation channels around the village.
The girl looks for sheep and goats. This task is reserved for children. There are 7 to 10 big herds in the village. In one herd, there are around 10 to 15 smaller groups each owned by a local. Shepherds switch their turn for grazing their herds.
Sarabdek grinds flour in the water mill. Villagers make flour by themselves. There are 10 water mills in the village. At each house, bread tastes different as everyone bakes it in their own way, some add some oil, others more salt. The price of a bag of flour in a Soviet time was 11 rubles, today it costs 180 Somoni (30 euros), which constitutes Sarabdek’s monthly pension.
Somersault on a haystack of threshed grain.
Sarabdek with his youngest daughter (in a middle) and his daughter in law (at the left).
Boy threshes grain with oxen. In the village as electricity is not reliable most of the work is done manually or with the help of animals.
A calm afternoon in the village. Women sit in front of their houses. Here, houses are built with stones and clay mixed with straw. A roof is the most expensive part of a house as people need to import wood from Kirgizstan. During soviet times, it was not so expensive as it is now as it was imported from Siberia.
Sarabdek looks at his village. Roshorv is beautifully located village on a high mountain plateau. It is the biggest village in the Bartang Valley. 3 000 people live there in 165 houses. People came here 4 or 5 centuries ago from a village located below Yapshorv, which was slowly eroded away by the roaring Bartang River. Previously, there was only alpine pasture.
Dust rises above the village. The Pamir Mountains are a snowless desert. For Europeans dust is associated with the scorching sweltering summer, cracked earth parched by the sun. Here it is dusty all the time until the first snow falls.
The wedding guests. Anyone who wants to come is welcome. Hopefully there will be just enough space to dance.
Nigina, a bridesmaid is dancing. According to custom, the best dancers receive gifts such as home-made socks, necklaces or simply money.
A dance leader is singing wedding songs. Songs are about the Badakshan and Pamir Mountains, not about Tajikistan as the Pamir was there before the rise of the Tajik state. A wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. If the young couple comes from the same village, a ceremony starts at a bride’s house and afterwards moves to the groom’s house.
A wedding ceremony takes place in the big summer room. Guests dance in pairs and then they leave the dance floor for the next. A wedding ceremony takes place at the bride’s home. If the young couple comes from the same village, a ceremony starts at a bride’s house and afterwards moves to the groom’s house.
A picture of Odinamo with her two children.
Odinamo is 55 years old, her husband is 59. The wind has ravaged their faces. Odinamo prepares tobacco powder to be put under the tongue.
Her daughter is serving a tea. Odinamo spent all her life in Roshorv. She is the mother of 9 children. Two daughters still live with them. She also takes care of her two grandchildren as their parents work in Khorog, a 7 hour drive away. Her older grandson helps her with grazing her herd.
Granny Odinamo lives in the oldest house in the village. The house is so old that no one remembers when it was built. It could be a century or perhaps two centuries old. The house was formerly part of a defensive fortress, destroyed by the Soviets.
Wood in Roshorv is precious, because it is rare. The Pamir is a mountainous desert and except for a few poplars and willows nothing will to grow. Women pick up all branches and twigs, sweep leaves and stalks and put everything in a stove. Men get up at dawn and set off into the mountains in search of firewood. It is hard to find something bigger than twigs and small branches. Men wander kilometers collecting anything that will burn. To get thicker wood they need to ride two days away, to the border with Kyrgyzstan. Therefore hills, farms and farmland are tidy as like an English garden. The spaces are wild and natural, but you will not find a withered twig.
Nigina studies Esperanto in Khorog. She came to be bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding. hers sister is en anglish teacher at local school. her brother just came back from his studies in london
Afternoon tea with neighbors.
Traditional summer room.
Afternoon bath. Mum prepared tubs of hot water.
After the bath mum arranges Gulguna’s braids. Children are loved here because they are a blessing of God.
Gulguna and her friends bring a goat to the village to find out to who it belonged. There are 7 to 10 big herds in the village. In one herd, there are around 10 to 15 smaller groups each owned by a local. Shepherds switch their turns for grazing their herds.
One of Gulguna’s duties is herding goats in the evening .This task is reserved for the children. A dog starts barking so she looks out for a wolf.
She does her homework after school. Behind, her mum prepares bread for dinner. Lessons in primary school are mixed. Ismailis do not have a madrasa, the Koranic school. At school, she learns Russian and Tajik. She will start learning English at secondary school. In the Bartang Valley, people speak their own Rushan language. It is spoken, not written. Two valleys futher to the south is the Wakhan Corridor, but Bartangi and Wakhani peoples can’t understand each other.