October 10, 2021



A group of bloggers have bought a home for a Russian woman who lost her job at a Soviet military factory and took to living in a rusty barrel for 35 years, refusing to move into care despite having no electricity or running water.

Svetlana Chernova, from the Siberian city of Omsk, had been living in the dilapidated cistern for over three decades when her story came to light earlier this week. The electricity was cut off two years ago and there is neither running water nor gas. Instead, Chernova must walk hundreds of meters to collect water from a pump and warm her home with a woodfired stove.

With no relatives and a pension of 14,000 rubles (around $200), she says she was unable to rent an apartment after her job as a crane operator was scrapped when the plant she worked in closed down. After Russian officials were made aware of Chernova’s living situation, they requested documents that proved she was legally allowed to live in the barrel, including details about the property, so they could provide her with appropriate housing. However, the forms she lodged at the time are said to have been lost and are irretrievable.

Chernova worked at a factory not far from the barrel she has called home for more than three decades, until it was shuttered after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. There was insufficient housing to accommodate all of the factory’s workers, so some employees were given barrel-like structures to live in temporarily whilst they waited to be designated proper homes. In wintertime, those living in the make-shift accommodation had to sleep in their clothes due to heating problems with the structures. In summer, residents had no respite from the heat.

“They were building a nine-story building nearby, they promised I could have a two-room apartment in it,” she says. “When they were distributing them, I was working on the crane, and another woman, who was seventieth in the queue, jumped in. Later she sold her home and left for Germany. I complained to the director. He shrugged his shoulders and said business was already going badly, and it was not up to him.”

“For some reason, other people received housing. I went to the administration many times, but to no avail,” Chernova continued.

Chernova did previously refuse outright officials’ offers to move her to a comfortable nursing home, saying “they almost forced me to do it. But I think I deserve my own house. I hope they will find an apartment.”

“I wanted to agree. But I looked and realized it won’t do. One house is too far from the city. And the second…I just didn’t like it. And the owner is there without a wife  – maybe he called me for a reason,” she says.

However, media coverage of Chernova’s living conditions sparked outrage among community activists, with volunteers bringing her food, and bloggers raising over two million rubles (around $28,420) to buy her a new home, RIA Novosti reports.

c. RT