On March 6, 2021, at the age of 94, Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko (1927-2021), an old-timer of the village of Nikolskoye and one of the keepers of the Aleutian language and culture, left us. In recent years, Vera Terentyevna has become a real friend of the reserve and we sincerely grieve together with the whole village, friends and relatives of this wonderful, radiant person.
We would like to share with you the farewell words of people who knew and loved Vera Terentyevna.
Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko: farewell speech of Evgeny Vasilievich Golovko, Director of Linguistic Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg):
“It's always sad when a person leaves. This is a huge loss for loved ones, friends, acquaintances. The departure of Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko is an irreparable loss not only for people who knew her personally. Together with Vera Terentyevna, a huge part of the Aleutian culture disappeared. Of course, the researchers who met with Vera Terentyevna did everything they could: they asked, recorded, photographed, reflected in books and articles, placed on museum shelves, on Internet sites. Only thanks to Vera Terentyevna and other oldest residents of Nikolskoye, the next generations will be able to preserve the memory of the old Commander traditions, to continue and develop them relying on this memory. And yet, these will be other people, for whom these traditions have largely remained in the past. Vera Terentyevna was one of the last residents of Bering Island, for whom these traditions were not just stories, museum knowledge, but were a natural part of life.
Today is one of the saddest days for the world community (I am not exaggerating at all: thanks to the Internet, this sad news has spread in different languages around the world). Today it was not just a person who left us - it was the language. There are about 7 thousand languages in the world, in Russia - about one and a half hundred. Now there are one fewer of them. Vera Terentyevna was the last speaker of Bering dialect of the Aleutian language. Everyone knows that language is the most important part of any culture. It encodes the cultural knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation. With the departure of Vera Terentyevna, sadly enough, Bering dialect also disappeared, which means that the transfer of cultural knowledge from generation to generation was disrupted and became incomplete. We will hope that Bering dialect will not disappear altogether, that it will be passed down thanks to the dedication of enthusiasts, that it will be taught and, in the end, sooner or later will be revived. We all believe that it will be so, but, alas, it will be just a learned language. Vera Terentyevna was the last person for whom this language was a mother tongue, learned in childhood. She spoke it, she thought in it, it appeared even in a pleasant barely noticeable accent when she spoke Russian.
Today we have all become poorer: the person we loved has left, and with her many important things that are truly irreplaceable. We are grateful to Vera Terentyevna for generously sharing her knowledge with us and giving it away without a trace. Rest it peace."
Farewell speech of Natalya Aleksandrovna Tatarenkova, head of Historical and Cultural Heritage Preservation of the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve - a person who knew, respected and loved Vera Terentevna:
"In memory of Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko
I flip through old diaries. I look through the published articles: the first, the fifth, the fifty-fifth... In almost all of them there are references to memoirs of Vera Terentyevna:
“... according to the testimony of V.T. Tymoshenko, live [mollusks] Clinocardium were found only in the 1930s. " (PSP international project, published in 2008)
"According to Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko, one of the grass baskets [of the wild rye Leymusmollis] was used for a long time in the family of her mother, Ladygina Yulia Sergeevna (1888-1976)." Yulia Sergeevna was good at weaving (Aleutian weaving, 2013).
“For the mid-1930s. there is no information about the ice coming close, but the old-timers well remember the powerful slush ice, reaching almost Toporkov Island (oral communication Kiyaykina V.M., born in 1924, Timoshenko V.T., born in 1927). <…> On October 10, 1935, the site of the meteorological station in the village of Nikolskoye was moved again - approximately 250 meters in the southeast direction. " The position of the stations was clarified by V.T. Timoshenko (early meteorological observations, 2014)
“In the 1940s. <…> they began to use cage structures inside the net courtyards of the feeders-traps. Sick and white individuals were kept there <...> [PMA: V.T. Tymoshenko, May 7, 2015] "(History of the Arctic Fox Hunt, 2017)
Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko made a detailed description of local percussion-noise instrument: Chayakh is a drum with a handle. Its diameter is small, about 25-30 cm. 3 cores are installed vertically parallel to each other. Teeth hung on my cores”(Aleut tambourines of the Commander Islands, 2018)
“In the summer, deer grazed in the central part of the island, for the winter they were driven closer to the village [PMA: V.T. Tymoshenko, 01/15/2015; 09/20/2016] "(introduction of deer, 2018, 2019).
The list can be long. Add to it the most detailed stories about the life of the village and its inhabitants, songs, jokes and folklore plots.
Last year, the reserve shared with the islanders and residents of Kamchatka an interesting project called Portrait Dolls. Needless to say, without Vera Terentyevna's many years of detailed stories, we would have lost a good half of his authenticity and attractiveness. Following the dolls, the book “Reviving Traditions: Aleut Portrait Dolls” appeared. The text is preceded by lines: "Dedicated to my good mentor Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko."
The human life is short. Sooner or later, everyone leaves. But there are people who leave a bright mark. And we will long be drawn to this living spring. "
The team of the Commaner Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve expresses deep condolences to the family and friends of Vera Terentyevna Timoshenko, colleagues, friends, all residents of the village of Nikolskoye, to all who are cherish Aleutian national culture.