It’s hard to imagine living somewhere as beautiful as beside the Pechora river in northern Russia.  But when you see the unbearable destruction of oil spills in the area, you have to do something.

Dead Forest in Komi Republic © Greenpeace © Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
Dead Forest in Komi Republic © Greenpeace

Last year, I joined a volunteer movement that helps the Indigenous people who live in the Komi Republic to fight against the oil spills that are devastating this incredible landscape. I’ve seen the lifeless sites of old oil spills, and new oil spilling out every day. Wells full of toxic waste are spilled into rivers, killing fish and poisoning the drinking water.

This situation terrifies me. Why do oil producers not think about the safety of people living nearby and the harm they bring to this world with their oil spills? It feels like they do it on purpose. Like a man being a wolf to their fellow man. It is insanely unfair.

Volunteers clean up an oil spill in the Komi Republic © Greenpeace © Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
Volunteers clean up an oil spill in the Komi Republic © Greenpeace

That’s why we’re doing everything we can to stop this. The Save Pechora Committee and Greenpeace Russia are working tirelessly to demand that oil companies reduce the amount of oil they spill and raise environmental and social standards. And that’s why local people and volunteers are participating in the global movement to Break Free From Fossil Fuels this year.

This week, we organised a race from one settlement to another, to meet with local people and encourage hope for a better future without oil spills as part of the global movement to Break Free from fossil fuels. We call it ‘Skis against oil’.

BreakFree skiers in the Komi Republic, Russia © Igor Podgorny/Greenpeace
Skiing across the vast landscape of the Komi Republic

You might think that a small group of people skiing across northern Russia is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean consists of drops. Bringing people together to fight against a huge evil can only make us more powerful against it.

Dmitriy Kanev, a member of the Save Pechora Committee, is one of those people. “I joined the Save Pechora Committee because my heart bleeds over the contamination of our rivers, lakes, forests… The more people we have in campaigns like this ski race, the more we will manage to help our nature, our children, ourselves.”

BreakFree in the Komi Republic, Skis against oil © Igor Podgorny
Skiers in the snow

Fyodor Terentiev is a chairperson of the Save Pechora Committee, who spent summers at his grandfather’s house in a small village called Pilyegory. “He taught me how to live in harmony with nature, what I could and couldn’t do, which processes in nature could be interfered with and which ones couldn’t at all; how and when we could hunt and fish.

“I still remember my grandfather’s lessons. Later while working in oil field exploration, I could see how wildlife was being destroyed by hunters for oil, and local people were losing the ability to hold onto their traditional way of using natural resources. I just can’t stay indifferent here.”

The skiers against oil © Igor Podgorny
Skis against oil © Greenpeace

Galina Chuprova, is a postmaster in a small village founded in 19th century by Indigenous herders, who joined the skiers. “My grandfather died in World War II. Not for the Communist party, but for defending his home and his family. Now the oil company Lukoil is another enemy that invaded our land and destroyed what we love and care about. Every inhabitant of our village must stand shoulder to shoulder to protect our land, our village, our children, ourselves. Otherwise, we’re nothing.”

Julia Lapshina is a #StopOilSpills Volunteer with Greenpeace Russia