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Earning her living in the woods


Despite Russia boasting 22 per cent of the world?s wooded areas, foresters in the country are not seen as a prestigious profession. Not many even know about it - even less about women who choose it as their occupation.

This is not the case with Galina from the Nizhny Novgorod region. Living and working in the woods, she is not interested in gender stereotypes.

She?s not just the only female forester in town. With more than two decades on the job, she has been crowned by the locals as ?the Queen of the Woods?. Galina is strict and makes no allowances for her relatives or friends.

"I had scuffles even with my own relatives. My brother-in-law stole a full truckload of timber. This was a big problem, there was screaming and shouting and a huge rift between our two families. But I said ?I`m sorry, you want to live well - so do I. I value my job.? So I wrote out a fine and they had to pay it," she says.

Eighty foresters in the Nizhny Novgorod region were recently given new cars by their state employers. Galina was one of the lucky ones, and says her new four-wheel-drive is a world away from her old truck. Her dream is now to equip her car with modern gadgetry, such as satellite navigation and a 3D map of the forestry.

Galina rises at six in the morning to start guarding her woods. There?s no time to enjoy the sun in the summer, when fires sweep through the area. She is famed for not having had one single forest fire in 15,000 hectares of woods under her watchful gaze in recent years.

The Russian state recognised the importance of foresters recently when they were granted official status equal to customs officers and frontier guards. Galina is proud of her new title of ?state controller?.

As for her revenues, they are quite moderate - especially from a capital resident?s perspective, but she does not complain.

"My salary is worth around $US 400 a month and that`s enough for me. I live in a village. I have pigs, chickens and my own garden where I grow potatoes. I guess if I didn`t have all this and had to buy from a shop, it would be hard," Galina says.

Forestry is part of the local culture. Seventy foster-children who live and learn at a local school, study subjects related to the forest, such as advanced woodwork classes and taxidermy.

When asked about their dreams about the forest, they all say the same thing.

"My dream? Well, I would build my house," says teenager Ilya.

Galina - a mother herself - says that finding a home for each of her little foresters would be her dream after a long career in the woodland.

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