VIP guests, among which were members of the government, representatives of President Administration, political figures, businessmen, TV and cinema stars, were walking from an Eastern chaykhana to a Russian bliny bar, drinking honey vodka with stellate sturgeon caviar, turkey-hen, or what your soul would desire. Shashlik, suet, dumplings, pilaf, jellied fish, and many other various dishes from all the peoples of Russia offered themselves to the guests.
German Gref, Tatiana Golikova, Mikhail Pogosian, Alexander Shokhin, Alla Surikova, and many other VIPs heeded the suggestion by the host Ruben Vardanian, and with pleasure joined in the continuous round of communication, joy, and purchases.
Various articles (immediately from their manufacturer) could be bought at the fair: ancient hauberks, honey, fur, Pavlov Posad-style shawls, Uzbek carpets, etc. - everybody was dazzled with this plenty of edible and inedible wares.
At the very beginning of the fair, nearby medieval weapon, hauberks, and helmets, which were presented by a company with a martial name "Krutiporokh & sons", the organizers had located its delicate antipode - a counter with Uryupinsk downy articles.
This downy ware was presented by Mrs. Lina Kuznetsova, director of the Saratov Vitamin Center.
--"Lina Mikhaylovna, what is the difference between the Uryupinsk and Orenburg downy shawls?"
-- "Everybody asks this question at this exhibition. The Uryupinsk ones are fluffier due to some peculiarity of the Khoper river goat wool. This breed with its unique down is met nowhere else. But the patterns are not worse than those of the Orenburg shawls. Owing to its special downy quality, an Uryupinsk shawl may be taken for sable fur from a distance! Touch and try on yourself!"
I obediently try on a downy shawl. What strikes me immediately is the combination of unusual warmness and lightness. We often think that a warm thing must be a heavy thing, like a fur coat or quilt. But this shawl is as if weightless, surprisingly delicate, and tender to touch. No pricking at all. I just want to press it to my face!
-- "It is due to the goats being combed out rather than cut,” the hostess explains, “That is why the articles are not pricking and are very hard-wearing. Moreover, this down induces circular magnetic fields, which treat headache and fatigue!"
To my question what links the Saratov Vitamin Center and the Uryupinsk shawls, Lina Mikhaylovna smiles:
-- "It’s me who links! My family roots are from there. My grandma is from the Mikhaylovskaya stanitsa by birth, the Uryupinsk district, and I spent all my summer vacations in my childhood on the Khoper river. The Khoper is my favorite river! And when my Vitamin Center became prosperous, I decided to help my fellow-villagers to preserve their ancient handcraft, namely, knitting and crocheting shawls of the unique down of local goats. Now, these shawls are sold in the USA at the annual ethnographic fair in the Appalachians, in Moscow, and over the whole NIS via my Internet shop "A downy shawl"."
My interview is suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a VIP buyer. The former politician, now radio speaker and modeler Irina Khakamada has aimed at an elegant shawl with a knitted inscription along its border: "For you, my darling!" As Irina explains, catching sight of Uryupinsk shawls, she immediately understood that it was the best gift to her mother for her birthday! Short haggling followed, and the happy Irina Khakamada, having bought this excellent shawl for three thousand rubles, went along the fair on.
-- "I have dealt with shawls as long as 17 years,” Lina Mikhaylovna continues her story, “It’s no secret that Russian stanitsas and khutors lack job, and I, as I can, help the Cossack-women to earn their living. And, besides, to save this handcraft which counts 300 years! Now we have a relief, aid from the state. You see, knitting Uryupinsk down is unprofitable, as well as other folk crafts. However, the Federal Program of Folk Craft Support is open now, and a chance has appeared to protect them from full disappearance. And the Saratov Vitamin Center, by virtue of its long-standing deserts, was enlisted into this program."
During my interview with Lina Mikhaylovna, buyers were coming and coming. Graceful, warm, skillfully knitted in ancient manner things apparently made an impression upon the elite Moscow public. These persons running million dollars stood shock-still by the counter, with pleasure tried on the result of the Uryupinsk Cossack-women’s handwork. They bought and, satisfied, went on, dissolving in the festive atmosphere of the jubilee.
The famous "Wedding—funeral orchestra" by Goran Bregovich kindled passion with its unique melodies, and I thought that the joyful atmosphere of the holiday was contributed by the Uryupinsk women-masters who had with love knitted excellent shawls, scarves, and Russian mittens, which would now deliver this love to their new hosts!