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Antonina Dvorkina

My childhood passed in [1] village. And our school did not require a chalk at all. The village was situated on the bank of the river and ‘Chalk mountains’ (as we named chalk hills) extend along another bank. «On the mountain» several farms were located and sheep pastured at steppe, some fields were visible… People went to ‘the mountain’ to gather wild strawberries, to picnic and meet a dawn after school-leaving party. In a word, the pragmatic relation to «the mountain» was common and at the same time people loved it.

If only I try to tell about chalk hills to anybody who never saw them I will promise that he will not be indifferent to chalk hills. For me they exist at most as absolute wonder. Probably, with thanks to childhood impressions everyone have especially dear and touching landscapes, in my case it concerns ‘The chalk mountains’. As far back as at school I wanted to found confirmation that chalk hills are mountains and not something else. But even eyes of aged adult linger in this wild scenery.

It’s very easy to sight the chalk mountains and if someone travels, for example, along Eastern Ukraine, hills appear in a window of car or bus several times for one trip. They are beautiful from a great distance too. In childhood we get out to walk in chalk slopes and especially dry warm air which catch a smell of grasses of chalk steppe was most pleasant to us (and this was absent in bottom of the valley). These grasses grew on the chalk and all of them scent delicately and strongly in own way; most of them flowered. For the time when we walked to the slopes through the village usual ‘wet’ annual plants dominated around us, but here at the hill they suddenly gave the way to the perennial plants, each had own personality filled of virtue and own history. Cushion plants extend to the top of the hill, where we could climbed and found any treasures, including stones of pleasing form and edible snails on the way to slope up. Supposed that we could found ‘thunderbolts’ (belemnites) here but I fortuned upon them only ones after heavy rainfall and not in my childhood. Reaching the hill top we could saw the river that wriggles along slope for a long time. We could discern also the village, the town distant from several kilometers and the fields. All mentioned looked new even at so not great height and this vary from the bottom view. The chalk hill itself differs from surroundings and there is no gradual transition to chalk slope from adjacent space except for whitish ground from which potatoes stick up on the nearest to the hills vegetable patches.

On the top of the chalk hill needlegrasses heaved, and light breath and air motion were always present here. Strangely, silence is created of considerable amount of sounds – blade of grasses is noisy, insects chirr and buzz, birds sing and call to one another. All at once, the waves of needlegrasses seem to resemble the waves of time which drag on from deep prehistoric antiquity to the hill top with its striped snails and grasshoppers. Similar to feelings you get near ruins of age-old structures where unexpectedly you become sensible of the duration of our human history, here looking at the naked chalk in ravine break and trying to imagine what 100 millions years is we can attain a short mental touch to the Earth history.

Antonina Dvorkina, teacher of history


[1] The Russian for ‘chalk’ is ‘mel’.