Nina Roslyakova, a 71-year-old biologist, has the soul of a traditional dacha-lover. She is an almost mystical mushroom hunter.
"You know how I go mushroom picking?" she said. "I go into the woods, and I start walking, and then I realize that I'm not looking at the ground. I'm looking inside myself. I'm a bad mushroom picker, but I adore it."
Roslyakova tried to explain what she meant by recalling a scene in Boris Pasternak's "Doctor Zhivago" in which Lara, the protagonist's lover, is heading to a dacha.
"It totally described my own feelings," she said. "People's fates are crushed, Russia is breaking down, everything is broken, and Lara disembarks from the train and she's walking along a path -- I don't remember the exact quote -- but with every step she feels united with those tall pine trees, and with every step her problems leave her. She suddenly begins to feel that the nature around her is more dear to her even than her mother, her relatives, anything in the world. Life straightens out for her when she walks in the woods."
Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958, the year after "Doctor Zhivago" was published, but the novel also marked him as a political dissident. He had been granted a dacha in the writers' village of Peredelkino outside Moscow in 1939 and managed to hang onto it until his death in 1960. After coming to prominence as a young poet, he avoided Joseph Stalin's wrath for many years by focusing on translations of works such as Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and Goethe's "Faust."
His masterpiece, which reflected the horrors of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war that followed it, was published abroad after Stalin's death. Although Soviet authorities were angered by the book, Pasternak's fame helped prevent the loss of his beloved dacha.
That dacha, now a museum, looks out across a field he romanticized in his poetry. Today, the field is being torn up to make space for fancy new dachas, despite an effort by old-timers to block the development.
Pasternak was buried in a cemetery at the far side of the field, and the site became a favored place for his admirers, dissidents almost by definition, to gather and read his poetry aloud.
Some years ago, lightning struck a pine tree near Pasternak's grave, said Tatyana Neshumova, a guide at the Pasternak dacha museum. "The tree broke down, and when people came to remove it, they found a wire that ran down the pine tree and led to the bench opposite the grave of Pasternak, where a KGB bug was found," she said. "Their logic was that people who would come to the grave of Pasternak were unreliable people who didn't feel much sympathy with Soviet power."