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With time-out as finalists and orchestra prepared for latter stages of the Uralsk competition the police car, like some mother duck, led its brood of minivans along a bleak, snow covered road through seemingly featureless land to Darinsky village, where novelist Mikhail Sokholov spent the latter stages of the war.

Though the Nobel Prize winner, author of And Quietly Flows the Don, has stronger links with Rostov, we were able to sit at his writing desk and see memorabilia of turbulent years spent within this tiny community.

Ukrainian dance in Darinsky, just for us. Photo © 2004 Howard Smith
Ukrainian dance in Darinsky, just for us. Photo © 2004 Howard Smith

Darinsky villagers had turned out in force to welcome us with fully costumed song and dance from both Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. Village youth leaped and wheeled with athletic vigour while old men and women, rows of gold teeth flashing, sang and pirouetted with visible delight.

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Copyright © 7 March 2004 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand

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