‘Jarmark Europa’ at Warsaw’s Dziesieciolecia Stadium, is one of Eastern Europe’s largest bazaars and a center for small trade that doesn’t appear on any tax declarations. The traders come from a variety of countries in the former Soviet Union. They transport their goods to Warsaw or other cities west of the ex- USSR in unmistakable bags. In Russian, these traders are known as ‘chelnoki’. The word ‘chelnok’ means ‘weaver’s shuttle’ and graphically describes their peripatetic lifestyle. Most of them have exchanged their settled existences for a life of constant movement between their hometown and the bazaar. Many are academics who earn too little to survive. Others are unemployed or retired. The ‘chelnoki’ are pioneering entrepreneurs in a changing society. It is remarkable that it is mainly women who prop up their families in this way. Jarmark Europa is about two of these women, about me and about how this film came about. Kaleria Michailovna, the former head of the outpatients’ clinic in her home city of Penza 700 kilometers south-east of Moscow, is a respected and well-known figure back home. Today Kaleria is a pensioner. Every two months, she and her friend Valentina travel to Warsaw together, where they sell anything that costs nearly nothing in Penza and therefore can be sold at a profit in Poland. Svetlana Anatolievna comes from Brest, the town on the border between Belarus and Poland. Having lost her job as a music teacher through perestroika, she initially tried, like so many others, to make a living with cross-border small trade in Poland. The film follows Kaleria and Svetlana on their travels, at home and at the bazaar, and observes the effects of the EU’s eastward enlargement through the eyes of those who will always remain outside.
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