Posted by Leah Zimmerman
Last year I wrote of Sosnovka as “being in the epicenter of something great, of witnessing a movement coming into its own.” I wrote those words just one day before Misha Jones’ passing. Losing Misha, who held us together and pushed us forward in so many quiet ways, could so easily have brought discouragement, could have easily caused Sosnovka to stumble or fade with time. Instead, a stronger, more mature and more enduring Sosnovka has emerged.
The maturity we glimpsed this year at Sosnovka comes with the passing of seasons, both bright and dark. How easy it is to grow weary in this work, to lose oneself. But Sosnovka defies, linking us together and driving us forward with a million threads of friendship and partnership.
The defining moment of this year’s Sosnovka was the awarding of the first annual Misha Jones Award to Sergei Shapkhaev from the Buryat Regional Organization for Baikal for his community-based work to empower people in remote communities. Like Misha, Sergei never passes up a chance to help out a leader from a distant village, offering an encouraging word or piece of technical advice. The applause that erupted when Sergei’s name was announced for the award was intense and sustained, offering sweet release for hidden thoughts and emotions.
Sustained by memories of Misha’s wit, intellect, and life fully sacrificed for Russia’s people and wilderness, Sosnovka carries on. This year we welcomed participants from previously forgotten regions—Chukotka, Tuva, and the Jewish Autonomous Region. We rallied behind Aleksei and Sasha from Krasnoyarsk, brave defenders of the Angara River who were falsely accused of extremist activities this spring, but were ultimately vindicated in court. We feverishly planned campaigns for the coming year and forged brave new partnerships between indigenous and environmental organizations. And yes, oh how we soaked up the beauty of fall in Primorye and cherished every moment in such rich company!