Photo project

Pig Shop: Traders of Wildlife in a Series by Igor Golovniov

Ukrainian photographer Igor Golovniov went to a domestic animals market in the town of Kosov (Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast) and listened to what the buyers and sellers were talking about.

Igor Golovniov Age 59

Born in Tseglede, Hungary. Lived in Kursk for many years, then moved to Lugansk 30 years ago. Graduated from Voronezh State University with a degree in journalism. Has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Paris Match, and Der Spiegel. Works with Associated Press, Reuters, Agence-France Press, European Photo Agency, Cobis and Zuma Press.

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A young woman is putting a duckling in a box:
— I’ll be famous now! Where can I see these photos later?
I honestly admit that I don’t know:
— I’ll pass them on to an American agency and then they’ll sell them all around the world.
— Lovely! — she says. — I thought they’d just be in Kiev. You’re from Kiev, right – she confirms. I nod.
A seller is grinning nearby. He knows I’m not from Kiev.

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One old man tells us that he’s been selling chickens for forty years. He brags that his chickens are Hungarian bred. Then, for some reason, he adds:
— There are no yids in Kosov.
I ask:
— Are there any dentists?
After contemplating for some time, he says:
— Yeah…
— Ha! And you say there aren’t any Jews!

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A woman and her husband are selling pigs:
— We’ve spent our whole lives with pigs! Our son even sells pigs!
She sighs and complains that they haven’t been able to sell one piglet for two hours. Then she says:
— Listen, you don’t know anyone in Kiev who needs a vyshyvanka? Our daughter sews as a hobby but we can’t sell them to anyone here. There… — she nods in the direction of where there’s embroidery, blankets and other handicrafts being sold in the bazaar. — Mafia. They sell machine-made embroidery and pass it off as hand-made.

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— Look at this beautiful thing! — a seller says, sticking a piglet right in my lens.
He’s very satisfied. Someone just bought three pigs off of him at 1,000 hryvnia a head. The guy laughs, putting animals in customers’ bags. They give the money for the pigs to his wife.

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Two villagers, one of them old and, despite the 35-degree heat, wearing a jacket, methodically circling the market. They critically examine the goods, asking for prices. An old woman pulls them a piglet out of a pig pen. The men barter but they don’t buy anything, going from one seller to another. After circling the bazaar about three times, they up and leave with empty hands.

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— Look at how funny it is! — A woman pulls a striped pig out of a box.
— Is that a wild boar?
— Yeah. It just popped up in our stock.

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— Oh, mom, look at how his ears are glowing! — a small boy excitedly yells near a white rabbit sitting in a cage.
Later, a woman and her teenage son stop near the rabbits. They’re admiring them, but aren’t going to buy one. A girl in a long, white dress also, it seems, only came to look and with her gaze she stands out a lot from the crowd of villagers. However, she is busily asking the seller about the breed and promptly buys three rabbits from him. The rabbits are immediately packed in cardboard boxes tied shut with twine.

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— What do you do during the winter? — I ask a young bird seller.
— I travel to Germany on a small bus, almost to the French border. Then I load it up with household appliances from a dump and bring them home.
At the front of the market I saw some sellers hocking used Bosch refrigerators, “Chernobyl”-like monitors, and a similar kind of TV.
— How do you bring it all back? You probably have to pay something for customs, right?
— What are you talking about! — he snaps back. “You stop at the border and the locals carry all of the appliances through customs by hand. Then you come through with an empty car and get the goods back. It’s cheaper than paying a fee.

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— Why are you speaking Russian? You don’t understand Ukrainian?
— It’s my mother tongue. Maybe you yourself don’t understand Russian?
— Of course I understand it!
— So I can speak Russian, then?
— Of course you can!

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