“We have our dreams because without them we could not bear the truth.”
—Erich Maria Remarque
This is a story about a man named Alexey. Alexey is a self-educated inventor whose childhood dream was to become a pilot—but due to poor eyesight, he did not pass the test for flight school. Alexey is 29, and he lives in the industrial part of Tolyatti, a city that is a major player in the Russian car industry. Alexey is now trying to mold his childhood dreams to the real conditions of his unpleasant living situation. His dreams about the sky are incarnated in some strange inventions. One of them is a land rocket.
I met Alexey a year ago during a party where he tried to ride on his rocket for the first time. It was a very unsuccessful attempt—he almost lit himself on fire. This event did not reduce his resoluteness or his creativity. I was struck by his bravery.
Since then, I have been keeping an eye on Alexey and his strange rocket. He has no family or girlfriend; instead, he spends a lot of time in his underground workshop. He never makes any serious calculations or drawings of the jet engine or the construction as a whole. Most of the rocket’s components came from the scrap-metal dump. Haphazard though it may be, Alexey’s rocket is rideable.
I’m devoting this series to all the crazy romantics who don’t want to reconcile with the reality that surrounds them. They create a new extraordinary world for themselves, and they sacrifice so much for something that is, in the end, only a dream.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like one of these previous features: Aunties, the visual portrait of two elderly sisters living in rural Russia; City of Brides, fanciful portraits of women living in Ivanova, the former textile center of Russia; and Arctic Love, breathtaking photographs of a young Finnish woman’s life in the arctic landscapes of Lapland.