IT'S RUSSIA I LOVE, SAYS POET; Cats Eyes Driving School Always a Warm Welcome in Siberia for Writer Who Upped Sticks and Moved 4,600 Miles from Cardiff to Krasnoyarsk

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Byline: Aled Blake

SOUTH Wales poet Michael Oliver says he has never felt more free - after moving more than 4,000 miles from his home to deepest Siberia.

Mr Oliver, 31, says Russia is freer and more cultural and has decided to up sticks and move the 4,600 miles from Cardiff to the city of Krasnoyarsk.

He says he has fallen in love with the landscape, the history and the people.

The writer has moved to Krasnoyarsk, a city with a population of one million, where his wife Nastya is from. He met her after scouring the internet for someone to translate some of his work into Russian as part of a performance poetry routine. And Mr Oliver believes Russia has more of a dynamic and vibrant arts and culture scene than the UK.

He told the Siberian Times: "In 2009 I found myself working on a stage performance in Wales named 'D Day'; it was a sort of collaboration between myself and several other Welsh poets focusing on patriotism and Welshness.

"As I find the notion of patriotism rather vulgar, being more of a humanitarian, I decided that my performance should be read in a language nobody would understand.

"I chose Russian. In a haphazard fashion I searched the internet and social networking sites for someone who would agree to translate some of my poems into Russian at very short notice. That is how I came to meet my wife Nastya.

"After the performance, which went down like a lead balloon by the way, Nastya and I kept in touch."

He found a warm welcome in the hills of Krasnoyarsk, an industrial centre which boasts spectacular scenery on the Yenisei river.

He said: "I have fallen in love with Siberia, and especially Krasnoyarsk, as much as anyone can. There are several other characteristics of Siberia that were a complete surprise.

"The weather to start with.

I had no idea it was so hot in summer. British summers, especially the most recent so I'm told, mostly consist of rain, rain and more rain."

Mr Oliver said Russian hospitality "has to be the best in the world".

"So far I haven't been able to visit anyone here without being sat down and offered food and drink.

"The stereotype of Siberians I cametoknowas a young man has been completely annihilated; Ihavefoundpeople here tobe educated and open minded. I am very happy in Krasnoyarsk and will be happier still if the authorities grant me permission to stay permanently."

Art exhibitions were more "bold" and "courageous" than he was used to, he claimed. …