"Here is the story I want to tell you. You know, there was a very unusual situation, two years ago, in 2003. The city of Ust-Kut, west of here, on the Lena River, have you heard of it? So, if you go down the Lena River to the north of Ust-Kut there is a small village called Verkhnemarkovo. On November tenth of that year it was very cold there, minus twenty-five degrees centigrade, ice already stays on the river. Some boys went fishing along the river. And suddenly from the sky this bird fell on them—a flamingo! A flamingo falls on them from above! It's snowing, ice all around, and this bird is falling. The boys picked up this bird and brought it home, started to treat its frostbitten toes, even some of its small feathers have fallen off.
"So they took care of it, and cured it, and in January of 2004 they brought it here to us in the winter garden, and the flamingo lived here in our garden. Crowds of people, everybody came here to look at this miracle. Here the flamingo became so beautiful and haughty. Our flamingo was shown on TV, they spoke about it on the radio, it was in newspapers and magazines. It is a real celebrity, a superstar, our flamingo. We fed him minced fish made in a meat grinder, carrots, all vegetables, whatever you have. But he was not pink, but gray. Flamingos are pink because of the pink in the hermit crabs and shrimps they eat, but Baikal has no shrimps, so he didn't have those, and that's why he was so grayish. But so beautiful, haughty, independent he was.
"The flamingo stayed with us for seven months and then we forwarded it to the Krasnoyarsk zoo. And now the flamingo is in the zoo, it lives there, and everything is okay. But you know, nobody can explain the reason for this bird's appearance in Siberia, in the north—a bird that lives in the south and does not fly so far, they are not migratory birds. Geese and ducks arrive in our area, we admit, but this bird lives only in the south.
"But this is not all yet.
"Last year, also in November, on the Yenisei River in the north near the city of Yeniseisk, in the same way boys also find a second bird—another flamingo! This second flamingo was also frostbitten. It also was rescued and sent to us, and this other flamingo we also warmed up and caressed, and it too was then taken away to Krasnoyarsk. Now there are two of them there. Our first is called Phila, and the second Phima. Only I do not know what they are, girls or boys, because they still are baby birds, little ones. Such a wonderful story. You are a writer—isn't it a most unusual story? How would one explain this occurrence? How come that the flamingos appeared here? I'll show you a few photos, just look."
She took a few snapshots from an album on a garden bench. The pictures of the flamingo—the first or second one, I'm not sure which—had the radiant, revelatory quality of icon paintings. They showed the flamingo standing in the winter garden's tiled pond and regarding the photographer with an expression that was, indeed, haughty. He (or she) looked as if he had just planted the flamingo flag and claimed this place for Flamingo. Though kind of gray, he was definitely a flamingo. He seemed to have become comfortable with his singularity, and to accept as a matter of course the attention focused on him. Naturally he would find a tropical forest in the middle of Siberia, and naturally it would need a flamingo.
(ian frazier, from travels in siberia)