Experiences in Russia 1931
Days 29 to 41
First published & copyrighted by the Alton Press, Inc, Pittsburgh, USA in 1932.
Transcription & republication by Dr. M. S. Colley & N. L. Colley. © 2002-03. All Rights reserved. For further information: www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/legal.htm ; the domain from where this file was originally downloaded.
Original Source material from the diaries of Gareth Jones' visit to the Soviet Union with Jack Heinz II , in Autumn 1931. For further Soviet articles by Gareth Jones, please visit: www.colley.co.uk/garethjones/
During breakfast, a pleasant-faced man, who had asked many questions the night before and impressed us with his keenness for the Party regime, came in. He went over and held a whispered conversation with the vice-president, and then came to where we were sitting and eating. His entire expression and attitude had altered. The gay enthusiast had become utterly dejected.
“It is terrible,” he said, as he shook his head. “We can’t speak or we’ll be sent away. ‘They took away our cows, and now we have only a crust of bread. It’s worse, much, much worse than before the Revolution. But in 1926-27 - those were the fine years!"
Of course, I did not immediately understand what he had said, but his amazing change of face made it apparent that he was now telling a different story. It was an amazing reversion, but I think it significant that this is typical in many cases of enthusiastic supporters; they have many grave doubts and secret miseries.
This fellow took us around to the Soviet offices again. A number of muzhiks were standing about. They stared at us and one old man with a cap on the back of his head came up and greeted us.
“And how is it with you, tovarishch (comrade)?” we inquired.
“It is terrible in the Kolhoz,” he whispered. “They took my cows and my horse. We are starving. Look what they give us - nothing! nothing! How can we live with nothing in our dvor? And we can’t say anything or they’ll send us away as they did the others. All are weeping in the villages today, little brother.”
We turned to leave and he followed us out into the dark corridor. Suddenly he seized us both by the arms and whispered hoarsely:
“For God’s sake, don’t say anything.”
It was really very exciting!
Outside, a horse was tied to a post - one of the worst kept and fed I have ever seen. Said our last mentioned friend:
“That was my horse once; now he belongs to the Kolhoz. I fed him well, and now look at him - scraggy and dejected.”
One could see that he had once been proud of a good horse - now there was no one to take care of it, to have a personal interest in the animal.
Just then a boy wearing a red shirt came out of the building, grinned, jumped on the horse, and went off at a full gallop, using whip and heel. The old man followed the demonstration with his eyes. He said nothing, but looked very sad.
This scene impressed me so much that I mused over the thought that although it may be possible for the Soviets to do away with the incentive of money in their State, yet there can be no substitute for pride in personal possession. We shall see!
As we stood there, the rest of the group nodded and sighed.
“Oh yes, it is very bad!” declared one. Then a healthy looking young Komsomolka (member of the Young Communist League) joined the group. She wore a red bandanna around her head.
“Old wives’ tales!” she asserted, jeering.
Just then along came the president, seated in a fancy horse-drawn rickshaw in which we were to see the farm. He had scarcely joined us when an old woman came hobbling up, wringing her hands and crying between outbursts of excited talk. She saw we were strangers and came to tell us her troubles.
“Oh, do something for me!” she cried. “They have taken away my cow. How can I live? Oh my! Oh my! They won’t give me anything at all, and I am starving. Please, I beg, I beg of you. They say I can’t get anything because I don’t work, but I am ill. How can I work? And I have my little girl to feed! My dvor is empty and the land has been taken away. We are dying!”
She wept - the tears streaming down her face.
The young Komsomolka laughed, and shouted:
“Shut up, old woman! You ought to go to work.”
“But how can I work? I am ill!” she implored with outstretched arms, and then burst into tears again.
“Well, don’t come bothering us now, old woman,” said the president of the Soviet. “We’ve got better things to do. Get off with you!”
The president climbed onto the front seat of our carriage and we into the hay-filled back, and away we drove.
“There has been a decree that only those who work can receive things,” he said in explanation, “so the order must be carried out.”
That was that!
He told us about their Kolhoz and the “otkhodniki” (peasants sent to factories):
“Here we have group piece work. We decide how many workers shall be assigned to threshing, how many to milking, etc., and send the unnecessary ones to work in the factories. We sent 130 men to the biological factory alone. Some go because they want to. The more machines we get, the more spare people we shall have to send to the 518 new factories to be opened this year.
“Last year we had ‘uravnilovka’ [equal pay] and a lot of people were lazy and said that whether they worked or not they got the same pay. But we introduced ‘sdelshchina’ [piece work] -this spring, and now they work far harder. We use a system of brigades with a brigadier in charge. Each person has a book in which the amount of work he does is put down daily, together with the credit he receives for that work in terms of ‘work days’. For instance, cutting silage is only one-half a ‘work day’ in the book, because it is not a full-time job; other jobs receive more than a ‘work day’s’ credit - e. g., a brigadier receives this, or a skilled worker, or one who has done a particularly good job that day. They are paid monthly advances on the basis of the number of ‘work days’ up to sixty per cent of what we figure the average pay should be, or about eighty rubles. Then the remainder of the profits of the farm are divided at the end of the year.”
Probably not the profits!
“We had a Sect in our village,” continued our friend, as we drove along through the fields in the warm sun, “but we sent the leader away, chased him to Siberia, where he must do hard work, work as hard as the batrak he used to employ. The villain was a Kulak. He said that the Communists wanted all the people to die. Imagine! And then he said that the Pope of Rome was soon to come, and that he would hang all the Communists!”
Very indignant he was after telling about this.
“We closed the church,” he said, “and are going to turn it into a House of Culture. There will be films, meetings, plays. In it will be a branch of the Ossoaviackhim and the M. O. P. R. [Society for Help to Revolutionaries] too. We already have a branch of the ‘Osso’ here now, and we practise with gas masks in the village. Why? Of course, we must be prepared for war, tovarishch.”
As we drove through the village, aged men took off their hats to the new boss - just as if he were one of the old landlords. It was not just a slight doffing of the cap, but a complete removal of it with a bow.
So we came to a Russian silo - dug out of the ground. A cutter and tractor were at work, and two women were carrying a large basket on handles between them, and transferring the silage from the blower through the whole length of it, and then tramping it down with their feet. It was really hard work, but they got credit for only half-time work.
“At first the peasants laughed at this machine and silo,” said our guide. “They’d never seen one before. But now they work hard at it.”
The peasant woman talked to us. It was the same story.
“How can we live,” she asked, “on ten pounds of bread per month [womens’ rations]
And clothes! Do you know I have been in the Kolhoz now for the second year and not a scrap of new clothes have they given us. It’s worse - much, much worse than it ever has been. We did not want to join the Kolhoz. They forced us to. And they took away my cow [‘And mine!’ ‘And mine!’ they all chimed in] and now my dvor is empty. And they have taken away the horse! We can get only a half-litre of milk a day - no meat and no butter. It has never been so bad. Poor Mother Russia is in a sorry plight.”
Jones found some more women working not far away. They all shrieked and talked and gesticulated at the same time.
“My Ivan,” cried one; “how can I give him enough food?”
Then they showed us some grain they were cleaning.
“Look!” said one, “that’s what they keep for us-rotten grain. All the best they send to Samara, and keep the worst for us. What’s that? How long? Why mostly we work twelve hours a day, and on that sovkhoz [State farm] over there they often work sixteen. From here we drove far out through the fields to visit a threshing machine. As usual, there was much mechanical trouble with it
We returned to the vice-president’s home, and then walked to a house they were using as a restaurant. It seated about fifty persons; as usual, flies were very bothersome, and it was far from being clean. Most of the diners were women, and they were eating a very thin shtchi (cabbage soup) with black bread. There was an uproar when we entered.
“Look exclaimed a woman. “Look what they give us! That’s all we have. It is bad, no meat for us! And they took away our cows! The Kolhoz took everything! How can we work on an empty stomach like this?”
By this time the smell of the place began to get us, and we left, musing on the fine farm and factory kitchens that one hears about.
As we went out into the courtyard, an attractive old man of about seventy-five came up to us. He wore a blue Russian shirt, ragged trousers, lapti (shoes), and a blue cap which he removed as he bowed.
“Plokho! Plokho!” he groaned. “My dvor is empty. I used to have three horses and three cows, but they are gone now. It is getting worse and worse. It’s a dog’s life!”
A middle-aged woman, who heard all this, immediately shrieked:
“A lot of pity you deserve! You once had your horses and your cows, and little pity did you have for us ‘bedniaks’ [poorest class of peasants] then. I can’t grumble. I had no cow and no horse. My husband was killed when the ‘Whites’ were here. But I am better off now!”
It is this very poorest class among the peasants that has gained something by the Revolution, and it is significant that it is the only peasant group with a good word to say for the new regime.
It was time to go for our train. Another man with a horse drove up to take us. We piled in. “Wait! Wait!” someone shouted, and the driver ran off. He returned loaded with four fine water melons, which all insisted we should take.
Away we went at a spanking trot through the village! People waved, smiled, and waved again. We turned to watch the little cottages drop from view one by one as the rolling hills intervened.
At the station there was the usual wait - about an hour. Quite a large crowd collected around us, asking questions about America. And they told us how terrible it all was now and how much things cost. One said:
“The Trade Unions now do nothing to help the worker. They are only to educate him and to make him produce.”
Just then along came our train for Samara, and we managed to squeeze into one of the cars.
Back in Samara we had a taste of Russian inefficiency when we went for railroad accommodations. We had to go to one office and find out what time the train left, and to another where there was a queue of twenty-five people, to get our railroad tickets. They won’t tell you about train schedules at this latter place. We were told that it would be necessary to go to the station two hours before the train left if we wanted Pullman accommodations, which process required about an hour’s time and much argument.
Now we wanted a bath, and no joke about it. Inquiry revealed that the fireman was out, and we were told that it would take three hours to get hot water anyway. I did not see why it should take so long, because there was a boiler beside the bath tub. So I yelled about until I managed to get some wood. Then I built the biggest fire I could and waited. Well sir, pretty soon I had a hot bath and when I called Jones to have his, he was absolutely amazed.
At about ten o’clock we picked up a droshki, piled in our four suitcases, and clambered in. Our train was supposed to leave at 11:00 p. m., but when we got to the ticket office to secure Pullman (oh yeah!) accommodations, we were told that it was five and a half hours late. It was too late and too expensive to go back to the hotel, so we cursed a few times, and found sitting space on the floor along with the rest of Russia. About an hour later, with Jones asleep, I heard a man announcing “Moscow - train!” I jumped a foot and woke up “bratushka” (little brother). We were in luck - this was yesterday morning’s train, fourteen hours late, and two “soft” places available. I found myself in a room with a young American, his interpreter, and a girl, while Jones picked a couple of Asiatics. It was just plain filthy. The couch was an inch thick with dust and the cover was all ripped and torn. There was, of course, no bedding of any sort. The floor was dirty, and we couldn’t see out of the window because of the mud. Apart from that, it could not have been cozier!
Around 2:00 a. m., the attendant pushed open the door and told me to get up quick if I wanted to go into the compartment with Jones; so I moved and even got a “lower”.
At 4:30 there was a great thumping at the door, and a woman and baby made triumphal entry, much to the discomfort of the natives - meaning us. I had to move again - from “lower” to “upper”! To say the least, it was disconcerting, because I had to clean everything off before I could think of sleeping. So to bed!
If I hadn’t written the day of the week, I should never have known what day this is. Everybody talks of dates, but no one ever seems to mention the day of the week. I am going Russian, I guess!
We were up at 7:00 a. m. to take a walk at the station - it was getting a little “high” in our room, with everything shut. Fortunately, the young American was better provided for traveling this way, and had a teapot, tea, and sugar. We contributed baked beans, spaghetti, and grapefruit. Then at the stations one could buy from peasants, soft boiled eggs, potato cakes (at one place), bread, tomatoes, and apples. Thus we lived for two days. Somehow I enjoyed it thoroughly!
This afternoon we entered the Autonomous Republic of Mordva and stopped at a station. Immediately, a bunch of ragged little lads, like the “homeless boys” of Moscow, came up to the train, begging for bread. They certainly were tough looking little characters.
“Bottles! Bottles! Have you any bottles?” they asked.
Many people gave them empty beer or water bottles.
An amazing contrast to this scene was afforded by some girls dressed in their native costumes, which were somewhat similar to those of Jugoslavia. But these were the more impressive because they were so fancily decked out in embroidered blouses and skirts, while around their hips they wore brass semi-circles, all embossed and glittering with coins; and dangling there from were long red fringes which they used after the manner of Dr. Traprock’s sirens of the South Seas.
My new-found American friend, J.M., was a tractor service man who had been out in Central Asia for the last six months. He told some amazing stories about food conditions in that district.
At a sovkhoz at Kvarkinski, the only meat they had in six months was camel udder, he reported. They were even killing condors and eating them, food was so scarce.
“At Sinferople, the peasants had no meat,” he said, “although the Kolhoz had quite a large herd of live stock. But no one was allowed to kill anything. One day a foreign delegation of Communists arrived from South America. Then they killed all sorts of animals to have meat for the occasion, and to impress the visitors. I have not seen potatoes for two months myself.”
I asked him about the use of tractors and their treatment. It is significant that the same tractor which runs - before overhauling is necessary - for 5,000 hours at home, lasts only 1,500 hours here. The reason is the quality of the oil used. It is Russian and very inferior.
J.M. also said that even the machine tractor stations do not do the right sort of repair work. They replace the old pistons with much heavier iron ones, which reduce the efficiency of the motor to a large extent. Then a universal trouble is the shortage of parts. The Russians buy machines, but no parts, consequently, they have to spoil another engine to fix the first. “Fixing”, to the Russian, is generally a strong arm policy with a sledge-hammer as the means.
“It is very difficult to make them machine-minded,” he said. "On one State farm, when I was there, a prize was given to a certain girl for being the best tractor driver. But it was only because she kept the machine nice and clean. I looked at the motor - it was in bad shape. No foolin’, the directors at these places do not know what they are doing.
“On most of the sovkhozi I visited, it was the practice to select a few peasants at random from the workers and imprison them for some slight trouble that was found in their work. They just wanted to keep up the discipline so that the rest might know they had better be careful.”
Jim also told us of no less than six Russian engineers of his acquaintance who, prior to 1921, had worked in the U.S.A., but had come over here again. Now they were most anxious to get back to the U.S.A. Jim had with him a letter from one man to his son in Detroit. The boy had wanted to join his father, but the letter read in part:
“Even if you can’t get a job and have nothing but some bread and butter and coffee, you are better off where you are.”
I really believe that the average labouring man in the U.S.A., out of work though he may be, has more to eat than the average Russian peasant today.
The most surprising thing that J. M. told us was that he had been offered $300 a month salary to spread Communist propaganda in the U.S.A. He swears that it was a party man who made him the offer, although this is the only case of the kind of which I have heard. If such offers are frequent, then one can draw his own conclusions. It is not likely that they are numerous, however, particularly just now, because the Third International is very quiet and Russia does not have enough money to spend any in that way.
Another day - on the rails!
Jones had an interesting conversation with a young woman on the train. It suggested what Communism is doing to the believer and the artistic.
“When I get back to Moscow,” she said, “I am going to become a Komsomolka I am a believer, but I won’t tell them. There are many others like that, too. The reason for this deception is that it gives me a chance to go to a university and study more music. It is very hard for one to learn the piano these days, and I have been lucky. It is considered bourgeois, you know.
“I worked in a library in Moscow for a while and they were very particular about the books they gave out there. Children were not allowed to have books that described the happy life or the line living of the nobility before the Revolution.”
Then the girl told us of the trouble the Communists had had in Central Asia:
“There were two villages that were violently opposed to collectivization. The people said they would not join. So the Communists came at night and set fire to the towns and thus entirely destroyed them. But many Communists were murdered, too!
“In school, I have to make reports and speeches,” she added. “I learn my Communist phrases and sentiments, but I don’t have to believe them, do I? Anybody can repeat things - and lots do!”
This I think significant of an attitude which I have long suspected among so many “ardent” supporters.
The following remarks by various other Communists on the train were rather amusing:
“In America nobody talks to the Negro and he cannot get a good position either. He is always being hanged.”
“Communists cannot make speeches there either. Russia is the land of complete freedom.”
“Why does the Disarmament Conference last so long? Because they are plotting war. Why has there been no answer to Foreign Minister Litvinoff’s speech at Geneva?”
This speech was one asking for complete disarmament.
We arrived in Moscow at 5:00 p. m. and tried for half an hour to get a droshki that did not cost ten rubles, but it could not be done.
A bath and a good big dinner were in order and no mistake!
We ran into Mr. A. Kahn here at the hotel, and found he had a letter for me from mother. I was sick as a pup today, so stayed in bed - alimentary canal damaged by sabotage.
My doctor told us some things about his profession:
“The doctors have an awful time of it now. We get only 130 rubles a month, and have to buy at the private market. The worker lives better than we do. I think in general the worker is better off now as regards housing, but his food, clothing, and shoes are much worse.
“Health on the whole is not so bad; but there is great general undernourishment. On paper, the medical attention for the workers is fine, but actually they must wait months for treatment. There are but few hospitals, and they ate overcrowded and dirty.”
We bought a lemon for one ruble, fifty kopecks (75c) for use in tea. It was an occasion!
We found an amazing title for a book today, “Against Mechanical Materialism and Menshevik Idealism in Biology.”
This reminds me that the only non-technical book I have seen a person reading was in the hands of a man working a hoist at Autostroy. Between hoists he read “Gulliver’s Travels”.
We visited the caouchouc (rubber) factory. By great good luck, the director to whom we talked was a very smart man and happened to be on the Moscow Educational Planning Committee, so he could tell us about the schools. All universities and high schools are called V.U.Z. Then there are various types of educational institutions under V. U. Z., technical, scientific, pedagogical, economic, and medical.
I was particularly anxious to learn something about their approach to and teaching of history and economics.
“We have two principles or mottoes which guide our whole teaching of history and he said.
“First -History is the record of class warfare.
“Second - One’s life decides one’s knowledge. This means that the economic system under which a man lives determines his views on sundry problems and his activity.
“These two mottoes are the basis of all Russian education. It follows logically that the history of personalities plays no part, but only that of classes. For example, the bourgeois interpretation of the Crusades holds that these were mainly the influence of Christ, and one hears the names of great crusaders. The Communist point of view, on the other hand, is, first, that Jesus did not exist, and, second, that the real reason for the Crusades was economic - merchants sought markets in the east; feudal Europe was overcrowded and could not feed the people, so they sought expansion.”
"But what of the great men of history?” I asked. “What about Peter the Great? Did he not greatly change?
“No, tovarishch,” he replied. “Peter was the result of the modernization of Russia, of the growth of the bourgeoisie in Russia, and of the transformation of Russia to different times.”
“Was Lenin a great man?”
“It was the Party that created Lenin, not Lenin, the Party,” he replied.
We spoke of art.
“The motto, ‘Art is a weapon of class warfare,’ predominates,” he informed us. “The role of the artist is to make himself a weapon of agitation. He should be a realist - give a true expression to reality. He should paint a priest with a red nose, and the fat Capitalist with a silk hat and gold in his hands. This for the sake of class warfare! If he is painting a picture of life before the Revolution, the artist should show, for example, a man beating his wife. Art should be agitation at all times.”
“But what of the great artists of the past - Raphael or Rembrandt?” I asked.
“Raphael made a step ahead, but his motives were not sympathetic. They expressed their epoch and the feelings of the surroundings, which were Capitalistic. They were weapons in the hands of Capitalists.”
This was all very disgusting. To pass art off like that! Well, it seems to me as though they are yodeling up the wrong canon, and it is certainly going to raise the devil with any normal artistic expression. They are rearing a nation of sign painters!
Our friend showed us around the rubber factory. It was very disorderly and unorganized. In one department, they were making bicycle tires for export to Holland and India. They were marked in English. Most of the machine equipment was American, and we were told that the rubber was mostly from South America. It is significant that since Stalin’s speech, eighty percent of the workers have been put on piece work, which fact has greatly increased efficiency.
I ran into Cecil B. DeMille (stupendous performance, colossal settings, magnificent, etc.). I was, however, agreeably impressed. He is a pleasant, quiet-voiced person, not the expected flashy, yawping man I imagined. He said of Soviet films:
“Interesting, but of doubtful expression - a little backward and of course Russia is only learning how to use sound. Their two main weaknesses are their lack of individual characters, and the mawkish tragedy of the stories. They like to portray mass emotion and action exclusively, and thus destroy personality. American and European audiences do not like this.”
This afternoon we got our Intourist guide - a man, thank God! - and left by train for Kharkov and the South. On the journey, we chatted with a white collar worker, who lived in one room with six other people. The nervous strain was terrible, he said; never a moment of privacy.
“All the workers in my house are discontented,” he declared. “There are many false Communists who do not believe in Communism at all.
“I just threw my lottery ticket away. I was obliged to buy it. Usually, big Communists win, and you read in the newspaper that they have returned the prizes to the State for the sake of the Five-Year Plan. Legally, you are supposed to receive the prizes in money, but often you are pressed to give it to the "Osso” or M. O. P. R.
“Very many Russians will never forgive the Americans, British, and Germans for trading with the Soviets. They are trading with crooks. And they are crooks! All the best stuff is sent abroad - we starve.”
This train was quite comfortable, for we were in a Wagon Lit, and right next to us was a dining car, with potted plants on the tables, and other decorations, including a decanter of vodka, half of which I drank in mistake for water. Nearly burned up!
We arrived at Alexandrovsk tonight at 8:00 p. m. The train was punctual to the minute. There we were met by a car from Dnieperstroy. That was fine and we steamed out to the dam in about forty minutes. There I got the surprise of my life. Colonel Cooper and his men have superb houses, of the regular Florida brick bungalow type, set in fine gardens and with many trees around. We stayed with a Mr. Wilkinson in the house where Colonel Cooper lives. It was grand!
Mr. M., chief engineer, took us all over the dam. I had hoped to get some photos, but only yesterday the Russians began to prohibit the taking of pictures.
The dam is an amazing project in size and concept. Stretching from bank to bank, it is built in a graceful curve, three-quarters of a mile long. At each end are rock-crushing and concrete-mixing plants, through one of which we went; and then down into the power house, which is about two-thirds built, and contains all American equipment, with its nine turbines, each twenty-five feet in diameter, and developing 90,000 h. p. apiece - the largest in the world. They poured more concrete in three months last year than had ever been dumped before anywhere in the world, with an average of about 4,000 cu. yds. per day and 146,000 cu. yds. in one month. Eighteen thousand persons are employed on this job.
We went right down inside the turbines and saw how they worked. After much climbing of ladders, we eventually reached the top again and watched the steam derricks lower two-yard buckets down into the fills. Mr. M. explained how a dam like this is built by constructing a preliminary coffer-dam and then pumping all the water out of the center and building right on the bottom. We returned through the center of the dam, by way of a passage. Why this?
“It’s a secret,” said Mr. M., “but you don’t generally build large runways through dams - nor those either” (pointing to small passages running out into the piers).
Evidently everything is all set for defence!
The purpose of the dam is two-fold:
First, to develop 80,000 h. p. for electric transformation, and second, by backing up the water and having locks at one side it will make the Dnieper navigable from the Black Sea to Kiev. The kilo-watts developed here will light a new industrial city of a million persons that is being built adjacent, and will furnish power for a large steel works, an aluminium smelting plant, and other industrial establishments there
I spent the rest of the day in bed with a stomach ache.
Jones went out this afternoon to see a German Kolhoz not far from here. I was not able to go. There he talked with a Communist. Suddenly a man came up, slightly “buzzed”, and interrupted with:
“Tell him the truth!” he shouted. “Why are you telling him lies? We are being oppressed. Nothing but taxes, taxes, all the time. How can we live? The truth! The truth!”
This fellow went off talking to himself.
There is only one member of the Party at the Kolhoz, because the Germans are religious. This Party man explained how they sent workers to the factory. The man who goes continues a member of the Kolhoz. If he earns 150 rubles there, he must give from three to ten per cent to the Kolhoz. People do not mind going to work on the construction job, but nobody wants to go to the Donetz Basin.
One peasant said:
“They sent the Kulaks away from here and it was terrible. We heard in a letter that ninety children died on the way - ninety children from this district. We are all afraid of being sent away as Kulaks for political reasons. We had a letter from one, saying they were cutting wood in Siberia. Life was hard and there was not enough to eat. It was forced labour! They sent all the grain away from our village and left only 1,000 pounds. I heard that in a village thirty versts away they came to seize the grain, and the peasants killed three militiamen. They wanted to have enough grain for themselves instead of starving. The Communists then shot sixteen peasants.
“They force us to work on Sundays, although we are Mennonites and don’t want to. They won’t allow us to have Sunday Schools, or religious magazines. The Russians have lost their religion, but we Germans still stick to ours. A lot of people have gone to America - take us with you!”
Tonight we left Dnieperstroy by train to go to Kharkov. Our guide had secured train accommodations for us and so everything was easy.
Here we are in the capital and industrial center of the Ukraine. It boasts of the highest buildings in Russia - houses and government offices. Large industrial plants, with their adjacent apartment houses for workers, are being built here.
We visited the offices of Stuart, James & Cook Co. today. Unfortunately, Mr. Cole was away, but we talked with several other men who told us of the present conditions in the Ukraine, where they are designing coal machinery. They reported bad epidemics of cholera and dysentery there now. Conditions are terrible at present and the food is worse than a year ago. They treat the workers like cattle.
“They think they can make skilled miners out of peasants,” we were told. “It can’t be done quickly. Those workers can only dig half a ton of coal per day. They are very inefficient. The machines keep breaking down and everything gets jammed. It’s a swell mess! And, of course, transportation is terrible, too, which means they can’t distribute properly.”
This afternoon we went out to the new tractor factory, which is soon to be in operation and which is designed to produce 50,000 tractors per year.
Our first general impression was of a group of modernistic factory buildings rearing their heads above the mud which surrounds them. We went to the trade school in which a crowd of young, unintelligent looking muzhiks was learning how to handle lathes and machine tools. I’d hate to have the job of teaching those blokes.
After much fussing around we managed to get permission to go in and see the assembly and machine departments. American engineers were around, installing equipment, and they all told the same story, that the Russians had a great curiosity for machines and liked to take them apart without much idea of what to do then. Last week in the Moscow News appeared the picture of three tractors outside this plant -”the first ones turned out”- but they had been sent from Stalingrad just for that picture! It will be weeks before they can produce here.
Tonight we took a train for Kiev, ancient city of the East.
Kiev was a bright spot, for there we got our mail. Our hotel was an old one of the most florid Baroque architecture. But we had a piano, a bathroom, and several sentimental statuettes of thwarted and unrequited love, etc. We had a great surprise at the Sports Park where they have a modern restaurant that makes you think you are in Europe when you get the food you know you guessed wrong.
Kiev is a charming old town, with its many ancient churches and handsome avenues of trees. Jones and I walked through a park, where we saw a fine flower bed with two numbers outlined in flowers - 1,040 and 518. What did they stand for? One thousand and forty machine tractor stations and 518 industrial plants to be opened in 1931. Say it with flowers!
We started for civilization at 11:00 a.m. I met a Mr. Spyer and his secretary on the train, and they were very pleasant. At 7 p.m. we reached the Russian-Polish frontier station at Shepetorka, and had an hour to eat in the little Polish restaurant there - much better food. The Customs were very strict. The officials looked into my small jewelry box and opened every letter, although no one spoke any English! Then we got on another train which took us to the Polish-Russian frontier town where we again went through the Customs. Here they made an awful fuss over Jones’s Russian literature took it away from him and made us lock it up in a sealed suit case for shipment to Berlin. A fine International Wagon Lit Car was available here for the night’s run to Warsaw.
We arrived in Warsaw at 7:00 a.m. and drove around the town after breakfast for an hour, seeing things. Strange how much impressed one is with an average decently dressed person - after Russia.
Berlin tonight at 7:30! A tremendous thrill of freedom once again, and the pleasure of a really good dinner. Russian experiences begin to have an unimagined glamour and romance.
Our curses of Russian discomforts are now but inaudible murmurs, and our most unpleasant experiences have become the best of fireside tales.
But perhaps we are all wrong; perhaps others once doubted the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome!
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