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How many moral or physical sufferings, a people which rejected God, can it make itself guilty with good intentions?     




February 1981: The discovery

In a time when for me God did not exist, it is however him who brought to me by Grace this experiment of the ex-Soviet Union, and opened my eyes on all the forfeiture of a people in which the churches were prohibited and whose buildings were used as barns or cattle sheds. I personally considered this use full common sense, and delighted me that any worship to God is already judged as an attack to the law and order, but I was however going very quickly to reject the pitiful result of it.

It was in the winter 1981. I was going to stay there first once from February to the end of May, and to come back five or six weeks on September. On the election day of the President Mitterrand, I was thus not in France, although I was there with all my heart.

I never went further in my political convictions, than those to remain in the anonymity of the ballot paper, but I nourished readily at that time, some ideas with communist tendencies. I left therefore in a certain hope to find there a form of consolidation of my opinions of which I was going on the contrary to be cured, quite before my first return. I was at that time anti-God, needless then to say you that in a lot of domains I was not a saint. Being then anti-God, it goes without saying in many matter I was not a saint. I will however not speak here according to an analysis related to a possible religious Puritanism attached to my Christian conversion, but quite according to my perception of the time.

I had returned since only a few months of the stay to Colombia which I evoked in the preceding chapter, when my company sent to me to replace colleagues snowed by the  difficulties of the task. It was a matter of the startup of an important manufacturing unit of enzymes sold by a English group in the USSR a few years before. It was located in Ukraine halfway of Kiev and Odessa, to surroundings of a small town of twenty four thousand inhabitants, named Ladijin. (Ладижин).

The various dialogs which I was having got with my colleagues before my departure, had prepared me rather well, I will find at the subject to the black market. It seemed to me however, which that would be the single difference that I would discover there with France. I had more particularly received from one them the motivation to provide me with some new jeans, in order to get some additional spending money to me, that’s all.

I feel therefore happy when I was taking off direction Moscow, with a majority of my preconceived ideas on large Russia and my convictions with communist tendencies. From all the group of seven or eight French from various companies, who went on the place, I was the only one to make the voyage for the first time. Moscow and its some vehicles in the streets, appeared somewhat morose to me, but like it acted for the hour only of one flying evening of transit between the airport and the train station, I was not lingered over this. During our sleep, many stops had punctuated the advance of our night train. In the early morning, drove by a languor which was seeming to come from the mist of times, it progressed slowly in these immense snowy plains. Here and there, a kolkhoz 1 established near a small extremely insulated hamlet, recalled to my asleep memory some films, such as Anna Karénine 2 or Doctor Jivago 3.

In our group, a couple whom traveled with a young girl, seemed quite sad. They were already three years old of expatriation on the spot, and looked a sorry. To create the contact and to help them to leave both their moroseness, I addressed then to the husband, and in a banal manner I inquired of the way of life on the spot. To my great astonishment, I obtained of him only one slashing response which left me speechless, on the style: "I have enough to be taken for a" crazy "by those whom I forewarn, you will see by yourself".

1. kolkhoz: Collective farm, in the U.S.S.R., which comprised a sector of State (grounds), a collectivized sector (livestock, means of production, farm buildings) and a sector not collectivized (houses of the country families, small holdings devoted to the gardening and the small animal breeding, etc). The kolkhozes were dismantled in 1992.

2. Anna Karénine, novel of Tolstoï (1876-1877), brilliant evocation of various social backgrounds. Tolstoï opposes the tragic failure of the heroin (who, having sacrificed its hearth to an adulterous love with the Vronsky officer, thrown herself under a train) to the blooming of Kitty Cherbatski within a plain household. MOVIES Films of: Edmund Goulding (1891 ­ 1959), in 1927; Clarence Brown (1890 ­ 1987), in 1935, 2 with Greta Garbo; Julien Duvivier (1949), with Vivien Leigh.

3. Doctor Jivago, novel of Pasternak (1957): the First World War, the Revolution of 1917 and the civil war which followed, upset the life of a Muscovite doctor. The novel, published in Italy, was interdict in U.R.S.S. MOVIES Film of David Lean (1965), with Omar Sharif (born in 1932) and Julie Christie (born in 1940).

Although this repartee did not let me predict anything good, I did not paid too much attention to this detail, considering the distance as reason of obvious lassitude and bad mood of this man. It was not anything of this, but at the time I could not understand it. This one had since a long time suffered the heresy that I was going to discover, and had tried during its preceding voyages, to translate all Soviet moral and physical slump with newcomers. He had then been criticized by others less informed than him, so much the image that we could have of this nation was far away from daily reality, and the dissimulated incoherence on a large scale.

In Vinnitsa, located at one hundred and fifty kilometers in the south of Kiev, we left the train, to carry out the last hundred kilometers by bus until Ladijin. Just as I had found a good pretext for the number of vehicle in Moscow, the excuse of the deplorable state of the roadways, came this time from the climate. We were not anymore in one area of Siberian cold, but as we are accustomed to representing us Russia through the Napoleonic retreat, I did not pay there too attention.

More we approached the purpose, more my impatience was tall to discover the true environment of my future stay, because the statements of my traveling companions started to disturb my enthusiasm. When our bus entered this small city, my first impression brought a great relief to me. Put aside, bitumen degradations, we "would have grown ourselves in France. I had time to notice a stadium with kindergarten, of the almost homey buildings, on a great square a large gymnasium and a supermarket seemed to me it, finally nothing which confirmed me the statements of this grumpy French. I was quite happy of this and stayed convinced I was going to pass a pleasant stay there.

The twenty to twenty five French that we were in general on the spot, were lodging in the same building, to two or three per apartment. During the journey I had somewhat sympathized with a welder slightly younger than me, who was to his second stay, and especially with one older, much less unsteady, who was him on his third return. At the time of our distribution by apartment, they were thus managed so that we gather all three.

As soon as the doorstep of the door crossed, I felt "at home". There were bathroom, water closet, rooms, kitchen with gas and refrigerator, balcony with sight on the countryside still somewhat snowbound and an admirable sunset, all was "perfect". In spite of very many finishing off details, left in a state of shell unconvincing for one French, I don’t know any more for which reason I then did not notice them, perhaps quite simply that there is nobody more blinded than this one who does not want to see. It even seemed to me, all those from whom I had received a bad testimony, were the people accustomed to their small French middle-class comfort, to which the experiment of the expatriation probably missed. They stopped kind on details, to make a generality.

The next morning, at the time of our arrival on the industrial site, I was again consolidated in this sense. An immense concrete building in which all the production was, preceded another even vaster than the first, immense for this type of technology. Like everywhere, there were certainly many  faience panes unstuck, some heat insulation of piping opened, but it was more or less not really worse than elsewhere. The excuse of the decayed aspect of the buildings had been this completely involuntary time. I undoubtedly one of was best placed to appreciate than all was new, but the unit having the aspect of old workshops about fifteen year, I did not realize then, that the unit had never produced.

First midday, I began to discover the local cooking, but was once more obliged to note the bad behavior of French abroad, for whom, only the French cooking is worthy to be appreciated. That consolidated me in their inexperience of the expatriation. At the meal a few sarcasms went indeed of here and there, but I attributed them more at the different political opinions bound in the French presidential elections, than with an unrest truly founded concerning the Soviet Union. With the passing of time, I will say now, one and the other was perhaps true.

Apart from Wednesdays and Saturdays than we could have dinner in a dancing restaurant, the other evenings, we was preparing us it at the apartment. To this end, each weekend we were receiving in rubles one sum almost equivalent to the monthly wage of a local workman with family responsibilities, for our simple spending money and to make the shopping of dinner. We was thus sharing the domestic tasks with my mates, the older to the meals preparation, the youngest to the cleaning and dishes, and me to the shopping. I went thus very quickly to discover a pedestrian vast city, with buildings of four to five floors surrounded with trees and vegetation.

The Frenchmen was generally emerging from it the image of very popular cities Public Housing Unit, but it was rather well balanced and its generality in this end February remained acceptable in my opinion. The store in the vicinity of which the bus was stopping us in evening did not escape from the rule in this end from winter, even if the flowers beds had bad appearance in ratio of what they would have been in France. People were entering and going out from this store like everywhere in the world, and nobody seemed unhappy at first glance.

I was however going to discover there a thing surprising for the image which I had of a country at least equal to ours. Being somewhat greedy, I immediately noticed on this first visit, a stall of confectioneries and chocolates which were undoubtedly not higher quality, but had the merit to exist. As for the rest, a circular rapid glance, gave the impression to me that I had arrived on another planet. This day there was maybe like very exceptionally in this place, an half kalbassa 1 or like more frequently, perhaps there were also a quarter or an half-head of pig, but like always, there were undoubtedly some coasts of pig without flesh on the bones.

1) Kalbassa: Kind of big sausage made with rather lean meat, such ham I think.

White bones like any well scraped bone. This day, like many other, here is to the maximum all that could contain the butcher's and pork butcher's department. The rest of the store was made up only of some stalls of cans, all the same ones. Bread was not a problem, but for milk, we never drank some. Bread was not a problem, but for milk, we never drank . It would have been necessary to make evening or morning of interminable tails close to a movable cistern to supply it, with the risk not have some, this one being always empty before the end of the distribution.

I evidently was more than heckled, but this country being for me a "new" country, it was necessary to know to adapt. The second evening, I was going more familiarize me with my provisioning universe. Our kitchen utensils being limited, I troubled about to buy a kitchen frying pan in one of the four stores of the city. In that nearest to our residence, I found one and only one, but if it had a beautiful glass cloche for lid, it did not have an handle and the lid neither. I thus visited the three other "supermarkets". My dictionary in hand, I asked, I rummaged in everyplace, but fault of finding one other, I returned to buy the only one to sell from the whole city. Naturally handyman, I also bought a big wooden spoon, that we were going to use an extremity according to its vocation, and the other side as handle. The important was not it to eat?

To eat! I was going to discover little by little that to eat was indeed a problem for much, but it was still too early for me. My stay being before my departure envisaged with short duration, no integration desire had seemed justified to me. I on the contrary had envisaged to spend my weekends to do sport, equally well in countryside than by means of all the sporting equipments available. I approached therefore the first weekend in this frame of mind. I thus approached the first weekend in this state of mind. I already saw myself running up to cannot take it anymore in these immense and icy Ukraine plains swept by the wind, but my younger companion of apartment had much better suggest to me. He had went out home the first two evenings, and Friday arrived, he tempted to persuade me to follow him. I was not truly in mood to do it, especially since he invited me himself to dine without other shape of propriety, in a soviet family that I had not even glimpsed. He however insisted with so many insinuations, than hankering after the lust of the flesh, I let myself convince and accompanied him.

That appeared full to me with nonsense, to see me in this deserted and icy street, to descend some buildings beneath to look for the adventure; but what to do? I had left!

The door opened and like he had implied me, the arms were extended towards us to welcome us cordially. They were in fact a "traditional" Soviet family , parents, children, friends all seated in front of a copious meal. In fact of friends, there were in reality only some "lady-friends". I must recognize that didn’t shout at me on time, considering there were also the two tall children of the home. They were beginning their meal, therefore hardly entered, we had feast. They were beginning their meal, therefore hardly entered, we had feast as if we had been anticipated.

Apart the charming housewife, one of the lady-friends had appeared to me more than tempting at first glance, but my companion was seeming to have the same interest as me for her, therefore... We ate, ate, at least three different dishes, drank wines in all kinds, champagne, and inevitable vodka. The conversations was certainly very limited, but that took so much time for saying so much little, that the evening passed quickly.

Without to know it yet, I was coming from to receive the image models carefully worked, of the "true" family of Soviet Union. An husband not very expansive, a wife and her very comely girlfriends, but however correct, some big charming children of same age as mine, even though on the sensual plan I was left frustrated, my stomach when to him was delighted.

After my difficult research of the first week, I was going to discover at the time of the second, another mode of supply open that one at a minority. Being foreign, we were considered having priority for the provisioning, just like the militia, the army and the notorious members of the Communist Party. We were for that received on appointment once a week, in a particular room to the bottom of the shop, and could then buy all that was excluded at the common people no priority, whatever their function. Although not many varied, the meat there was abounding, the wines, the champagne, the quality preserves, the high-class confectioneries, there was everything, but where the problem was becoming awkward, it was to the exit. The bags often overflowing of food, charged like mules, we were to then pass through all the store half empty, under the envious people glance no priority. In the back shop, we were frequently meeting the soldiers or police's people, but just like us, they were seeming themselves to have the same apprehension and were coming out ashamed of this place the low head, the bags closed to best.

To the opposite of this type of provisioning, we were having got the market to the early products on Saturday morning, opened to all. About thirty women, were selling all traditional vegetables of first need, like some other local products preserved in salt, oil or the vinegar. Early in the morning they were arriving, walking since the surrounding kolkhozes, distant often from many kilometers. Pushing some small carts or very heavily loaded on the back, they were bringing the fruit of their labor. The prices were rather correctly posted, but of a value such, which they were almost discouraging us in spite of the enormous budget which we had at our disposal in ratio with the residents. Not less expensive were the shoes than I had to very quickly to buy to me. It acted admittedly of a pair of a style tennis a little to Western and not of these traditional shoes of leather black that each one had, which would have been ten rubles less ruinous. I had however paid them forty rubles marked in store, that is to say the two fifths of a monthly guaranteed minimum wage on place. It is not necessary to be very strong in mental calculation, to understand the reasons which pushed a great number of them to go with pierced black shoes.   

I had in that decreased somewhat the comparison ratio, between the Soviet people and the United States like I would have done previously. I had not yet very understood however, and the excuse was still the new country, in which it was necessary to wait the time of the : "harvest". But which harvest?

My meditation on the fate of each was still situated on weaker scale, because the weekend had brought back with it the" fever of Saturday evening ". I was therefore going to go for the first time in this dance hall restaurant open only on Wednesday and Saturday evening. The building had proud look outside, and didn't have anything to envy a French building of the same style, even if that were not going to last taking into account from heresy of the system. I must however acknowledge this evening there, I were interested more by the encounter than I could make there, than by construction itself. I was going it's true to find there by chance this pleasant person of the improvised meal, with whom our relations were going to grow somewhat until dancing together, not without a suspicion of mutual interest which was going soon to be concretized.

The third week was going to be for me very important, because very revealing. All the excuses which I had been able to hitherto find in favor of Soviet people, were going then to be sufficiently shaken to open the eyes to me. Considering the remoteness we was not having all indispensable facilities to our work, and it sometimes happened to us to use the local tooling that we borrowed on place, such of big keys for example. A young person, twenty two twenty three year old, had thus received the function of "carrier of keys" and passed among us so that we do not have to move us to receive some loan tools. It normally visited us twice a day with two big wrenches in each hand, and made himself available to provide for certain more specific tools. I had not often recourse to his services, but each time I was constrained to do it, after having made three kilometers in the factory to his research, I always end up capitulating and awaiting his passage the next morning, sometimes more. He was extremely pleasant and obliging with us, but his displacements often led him where the cleaning ladies "worked", what sometimes led him to agreeably spend his time with one of them.

In this third week, I thus encountered for the first time this problem, and crossing a Soviet woman in charge, I reacted like I would have done in France. I signaled to her my difficulties and the improbability of the situation, but although it only spoke fairly bad French, her answer was of such clearness I perceived unambiguous whom it was better than I stopped talking. I was not been confronted yet with the feeling of superiority, they generally expressed toward us, and in the moment I didn't understand all sense of her comportment. A thing was however clear, if she had to complain again about me, I would go back immediately to France, with my visa in red, in order to not be able to come back to work in Union-Soviet. I’ll go back thus, I quote : "To check in  to unemployment in France"???

I was personally working sixty to eighty hours a week at that time, and even if in France unemployment were notorious, I didn't understand the allusion. It is only much later and lit by other experiments, than I will then withdraw from this moment, the real largeness of the brainwashing.

Few days later, a technical mishap on an apparatus which I tuned, was going to bring in its time another confirmation surprising for naive whom I was. Constrained of announced telephonically my difficulties to my company, the direction of the factory considered suddenly than my position of technician was not corresponding to that of my working-class friends, and allotted a personal apartment to me the following day.

The evening came I left my apartment mates and passed on the floor below. My new home was this time with phone, what officially procured me easier phone communication to my enterprise. I do not dispute the integrality of their motivation, but this also had the advantage for them putting us easily on listening. Too much taken by the advance of my work, I was not worried any over the moment, but sometimes later, it happened to be us between French, to play us of them. We was mentioning between us a non-problem with the telephone, and the following day, two days later at the latest it was evoked in work meeting. It perhaps was not very refined, but far from home, the perception of subtlety is sometimes different.

If I remember well, the end of this third week was also decisive between me and "Galla", my glamorous and  gracious encounter in the model Soviet family. Gradually we were going indeed to attach us one to the other, in such a manner to my second departure we considered her arrival in France. We thus lived together experiences and contacts which I would never have lived without her, and in particular the learning of the Russian. Teenager she had been member of communist youths, and had finally married. The alcohol excess, combined to the cynicism in which it was drunk by her husband as by so many others, had very quickly made of her a beaten woman. To these difficulties an atrocity of the life having strongly marked her, she had divorced one year and half earlier, although her husband was then a captain, with all privileges included in this. She had not given reason to the vastness which was separating the two Soviet worlds, that of priority and no priority, she had preferred to lose all her material advantages to gain in serenity. She stayed sincerely communist, but a little like a machine without much hope, she tried to cling to the life, what we were going to try to make together.

One April Sunday I thus found me in dilemma to accept a family meal to one of her uncles, or to pass it distant one from the other and her Allhona daughter. This uncle was living in a small old house, on a small land, in periphery of Ladijin. We arrived like it is suitable to arrive, but we were the latter. The presentations lasted what is usual to meet in a family environment, and although I was somewhat the center of interests, I never undergone it. Very quickly I was even integrated like any other member of the family, that which undoubtedly was the Galla objective. The table was undoubtedly that one feast day, but didn't any more resembled at this one I had swallowed at the time of my impromptu invitation of the first days, in this "typical Soviet family". There was of course to eat as for one feast day, very correctly prepared, but any more with profusion as it was the case in this other family, promoted by the system to be used as example. I believe to remember that we drank wine, undoubtedly I had brought some as well as the dessert, but I was not alone.

Arrived finally the digestive, where I was able truly to measure the whole difference of the two worlds. The false opulence brought to the fore by the first, had then become the humility of a modest and sympathetic family, whom acts with a sincere heart. There was no more vodka with profusion, because too expensive for the no priority ones, it had made way for the "savaghone". It acted an alcohol entirely fabricate at house, of which they had been happy to describe me their method of production. In a large bin, they made ferment a mixture of sweetened water and soft part of the bread, in which they let macerate some plums of the only tree that they had. After obtaining the alcohol degree, they distilled by means of a still devised with a pressure cooker, on the vapor exit of which they had installed a copper coil cooled by the tap water. I do not say to you which rotguts it was acted, but they were happy result which, helping alcohol, enabled them "to be distracted". Besides at the evening end, Allhona, Galla and me returned all three at " our home", happy of our daytime.

I profit from this, to underline the fundamental difference between the way of drinking from these people, and the generality who drank like I referred for the husband of Galla and others. They had then drunk as we can drink ourselves in occident.

We have fun, we drink, we are perhaps more or less drunk. The consequences can go from the joy to the drama, they can bring to a behavior violent more or less according to the individual, they can even lead quickly to a dangerous addiction, unbeknown to the person itself. They do not lead however directly to the form of depravity and moral aimlessness which results from an alcohol consumption drunk in this destroying cynicism, that is the manner of drinking "to forget". This result that we can find in the deep alcoholic or in those victims of a notorious social exclusion. A majority of those whom I had the occasion to meet at this restaurant with formal dance of Wednesday and Saturday evening, drank thus. They came there to three or four young peoples. Hardly if they were arriving on tiptoe in order to be not noticed. They were buying hundred grams of vodka, and hundred grams after hundred grams, they were going thus until the first who fell. They was then leaving place as discreetly as possible, by fear to be apprehended by the militia, happy to have passed "a very good" evening. They were returning at home, and the release they had not agreed to them, added to all the resentment of their inability to live arose, then, they were striking their wife.

They drank without enthusiasm, without life expectancy, because any motivation had died in them. I do not know if I express myself suitably so that each one can perceive the real difference? In the circumstances of my current work, I had indeed the opportunity to encounter in nineteen ninety-nine, a Bulgarian girl, with whom we evoked this major dissimilarity between these two ways of drinking , which have common only alcohol. The first is led by an excess life joy, the second by disillusion and acceptance to die any more. It was very well expressed to me, by the remark that made me this person the tight heart. She then says to me "three years ago that I live at Nice, and I try to render comprehensible with people near whom I live, the difference with what they know here, but I perceive although they never comprehend it. With you to opposite, in five minutes we speak the same language, but us, we were believing it was that to have fun! Now I know! ".

They didn’t know and could not know. How would they have made the difference between truth and the forgery, when only one form of truth was accepted? It is like sailing on a sailboat by a sea without wind, when the lie is everywhere how is it still possible to believe? This lie started already from the negation even of the existence of God by the philosophers originators of the system, who were certainly not the only ones in the wrong, but how to be astonished that it didn’t germinate anything good such a hoax?

If in France in nineteen eighty one we were centered on the election of president Mitterrand, other events were occurring all over the world, and in particular to Poland. It was one time of uprisings and general strikes. Remember this Pole Lech Walesa! I was then on the other side of this iron curtain, and the television which I began to follow gave me all received information on their side. Thus each evening, with the news from twenty hours, a person of a different Soviet Union area was interviewed on this problem. They had of course every time a very different origin for better emphasizing "the uniformity of the Soviet thought". They presented one day an Asian woman from Vladivostok, the evening following a Scandinavian man from Estonia, and the third evening an grandfather from Batoumi in Adjarie close to Turkey, with if necessary  a turban on the head. That represented the perfect diversity of the Soviet people, but the uniformity of the thought.

The dialogue as for him was always structured of the same manner. The person was beginning with presenting herself, she and her family, good father or good mother, entirely sympathizer with the problem of the Polish people. They were readily adding these Poles were entirely right to claim, no discrimination being acceptable within the "Soviet" people. The second minute, they were describing their own situation, their way of life, their necessities of daily life. They were not saying they were in misery, but so that each one can identify oneself to them, they were never presenting like being ease. They was having the concern to raise their children with dignity, with all that include as difficulties. The third minute was devoted to give evidence of whole helps which they was directly bringing to supports the Polish people, in spite of the embarrassment that was causing to them. The fourth minute was used to wonder about the cogency to nourish people who chose not to work, with the detriment of their own children and of all their family, as for the fifth and last, the conclusion was essential itself : “It was necessary at all costs, to bring to an end to this slump, and if necessary to put them at work by the force, to see by...”

All indeed was prone to the brainwashing for the valorization of the system, a brainwashing which marked them since their younger age in a pernicious way. It's thus during a visit of the nursery school in which Galla taught, she had pointed out herself to me, not without some concerns, the result of a free drawing which she had given to make to her small schoolboys. All without exception had drawn either of the soldiers, or guns, or tanks, soldiers destroying each other or parading, nothing other... Wasn't this questioning?

She could not however make the synthesis of whole, and as I wrote it there are some lines, that did not prevent her to remain clearly communist, because the sincerity of the major part was large. It's thus one Sunday morning I saw her to prepare, almost dress elegantly, for the Sobotnik day. The Sobotnik days were seven, when they were instituted by Lenin. They were days of rest worked free of charge, offered by each one to the community for maintains and the restoration the context of life. At that time, only the one preceding first May, was left concretely, in order to preserve the ideology.

As of seven o’clock in the morning, good number among them had begun to go down on the public highway with brushes, shovels, hoes, to clean the streets and the floors for the festival. Equipped with quite modest tools, they were put a lot into theirs tasks like sweeping the ditches, the pedestrian crossings, the apartment building environments, to bleach with lime the curbstones of the sidewalks and borders. At the end of the morning, despite everything their heart in their work, the result was quite tiny by comparison with the task extent.

The earth was present almost everywhere near all edging and their almost non-existent means of cleaning. That gave the first meters of painting with a beautiful white color lime, but the following was rather gray. They were even incontestably earth color. They were even incontestably earth color. At midday the major part of them got back at home not to return more. Ever since the evening, perhaps the following day, some drops of rain came to erase ninety percent of their efforts, but that was however secondary. They had a good conscience, their duty towards the community being accomplished. A little like an useless worship, made to keep a good image of oneself towards a respected god, the communist ideology.

In these same days, and the same state of mind we all were going to be bystander from one of the greatest incoherence "technique", than it was given to me to note. I employ the technical word, but undoubtedly you will wonder, even for the less handymen, if it is possible that such a thing really occurred to Soviet Union at that time. Is it necessary to recall that twenty four years earlier, they had placed their first satellite around the ground (Sputnik one, October 4, 1957)?

For several weeks the midday connection coach had deposited us at this restaurant dance hall of Wednesday and Saturday evening. We were usually eating in the large room, but in the present circumstances, we were going only to across it, because a upheaval was started: Before first May, they were going to revarnish the totality of the floor. When we passed in the direction to go, ten workmen were ready to occur, of whom three were already in full work with a very large sander, that one worker pushed, a second dragooned, and a third guided. The others were waiting patiently the sanding exceeded the few  square meters already worked, to undertake their task. There would have been nothing in that of very abnormal, if the sander which was equipped to the origin with a system of sawdust aspiration, had effectively had its air filter. This one being missing, it is useless to specify you how much dust was abounding in this immense room. It was in that case obvious, that six or seven who were not yet to work would have to wait a long time after than the sander of the first three had finished, so that dust was deposited, before being able themselves to apply varnish.

The meal had been served to us out of building site, but oldest from us on place, knowing well the problems which they were encountering in their functions since years, did not missed all scoff like usually, the finality which they were imagining very well. I had already seen other hugeness that I would tell you soon, but to imagine such a nonsense seemed to me almost moved over the moment towards technically advanced people. Three quart of hour later, our finished meal, we borrowed to leave, the same way than to come in.

Heights of irony, the forecasting were justified. The users of the big sander at strip continued to make a thick dust, while the six or seven other, the one-handed paintbrush, the pot of varnish of the other, was to daubed a mixture of sawdust and varnish that glued to the brushes.

Height of absurdity! All derisions were justified. The users of the large sander continued to make a thick dust, while the six or seven others, the paintbrush of a hand, the varnish pot of the other, were smearing on the floor a mixture of sawdust and varnished which was heavily sticking to the paintbrushes. The nonsense did not stop however there, because the sawdust absorbing an important varnish quantity, this one missed very quickly. We obviously noted it the following Wednesday, because on two thirds of the room where the tables were laid out, the ground was actually covered with a thick rough coating, whereas the part, floor of dance and corridor of entry had not received any protection. Dampness was going quickly to make enormous damage on this pretty parquet. Less than one month after, before my first departure, a swelling of four inches height, on six feet in diameter, had appeared in front of the bar in its medium.

To my return in September, I noted the same phenomenon in bigger had occurred in full medium of the dance floor. The immense frontage panes which were going from the floor to the roof, in a majority of them were cracked upwards. They had not fallen yet but in good way to do it.

What is there moreover to add? Don’t imagine, you would not have liked to be in the place of the one who was going to endure the reprimand. Like that had been my case, the time where I had obliged to run after this carrier of key, no Soviet was to be considered for person in charge. They had done all the work in the record time which was assigned to them. They had employed the exact quantity of product which was to be employed, all had been finished for the festivities of first May, hence they had not in more to take the rap of the wretched air filter which missed. It was assuredly a machine provided by these French who didn't even know to go on the moon, hence...    

In the same style, I was talking it to you there are few pages, a device that I put into service had been damaged. I had made dispatched since France the spare parts, but to carry out repairs, it was necessary to me to withdraw important charred glue traces, whose trichloroethylene alone or almost could to cope. It's a solvent product very used in industry, for those who don't know it. It stands to reason that being of rather current, and enough volatile consumption and dangerous, I will get it on place. I conscientiously undertook research in the four Ladijin's shops, but, efforts useless. I sought, I rummaged, but did not find any! I therefore spoke to the French assembly director, so that it was made my spokesman to the maintenance service of the near and imposing power station, a waste of time and effort. They did not have any either! In the same derision that the varnished parquet, it was provided to me, petroleum and ethylated spirits. I therefore spoke about that with the more resourceful of our interpreters who says to me, "doesn’t worry you Alain, in a few days I go to Vinnitsa (a town of approximately a hundred thousand inhabitants in the south-east of Kiev), I'll bring back some to you! "

This kind man approximately thirty five years old, very pleasant, obliging and devoted to possible, had for practice to turn and turn over his hair, each time he was in the embarrassment, that which almost always put his hair in battle. We were often laughing kindly at him, but on his Vinnitsa return , his hair look was particularly untidy. He came immediately to me and says to me "I am annoyed, I did not find any, but does not worry you, to such date, I go to Kiev, I'll bring back some". That day, as in a well assembled comedy, he came back of course from Kiev his hair always disheveled, and with a sorry voice the same answer gave me. He says this time to me, "does not worry you Alain, I go to Moscow the next week, I'll bring back some to you". The comedy was going of course to turn to derision, because he came back from Moscow, the hair more than ever disheveled, the look contrite, saying to me "I do not know why, but we have problems of storage, I didn’t find any".

I know he personally made very well the difference, between our system of provisioning and theirs, and he was extremely pained. He was several times came to France to accompany by the technical or commercial groups, and from little which we could sometimes exchange, he inevitably envied us.

Others, who were giving reason to the brainwashing they undergone without perceiving it, were firm and sincere in their convictions, as it was the case of Galla. It thus frequently happened to me at the beginning of our encounter, to want in all good faith to explain her, how in France we were alive. To evoke my life style with my wife, everyday jobs in the stores, but also the races of cross-country car in which I took part on Sunday, finally the banal one of the couple life. I of course added to her the details that she could not know without to have experienced them, the largest differences between the life to Ladijin and ours, and there, each time, I collided me against the same response of her share: "I don’t speak about policy". Once, twice, like somebody who badly believes to have expressed because of bad control of the language, I took again my dictionary and rebuilt my sentence patiently. At the end of my development, I encountered this answer again: "I do not speak political".

I needed several of these experiences, and to much better apprehend the language to understand the reasons of that. The policy and those which kept the reins of it, were firstly the directors of the factories, because  eminent members of the communist party. They directed and ruled over the local politics of the distribution. They directed and shoved around the local policy of the distribution. It was therefore these persons in charge close to the workers, who defined certain very individual priorities. The one of our privileged provisioning for example, of which we were the object as foreigners or the one of this family bringing to the French the good image of the standard Soviet family.

In theory, it was not a privilege given at men, but a social institution managed by the guards of the good compliance with the laid down rules, which defined with "accuracy" the exceptional needs. There was no more possible guarantor of probity without them, because they were regarded as being models of integrity. The industrial director of the unit in which we took part, had thus not been selected firstly because of his technical skills or commercial, but for the "political" recognition whose he was the object. He had been able to choose among good and loyal communists, a family strongly anchored in Communism, whom would not be subject to the harmful influence of the luxury of which it would make proof near the "small French", them, too obtuse to understand the good and noble Soviet motivations. The respect of these fundamental values, towards internal or external offenders with the system, was thus ensured by a militia or a strong and well nourished army, contrary to the rest of the population. Such as God above any man, the venerated system reigned via its adulated representatives.

In my naivety due to my ignorance of their structures, I tried to explain to Galla, which is resembling a store in which to the early products department we found the piled up orange heaps, so that if we take that of the lower part, all the whole heap is collapsing. She, although ex-wife of captain, had seen or eaten one day an orange or had eaten one day a banana. I forgot the order in which she had said it to me. With such real-life, how could she understand what I tried to explain to her? She was "knowing" what she was recognizing as just, this privilege given to all like we were living it, was a heresy from which the Soviet people were usefully protected, in order not to waste the food of these poor African we starved. The thing was for her conceivable in order to provide in a pinch for the particular needs for the person with priority, elevated the common run of people like the guards of the law temple which they made respect, that's all . I don't relate it to you subversive way, like a synthesis born of my Christian conversion, but well what I discovered already on the spot, I was left convinced to find there a right cause rational, I discovered only one deep mislaying. A small smile with the lips in order to relax us a little, I will say as they were saying then " I don't want to bring politics".

I don't want to go indeed into the considerations which could become political of distribution, namely if it is just or not, to live and eat as we do it. That is not there our comparison subject, because what also enabled me to become aware of their huge error, was in certain insinuations about : "These small French who didn’t go on the moon, to whom they made alms". Yes, they all or almost were convinced they made us alms by buying factories to us. They had besides an irrefutable proof of that: They never functioned! Obviously, they were managed to the picture of the varnished floor...

They bought factories to us to help the French in their misery faced with unemployment. Them big lords as if there were no tomorrow, feeders of planet, who would have given bread to a furious dog. I say especially not it to make fun of their individual sincerity, which we must respect, because I know in them there was more than one simple ideology, there was a purity in the hope to which they always gave reason. But... they were "knowing"! Yes, they knew that, all French working in Soviet Union, were in fact only the unemployed ones who had well learned their lesson to deny the obviousness. It was a waste of time and efforts to attempt to understand to them the opposite or even simply to try to approach the subject, they were "knowing", as they were "knowing" to hide our misery we were going until lying shamelessly, denying such an obviousness.

What to answer? What to say for our defense when we just dug ourselves into a deeper hole with each word a little more? I never known it. In these years there, I was snowed under with work. There was certainly much unemployment at that time in France, and this phenomenon was used by their leaders as subversive means, to justify the Soviet people impoverishment to the profit of their unrestrained race to preserve their world public image in comparison with the United States. These people, to whom it was given by brainwashing an image of equality with the Americans, actually lived in an inconceivable underdevelopment state. I think is that which enabled me to open the eyes, but also that which was for them the first phenomenon of their animosity towards us. They perceived us for this reason, like  ungrateful liars who didn't have even the cupboard love towards those which nourished them. The possibility of the lack of labor not existing theoretically in the imagination of their structure, an income was therefore directly related to work. If it did not exist, they created it, like the one of this carrier of keys, about whom I spoke to you.

You understand perhaps better why it was so little important than our factories produce, since that brought thus to each one, the proof of our errors of capitalist structures, our lack of knowledge and their greatness in ratio of the occident to which they gave alms by human charity. It is also why all this wretched people of the bottom of the social ladder were convinced never to be able to trust to the French. For "the good" cause, the head concealed to them their major imbalances by frauds organized on more or less large scale, which allowed a popular mass of a miserable standard of living, it thinks equal to the Americans.

I known some whom didn't think that, but they were so few. One of them worked to the neighboring power station, which placed a loan motorbike at the disposal of its employees in order to promote the motocross. In this system of the priorities which reigned on all levels, he had therefore postulated to the piloting of this motorbike by a request to his director, and had been registered on a list of ten applicants. That enabled them to run approximately a race per annum, each one their turn. If one of them gained one race, it was proven he was better than the others and would become having priority in this field. It could then hope a personal attribution of a motorbike.

The one to their disposal was anymore very young, but after the race and the previous pilot, this one having gave back it motor turning, it was supposed in good working order, can be useful again. On the eve of the race, to the image of the trichloroethylene which I had not been able to supply me, a spare part missed to this pilot and friend so that motor functions correctly. He had worked and worked over and over again the old part since a long time defective one, but had obtained only one not very reliable result, in which he wanted however to believe. It is perhaps that the worst, because the disappointed hopes leaves deep scars.

As of the morning I was by his sides to support him, and since the first moments, he made me a real good impression. That was however not going to last for a long time, because in morning middle, "the bosses arrived", those having priority. These latter had powerful trail bike, because initially belonging to the priority system, army, militia or Communist Party. It would had been possible to confuse them with the actors of the Germinal movie, so much their freight trucks seemed to leave another era, but when they start up their invaluable machines, a shrill "mewing" came out from five or six machines, and allowed to understand the world which separated them with ones having not got priority.

In the first race laps our man intercalated himself extremely well, and finished third to the first leg, but very quickly the defective part broke. Like all the others having not got priority, he thus started to go down to push his heavy machine in the strongest rises, whereas perhaps a simple auto-cycle would have even succeeds to climb without pedaling. Only the five first never dismounted. He finished sixth of the race, and first of those having not got priority. That was not announced to the awards ceremony, since they were considered starting all with "the same" chance, but the obviousness was there. Another proof was made for the system: Justice reigned in Russia, those having priority were staying the best and need therefore to keep this priority. As for him, if nothing came to reverse the course of time, he would become exhausted until death to run beside his motorbike in the hope to win once.

Derision of derisions, it was enough for him indeed to go more quickly on foot than to motorbike, and he would become himself having priority. The one who would receive one two horses to align him to a Grand Prix of Formula One, would receive same justice since he would also have a four-wheeled vehicle. If he won with his 2cv, it would be entrusted to him a Formula One. Otherwise there would undoubtedly be other races... It was enough for that, he await his turn! As for the motorbike, undoubtedly he would find the same the following year, but this time with one year more, and inevitably with the same defective parts.

Some tried to live, the others have more or less nothing to lose. It was the case of one old Sir, who came sometimes to visit us to our apartments, in which we however didn't have the right to receive Soviets. He always succeeded to elude the security women to bottom of the stairs. They were each time running after him, but once at our sides, they didn't dare anything any more to say to him.

He had made the war of nineteen hundred forty, in the deportation camps where he had known two French. He had on his return maintained a regular correspondence until the day when, for this only "good" reason, he had been arrested and led in a Siberian Gulag 1. He had remained seventeen years there if my memory is good. He spoke still relatively well French to which he had was always attached as to the image of the paradise. That one, although discreet remainder in the street, not seeking to return from where he came, didn't hesitate to be expressed against the inconsistencies of the system, even in the apartments provided with telephone which were frequently supervised.

We were not feeling personally too this freedom lack, because we were easily circulating downtown, but were not having right to more

1. Gulag : Concentration camps system or repressive of the Soviet Union or its satellites, located in the most inhospitable possible places.

than seven kilometers around the village. We had at our disposal a bicycle of loan in the same state as that of the motorbike, but a French caught at fourteen kilometers from the city, had been expelled. Since this day the bicycle had remained hung from the nail, and we were walking to foot. The non-aware whom we were, didn't excessively undergo the heavy oppression from the militia, because locally the majority of them didn't wear the uniform, but when it happened to us Galla and me to walk with our friends, every hundred or a hundred and fifty meters, to the crossing of certain people, they were the same words: "Hush! The militia!". It is not obviously a secrecy for anybody, but this put under surveillance was permanent.    

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