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Continuation of the chapter II : THE UKRAINE PLAINS



The woman’s freedom



One thing was less known, the "Freedom of the Woman". If I did not address it earlier, it was because it was not an inequality, but rather a too great equality. In our modern society, many professions are now more accessible to women than they were before, but this was not really the case in Ukraine at that time. The shovel and pickaxe were much more convenient than any mechanical machine so often out of order. Such were thus the sweepers of the streets.

Mechanical sweepers obviously existed because of the fact that I saw one, one time, moving in a huge cloud of dust, watering probably not working. It is not of those however which it is act, because if I resumed the subject of defective equipment, I would have the impression of repeating myself. Of course, I want to talk about these imposing ladies, who are usually not very young, who roamed the streets, a huge broom of birch in their hands. The body bent double, they advanced heavily to the rhythm of their immense tool. I would not want to exaggerate, but only one swept in a single pass the street behind our building where two cars crossed easily. That it rains, that it sells, that it snows, they were there, faithful to the post. The same was true of garbage collection. Small metal stairs were arranged for this purpose from place to place at the bottom of the buildings. The open dump truck, which was driven by a man, was stopping nearby, and each one, with his dustbin in his hand, was climbing up the stairs to get rid of his rubbish in the back dumpster. Numerous were the men who came to do the climbing gymnastics of the small stairs, but in the dumpster, to wade through the trash to spread them with their feet, clinging to the sides rail for fear of spreading herself in their stinking work at the slightest blow of the brake or accelerator, it was always one of those same imposing women.

There were other fields in which the woman excelled; it was in the trades of road mender, mason or roofer. I do not speak here of the feminine exceptions as there also exists in West, but of a large proportion. The men were crane operators or heavy appliance driver, but the ladies were shoveling and picking, or pulling the concrete with heavy mason's rules.

In the same kind of register as that of varnished parquet, shortly after my arrival, we had been spectators of a group of female road menders. It was in the first weeks of my first stay, because it was still very cold, I think we were in early March. In the neighborhood of our building, the road had seriously deteriorated at the end of winter, and a large cavity two to three meters in diameter had formed near a crossroads. Once again, a noon that the bus was taking us to the restaurant, we saw nearby a trailer of smoking asphalt. Just like for the band sander, the ones most scoffing and perhaps also the most lucid, did not fail to make some hints accompanied by a sarcastic laugh, on the style "I can guarantee you that they will wait for the bitumen cools"!

On our return after lunch, five women with shovels and rakes were very busy around the trailer near the hole. Two of them, equipped with shovels they used as picks, tried to detach a large block of asphalt. Another, on the ground, with a rake, was trying to make it fall, while the last two waited.

I do not think it is possible to laugh of it, so ridiculous was the situation and came very close to the wretch. The saddest thing was the impotence of good will flouted in the heart of each of these women. We were going discovered the result the same evening on our come back. They had succeeded in dropping in the middle of the hole, a huge block of bitumen at least sixty to seventy centimeters to the cube, representing approximately the value of the total volume of the cavity, but not spread out because cooled too early. He stayed there for several days until a big crawler tractor, much used over there, passed over it and crush it a bit. The trucks then gradually began to climb over it likewise, then the lighter vehicles.

It was still high enough when I left at the end of May, but when I came back in September, warmth helping, it had spread a little. The original cavity, however, had done the same way, and represented almost the entire road, only the mound of bitumen remained in its middle.

I let you appreciate the thing without further comment. Everything is certainly not perfect here, and perhaps we could find similar examples here and there, but it was so much the daily rule, that it showed well their moral disenchantment.

Just like these ambivalences existed, as much a minimal risk could be protected by draconian security rules as it could be the opposite in a total unconsciousness, to conceal a bad organization. This was the case at our place of work for the transfer of concentrated phosphoric acid, which is widely used in the food processing industry. It was stored in glass carboys on the ground floor and was brought from floor to floor, up to the highest point, by very narrow steep stairs. Two young women, equipped with a kind of wooden stretcher arranged to receive the heavy container, climbed regularly all the way from the bottom until the top. The first was climbing backwards, bended double, with the handles of the stretcher at a level often inferior to that of her feet, and the other hoisted on tiptoe with her arms raised to the point of losing her breath, trying to keep an half -horizontality to the whole, so that the glass carboy not even attached does not topple. If by misfortune this one had fallen, the woman below and those who worked on the lower floors, could have been very badly burnt by the projections. After this perilous exercise, when it came to pouring this smoking acid in the system provided for this purpose, the "staging" of perfect safety was respected.

Luckily, I was never witness to an accident, although statistically it was inevitable. In writing this, of course, I am thinking of the unfortunate women who, one day or another, are going to die or should live forever disfigured, and made blind by acid burns. Worse still are all these radioactive storage of the most dangerous for the planet, which can still exist in these countries, but what to be done, in front of this stupidity? At the time when man could have had some interests to act, motivation no longer existed, so now that they are nothing more than worthless storage in the face of the daily need for survival... I do not know the current circumstances, but I imagine willingly.

All these most absurd conditions were experienced especially by women. I cannot guarantee that throughout the Soviet Union it was so, but it seems that the case has been generalized. In such an "equality" of the woman, nothing differentiated her more from the man, if not a condition of which Galla brought me the facts, attached as to it, to the femininity. She was having it equated with the lack of righteousness of only one man, more than to the inconsistency of the system, she had reported the facts to me with a certain rancor. An obstetrician of whom she had needed services a few years earlier was the center.

The abortion was free and free of charge, and she found herself pregnant one day, she went directly to the hospital where no problem arose. This doctor had received her and told her how was little the legal care, in relation to the needs of this kind of intervention. She could, however, if she wished, to undergo additional useful care, but it would cost her twenty rubles of cash. The monthly wage of a worker was then one hundred and four rubles. She was absolutely well aware of the deception, convinced that she would only get the only care she was entitled to, but had paid for fear of receiving only half of it. That day, for fear of complications still possible, four other women had accepted the bargaining.

The calculation is rapid, by illegal means, this doctor had procured in only one day, the monthly salary of a worker. Some may see it as an illegal means in this context, practiced almost legally at home in the private sector. The difference, however, lay much more in the possibilities of spending this money than in the fraudulent way of earning it. Any major purchase was subject to the priority system. The priority persons were, as we have already seen, the eminent members of the Communist Party, the militia and the army. For this "little surgeon" of campaign, as for any other worker, it was therefore impossible for him to use this money swindled, for any home or vehicle purchase, not even live in a more luxurious than others. It would have been necessary for this luxury to be available in stores in which it was entitled to access as a non-priority. The only stores where the money allowed to buy freely being the Berioskas 1 (Берёзка), but it needed foreign currencies for that. So he only had to spend this daily fortune on the black market and Vodka!

  

1) Beriozka (Берёзка): Stores reserved for the only customers who had possibility to pay in foreign currency, that is to say no Soviet other than the high officials and important members of the communist party. They were located near the tourist centers, and were the object of much covetousness. There was the most of the consumer products that were missing elsewhere. Muscovite taxi drivers, for example, were trading black with the tourists at a very attractive rate, and were developing a parallel trade. I had the opportunity to drink freeze-dried coffee from this source at a friend's house lady in Ladijin, while the nearest beriozka was more than a thousand kilometers to my knowledge.


This doctor whose "fortune" was until not know what to do with it, therefore indulged in alcohol with friends and especially friends girls and ladies, but also to all forms of sexual debauchery, it goes without saying. The feeling of dissatisfaction of life had become to them what it was to those who sat down to drink vodka until they fell to believe themselves happy.

It is through this state of mind unfortunately widespread, each at his level, that the crooked priority persons found their buyers and could amass gigantic fortunes in a colossal and organized black market. At the opening of the free trade market of the new Russian capitalism, it is also these kind of well-placed characters who developed the structures of the new system. It is in the hands of these characters that are today many Russian fortunes.

At the time of my first stay I had swapped two jeans to a "motorist" for three hundred rubles, or the official exchange of the time, two thousand four hundred francs (360 €), which they still sold again the double.

If I wrote, motorist in quotation marks, it is to emphasize well, that if he was a motorist, he was a priority person and further corrupted. I barely saw him, the value being concluded in advance, and the exchange, as for thieves, having been done by the open window of the car, at nightfall.

Perhaps some people understand better why huge Soviet fortunes now invade the French Riviera, but also what the foundations of the new Russian capitalism represent.

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