On a trip by car there was, along the way, in Melitopol, this “Official Motor-Way Rest Stop and Refreshments”:
On a more serious note, the pension these poor folk receive does not even cover the heating bills let alone subsistence.
So they wait patiently all day hoping to sell some lukewarm tea or an apple. Naturally, we bought more than was necessary...
Food and drink were available, and a good time was had by everybody.
Still in Melitopol, this was THE place to go at night - patrons were politely but firmly
asked to check their weapons at the door. If you think this is a joke, think again. Quite often, restaurants, bars, casinos, etc. would have an armed guard or two at the
door, Kalashnikov and all (one just hopes they get paid better than what the bad guys would offer...)
By now you might well wonder, where in hell is this Melitopol? Have a look.
The reason for going was to look at a factory to gauge its potential as an investment for a Western company.
The look of this interior is not that untypical...
... nor is this highly trained and motivated worker.
Western ideas on work safety or health conditions were, of course, only a cunning capitalist plot to undermine inherent Communist Superiority.
Well, that is not entirely true. Here are the official work safety hints (albeit 1950s style).
Just to show that the technology shown above was not a one-off, here’s another example.
Here some highly fashionable items for interior design were produced.
Site visits were accompanied by meetings. These are the participants before...
... and after the meeting.
Ukrainian post-hip hop, post-techno, post-everything. Note the 70s-retro specs (actually, they are the originals, still to be seen on sale today).
This was one of the occasions when we were driven across the country. It happened to be 23 degrees minus.
The heating was somewhat ineffective, so the poor and weary travellers were reduced to resorting to a classic Russian
way of keeping warm: Vodka. Here this lot was on its way back to the hotel, after some 6 fun-packed hours of site visit,
formal dinners, and lengthy toasts to the glory of “Papa” Stalin.
If the car should not make it any more, there is always alternative, more time- honoured transport available:
You will encounter villages like these all over the country (they look the same in Russia, too). It’s as though you fell through a time
warp. Nothing seems to have changed here over the centuries. Nothing out of place, like indoor plumbing, will intrude here.
A ceramics factory, producing, yes, loos. A more delicate problem when travelling here are the sanitary facilities.
Those of a more weak-stomached disposition are not recommended the experience. It may well be true that every
country deserves the government it gets. However, why does it also need to be true that every country gets the toilets it
deserves ??? The only clean (albeit dusty) ones encountered were mouldering, unsold and unsaleable, in this
warehouse. A puzzled consultant was heard to mutter “Don’t the natives enjoy clean loos
, or what?”.
The “facilities” at a company are usually quite unspeakable. But even in a given non-5-star hotel the bathroom may look like
A UFO? No, actually, just some antiquated piece of mysterious machinery...
There’s plenty of “real” heavy industry, of course. This is a fine spring day, and what you see is NOT a morning fog. You
begin to think and wonder...
One doesn’t need to wonder too long.
Computers! Flashing dials! Hard hats!
In a factory, listening to a consultant drone on - sorry, give a seminar. Note the rapturous expressions of interest from the
assembled middle management. Note also the Western Consultants trying not to giggle. Note especially the back wall decor, c. 1995.
The factory canteen. Any not entirely flattering comments on the food were quickly bitten back at the sight of these resolute