The Soviets worked hard to show us the best of their country. The fences were all taken down on the countryside because the government owned all of the land. The state farms run by the government workers had no land costs involved in the farming. The same with the collective farms, except on these operations the farmers shared in the profits. They were by far more successful than the state operations. Early free enterprise was creeping into the USSR.
I found Siberia much like my native Northwest Colorado; cold weather, snow on the ground and a coal fired power plant belching black smoke. (We had four of them in Craig, soon to close in 2025.)
We had been traveling East into Siberia and we viewed the vast hydro-dam construction at Ust-Limsk and an aluminum factory at Bratsk. Then we headed back west, and eventually to the USA.
We left Bratsk in a sleek 20-passenger jet aircraft. The little “Lear” was brought in to take us back to Irkutsk and was meant to impress us and it certainly succeeded. There was one stewardess who passed plates of lemon candy and it was a real treat to ride on the fast, sleek craft.
As we approached Irkutsk, the weather was foggy and no doubt they used the jet to get us back on schedule. The highlight of this region was Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. We drank water from the lake. The vast lake was surrounded by medium size mountains and some fishing villages. I picked up some small rocks along the edge of the water, now stashed away somewhere in my trip treasures.
We were then transferred to a bus and we spotted a narrow road leading to a village and an old church. We had the bus stop and to the great discomfort of our hosts we persuaded them to allow us to walk the short distance into the village. It was a highlight to see this small cluster of cottages, each with a television antenna on the rooftop. Water for the homes came from a community water well. Grandparents were giving their grandson a ride in a baby buggy. Goats were grazing on the streets and there were some milk cows in some backyards. The small homes were well-kept with attractive carved shutters. We gave chewing gum and candy to delighted school children. The old church was locked, and the natives told us that they did hold church services. Our constant host companions complained about us taking photos of the well saying, “That will make us look bad in America.” The name of the little village was Listvlanka with a population of 300. They couldn’t grasp why we wanted to see the church. At that time Communism and religion didn’t mix.
One of my quaint memories of the trip was when we were at Communist headquarters, the last night before departing, receiving the final propaganda speeches and we were totally exhausted. The window was open, and the heavy curtains had blown completely over Elizabeth Dowling, the Charlotte Observer delegate, who was sound asleep in her chair. We had all heard enough and were very tired.
Another lasting memory was when we finally departed the USSR and reached the Frankfort, Germany airport touching down we all cheered loudly. We were going home, back to our beloved America.