First Published: 1951 by Foreign
Language Publishing House, Moscow.
Translation: Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow
This Edition: Marxists Internet Archive, 2008.
Transcription/Markup: Salil Sen for the MIA.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
I have received a letter from America. A schoolteacher friend of mine has translated its contents for me. The letter states that at No. 296 Broadway, New York, there is being published Biographical Encyclopedia of the World, containing the biographies of distinguished people of all countries.
Incidentally, the letter explains what is meant by “distinguished people”; they are, firstly, leaders of the United Nations, secondly…the creators of atomic bombs, and only after these come workers in other sciences, art, literature and industry.
On a letterhead that depicts a thick volume against the background of an unfolded map of the world, the editor informs me that the name of Deputy Praskovya Angelina has been included in Biographical Encyclopedia of the World and requests me to fill out the enclosed questionnaire.
In addition to the usual questions (name, surname, date and place of birth, etc.), I am asked to give a list of my occupations “from the beginning of your career to the present time,” titles and decorations, place of work, residence, the names and occupations of my parents and children, military disitinotions, published works, and very many other things.
This is my answer :
“Angelina, Praskovya Nikitichna. Born 1912. Place of birth (also place of work and residence), the village of Staro-Byeshevo, Stalin Region, Ukrainian S.S.R. Father: Angelin, Niikita Vasilievich. Collective farmer, formerly, farm hand. Mother: Angelina, Yefimia Fyodorovna. Collective farmer, formerly, farm hand. ‘Beginning of career’: 1920; worked as a hired farm hand with my parents for a kulak. 1921-1922, worked as a coal heaver at the Alexeyevo-Rasnyanskaya coal mine. From 1923 Jo 1927 again worked as a farm hand. From 1927 onwards, worked as stable hand in the society for the collective cultivation of the land which later became the Lenin Kolkhoz. From 1930 to the present time (with an interruption of two years— 1939-1940, when I was studying at the :Timiryazev Agricultural Academyin Moscow), tractor driver. I have three children—Svetlana, Valeri and Stalina. I have been a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) since 1937. I am also a member of Land Department Employees’ Union. Published works: in addition to a small booklet entitled My Team, published in Kiev in 1938, I have had published numerous newspaper and magazine articles and lectures on how to organize the work of tractor teams, and on other agricultural problems, in which I described my own experience at my work and tried to analyze it. As regards military distinctions, I regard as such the title of ‘Guardsman’ conferred upon me by the front line men of an artillery brigade, of which our collective farm was the patron, for successful work conducted deep in the rear under difficult wartime conditions. I have been elected Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. from the 474th Amvrosiyevo electoral area. Titles and awards: Hero of Socialist Labour. Stalin Prize winner. Winner of the Grand Gold Medal at the Agricultural Exhibition of the Soviet Union. I have been awarded two Orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and a number of Medals…”
The questionnaire is so detailed that I am even asked to give such particulars as the date of my marriage, or, for example, my smother’s maiden name. But this detailed questionnaire does not contain the chief question, viz., what were the circumstances that enabled me, a former illiterate farm hand, to become a legislator, a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet?
This question was put to me in another letter from America that I received long before the questionnaire. That letter was sent to me by a farmer named Benjamin Marten, a native of Alabama.
Concerning his own affairs he wrote very briefly; he put it in two words: “very bad,” and I knew without the translator telling me that this means “byeda.
Marten was not curious to know the date of my marriage; he wanted to know how it was possible for a person in the Soviet Union to have a career like mine: farm hand, tractor driver, legislator.
I get the magazines Amerika and Britanski Soyuznik. In my opinion, much is painted in too rosy colours in those magazines, and they publish things that are the very opposite of what Marten complains about. But that is not the point just now…
In those foreign magazines we often read descriptions of “amazing careers,” “exceptional” biographies.
I remember, for example, the rapturous description of the life of a certain gentleman who, according to the magazine, “came from the people.” He started as a newsvendor, subsequently became a millionaire and the owner of numerous newspapers, and was elevated to the Peerage.
I thought to myself: now there will be two biographies, one after another, in that encyclopedia, mine and that lord’s (mine under letter “A” and his under letter “B”). About him it will say: “Surname, nam 3, date of birth, date of marriage, father and mother were poor people, started as a newsvendor. became a Peer.” About me it will say: “Surname, name, date of birth, date of marriage, father and mother were poor people, started as a farm hand, became a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R.”
On reading this, my American friend Benjamin Marten, and thousands like him, will ask: “What is the difference between them?”
Yes, that is true. Unless you ask “what were the circumstances?” you cannot understand and appraise the career of a Soviet citizen, and hence, my career. The chief thing is not my particular person… but the fact that my elevation is not an exception. Whereas the gentleman I referred to ‘’rose from the ranks of the people” “came from the people”; as was quite rightly stated in that magazine, and became a Peer, I rose with the people, I became a heroine together with the whole of my heroic people. This is the chief thing.
Therefore, I will take the liberty of going beyond the limits of the questionnaire sent me by Biographical Encyclopedia of the World and, addressing myself not so much to the worthy editor as to the thousands of fanners in America, talk about this chief thing. At the same time I would like to answer the question that is put to me in thousands of letters that I receive from my fellow Soviet citizens in all parts of our boundless Union: “How did you become what you are, Pasha?”
It is particularly appropriate today to look back from the height of the past thirty Soviet years at the road we have traversed, to recall the thrilling career of our country, which is at the same time the career of everyone of us, its people. Our destiny is so inseparably bound up with the destiny of our state and of our Party that, in recalling one’s own labours and successes, sorrows and joys, one involuntarily sees something that is a hundred times bigger than one’s own, personal career.
All the good things we enjoy today, all our knowledge, all the things that make us wealthy, strong and happy, are the results of one great cause—the triumph of the Soviet system…
I have been a tractor driver for many years. To me this is something more than “merely a job.” It is the place I occupy in the struggle to carry out our Five-Year Plans, it was my place in the fighting line in our Great Patriotic War, it is the source of my happiness, prosperity and fame…
To me, as well as to the whole of our Soviet people, the term “tractor” means not only “a traction machine with an internal combustion engine,” but something more. The tractor helped us to change the entire life of the countryside; it wiped out the field strip boundary lines that had been like scars on the living body of the land, it led millions of peasants into the collective-farm way of life…
Tractor. …I shall never forget the day, thirteen years ago, when Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, after receiving us village girls at the Commissariat for Education, took us to the Lenin Mausoleum.
We walked round the coffin in which Lenin lay, holding our breath…And when we got out into the Red Square Nadezhda Konstantinovna said softly:
“He dreamed of Russia having a hundred thousand tractors…”
When I took my seat on a tractor for the first time, in the spring of 1930, I did not know about Lenin’s dream, or of the thousands of tractors our country already had. Of the sixty thousand tractor drivers we had in 1930, I was the only woman, I was the first tractor “driveress” but, of course, I did not know that.
I realized the magnitude and scope of what Stalin and our Party were doing in our countryside in my heart rather than my mind.
This was in 1930, the year of our victorious battles for collective farms, which brought about the great change in rural life. This was at the height of our fulfillment of the First Five-Year Plan.
New construction was going on all over our vast Soviet Union. And everywhere you were sure to find the young people in the front ranks of the builders.
In the evenings, the young people of our village, Staro-Byeshevo, would gather in our clubroom in front of .the map of the Five-Year Plan and talk about the future of our country, and about our own future. Both opened a bright, wide vista for us, and they were inseparable.
None of us thought of waiting for the future with folded arms; we Young Communist Leaguers were an active lot and played by no means the least significant role in the teeming life of our village…
But I had a notion that outside of our village of Staro-Byeshevo that we were so accustomed to, something more important and difficult was going on. I wanted to go and work on some construction job, and I was determined that, it was to be one of the urgent jobs of the Five-Year Plan. I eagerly scanned the “workers wanted” ads, that filled our newspapers at that time.
At one moment I wanted to go to distant Siberia to help to build Kuznetsk, the future garden city, and at another I made ready to go to the Dnieper Dam project. But there was really no need to travel miles and miles away, because our village, Staro-Byeshevo, was right in the middle of the Donbas, and no matter in which direction you went, you would be sure to find an urgent construction job, such as the Gorlovka machine-building plant, the Kramatorsk machine-building plant, the famous Rutchenkovo coal pits, or the Azovstal steel mills, all of which were in the course of construction then.
My brother Ivan tried to prove to me that the Five-Year Plan was being carried out in our Staro-Byeshevo too, but I was not convinced and all the time wanted to go away.
One day Ivan, who was the first tractor driver in our district, and secretary of the homestead Party organization, was sent away to get a higher education. I there and then decided to take my brother’s place and be a tractor driver (the term “tractor driveress” had not been even heard of then).
At first everybody laughed at me, but since the local authorities had not sent anybody to take my brother’s place, and his tractor was standing idle, the manager of the Tractor Station consented to try me out. My brother had taught me something about tractor engines, and after a brief period of additional, instruction I passed the test. The manager said to me:
“All right, then, take the job, hut please be careful…”
And so, one morning, very, very early, I made my first trip to the fields. It was rather cold, so much so that my cheeks burned. My tractor clattered on, and every now and again I turned round to see my first furrow curling over the ploughshare like a black wave, from which a light vapour was rising…I wanted to sing, to shout at the top of my voice....
I had decided to become a tractor driver, and I became one.
It is easy to say now “decided and became,” but it was very difficult in the spring of 1930. How much strength and tears it cost!
But I was not afraid of difficulties, and as for strength, that did not worry me. I had turned eighteen then, and I was already an “old Young Communist Leaguer.” The Y.C.L.’ers of that time were used to difficulties; many of them had been already overcome and many lay ahead…
By 1930, what had happened in numerous villages throughout our country had happened in our village. Staro-Byeshevo, too. The kulaks (we called them “kurkuls” in the Ukraine) were routed and expelled. The Lenin Kolkhoz was organized. The fields, now cleared of boundary lines, were ploughed with the aid of tractors.
All this was achieved by dint of great effort, and the new system was still feeble, like a newborn infant.
I remember that my father, half in jest and half in earnest, called himself the secretary of the “family Party organization.’’ He, and my brothers Vasili, Nikolai and Ivan, were members of the Communist Party, and my brother Kostya, my sister Lyolya and I were then members of the Young Communist League. We, too, in conjunction with the Party and Y.C.L. organizations, bore the brunt of the work of organizing the collective farm, of exposing and expelling the kulaks and of conducting political educational activities among our fellow villagers.
It was downright good luck that we had such a family!
Since 1927 we had had a society for the collective cultivation of the land. The kulaks were still firmly established on the land then and were strong. We were only just beginning to learn how to run things.
The society was obliged to use farm implements, traction animals and harvesting machines that belonged to the kulaks.
When the crop was distributed among the members of the society, payment was made not only for work done, but also for the use of implements, traction animals and machines.
And so it happened that our old enemy, Naum Nikolayevich Savin, the kulak for whom we had laboured for several years on end for a mere pittance, was, as before, better off than we were. He loaned the society horses, oxen and a reaping machine, but did no work himself, and yet he received several times as much grain as we seven Angelina, who had toiled in the fields all the summer.
Evidently, we were not the only ones who dreamed of a more just state of affairs. The peasants were looking forward to such an arrangement of rural life under which the grain would go to the toilers and not to the idlers.
The Party, which looks far ahead, turned the countryside towards the collective-farm way of life. The “Rules Governing Agricultural Cooperative Societies” was the charter of liberty we had all long been waiting for.
I will never forget the village meeting in the square outside the church. My father, a stern, reticent man, delivered his first public speech here. I remember every word of it. He said:
“Fellow villagers, do you see that heap of stones lying over there? It’s a big heap…But it can be scattered not only with your hands, but even with one foot.” To prove his point my father kicked a big stone that lay on top of the heap, and the whole heap collapsed. “Do you see… The stones are rough and uneven. But suppose you take them to build a wall. Match each stone to the other, fit the projections of one into the hollows of another, so that no gaps are left. If we do that, we can build a wall with these rough stones that could not be knocked over even if five mien pushed against it. We, fellow villagers, have been living like that heap of stones up till now, each one for himself. — We ought to get together and organize a kolkhoz… Fit man to man, like fitting the stones in building a wall. We would he as strong as a fort then, nothing could vanquish us!…”
Father finished his speech and stepped down from the church porch. Nobody uttered a word. The place was as silent as a graveyard. Usually, the village meetings were very noisy. If it was a matter of levying a kopek or so per head for the purpose of erecting a fence there would be a vociferous argument about it… But here it was something that affected their whole lives; a new world was being opened for them, and yet deathly silence reigned…
Why were the peasants of Staro-Byeshevo silent?
The situation in our village in those days (as it must have been in many villages throughout the country) was very complicated. The middle peasants wavered; they were waiting, afraid to take the risk, afraid they would commit a blunder. The kulaks, the Lefterovs, Savins, Antonovs and Paniotovs, owned all the agricultural implements, they were a power. And that is why the majority of the villagers, from old habit, feared, if they did not respect, them.
But we were not afraid.
We opposed the “kurkuls,” who were strong and ruthless in their hatred of the new system.
Vasya Angelin, the Chairman of the Committee of Poor Peasants, used to receive scores of notes couched in the following terms:
“Chairman, clear out of the village, or else we’ll rip your guts out.”
But Vasya the Communist did not “clear out”; he stubbornly kept on with his work, although the threats contained in those notes were not empty ones, the kulaks did indeed murder the active people in the village.
In the summer of 1929 my brother Kostya, my sister Lyolya and I were going to a meeting of the Young Communist League in the neighbouring village, Novo-Byeshevo, and somebody fired at us from behind with a sawn-off gun. And we were only youngsters then (Lyolya was fourteen and I was sixteen).
I shall never forget how we ran barefoot on the prickly grass, and how our hearts throbbed with fright…But after running out of the danger zone and catching our breath a bit we did not go back to our own homestead, but continued on our way to Novo-Byeshevo Jo attend the meeting
The “kurkuls” beat my old mother, Yefimia Fyodorovna, nearly to death only because she was our mother, the mother of Communists…
Our family, and many like it, had been farm hands working for kulaks from generation to generation. We fully realized that in any case it was impossible to go on living with the parasites. They barred our road to a prosperous life, and no arguments, no restrictions and no increased taxation could remove them!.
Again the Party understood our need and showed us the way out of our difficulty. Through the mouth of Stalin the Party said to us: restriction of the kulak is now passing over to the liquidation of the kulaks as a class…
These very words were repeated by my elder brother Vasili, who was head of the Political Educational Department of the District Party Committee, when Ivan Angelin, the secretary of our homestead Party organization, came hurrying to him one night. Ivan brought to the District Conv mittee the bad news about the village meeting at which the question of organizing a collective farm had been discussed.
After my father had spoken the kulak Paniotov got up and said that the Angelins had “envious eyes and rapacious hands”; they owned nothing themselves, but they wanted to be on the same footing as the well-to-do farmers.
When the question of organizing a collective farm was put to the vote only seven poor peasants voted for it, twelve well-to-do farmers voted against, and the overwhelming majority (the middle peasants and a few timid poor peasants) abstained from voting, as much as to say: “We’ll wait and see. Why rush, like a bull at a gate?”
Influenced by the “kurkuls,” the village meeting resolved: to expel the Angelins and the other six families who had voted “in favour” from the society for the collective cultivation of the land and allow them to form a collective farm; themselves.
The “kurkuls” added insult to injury.
“Go on, organize,” they jeered. “Five cows and a couple of goats, seven families to feed on groats. You’ll have a kolkhoz.”
Yes, we were indeed very poor. Our entire stock consisted of five cows and two goats. Bu,t for all that, Vasili, head of the Political Educational Department of the District Party Committee, said, in the name of the Party, in answer to Ivan’s question as to what was to be done next:
“The kulaks must be expropriated. Confiscate their land and implements and start farming with them. The collective farm must be organized at all cost, even if only seven families join.”
And so we started the collective farm—seven families.
I myself took part in the expropriation of the kulaks. Those were extremely tense days of fierce class struggle, but it was only after we had routed the kulaks and had driven them from the land, did we poor peasants feel the ground firmly under our feet…
The pioneers in collective farming had a very hard time. The work was organized with difficulty and everybody had to toil from, sunrise to sunset…And all the time we felt the critical eyes of the whole village upon us. Everyone of us knew that success or failure would determine which way those who had abstained from voting at the meeting, the middle peasants and the few poor peasants, would go.
Here the Party and the government came to the aid of the first collective farms. Nikolai Angelin, the “red agronomist’’ (so called to distinguish him from the old agricultural experts who were sabotaging), was sent to the collective farm by the District Party Committee, and he introduced new farming methods. The Executive Committee of the District Soviet granted the farm a loan. The chief thing was that we were given a tractor. It was this that forthwith turned all the waverers towards the collective-farm life.
The individual farmers would come to our field and stand for hours watching Ivan Angelin, our first tractor driver, ploughing with the aid of his machine.
Later, at every meeting of the board, more and more applications of individual farmers to join the farm were considered. Evidently, the same thing was going on all over the country…
font-family:We named our kolkhoz after Lenin.
The first collective farms…Their very names breathed hope and faith: “Forward to Communism,” “Lenin’s Behest,” “For Culture,” “Happy Life”…
Our lives were not yet happy in those days; we, the common people, did not yet know to what heights of wealth and happiness the Soviet form of government, with its collective farming and industrialization, would lead us. But the Party, Stalin, already saw this in spite of the enormous difficulties that stood in our path.
We put our faith in the Party and the Soviet Government, we all followed the lead of Stalin…
In the beginning of the ‘thirties our country started on a steep ascent, and it is always more difficult to go uphill…
Like all our neighbouring collective farms, and the collective-farm system itself throughout the country, our Lenin Kolkhoz successfully came through the first severe tests and established itself in the village. In the spring of 1930, when I took the wheel of a tractor for the first time, we collective farmers were already strongly and irrevocably convinced of the advantages of the new way of life, although we had not yet reaped any of its fruits…
My first tractor was a Fordson. This was a clumsy and complicated machine with a flywheel, spools and bobbins. Evidently,America had palmed it off onto us on the principle: “take it, it’s no use to me.” Already at that time the machine Was regarded as out-of-date. If a hair got into the flywheel, or if the bobbins got slightly damp, the tractor went out of commission for whole days…
Usually, it took five of us to start the machine, and even then it was a hard job. And what a glutton that Fordson was! It consumed sixty kilograms of fuel per hectare of deep ploughing, compared with twenty to twenty-five that our machines consume now.
Two years later, some brand new K.T.W. (Kharkov Tractor Works) tractors were brought into our district, the first fruits of industrialization, and we simply fell in love with them; not only because they were our own make, but because they were much more reliable, simpler and more economical than the Fordsons, which they quickly supplanted.
Subsequently, I had to handle many other makes of tractors — Chelyabinsks, Stalins, Internats, N.A.T.I.’s, Diesel tractors, and foreign made Farmols, and I became more and more convinced that I had started with the most difficult and most capricious machine.
But in 1930 I was in love with my clumsy and complicated machine and was very much afraid that I would be unable to handle it and, God forbid, break it.
I nursed my Fordson as a mother nurses her child; I did not mind how much time I spent on it. But in spite of all my efforts I could see that people, even my friends, had no confidence in me. And we also had avowed enemies. Somebody was energetically spreading nasty rumours about me. Instigated by the priest, pious old women used to spit on seeing “shameless Pasha” in an overall sitting at the tractor wheel.
One day, when we were carting grain, a thunderstorrn burst suddenly. I was struck by lightning and thrown out of the wagon (luckily my friends were near; they laid me out on (the ground and I “came to”). At once there was talk in the village about God having punished Pasha.
Even the tractor drivers at the Machine and Tractor Station, my own comrades, would jeer and laugh at me.
“She’s a woman, what else can you expect of her,” they would say when they saw me of a morning wiping my tractor down with a rag.
But I stubbornly kept at my task, nursed my machine, and was not too lazy to test every detail a dozen times, only to make my tractor reliable.
In the end I achieved my object. My Fordson broke down rarely, and in output I forged ahead of many of my comrades. I was presented with a “shockbrigader’s book,” awarded the Badge of Distinction and . …transferred to a fuel base as a stockkeeper. I was told this was “promotion,” but needless to say, my heart burned with resentment.
My first impulse was to collect the Y.C.L.’ers in the village and go in a body to the chief to lodge a protest. But I changed my mind. I thought to myself:
“Well, I worked on the tractor for a whole year and even became a shockbrigader, but I failed to break down this lack of confidence towards me. Even my friends said: ‘Pasha succeeded because she is an exceptionally bright girl, but after all, the tractor is no place for a woman.’
“That shows that my example alone is not enough. I must organize a whole team of women tractor drivers. We will work like real shockbrigaders, and then let them say that the wheel is no place for us.”
I was firmly convinced that every just cause would receive the backing of the Party, and so I went straight to Ivan Mikhailovich Kurov, in the Political Department of the Machine and Tractor Station, and proposed that a women’s tractor team be formed.
I will be grateful to this good man, this wise and responsive Bolshevik, for the rest of my life. Ivan Mikhailovich had been a worker in Petrograd and later Commissar of the Turkestan Regiment of the Soviet Army. The Party had sent him to our rural district to take charge of the Political Department.
Kurov was at once enthused by the new project; he saw in the proposal to form a women’s tractor team even more than I did myself—the possibility of making peasant women still more active builders of the new way of life.
It cannot be said that I was “simply lucky to meet a good man”. . . . Kurov was indeed a man with a responsive heart, but above all he was a Bolshevik and, in supporting my proposal to form a women’s tractor team, he was pursuing the Party’s policy.
In fact, it was just at this time, the end of February 1933, that Comrade Stalin told the collective farmers who were gathered in conference in the Kremlin that women were a great power in the collective farms and that they should be brought to the front.
For several nights Ivan Mikhailovich, his assistant who was in charge of Y.C.L. affairs, and I, sat until very late at the Political Department in a room plastered with posters, going over the list of girls who worked on trailers and were somewhat familiar with tractors to choose likely members of the team, discussing how to obtain machines and how to organize the work of technical instruction.
When we took the list of future girl tractor drivers to the manager of the Machine and Tractor Station he rejected the whole lot, saying that he could not entrust the machines to girls. He was right in a way; none of the members of the proposed team, except myself, had ever been at the wheel or knew anything about motors. Yes, the manager of the M.T.S. was right‰but Kurov said to him:
“Supply the machines. I will take the responsibility.”
In January 1933 a short-term course was organized for the girl trailers and I acted as instructor.
At last, in the spring, our women’s tractor team drove out of the gates of the M.T.S.—the first women’s tractor team in the Soviet Union.
All of us were in high spirits, and along the whole way, right up to the Krasni Pakhar (Red Tiller) Kolkhoz, we sang “Susidka” and other Ukrainian songs, and laughed at every pretext‰
None of us, of course, was sure that everything would run smoothly from the very first, but we would not allow any gloomy thoughts to mar that festive occasion. We had spent so much time preparing for this “maiden voyage,” we had put so many “beauty touches” to our machines and had tested every detail over and over again!‰
Suddenly, something unforeseen and terrible happened. On the outskirts of the village a crowd of angry women met us. They barred our road and shouted in chorus :
“Turn back! We’ll allow no female machines on our fields. You’ll spoil the crops!”
We were all Young Communist Leaguers and we were accustomed to kulak resistance and enemy hatred: but here our own women, members of the collective farm, were reviling us. Later, of course, we became friends, and many of these women became tractor drivers themselves, but they were vicious in this first encounter.
What we felt can be imagined; instead of a festival we get this…The girls were almost in tears, and even I, usually so perky, was flustered. The women closed in around us shouting:
“Don’t dare move. If you do, we’ll pull your hair out and kick you out of here!”
We knew that if we did move there would be a scrap…
I left the girls at the machines and ran to Staro-Byeshevo, through impassable mud, several kilometres away. As I plunged from puddle to puddle in my heavy army boots my heart burned with resentment. Here we are, doing our best for them, for the collective farmers, and yet they want to beat us up!
Luckily, I found Kurov at the Political Department. When he heard what I had to say his face darkened. We got into the Department’s car and dashed off to the Krasni Pakhar Kolkhoz.
There was almost a riot there when we arrived. Some men had turned up too and they were bawling and swearing at the girls…As soon as they caught sight of Kurov they quietened down somewhat, but they kept standing there, they would not go away.
“Go to your job, comrade team leader,” said Ivan Mikhailovich to me in a commanding tone.
We began starting the engines, but they would not start (I have already said what accursed machines those Ford’sons were).
Somebody in the crowd began to jeer: “Women can’t drive machines, the machines will drive them.” Kurov stood there pale and biting his lips. We spent about ten minutes starting those machines.
At last we drove off. The crowd followed some distance behind, but Kurov followed with it. We reached the field, deployed and started ploughing…
By this time, of course, our high spirits had completely evaporated. The girls looked angry and their faces glistened with perspiration. We all felt as if we were taking part in a battle—one false stroke and we would be killed. …
We worked for an hour, two, three. The crowd stood watching us. Kurov watched us too. Then the women began whispering to each other and finally went back to the village. Ivan Mikhailovieh came up to me, shook hands and said:
“Do you see, Pasha. If you want anything, you must fight for it!”
He was absolutely right. Our difficulties did not end with this skirmish at the Krasni Pakhar Kolkhoz. When we moved on to the next collective farm the same thing happened. The women nearly beat us up, and two of our girls were locked up in a cellar.
Our team was not an exception in this respect, of course. Later, at the Congress of Collective Farm Shockbrigaders, many comrades told me that they had met with the same difficulties when they started. And only very recently, at a conference called by the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Young Communist League in Kiev, Hanna Sapelyuk, a girl tractor driver from the Rovno Region, in Western Ukraine, told the conference of the distrust with which some of the peasants in that region, who are only just beginning to live in the Soviet way, met the first girls who mounted a tractor…
The chief trouble was that my team friends could scarcely handle their tractors and knew nothing about the engines. And I myself did not feel very confident on many technical questions. But the most important thing about us was that we were not afraid of hard work and knew how to work. And in that initial period this served as a substitute for special knowledge.
We spent a lot of time over our machines, kept them in thorough repair, and studied hard to ascertain the cause of breakdowns. We sat nights with a Y.C.L.’er mechanic studying textbooks on tractor mechanics. But we did not grasp the intricacies of our new profession at one stroke…
As long as things went smoothly, the girls managed the job well, but as soon as an engine stopped the girl would come running up to me and say :
“Pasha, come and see what’s the matter…”
I had to drop my work and trudge to the other end of the field to put the trouble right.
Speaking frankly, I lost the greater part of my earnings because of these “other people’s” breakdowns. During that first year I had less to my account as team leader than I had when I was working as an ordinary tractor driver.
But did I, or any of the Y.C.L.’ers of that period, concern ourselves about our own personal interests? Our generation had been so brought up that we did not seek easy earnings, or an easy road…
I remember that when the news was received about the conflict with the Chinese militarists the entire Y.C.L. organization in Staro-Byeshevo volunteered for the Soviet Army. Kostya, my younger brother, joined the Navy with the Y.C.L. enrollment. My elder brother, Vasili, a student at the Moscow Institute of Journalism, answered the Party’s call and went to the Far East to help lay a road through the Ussuri taiga.
We had all these examples before us, and every member of the Young Communist League, was ready at any moment to do the same and forget all about his personal interests.
All the members of our team became excellent tractor drivers. Next spring, Takhtamyshev’s team, the best team in the district, declined our challenge to enter into a socialist emulation contest. “We don’t fight women,” they said. But in the autumn we won the Challenge Banner from them and moved up to first place in the M.T.S.
Although we were not much concerned about our own personal interests, our team, nevertheless, wag well paid for the honest labour it had put in in conformity with the just laws governing the collective farms. Our families could now eat their fill every day, and we could go to the village cooperative store to see what we could buy with the money we had earned.
Still less did we think of becoming famous by asserting our right to be tractor drivers. Nevertheless, in conformity with our just Soviet customs, our persevering and ardent efforts did not go unnoticed. Fame came to us. We did not hunt for her—she came to us of her own accord…
When our team arrived at the Petrovsky Kolkhoz to do a job there, the chairman of the board said :
“I am very glad they have sent me the Angelina team. We’ll get a good crop with you.”
We, on our part, were glad to have earned such a reputation. And then, the work of the first women’s tractor team was reported in the District and Regional newspapers and over the radio.
When I was young (and I suppose it is so now) young people were fond of arguing a great deal about: what is fame? I hope I will be forgiven for saying a few words about what I think about fame.
Sometimes I hear the word “famous,” or “celebrated” uttered in connection with my name. The government has conferred high decorations and honourable titles upon me. There is even a Pasha Angelina Street in Stalino; and a ship that plies the Moscow Canal is named Pasha Angelina…
I am proud of and cherish all this. To be famous in our country means receiving the people’s highest appreciation of one’s labour. Such fame is a great, soul-elevating happiness.
But I want to emphasize once again that everything that is said about me is primarily a tribute to my country. Anybody in our country who would dare to boast about his merits would simply be laughed at.
Here I would like to quote an “instruction” that one of my companions in my first tractor team sent me when I was elected to the Supreme Soviet. It was in the form of a short, humorous verse, but it contained a splendid thought, a big demand upon a person whom the people had honoured. Here is the verse:
If you want an easy life
And be on friendly terms with folks,
Keep your heart up very high
And keep your nose down low.
I try to abide: by this “instruction,” and I hope that none of my comrades will say that Pasha has become proud, that she has “stuck her nose up.” To keep my heart up high and not discredit my fame — that is my wish.
A girl in Barnaul wrote and asked me: “How is it that your fame has retained its lustre for quite fifteen years?”
Comrade Stalin once said: “Work and Socialism are inseparable from each other.” This, I think, means that in our country prosperity, happiness, fame and everything that goes to make up the life of the Soviet citizen, are also inseparable from work.
My work has made me famous. And my fame retains its lustre because I never permit myself to rest content with what I have achieved.
In Terekt, where I worked (luring the war, I often heard the following Kazakh proverb: “Fame is a very high cliff, but its top can be reached with one flap of the wings.”
Perhaps I have not grasped the true meaning of this proverb, but I must say that I do not like it. No, in our country fame cannot be achieved in one graceful flight; it can be achieved only by persevering and self-sacrificing labour. And it is enough to stop working for a short while, to fold one’s arms and admire oneself, for fame to fly away.
During the past fifteen years many Stakhanov-ites in industry and agriculture became famous; but of these some proved incapable of holding on to this lofty position. It is not enough to “hold on,” one must keep moving on, must seek new paths, otherwise one runs the risk of irrevocably dropping behind our Soviet life, which is advancing with such rapid strides.
A Young Communist Leaguer in the Voroshilovgrad Region wrote to me as follows:
“You, Comrade Angelina, have been working splendidly as a tractor driver for seventeen years. I am surprised that you have not been promoted to a higher post.”
Now isn’t he a funny fellow? As if it’s the post that one occupies that matters!
I have been offered leading work more than once (in particular, the post of manager of a Machine and Tractor Station, or that of Chairman of the Executive Committee of a District Soviet). I think I could have managed some of the posts I have been offered pretty well, particularly after I had graduated from the Academy.
Many of the rank and filers of my generation have been promoted to responsible work. Ten years ago, my comrade Pyotr Krivonos, was an engine driver; now he is a director general, the chief of a vast railway area. Or, for example, take Sasha Stepanenko. He was a coal hewer; now he is the secretary of a City Party Committee in Kuzbas. My elder brother Vasili started service in the Soviet Army as a private; he is now a colonel.
I have remained a tractor driver, and I am proud of it, because in our country every post is a high post, only one must put all one’s heart and soul into one’s work.
Even when working in the same inconspicuous job for many years one need not stagnate, but push one’s work far ahead, grow, as it were, become more and more useful…
This has been, and is, my object in life.
In Stalin’s Short Course of the history of our Party my name too is mentioned among the Stakhanovites of industry and initiators of the front-ranker movement in agriculture.
How is it that we common folks, plain working people and collective farmers, are mentioned in the History of the Bols’hevik Party? How could we give rise to a nation-wide movement?
Neither I nor my companions knew in the spring of 1933, when we first drove out to the inhospitable fields of the Krasni Pakhar Kolkhoz, that we were on the threshold of an immense movement that was subsequently to embrace hundreds of thousands of Soviet women. Nor did many other initiators of the Stakhanovite movement in industry, on the railways and on the collective farms, know what their personal, individual achievements would develop into. But the new movement was springing up everywhere. . . .
When, at last, one sees the expected goal towards which one has been striving so long and with such difficulty, one involuntarily quickens one’s pace. In the same way, we rank-and-file Soviet citizens, on seeing the new life of abundance and happiness before us, wanted the country to quicken its pace towards it.
Each strove to improve his work, to push it forward.
In the same way as we were raised and supported by Kurov, chief of the Political Department in our district, and as Section Party Organizer Miron Dyukanov backed Alexei Stakhanov when he proposed his new methods of mining coal, so many other representatives of the Party in the factories, in the mines and in the rural districts looked for promoters of new methods and brought them to light.
The Party was the leader and organizer of the innovators’ movement; it was the Party that transformed the individual achievements of Stakhanov, Krivonos and of our team, into a mass, nationwide movement, capable of influencing the destiny of our country.
In 1936 there were already women tractor teams in numerous regions and republics. At the Tenth Congress of the Young Communist League I proposed that all the women teams throughout the Soviet Union enter into a movement for socialist emulation.
Shortly afterwards, at a conference called by the Central Committee of the Young Communist League, I saw hundreds of women—Russians, Ukrainians, and Uzbeks in highly coloured gowns — participants in the new movement which the Party and the Young Communist League had promoted and spread all through the country. I was proud of the immense sweep of this movement, of which I had been one of the initiators. And the movement kept on growing…
In 1939, I, together with Pasha Kovardak, issued a call to Soviet women: “A hundred thousand women friends—mount tractors!” Two hundred thousand responded to this call.... All of them learned to drive a tractor in their spare time.
We appreciated the full significance of this only during the Great Patriotic War. How fortunate it was that a woman tractor driver was a rarity in 1931 and not in 1941.. . .
When our husbands, brothers and fathers went to the front there was somebody to take their places at the tractor w’heels, and the engines of K.T.W.’s did not stop for a single day, our golden grain was not scattered in the fields…
The strength of the movement lay not only in that old quotas were exceeded, but also in that we ourselves, the participants in the movement, developed.
And here I want to say a word about the man who reared the ‘whole of my generation, with whose name all that is best in my life and yours, all our hopes for the future, are associated. I mean Stalin…
It has been my good fortune to meet and speak to Comrade Stalin, and every meeting with him imbued me with great strength, inspired, me for new achievements, I would say, lent me wings.
I remember March 1935, the magnificent hall in the Kremlin Palace. The Second All-Union Congress of Collective Farm Shockbrigaders was in session. Comrade Stalin took part in the proceedings of that congress…
Suddenly, the chairman announced: “Pasha Angelina, leader of the first women’s tractor team has the floor.”
I walked to the rostrum, more dead than alive, as it were. I felt a lump in my throat. I could not utter a word. I looked dumbly at Comrade Stalin…
He understood the cause of my agitation, and he said softly, so that I alone heard: “Courage, Pasha, courage…”
Those words became my guide after that. Whenever I found things very hard, whenever I had to start something new that involved great risk, I always recalled those words of Stalin’s: “Courage, Pasha, courage,” and I felt more confident, and in spite of everything, I embarked on the new venture.
After this moment of hesitation I, at last, spoke up, and, on the rostrum in the Kremlin, I talked about ordinary, everyday affairs, about the work of our team, about how we fought for culture in production (I did not know such terms then, I spoke in a roundabout way and, I think, not quite grammatically), and even about the limericks we sang…
The congress elected me to the commission that was to draft the “Model Rules for Agricultural Cooperatives.” The chairman of this commission was Comrade Stalin…
Here, for the first time, I saw how great affairs of state that affect the destiny of the people are decided in our country.
Statesmen, scientists, Party officials and we rank-and-file collective farmers gathered in the small sessions hall. I was very young then and I was quite sure that I would not be able to say anything at this high assembly.
I took a seat in a far corner of the hall and from there eagerly listened to what was said in the commission.
Our leader, in conjunction with rank and filers from all parts of the country, was about to decide the future of the collective-farm movement. I saw how glad Comrade Stalin was when any of the collective farmers made practical proposals and how attentively he listened to their counsels.
To my surprise I was asked what I thought the size of the individual gardens of the members of the collective farms should be. I thought of the village I came from and of the needs of our people and named the dimensions that I thought were right.
Here one of the scientists got up and said in a cool and supercilious tone that Comrade Angelina was allowing her imagination to run away with her.
I felt so crushed that I dared not lift my head. That’s what comes from barging into state affairs, I thought to myself.
Suddenly, Comrade Stalin got up and formally proposed the very dimensions I had named. Our leader’s backing greatly encouraged me and the other kolkhozniks, members of the commission. This was our first lesson in statesmanship.
During the recess I met Comrade Stalin in the lobby. He asked me what my plans were for the future and enquired about the affairs-of our collective farm. I was so flustered that, I think, I did not answer to the point.
I remember, however, that at the end of the conversation I plucked up courage and said :
“On my word of honour, Comrade Stalin, we’ll do a thousand and two hundred hectares per tractor!”
On the way back home from Moscow I pondered deeply over the promise I had given and became alarmed: had I not undertaken too much? The official quota endorsed by the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture at that time was three hundred hectares per 15 hp tractor. As for one thousand and two hundred hectares per tractor, nobody had even heard of such a thing at that time…
As the saying goes: ‘“Before promising think well. After promising keep to it.”
“I will work twenty hours a day, if need be, but I will keep my promise,” I decided…
It depended mainly on my team, of course, on my companions, eight merry girls, all wearing the same green berets, and whom everybody called “bear cubs” because of the clumsy looking overalls they wore.
Will they back me up? Won’t my “bear cubs” say that I was boastful?…
They already knew from the newspapers of the promise I had given Comrade Stalin. Enthusiasm reigned in the team and everybody laughed the People’s Commissariat’s maximum quotas to scorn.
But everybody realized that our “heroic” plan to “work twenty hours a day” was utterly useless and would not help us to fulfill our pledge. The existing quotas could not be exceeded by mere physical exertion and going without sleep. Another way had to be found; new methods had to be employed.
We began to search for these new methods, and we found them…The work of the team was radically reorganized, we introduced the system of preventive repairs to avoid long stoppages due to breakdowns, and we cut out the “stops for a smoke” (or “stops for a chat” as the nonsmokers in the team called them). The girls on the trailers also tightened up discipline; we arranged for a more regular supply of fuel replenishments. In other words, we “strengthened our rear”…
We did sacrifice some sleep at harvest time, of course, that goes without saying…
Now the whole village watched us at our work. Every day Ivan Mikhailovich Kurov, now secretary of the District Party Committee, would ring up from his office and enquire: “How is the Angelina team getting on? Does it need any assistance?” The collective farmers would stop us in the village street and enquire: “How’s it going?”
* * *
How good you feel when you know that the work you are doing is useful to everybody, and! that everybody wishes you success. It was altogether different in the spring of 1933 when we started in the face of opposition. The people had changed; they now had faith in the new system and had become its supporters.
But our enemies, the remnants of the kulaks, the “survivors,” as they were called in the village, had not been entirely wiped out. They fought fiercely against every innovation and tried to check the progress of collective-farm life.
I, too, did not escape the hatred of the enemy…
One day, as I was cycling to the fields, I heard the rattling of a heavy cart behind me. I swerved off the road, but the cart swerved too. I turned to the right and the cart turned to the right. I felt that I was being hunted and that in another moment something frightful, would happen. Two enormous horses hurled themselves upon me, the heavy cart rolled over my body and then dashed off. . . .
I lay bleeding in a trampled furrow for several hours, I was picked up in an unconscious condition and taken to the hospital.
The men who drove the cart were caught; they were three sons of kulaks. As was revealed at their trial, they had deliberately run me over. It was evident that I had become an obstacle in the enemy’s path. . . .
I lay in hospital a physical wreck. I could not move. But what tormented me more than the pain was my anxiety about the work of my team. The crop would have to be harvested soon, how will the girls manage without me? One evening the doctor handed me a note which, he said, some girls had brought. They had been very persistent and had even tried to push their way into the ward in spite of the prohibition, he told me.
It was an extraordinary note, and it referred to exactly what was worrying me most. My companions wrote the following:
“In retaliation to the despicable sorties of our class enemy who attacked our Pasha, this women’s tractor team pledges itself to harvest 1,230 hectares per tractor and thus exceed its former pledge.”
This pledge was signed by all the girls.
I was worrying about whether they would manage without me, and here were my dear, darling companions pledging themselves to do more than we had promised!
As if to spite us, the weather that autumn was awful. It rained from morning till night. I lay gazing through the hospital window and my heart was filled with longing and anxiety. At last I could stand it no longer. As soon as I got on my feet I untruthfully told the doctor that I felt quite well and went back to Staro-Byeshevo. I was welcomed very kindly by all. Neighbours came in to see me, bringing all sorts of dainties, but when they arrived the “patient” was gone. I hobbled to the office and begged Konstantin to lend me the “trap” to drive to the field base (I was unable to go on foot, if I could I would have run there!).
When I arrived at the team base the girls crowded around me, hugging and kissing me, and without further ado the girl who kept account of the work done showed me the report, as much as to say “see how well we are working.”
And from that day I plunged into the work and was so taken up with it that I forgot that I was a patient and that the doctors bad forbidden me even to move.
The last days of the agricultural year were exceptionally hard. The frost came as early as November. Here we gave up all thought of rest as we were very much afraid that we would not keep our pledge. At last, one fine morning, the girl accountant came running to me and said:
“We’ve reached one thousand two hundred and thirty.”
I got into the “trap” and dashed off to the village cooperative store and bought some sausage, cakes and red wine, and we had a feast right in the open field to celebrate our first victory.
In December all of us girls went to Moscow to attend the all-Union rally of the front-rankers in agriculture.
I reported to Comrade Stalin that we had fulfilled our pledge and, of course, gave a new pledge—to achieve 1,600 hectares per tractor.
I was extremely agitated—one cannot help being agitated when speaking in the rostrum in the Kremlin in Stalin’s presence—but I felt more confident than I had been in the previous winter; I had fulfilled my pledge.
In my speech I said that, now that we had upset the old maximum quotas, high quotas ought to be achieved by many teams, and that we would be very glad if our followers achieved even better results than we had.
Here Comrade Stalin interjected:
“We need cadres, Pasha, cadres!”
This was a new and big task for us; the next stage in our development. Now we had not only to achieve high quotas ourselves, but teach many others to do so.
All the way home from Moscow to the Donbas we sat in conference. We decided that when we arrived home we would organize ten more women’s tractor teams in our district.
It would, of course, have been much easier for our team to achieve high quotas if we kept the team intact. We were working well together, every girl was familiar with her machine, and the whole team was well disciplined. Now, however, we would have to take in new girls who were unfamiliar with the work.
But considerations of this kind could not stop us. The task that Comrade Stalin had set us had to be carried out at all cost.
Shortly afterwards ten new women’s tractor teams appeared in our district. All that was left of the Angelina team was its name, myself, and two of the experienced tractor drivers. Natasha Radchenko and the other girls became team leaders. New girls joined our team…
From that time onwards, my team served as a sort of school for tractor drivers. Its composition changes almost completely every season; and that means starting from the ABC every spring.
When training cadres we did not chalk a notice on our machines: “Caution! Learner at the wheel!” The team never surrendered the high output positions it had won, and year after year continued to improve its achievements. In 1936 its quota was 1,612 hectares per tractor, in 1937—1,618 hectares, in 1938—2,604 hectares and in 1939 (on N.A.T.I. tractors)—2,000 hectares.
How was it that our novices became skilled drivers at once and even outpaced old and experienced drivers? Do not think that exceptional girls were sent to my team, or that vacancies were filled by competitive examinations. . . .
The girls that came to me were just ordinary girls, some very industrious and some a little lazy, some very intelligent and some “not so bad.” But the team always remained a real collective body (even though a very small one), and everyone had to accept its rules and traditions.
I am very exacting towards myself and others, no allowance is made for “objective reasons.” Perhaps this is because I grew up in stern times and, like the whole of my generation, began to lead a conscious life at an early age. My family expected me to work well and live properly when I was young, and later the Young Communist League and the Party expected this of me. I, in my turn, expect this of my fellow members in the team. I simply cannot conceive how it is possible to fail to do work that has got to be done, and “cases” like that do not happen in our team. Every member is concerned primarily with the interests of the common cause and not with her individual success or individual earnings.
The Party trained me, and I learned from the Party how to train the young people. My team is a real school.
Over a hundred comrades have passed through this school and are now skilled tractor drivers, team leaders and mechanics at Machine and Tractor Stations.
Scores of the. members of our team have been awarded Orders and Medals: Ilya Biyatov, Natasha Radchenko, Vera Yuryeva and Vera Kostina, ray sisters Nadya and Lyolya, and many others.
The Party more and more often enlisted my cooperation, as that of other common folk—front-rankers in socialist emulation—in the work of administering the country, it taught me how to decide affairs of state. I was a delegate at the Eighth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets which adopted the Stalin Constitution, I was elected a delegate to congresses of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of the Ukraine and of the Young Communist League, and have been a member of various commissions appointed by the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture. All this, together with the work I did among the members of my team, was good schooling for me…
In December 1937 my countrymen and women elected me a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. Before that I had been an ordinary rank-and-file comrade—celebrated and honoured, but a rank and filer. Now I was entrusted with the task of helping to administer our state.
I was not a bad tractor driver, and I also coped with the task of leading my team; but now a far more responsible task awaited me, and I was afraid I would not be able to cope with it, that I would fail to justify the confidence my comrades had placed in me…
My constituents wrote to me saying:
“We are sending you to the Supreme Soviet and expect you to continue to work in the Stalin style for the benefit of the people and of our Soviet state.”
Then I heard Comrade Stalin’s election speech n which the duties of a Deputy were so well formulated…
I received my first Deputy’s mail, letters from my constituents in which one asked for advice, another asked me to help him to secure the adoption of an invention of his, a third demanded that I should help to get club premises, and a fourth complained about the way business was being conducted in a certain public office in his district…
A flood of enquiries, complaints and demands.
I, as a Deputy, am answerable for all this. But when you come to think about it, I am only a collective-farm member, just like my constituents.
I cannot help smiling now when I recall the confusion I was in during the first week of my activities as a Deputy. I even sat down and wrote a request to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet: “Please send me instructions, or a written manual of some kind.”
But the efforts of the Party to enlist our cooperation in deciding affairs of state, its efforts in training and rearing us, had not been in vain. I, like all the other Deputies, fought down my timidity and set to work.
I myself dealt with every letter that came from a constituent. I did not rest until I had secured results even if it meant going to the Central Committee of the Party, or to the competent People’s Commissariat.
At that time, in settling questions, I was guided by my conscience rather than by my knowledge. But with every passing month I felt more confident, I gained experience…Judging by the fact that I was elected to the Supreme Soviet for a second term, I must have learned something.
During the Sessions of the Supreme Soviet I closely studied the people who were sitting around me. Who are these people who are deciding the destiny of our country?—I asked myself.
Here were Party officials and kolkhozniks, academicians and engine drivers, marshals and privates. Here were old and young, women and men, people from all nationalities.
“To put it short, they are the people,” an aged Deputy said to me when I discussed this subject with him one day.
What that old man said was very true. To get the taste of the water from a spring there is no need to drink a pitcherful, one sip is enough; to know what our Soviet people are like there is no need to make the acquaintance of all the two hundred million of them; it is enough to look at the chosen ones among them—their Deputies.
The newspapers often report the speeches of foreign statesmen who attack “the ruling circles in the Soviet Union.”
The term “ruling circles” (quite applicable in Western countries with their “Wall Street,” “City” and “two hundred families”) can only rouse a feeling of vexation among Soviet people.
They say: “the ruling circles in the U.S.S.R.” Well, our ruling circle is not “two hundred families,” but two hundred million Soviet people, our entire people. This is demonstrated by the composition of the supreme organ of Soviet government to which I have already referred, and by very many other examples. Take my family, for example, an ordinary village family…
Who can say that we, the children of Nikita Vasilievich Angelin, formerly a poor peasant and the organizer of the first collective farm, do not belong to the ruling circle in the U.S.S.R.?
My brother Vasili is a colonel and has been awarded eight Government decorations. During the war he was Chief of the Political Administration of Railway Transport Forces on one of the fronts. My second brother, Konstantin, is the chairman of the board of the Politotdel Kolkhoz. My third brother, Nikolai, is a representative of the Ministry of Agricultural Stocks of the U.S.S.R. and has been awarded the Order of the Patriotic War. My younger sister Nadya, formerly a tractor driver, holder of the Order of Lenin, will shortly graduate from the Interregional Party School, where she is being trained for leading Soviet administrative work. My second sister Lyolya is the secretary of the village Party organization. My third sister Haritina is a rank-and-file member of our kolkhoz. I myself am a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R.
All of us Angelins—Colonel Vasili and ex-private Konstantin, village Party organization secretary Lyolya and non-Party kolkhoznik Haritina—constitute a united, friendly family. All Soviet people, irrespective of race and nationality, urban and rural, rank and filers and “responsible” administrators, the entire people—constitute such a united and friendly family.
In March 1939 the Eighteenth Congress of our Party assembled in Moscow. The Moscow Party organization elected me, a young member of the Party, as a delegate to the congress.
The report of the Central Committee was delivered by Comrade Stalin…He very correctly summed up everything that had taken place in the country in the word “prosperity.” All this was the result of the fulfillment of the Five-Year Plans…
Stalin spoke about the whole of our vast country, and I recalled my native village and my constituency which had elected me to the Supreme Soviet…
Just as the sun is reflected in a drop of water, so the great changes that had taken place all over the country under the Soviet government were reflected in the life of our little Staro-Bye-shevo…
Stalin spoke about industrialization, and I recalled how the enormous Zuyevka Electric Power Station sprang up in our neighbourhood, in the bare steppe, on the little River Krynka, and now supplies the whole of the Donbas with electric power. Near the power station a new town arose—Zugres. The huge Amvrosiyevo Cement Works were built, the Khartsyzsk coal pits were sunk…
Stalin spoke about the new, socialist agriculture, and I recalled the collective farms around Staro-Byeshevo.
Stalin said that 483,500 tractors were in use in the country, and our Machine and Tractor Station already had scores of K.T.W.’s, S.T.W.’s, Ch.T.W.’s (Kharkov, Stalingrad and Chelyabinsk Tractor Works). He said that we had 153,500 harvester combines, and the fields in our locality were harvested with “Communard” and “Stalin” harvesters. He said that we had 195,800 motor trucks and 10,000 passenger cars, and our Politotdel Kolkhoz owned three trucks, and there was also my limousine M-l. . . .
Stalin spoke about the development of stock-breeding, and I recalled the splendid stud farm we had at the Politotdel Kolkhoz with thoroughbreds which Budyonny himself knew of; I recalled our cattle yards and poultry farm with thousands of thoroughbred Leghorns, our fishing pond with a surface area of five hectares, and very many other things.
The collective-farm system, which had been established with such great effort, was celebrating its complete victory all over the country. In the Politotdel Kolkhoz, as well as in the other collective farms around Staro-Byeshevo that had arisen out of the first Lenin Kolkhoz the crop share per workday no longer amounted to hundreds of grams of grain but to kilograms. In the whole of our district only a score or so individual farmers were left, and everybody called them “white ravens.”
Stalin spoke about the prosperous and cultured lives our Soviet people were living, and scores of events that had taken place in our village could have been quoted to confirm this…One member of our collective farm had built himself a brick house with a sheet iron roof, another had gone to Stalino to buy a motorcycle, a third was going to the health resort in Sochi, a fourth was determined to send his daughter to a musical college. Actors and actresses from the Moscow Art Theatre visited Staro-Byeshevo, the latest films were demonstrated in our village recreation club. .. . All this had become habitual…
Twenty years and even ten years before the collective farms were established, the only thought that dominated the minds of the peasant poor was how to keep body and soul together today and to put a little away for the morrow.
The end of the ‘thirties was remarkable for yet another thing—we collective farmers had learned to become real masters of our land…
In 1917 the peasants seized the land, but they did not at once become its masters. They continued, as of old, to be the slaves of the land, dependent upon whether “God grants” rain or not, on whether there was a good crop or a bad one…Even the kulaks were not really masters of the land; they were able only to plunder it…
That frightful year 1921 has left an indelible impress upon my memory. Owing to the drought, the corn in the fields and the grass on the downs withered and dried up; the cracked earth panted with thirst. Every week Father Alingos, the village priest, conducted a service to pray to God to “grant rain.” Our villagers had no other weapon with which to oppose nature.
The sun mercilessly burnt up the crops, and the people hated the sun.
Already in June not a soul was to be seen in the fields…I remember hearing the sound of hammers in the village every morning. It was some villager or other boarding up his house in order to flee wherever his legs would carry him. My family fled from Staro-Byeshevo to the coal district.
The peasants were impotent in the struggle against drought and placed themselves at the mercy of nature. Whole families died of starvation…
The year 1932 was also a bad year, but we already had collective farms, the field strip boundaries had already been removed and we had our first tractors. We armed ourselves for the struggle for bread, and although the crop failure was severe, our village averted famine.
From that time onwards we began to master the land to an ever-increasing degree. There was a poster on the wall of the office of the Politotdel Kolkhoz bearing the words uttered by that great man Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin; “We cannot wait for favours from Nature; we must wrest them from her.” We acted up to those proud words of Michurin’s and we were able to do so thanks to the first cause of the whole of our good life—the Soviet system.
If there had been no October Revolution there would have been no collective-farm system, no industrialization. If there were no collective farms the land would still be cut up into tiny strips, and modern agriculture, proper crop rotation and the employment of machines would have been out of the question.
If there had been no industrialization, which supplied the rural districts with hundreds of thousands of tractors and combine harvesters, high yields would have been impossible. Even I remember the peasants using “bucker” ploughs, which cut no deeper than seven or eight centimetres compared with the twenty-four centimetre furrows we get today. The result was that the roots of the plants could not gain sufficient strength and the crop was poor.
In the collective farm we sowed with good seed drills, harrowed the ground twice, worked it over with cultivators three or four times and weeded the grain fields twice.
Our kolkhozniks learned the new methods of agriculture and cast aside their ancient Drejudices which had been engendered by blind fear of the forces of nature.
For example, there was a firmly established legend that winter crops could not grow in Staro-Byeshevo. This legend was passed on from generation to generation and nobody dared take the risk of testing the truth of this legend. The collective farm, however, did put it to the test…
It turned out that with modern methods of cultivating the soil winter crops grew splendidly in our parts. Nay more: the bulk of our crops are now not spring, but winter crops.
The collective farmers put not only their “heart and soul” into the land, but also hundreds of tons of fertilizer. Our work is now directed not only by the experience of numerous generations of peasants, but also by progressive science.
On December 21, 1939, I spoke at a meeting of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. The man sitting next to me on the platform was Academician Pryanishnikov, the world-famous scientist. In speaking to me, a plain kolkhoznik, he addressed me as “colleague.” Why?
Because in our country science is flourishing everywhere—in Academician Lysenko’s research institutes, in the collective-farm research laboratories, and in the fields of our high yield producers.
For their bold experiments our scientists have at their disposal not a few small plots such as Michurin was forced in tsarist times to buy with the last money he had, but thousands of hectares of collective-farm fields.
The experimental field in each collective farm may not be very large, but there are hundreds of thousands of collective farms throughout the country! Thus, the boldest scientific innovations, which formerly took years to test on tiny plots of land, can now, on these vast areas, be tested in the course of a single summer, and if they turn out to be valuable, can at once be introduced in all the collective farms. This was the case with the numerous experiments made by Academician Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, and other scientists.
Only recently, for example, after the war, my old father, Nikita Vasilievich, tested on his experimental plot Comrade Lysenko’s claims regarding the advantages of planting potatoes in the summer. Here too an ancient prejudice was proved to be groundless; the summer-planted potatoes thrived splendidly. Next summer we will adopt this method on large areas of land…
It was at the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition that I really obtained a full impression of the might and novelty of our socialist agriculture.
In each pavilion I saw not only the fruits of abundant harvests, but numerous features of the new, universal striving for the future; and this was the chief specific feature of our socialist agriculture in the prewar years.
To be a front-ranker in Soviet agriculture, to make progress in this work, it was not enough even for an ordinary collective farmer to know just the ABC. The scale of our socialist agriculture called for a knowledge of up-to-date agricultural techniques and of many other complicated’ matters that make man master of the land. Our country became a vast university at which everybody studied…In our village alone we had agricultural technical courses, courses for tractor drivers, and different kinds of improvement courses.
I too tried to acquire an agricultural education, and in 1939 I was accepted as a student at the Timiryazev Academy of Agriculture.
I “bequeathed” my team to my sister Nadya. Of course, I was no longer the semiliterate woman who was unable to fill out the enquiry form when she joined the Party. For three years I had been taking lessons in my spare time in grammar, arithmetic and later in algebra from Asya Fyodorovna, a teacher at the Staro-Byeshevo secondary school.
At the Academy I had to study very hard, and at first it was extremely difficult for me.
Distinguished scientists like Academician Williams, a revolutionary in science, with whose name the entire new system of agriculture is inseparably associated, and Academicians Kablukov, Pryanishnikov, and others, lectured to us.
Who were we, the students at the Academy?
People from the villages and auls of the Soviet Union, peasants…
At one of our meetings, a student, already an elderly man, said:
“Comrades, we have all come here straight from the sokha (wooden plough).”
I remember that we all laughed at hearing the long-forgotten term “sokha,” and the speaker himself laughed…
Yes, we were all peasants, but not the old-time peasants; we had all come to the Academy from the tractor, the combine harvesters and village laboratories. But in our country, the distance between these and the student’s desk in a higher educational institution is not so great…
In the summer of 1940 I received a berth at one of the best sanatoriums in the Crimea, but I stayed there for less than a week and hurried off to my Staro-Byeshevo, so great was my longing for my work and for my companions.
I worked a tractor in my team right up to the end of the vacation; and when the time came for me to return to the Academy, I unexpectedly had a travelling companion, Nadya. It transpired that she had been accepted as a student at the Kharkov-Agricultural Institute, and so we started out together.
Nadya, in her turn, “bequeathed” the tractor team to our sister Lyolya.
You must remember what years those were. Our country had already made the steep ascent, which everybody bad found so hard, and was now moving forward swiftly and joyously. Everyone of us took it as a rule that tomorrow would be better than today, and the day after better than tomorrow…
But we knew that everything would change if there was war.
War was already raging right on our frontiers, casting its dark shadows over our land, now in the Northwest, and now in the Far East.
On June 22, 1941, I was at home in my native village where, as was my custom, I was spending my vacation (I was then already a third year student at the Timiryazev Academy of Agriculture in Moscow).
I began to play my part in the war to the best of my ability. In the first two weeks—from June 24 to July 6, I had 365 workdays to my account.
Gradually the war drew nearer to our village. The members of the Politotdel Kolkhoz, headed by Konstantin Angelin, had already gone to the Dnepropetrovsk area to build fortifications. At night we already saw ominous flashes on the southern horizon, somewhere beyond Mariupol. One dull, October morning I received orders from the Regional Party Committee to lea.ve for the East. We left. . . .
Not one of us, perhaps, thought of calling our column a “refugee” column. We wanted to show our fellow villagers that we were retreating from the village in military order; true, we were leaving, but we would come back!
The team travelled in full strength, with our tractors, fuel supplies and the “camp wagon,” as if we were going into the fields for the autumn ploughing!
On the front trailer we carried the team’s banners—three Red Flags that had been awarded us for our labours—and the girls, in rotation, sat guarding these banners with a rifle.
A frightful road, so familiar to hundreds of thousands who had escaped from the Germans, lay ahead of us; and our native village, of which we had so many bright recollections, where we had been building, and had built, a life of happiness for ourselves, sank from view behind the downs…
None of the members of our family, even our most distant relations, wished to remain; they travelled with our team, walking most of the way, old men, old women and children.
One must steel one’s heart to describe all the sufferings we experienced on this road to the East. Our team was caught in the stream of evacuees from the Donets towns and districts and moved very slowly. “Junkers” flew over our heads. At night there was a glare in the sky behind us, and it inexorably followed in our wake.
Troops marching from the opposite direction warned us that we were in danger of being cut off. One of the men even gave me a pistol “in case”…
One day we encountered a column of army motor trucks that had got stuck in a ravine. The maj or in command of the column came up to us swearing frightfully and wanted to take our tractors, but when he saw the Deputy’s badge on my blouse (to spite the enemy we were all in “parade dress,” with our Orders and Medals) he calmed down. He said:
“I apologize for my rudeness, Comrade Deputy. You may proceed on your journey.”
Without a moment’s thought I answered:
“Are you mad! Proceed on our journey and leave you with all that ammunition stuck in the ravine?”
We decided that we must .help the column out, come what may. We unhitched the waggon and the trailers with the children and the old folks and began to haul the stranded trucks out with our tractors. We worked until daybreak, almost up to our necks in mud.
That very night, in the cold “wagon” that used to serve our team as a repair shop, Lyolya, my younger sister, gave birth to a child…
Lyolya’s husband was in the Soviet Army and we had received no news from, him. Nor was Nadya with us; she was at the; front with her husband, the major, serving in an artillery regiment. In the last postcard we had received from her she wrote in a matter-of-fact way: “My experience as a tractor driver has come in very handy here. . . .” From Vasili, who was a brigade commissar, we had heard nothing from the day he left for the front.
We were not sure that we would get out of the war area alive; but not one of us had the slightest doubt that our country, our Soviet system, would be victorious.
Why were we ordinary people, who knew nothing about strategy and ignorant of the relative strength of the Soviet and German armies, who, so-far, had seen nothing but retreats, imbued with such confidence during that frightful period?
Because we Soviet people had so merged with) our country, our Motherland, because we had given her so much and had received so much from her, because all our plans and hopes were bound up with her well-being…I say “we,” “our,” meaning all the two hundred million Soviet people. And the very fact that the Soviet system had become part of the flesh and blood of each one of us was, and is today, the guarantee of her invincibility.
We were lucky, the Germans did not cut our column off, and after many trials and tribulations we reached the ferry across the River Donets.
Here many motor trucks and carts carrying refugees and property had accumulated, and “Junkers” came flying over every hour.
When our turn to cross arrived a frowning unshaven lieutenant-colonel, who was in charge of the ferry, came up and ordered us to leave the tractors on the right bank. I had quite a row with him.
“What the hell is the use of your tractors when all this is going on?” he yelled.
I flared up too and shouted back at him:
“So you don’t believe we are going to win, Comrade Commander. You think it’s all up with us, don’t you?”
He was so mortally offended at this thrust that his face turned pale.
“Although you are a Deputy,” he said in a low voice, “you have no right to accuse me of that…I have been at the front from the very first day.”
Then he turned to his assistant and gave him the order:
“Send them across with the tractors.”
We got all the tractors safely across, but we voluntarily left the wagon.
There were much more important things to take over.
When my turn came to go over the lieutenant-colonel came up and asked for the address of the place we were going to so that he could write to me. I told him I did not know the address; I would go wherever the Party sent me.
“It’s the same with me,” he said. “But I’ll find you, Pasha, wherever you may be, and I will write to you.”
But I never got a letter from him. Comrades who crossed there later told me that something frightful happened at that ferry. Perhaps the good man perished there…
I thought of him often later on and mentally said to him: “So you were mistaken, Comrade Lieutenant-Colonel. It is possible to take part in the war also on tractors…”
We handed our tractors over to a Machine and Tractor Station in Byelaya Kalitva, got an official receipt for them, boarded a freight car—there were about fifty of us all told—and went off to the East.
We had got the team property out in full (except for the “wagon,” we were unlucky with that), but of provisions and personal belongings we had taken scarcely anything. We travelled light, as it were, and every day it got colder and colder.
We managed to collect some clothing, at least enough to keep Lyolya and her newborn infant warm. On the way Nadya caught up with us; she had been wounded and had been discharged from the army. Her unit had been surrounded by the enemy, twice her machine had struck land mines, and in general had a very rough time during the few months she was in the war.
We were assigned to the Budyonny Kolkhoz in the Terekt District, West Kazakhstan Region.
This was a small aul in the middle of the bare, cold steppe.
The chairman of the board of this kolkhoz, a despondent looking fellow, complained that the land was bad here, the climate worse, and the crop yield so low that worse could not be imagined— five centners per hectare was the limit, hie said.
I at once realized what my job was here. I had known and hated that word “limit,” that barred the road to everything that was new and better, ever since I was a girl.
We were only at the end of the autumn; we had a hard winter before us. None of us had any stocks of provisions, of course, and as regards clothing, the situation was also bad. Before the beginning of the season most of the members of my team took up ordinary work in the collective farm so as to get at least a few workdays to their account. They carted fodder on camels and did repairs to the farm buildings. The board gave us an advance of provisions, but what with our large family, it barely sufficed.
None of us complained about the difficulties, however—it was wartime.
By the spring the team had the machines thoroughly repaired and we drove out to the fields. In addition to the “old” tractor drivers, we now had two members of our family in the team—Marxina, and Katya, Colonel Vasili’s wife. We worked as wartime conditions demanded. We put in all the work that was needed, and a great deal was needed, for the Terekt fields had been neglected, and the level of agriculture was lower than that in the Ukraine.
We endeavoured to apply here all the experience we had acquired during the past years and to introduce our schedules and rates of output.
Some of the local comrades regarded our innovations distrustfully, as much as to say, they were alright for the Ukraine, but they would not do for Kazakhstan conditions.
True, the conditions in Terekt were different from those in our home district, but modern agricultural techniques can be employed everywhere.
The armed forces needed all the gasoline that was available, so our tractors began to be fuelled with kerosene. Output rates at the Budyonny M.T.S. dropped heavily. All the tractor drivers complained and said: “A horse fed on straw won’t run, a tractor fuelled with kerosene won’t haul.”
To be frank, they managed to find gasoline for the Deputy to the Supreme Soviet, but I had no qualms of conscience on that score; we were starting an experiment in raising the yield and we could not afford to take risks. Furthermore, the Ch.T.W.’s were totally unadapted to “kerosene fodder.”
Nevertheless, we did take a chance…We “took the bull by the horns,” as it were, and filled the fuel tanks with kerosene. But the Ch.T.W. wouldn’t budge. As soon as the heavy fuel got into the carburettor the engine stopped. We had a great deal of trouble until it occurred to us to fix up a vacuum feed—a small tank that pumps the fuel from the main tank to the carburettor. The entire staff of the Machine and Tractor Station was very grateful to us for this invention.
We waged our offensive against the “limit” with such determination as if the outcome of the war depended on it.
There wag no blackout in Terekt, but even here, far in the rear, the war was the chief thing that governed our lives.
In those days the Angelins lived, worked and suffered grief in exactly the same way as many thousands of other ordinary Soviet families whose men folk were at the front.
Lyolya’s baby died before it was a year old. If its mother had not been in the fields from morning until night, but had stayed at home and nursed it, perhaps it would have lived. Shortly afterwards Nadya too buried her child. She had scarcely recovered from this bereavement when she received the frightful notification: “Your’ husband died bravely in action in the Rostov direction.”
Lyolya’s husband, after breaking through the enemy encirclement, was caught by the Germans, who buried him alive in the middle of his native village.
I learned that Natasha Radchenko—my most intimate friend, a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukraine, a brave, good-natured, laughter-loving girl—was tortured to death in the dungeons of the Gestapo in Mariupol.
Perhaps it was because all of us had been brought up in stern times, but weeping was not considered the thing in our large family. These severe bereavements did not knock us off our feet. On the contrary, it caused us to plant them still more firmly on the ground. Nadya and Lyolya did not abandon their work on the tractor; they gave vent to their burning hatred of the Germans by working harder than ever.
Meanwhile, the enemy was pushing forward. He occupied our native Ukraine and the Baltic countries, and had already reached the Volga.
During that hard period I was expecting to become a mother.
One night a mounted messenger arrived in Terekt with a telegram for me. I read it aloud. It ran as follows:
“Supreme Government wire. Session Supreme Soviet U.S.S.R.
convened for eighteenth. Leave for Moscow immediately.
Even my mother, who during the past few days had not let me move an extra step and had protected me from draughts lest I catch cold, at once said without the slightest hesitation:
“You must go…It’s wartime.”
They wrapped me up in a sheepskin coat, and took me to Kazakhstan Station to catch the fast train to Moscow.
That was a stern session. Many of the seats in the Chamber of the Supreme Soviet were vacant, the Deputies were at the front; from conversations I had with other Deputies I learned that some of them had been killed.
Even the chance mention of the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Lithuania caused a pain in the heart; the Germans were lording it in our Republics.
The Chairman said: “The Deputy from the Dniepropetrovsk Region has the floor to move a resolution.”
But in whose hands was that Dniepropetrovsk Region? What was happening there now?
During the recess I went out to the lobby feeling very much “down in the dumps.” Nearby there was a sroup of Deputies talking loudly and merrily. . . . I listened to what they were saying and soon my dejection passed off. One of the Deputies spoke about the plant he worked at, where they were making tanks, and said: “In three months’ time we’ll give the Fritzes a big surprise.” Another said that in the course of six months the staff he was in charge of had built a whole city in the bare steppe, and! that his plant, which had been evacuated, began to produce “right off the wheels,” as he put it. Military men who had come from the front were discussing which of our armies would launch an offensive first. They argued about the matter: one said one thing and one said another, but as far as I could hear there was no disagreement or doubt among them that the offensive would be launched and that the Fritzes would be put on the run…
The budget of that hard war year contained items of expenditure running into millions (such as are customary in peacetime budgets) on cultural needs, education and public health. Those items too were for us symbols of our confidence in the future, confidence in, victory and life. And with that confidence in my heart I left Moscow…
But German aircraft were flying over the Volga, and at Saratov, the Moscow-Alma-Ata train that I was in, ran into an air raid. This was at night, and the glare of the conflagrations lit up our coupe. The windowpanes, crossed with paper strips, rattled dismally. And right here in the coupe, in the midst of the air raid, I gave birth to my little daughter.
I named her Stalina, and in that name I put all my confidence in the future.
That autumn we gathered a crop that was unprecedented for that aul—eleven centners per hectare. Grain was also a weapon of war. And the Guards Mortar Unit that we were in correspondence with called this crop a big victory and conferred on our tractor team the title of “Guards Team.”
The chief thing was that we broke down the “five centner limit,” and after that nobody could insist on it. I am in correspondence with my Kazakhstan comrades to this day.
After the harvest was taken in this year I made a trip to Terekt and learned that the Budyonny Kolkhoz is keeping to the eleven centner mark, and that in some of the collective farms in the district there were even members who had reached the thirty centner mark and were eligible for the title of Hero of Socialist Labour. It is always like that— all you have to do is break the dam, and then the flood flows of itself…
Late in the autumn our mortar unit informed us of a great victory they had achieved. They had launched an offensive, routed the Germans, and were now steadily pushing westward.
Our tractor team received about twenty tons of grain by way of additional pay. Besides that, we had a large number of workdays to our account.
We fitted out a caravan of camels and shipped our grain to the base as a free gift to the Soviet Army. We left ourselves only as much as was needed to feed our family.
When giving up our grain I thought of my brother Konstantin, who was fighting as a private in besieged Leningrad. Like all the defenders of that city, he was getting only 125 grams of bread a day!
We received a telegram from Moscow, it was brought to us in the field camp.
It was from Comrade Stalin, thanking us for the solicitude we have shown for the Soviet Army.
Stalin’s thanks imbued us all with added strength and we felt an urge to do still more, to do all that was needed…
We made a further contribution of grain to the Soviet Army fund.
On the day our home village was liberated from the enemy my father proposed that we fit out a “red caravan.” We loaded twelve carts with groin and sent them off to the base. Every cart was decorated with a red poster on which was inscribed a name that was strange to the Kazakh people— “Staro-Byeshevo.”
Shortly after the Donbas was liberated we left Terekt and returned to our native village. All the way we talked of nothing else but our Staro-Byeshevo: how things were there, what we would do when we got there, what state the kolkhoz was in.
We were very angry with Nikolai who had left a month before us and whose letters had been so skimpy, no details, and we were burning to know everything…
At last we arrived at Donets Station…Sleighs from the collective farm were waiting for us. As we sped through the familiar places we gazed in all directions—we recognized them, and yet we could not recognize them…
We passed the charred remains of a house— the Germans had set fire to it. A tank with a shattered turret, slightly dusted with snow, was standing nose down in a roadside culvert—it had the accursed swastikas on its sides.
We reached the hill beyond which lies our Staro-Byeshevo. I stood up in the sleigh, holding on to my father’s shoulders, to get the earliest possible glimpse of my native village…
We drove into the main street and looked round—our handsome, two-storey school building was burnt to the ground. People, lots and lots of people, came running towards us.
We jumped out of the sleighs and rushed to meet them—embraces, tears and laughter. We bombarded each other with questions:
“How did you get on?”
“And how did you get on?”
In the clubhouse a meeting seemed to organize itself of its own accord…
I was so agitated that I wonder my heart did not burst.
Next day Nadya and I, with some of the comrades, went to inspect the machine park. The conversation on the way was sad indeed—’about Natasha Radchenko and others who would be with us no more, and about how the people had suffered under the German yoke.
We arrived at the “machine park” and found that it was all housed in ia tiny shed. Of the tractors nothing but the frames were left, the ploughs had all the bolts knocked off, and all the other implements were broken.
It was already February, soon we would have to start planting die crops (in the South we plant very early—in the middle of March).
Nadya and her team were assigned to the Politotdel Kolkhoz, and I and my team to the Zaporozhets Kolkhoz.
It would be wrong to say that we started with repairs. In fact, the teams were obliged to organize something in the nature of a tractor assembly plant. Out of several wrecks we managed to assemble one machine, and even then many parts were missing. Luckily, the happy idea occurred to us to “expropriate” the wrecked German tanks that were lying in great number in the fields around the village. We collected some parts from these tanks and completed the repair of our machines. From the junk we fitted up the ploughs and cultivators.
Nor had the collective farm any seed; the Germans had cleared out the bins to the very last grain. But the Government loaned us the quantity of seed we required. It was brought by rail to Zhemchugovo Station, but how were we to cart it to Staro-Byeshevo, seven kilometres away? On trucks? But where were our kolkhoz trucks? In carts? But where were all our horses? The kolkhozniks were obliged to carry the sacks of seed on their backs.
Later, when the snow had gone, we carted the seed in wheelbarrows. The village boys chalked on the sides of these wheelbarrows, as if they were tanks, the slogan: “Forward to the West!. . .” And they were right. Our work was helping the Soviet Army to push westward.
A delegation from the Donbas went to visit the front. I was one of the delegation. We saw our troops storm Sevastopol… Sanguinary fighting was in progress there…
A young sergeant said to me:
“Now this is our instruction to the folks in the rear: get everything ready. As soon as we’ve finished with the fascists we’ll return home and start building at once, so see to it that there is bread, and coal, and bricks.”
And yet our forces were still a long way from Germany then; so much Soviet territory was still occupied by the enemy, and that sergeant was in danger of being killed any moment…
I returned home from Sevastopol just before the sowing commenced: from one front to another.
We mounted our worn-out “ex-service” machines and drove out to the fields. We got the seed in and, in addition, ploughed up five hundred hectares for fallow. We tied cultivators to the tractors with wire and mowed down the weeds. We “shaved” the fields as if we were shaving a sick man…
We had a lot of trouble with the implements. We would go on a little way and suddenly a wheel would drop off. We had to stop, fasten the thing on again somehow and go on a little further. Anybody looking on would probably have thought it funny, but there was nobody there to laugh at us —there were no onlookers in Staro-Byeshevo, everybody worked.
If there had been no Soviet government it would have taken the peasants about twenty years to put things to right again after so much damage. After the Civil War, which caused far less damage than the fascist invasion, the rural districts could not fully recover right until the time collective farming was introduced.
Our entire country lives like a single family in which all the members help each other, and our kolkhozniks felt this tangibly as soon as their area was liberated from the enemy. In addition to the state loan of seed we were supplied with mineral fertilizers, money was assigned to us for the purpose of rebuilding the school which had been burnt down—in fact, it is impossible to enumerate all the forms of assistance we received.
Soon after we received some real tractors to replace the wrecks with which we had worked at first. They were brand new machines, produced in the war year of nineteen forty-four, and I recalled that sergeant who, when the war was at its height, called for preparations for peaceful labour. That shows how confident we were that we would win.
In 1945 we could already say that we had recovered our mastery over the land. The crop turned out to be (or rather, it did not “turn out to be,” we compelled the land to produce it) an excellent one—we had 21.4 centners per hectare all round. Staro-Byeshevo had never seen a crop like this before the war even on the small experimental plots, which had received special care.
I said “all round.” That means that we harvested 21.4 centners from every one of the 654 hectares.
We obtained this unprecedented crop because we had learned a great deal while working under (incredibly difficult wartime conditions. Far from losing our former skill, we had made enormous progress.
The list of Stalin Prize winners among inventors, scientists and engineers contained the names of rank-and-file workers and collective farmers, such as coal hewer Luka Golokolosov, tractor driver Bortakovsky, and also my name…This was the mark of our country’s appreciation of the achievements of its humble workers, including my achievements…
Before me lies a letter I received from a village librarian, Nikolai Gurkin, Serdob District, Penza Region. He writes:
We discussed in our tractor camp hut your article about a crop of over 21 centners per hectare and our opinions were divided on the subject. Some of us were enraptured with it and thought it was a miracle, but others expressed the opinion that your article was touched up by the editor and that your team’s achievement is undoubtedly due to extremely favourable conditions, soft, fertile soil and a plentiful supply of spare parts. Still others would not believe that such a crop is possible at all.”
In my opinion, Comrade Gurkin, you are all wrong.
The first opinion is wrong because there is nothing miraculous in our achievement. We simply, carefully and, evidently, skillfully employed up-to-date agricultural techniques, did our work thoroughly and in the best season, were friendly and cooperated with the field teams and, this goes without saying, put in a lot of hard honest work. All these are quite ordinary things, as you see.
One day I was told that a certain general was alleged to have said at the beginning of the war: “If every Soviet Army man kills only one enemy soldier, we will win the war.”
Something similar to this may be said in this case: if every tractor team in the country makes skilful use of its splendid machines, employs proper agricultural techniques and works well, the crop will be no worse than ours everywhere.
And that is what things are coming to: this year very many tractor teams have caught up with and even forged ahead of the Staro-Byeshevo team, whereas two years ago our achievement was exceptional.
You say, Comrade Gurkin, “soft, fertile soil.” Oh no!…I have seen the old soil map of the Mariupol Uyezd that was drawn in the last century by the scientist Dokuchayev. On that map our Staro-Byeshevo district was all coloured a deep red (indicating rock deposits unfit for agriculture). Nevertheless, we compelled this soil to produce crops.
As for “favourable conditions,” it looks as though nature herself deliberately put us to a severe test.
I am referring to the hard years of 1946 and 1947.
My father says that the frightful summer of 1921 was not as scorching as it was in those years.
People with experience definitely told us: “The hardest prospects are nil…”
But we had learned to enter into combat with nature and we did not surrender ourselves to her tender mercies.
“Prospects nil, but we’ll have a harvest all the same!” we determined.
You must not think that the members of the Zaporozhets Kolkhoz began to fight for a harvest only by working from sunrise to sunset, forgetting about eating, sleeping and resting. Of course, we worked hard and did not mind how much time we put in, but success wias determined not by physical effort alone, but by our knowledge of agricultural techniques, our ability to perform the various agricultural operations in the best seasons, I would say, by our high level of collective-farm culture. I have in mind excellent ploughing for the spring crop, quadruple cultivation, triple weeding, and many other operations that have become the rule at the Zaporozhets Kolkhoz.
We practised deep ploughing So that the roots of the plants were able to gain strength and resist the drought. The collective farmers weeded the fields thoroughly and thus prevented the weeds from robbing the plants of precious moisture. It is by doing ordinary things like this that victory is achieved…
Formerly the term “dry year” was synonymous with “famine year,” “accursed year” ‘and “crop failure year.” This can no longer be said in our village of Staro-Byeshevo, nor in many other villages. How can the dry year of 1946 be described as a crop failure year in our collective farm when we harvested 19.3 centners per hectare all round?
Soon drought will have lost its terrors for all the villages in our country without exception. It is sufficient to bear in mind the immense land improvement schemes covering whole districts, the achievements of modern agronomics, and the new, drought-resisting varieties of plants that have been produced.
For achieving that hard-won harvest of 1946, I, and Georgi Vasiliev, the leader of our field team, were awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour. Several of the members of my tractor team had Orders conferred upon them.
In 1946 we won the hard-fought battle for bread; and in 1947, the whole of the Ukraine, our entire country, won that battle…
The Government has issued decrees to the effect that collective farmers and employees of Machine and Tractor Stations who achieve high crop yields and high productivity in stockbreeding be awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour. These are splendid decrees; they show that in our country the road to fame is open to everybody.
“Collective farmer! Achieve high crop yields! Be daring! Work hard! and you will be respected as a hero,” says our country.
And indeed, every year the entire Soviet Union rings with the names of new people who have worked magnificently and who only yesterday were unknown outside of their village or factory. But everyone of these men and women whose fame the country recognizes will say:
“The chief thing is not that I am a distinguished son of the people, but that I am the son of a distinguished people.”
* * *
I forgot to say that accompanying the questionnaire of Biographical Encyclopedia of the World there was a small slip on which the editor requested me to put the name of a person whom I regarded as distinguished.
I must confess that this request embarrassed me: I was at a loss as to whose name to put down.
Even in a small village like ours there are a number of people who can be called distinguished. Take, for example, field-team leader Georgi Vasiliev, Hero of Socialist Labour, who in a drought year managed to raise an unprecedented crop on his section. Or Vasili Trofimovich Tsys. Before the war he was a schoolteacher in our village, and when the Germans attacked the U.S.S.R. he joined the army and became a sergeant. He was one of the first to cross the Dnieper under enemy artillery fire and became a Hero of the Soviet Union. Now he is again teaching our children grammar in our village school.
Or take Dmitri Lazarevich Kosse, the chairman of the board of the Zaporozhets Kolkhoz, the leading collective farm in the Ukraine. He is a great agricultural expert whose ‘advice even professors seek. I can mention Konstantin Pimidanov, the manager of our Machine and Tractor Station who has been awarded the Order of Lenin for his services.
No, it is impossible to enumerate them all…I decided to put on the slip the most distinguished’ name that I know—the Sovieit people. It is called the hero people, the industrious people, the victor people. I am happy to be one two hundred millionth part of it…
In America today there is a lot of talk about war again. Various politicians in Great Britain and America are demanding that our country should be battered and smashed up with atomic bombs.
I, of course, am not an expert in diplomacy, but like a good many Soviet people, I often ask myself: why do these gentlemen want war again? Why do they want to slaughter our children with bombs, to destroy what we are now restoring with such effort and perseverance? What is their aim?
I think that the heat displayed by these warmongers is caused by the potent truth and light that emanates from our country. This light can no longer be hidden from the common people all over the world by any Churchillian “iron curtains,” any more than the sun can be hidden by a curtain of gauze.
We are not thinking of war. We are not preparing to destroy New York, or kill Benjamin Marten’s children.
Our country ardently desires peace all over the world. Our representatives declare this officially from the rostrum of the United Nations organization, but the bourgeois diplomats regard this as a “manoeuvre” on the part of the U.S.S.R. Gentlemen, I assure you that our representatives are speaking on. behalf of our people, and every one of our two hundred million Soviet people will tell you the same thing: “our country wants peace.”
No atomic bombs—I am speaking as the mother of three children—will compel us to depart from the laws of life that we think just, from our Soviet system…
Every one of our two hundred million Soviet people will tell you the same thing from the bottom of his or her heart, and this is what makes our country invincible.
My little five-year-old daughter Stalina is playing by my side. She was born amidst the crash and roar of an air raid over Saratov in that frightful year 1942.
My faith, like that of the whole of our people, was justified: Stalin saved.my little daughter and millions of other children in the U.S.S.R.—and believe me, not only in the U.S.S.R. but also in America—from the ferocious enemy of mankind. Stalin led us to victory and, believe me, saved the Americans from becoming acquainted with Hitler’s “new order.”
With Stalin we look confidently towards the morrow.
We will succeed in creating our happy morrow, and we will fight to defend it if need be.
The guarantee of that lies in the thirty years’ career of our country; the guarantee of that lies in the careers of two hundred million common Soviet people, including my own…
This is what I have to say to my friends in the U.S.S.R. and to people abroad about what I regard as the chief thing in the life of every Soviet man and woman, including my own.
If the editors of Biographical Encyclopedia of the World still wish to publish my biography— here it is…
Staro-Byeshevo, Stalin Region, 1947
1. The Russian for trouble, “misfortune.”—Tr.
2. This refers to Lord Beaverbrook.
3. The conventional unit by which the quantity and quality of the different forms of work in collective farms are measured and according to which the members receive remuneration in kind and in money. More than one “workday” can be earned in the course of an actual day’s work.—Tr.