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Yanks for Stalin
Interview Transcript

Alexander Luznevoy
Poet and former worker in the Magnitogorsk steel plant in 30's

The following interview was conducted as a part of the documentary program Yanks for Stalin concerning American aid in the industrial development of the Soviet Union during the 20's and 30's:


A. I am Alexander Nikitovich Loznevoi.  I arrived at Magnitostroi, in early spring of 1933.  I arrived in house slippers; it was warm there in Belgorod.  It was very cold here, and I could not buy shoes because I was very poor, but I got by somehow.  Later I was issued felt boots, at a time when in Moscow there was a monopoly on felt boots; they all  went to the army in 1918.  They brought these boots to us, and we did very well in them in the summertime.  They breathe well, they don't get sweaty, but when there was water on the ground, they were very bad. 

The pay was very low.  I dug ditches for water pipes and heating.  The quota was 8 cubic meters a day per person.  We needed to meet this quota in order to receive 800 grams of bread.  If we didn't make quota, we received only 600 grams of bread.  We were fed once a day, only lunch.  There were no real mess halls, only kitchens on wheels.  You could eat breakfast wherever you wanted to, but finding food was impossible.  There were no food stores, except for the ones that served those with ration cards, which weren't given to everyone, only to the model workers, the best workers.  So everyone tried to become model workers, in order to eat better. 

In those times, we never saw such things as sausage, eggs or milk.  We had only bread and broth.  We would go the settlement where the American engineers lived, where there was a huge food store.  Hams and sausages hung in the windows, and we would stare through the glass, but we weren't allowed to go into the store.  But we went away somewhat satisfied; at least we had gotten to smell the food for a while. 

In general, I came here because there was terrible starvation in Ukraine.  Approximately 15 million people died there when collectivization began in 1929-30.  This is because they drove the cattle to a region where there wasn't enough food, and the horses and oxen just died.  People ate the seed, some was taken by the Government Confiscation Program, some was taken by the military, saying that they needed to feed the army.  There was starvation, and my mother told me to come here.  She had heard that they were giving out bread.  And I was happy that they were giving out bread here.  That was most important. 

I dug ditches, and later I learned masonry.  First I carried bricks in a basket, you know those baskets, 10 or 12 bricks at a time, up to the top, while they were laying rows built out of bricks.  You probably saw such a basket in the museum.  That was hard work.  There wasn't even a simple winch.  Everything was done by hand.  The pick, shovel and axe decided everything.

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