Was there persecution of Americans?
I don't know whether Americans were persecuted. They could
have been. Stalin was, if you'll excuse the expression,
such an idiot that he could have persecuted them. But I
don't know whether they were arrested or anything. I don't
Why do you think they left?
Many left earlier too. They worked on a contract basis.
The contracts ran out, and they left. But not all at once,
by twos and threes.
Could you tell us about the trade union meetings?
How can I tell you--
What do you think?
I knew that there were lots of courses being offered here, and
knew that I should acquire a trade. I didn't have any qualifications,
aside from starting to write poetry. I began to study lathe
operation. I received the grade of lathe operator, fourth
class. It made me happy that I could work a machine.
I was proud. There were many courses. There was a
plant that trained its own workers and master craftsmen.
Engineers were trained in some other place, in some other city,
Sverdlovsk, I think. When the depression began in 1937,
some American engineers left without delay, and correctly.
Because the farther you could be from the idiot leading our government.
He sent everyone to camps indiscriminately. How many foreigners?
Chirileveki, the Italian, a worker, we dug ditches together.
He was jailed. And for what? For nothing. Well,
true, he didn't spend much time in jail, only seven years.
He got out and lived the rest of his life here. Married
twice, both times unsuccessfully. Both his wives died, his
children died. We stayed in contact. I even put him
in a book. Here's where Dante Chirileveki lives, in my book.
But under a different name. When I wrote this novel, I sent
it to the publisher and was told that writing about foreigners
was forbidden. They told me that I had to change his name,
so I did. How frightening it was to be a writer. It
was forbidden to write about what you know, about what you see.
It all had to be camouflaged. You had to write like the
Party told you to.
You built a city that hadn't been there previously. How
does that feel?
I saw the first houses being built on the far shore. Have
you been on the far shore? They're set back. Those
houses were built by a German engineer named Mai. He built
them without kitchens or bathrooms. Why? Because that's
what he was told to do. For workers to be able to eat he
was to build a restaurant. A socialist city, as we understood.
But we weren't waiting for the restaurant, and we suffered-- I
went to live in one of those houses. There was no kitchen,
and no toilet. So if you wanted to eat, you built a fire
and made dinner. The German engineer Mai came here after
the war, and when people complained about his houses, he answered
that he had been told to build them that way.
Did you believe in such a city back then?