SOVIET HOSPITALITY PART 16
We had a morning at home as Rosa came to the aid of my knees last night and insisted that today would contain only one outing. It really is true that arthritis is worse in damp weather rather than in cold. This week the thaw has set in and my knees are aware of it. I spent a couple of hours arranging a second suitcase and planning my packing. First Rabfail gave me instructions on how to wash, adjust and use my separator. I hope I’ll get the chance.
In the afternoon we went to visit Rosa’s ex colleague Zinaida Vasilevna and her daughter Larissa who, with her friend Vera, put on a concert for us. First we had the usual feast to ‘drink tea’, zakuski, borsch and then plov. Zinaida Vasilevna makes her own wine настойка very strong sweet blackcurrant, delicious. Then the concert began. Larissa played her own compositions including a song cycle of children’s verse and Vera sang. They have wonderful rapport and managed to give the usually serious singing an unusual gaity. In between songs they frequently burst out laughing but their music was thoroughly professional. The concert finished with assorted songs including one to which Larissa had written the music and Vera’s brother the words. This one was almost swing!. Larissa gave me a signed copy of her song cycle – words and music. Zinaida Vasilevna then brewed tea and made several attempts to get us to the table. The girls kept saying ‘one more song’ and for awhile the mother was fighting a losing battle. Finally they gave in and we all had tea and éclairs (пирожные эклэры) with apricot jam. This was accompanied by a hilarious conversation mostly about Rosa’s and Zinaida’s duty trips to the Baskiria nature reserve. The trips did not seem to bear much relation to duty. I wish I could have understood more of the funny side. Vera chatters fast and entertainingly but I can’t follow easily in spite of her beautiful diction and lovely speaking voice. It seemed quite unusual and at first I couldn’t work out why, but I think perhaps it is unusual for someone with such a lovely voice to speak fast.
We walked back to the main road and Rabfail and Gulya went ahead and hunted down a taxi. Before we could get to it Nina and a friend accosted me and Nina, speaking English, said, ‘Hello, what are you doing here?’
I said, ‘Visiting,’ and th second question was, ‘Are you wearing tights?’ At first I thought she was in league with Rosa but then I realised that when I visited them she had noticed and disapproved of my socks. She clearly wanted me to talk but I was being bundled into a taxi. Rabfail has agreed to invite her to the kukolny theatre with us if she is free.
When we got home the telly to my disappointment was all football. We sat and ate sunflower seeds. They do taste very nice but much patience is required to sort out kernels from husks. It hardly seems worth it.
Tomorrow we are going to see Rosa’s boss. For this I have to be properly dressed! Rosa wants to iron my skirt but I don’t think it will make any difference. I cut my hair in her honour and abfail insisted on ironing my sweater. The director deceived us most kindly and her senior doctor, a gaenocologist, and the second in command took us all over the institute. He’s very impressive and seems to encompass everything from high tech scanners (but not whole body scanners) and video xray equipment, to baths in water from a spring outside the window (with a very dubious small and positively black in colour) and potions made from egg white and assorted plants. We each had a platter of the latter (a sort of foam).
The institute is the only one in the Soviet Union to deal specifically with diseases related to the oil industry. Such institutes do not serve particular districts but specific industries. So another town will have one for the building industry and yet another town for agriculture. This one has various departments. One deals with regulations relating to working conditions, another with regulations concerning pollution ets – people’s living conditions. Another deals wit research into industrial diseases And yet another deals with actual patients. There is a clinic and a whole hospital for the latter. It is interesting to learn that if someone becomes ill because of his work or has an accident there (or even on the way to work) he does not have to prove negligence. If h is partially disabled or if his usual work would aggravate his condition he is found other work and his factory makes up the difference in his pay for life. If he is completely disabled as regards work they pay 100% for life including his pension as pensions are earnings related. All treatment is free both here and in hospital or at the local doctor’s or a polyclinic (ie. specialists), but medicines on prescription are paid for. The cost for these, however, is minimal – mostly a few kopeks. Glasses on prescription (and they can be obtained only on prescription) cost from 3 to 8 roubles according to the frame. Lenses cast 50 kopecks each. Eye tests are free on request. Dentistry is also free except for crowns (3 roubles for a steel one: gold is now in short supply but can be had for about 30 roubles and a year’s wait).The staff at the institute have teir own dining room where they can buy lunch. Food is delivered by lorry from a factory that specialises in institutional meals! Patients have their own kitchen.
When we left Махмуза Калимовна gave me three lovely red roses. As she handed them to me she asked me a question that at first confused me utterly – whether even numbers were for the living in England. It turned out that here even numbers of flowers are for putting on graves and only an odd number may be presented to a living soul. Having thus established that I’m alive, she proceeded to give me a booklet about the institute, a set of Bashkiri recipes and a book in Russian about Salavat (historical local hero). As we said our goodbyes Lena Murzaevna, the director asked me to tell people what was good only. She said they’d shown me the bad with the good but hoped I would not pass on the bad. She need not worry. Compared with us they are not rich, their cupboards are thinly stocked and most things are sterilized and reused but patients seem to get a lot more attention than in England.
Apart from treatment of serious illness there are many sanatoria where people go to rest and they pay 33% of their stay and their union pays 60%.