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From: "Kenny Stugart" <>
Subject: [GV] Kenny's Trip to Saratov
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 07:45:29 -0700


My trip to Saratov Russia June 2002

First I would like to thank those other 49 donors’ to the Volga Archives.
I had the pleasure to present the Archive Directors with the money, the
thanks and in one case the hugs were overwhelming and I only wish all of you
could have experienced it also, again, Thanks.

Now for my experiences.
I left Seal Beach at 5 in the morning of May 29th, ending up in Frankfurt on
Friday, stayed overnight with a cousin in Waldeck and flew to Moscow on
Saturday, arrived at the train station to late to travel that evening so I
stayed with a friend there until Sunday evening at which time I boarded the
train to Saratov, had a compartment with one other person in it. About 5 min
’s before it pulled out of the station a man, very well dressed, about 55
years old appeared, he could not speak English, nor I Russian but a lot of
picture drawing and hand signals later I found out I was traveling with a
General of the Russian Army, he was in the US equivalent of the Corp of
Engineers. He had a new fishing pole, reel and flies with him, also a new
large book on how to fly fish. I found out he is getting close to retirement
and that is what he wants to do and when I told him a few “true” fishing
stories of mine, well we were the best of buddies. I gave him a couple of
our gold dollars and Kennedy half-dollars. That really took him, he was so
overwhelmed he sat silent for about five then he grabbed that brand new
book, wrote a note in it and autographed it and gave it to me, now I was
overwhelmed. I have consistently run into these kinds of people over there
and I have hi regards for them.

We talked, with drawing pictures for about two hours when he stuck his head
out the door and in 10 seconds a person appeared, they spoke and she left
and about 5 min’s later a lady from the dinning car appeared with menus and
a pad of paper, he had seen me take my blood for diabetes so he knew of my
disease and ordered for me also. Well, let me tell you, we dined on caviar;
salmon eggs on a bread stick and cheese which was very good, a large plate
of lox and a sauce that I have never seen with it. When we finished that, a
salad showed up for the two of us, huge and out of this world. Then here
come the main course, hell I’m overflowing at this point but he handed me a
plate, salmon steak and veggies, just perfect for my situation. He had beef
and pasta, a killer for me. Well what can I tell you, it was the most
enjoyable train ride I have ever had.

We agreed to exchange addresses and send each other photo’s of our families.
The next morning when we arrived my cousin’s wife and son met me at the
train station, the general handed a note and spoke with her, she told me he
invited my wife and I to his country home next year and him and I will do
some fly fishing. What a nice guy, but that’s my luck, I always seem to run
into nice people abroad. When we parted he gave me one hell of a hand shake
and to my surprise he reached over with the other arm and gave me a hug, now
that floored me, have you ever been hugged by a Russian General? Wow.

We took a taxi to Victors apartment, I had stayed there last year so I knew
the neighbors very well, when we walked up his one neighbor was coming out
of her apt with a basket full of laundry, she saw me, dropped the basket,
jumped over it and came a running, I knew at that point I better drop my
stuff because she was not slowing down, she jumped and I caught her in
flight, she planted the biggest hug and kiss on me I have not had in years,
and she hung on for a while too. She told me she was so glad I came back to
visit and then others came out, old ladies, young kids, all of them, it took
me an hour to get into Victors apt. What a feeling to be wanted that way and
above all in Russia.

Victor had set up a meeting with the Director of the Saratov Archives at 4
pm and had hired me a translator for the meeting. Well let me tell you, that
gal may have done work for dignitaries before but when she was answering my
questions I knew right away she was lousy, the meeting lasted for two hours
and the Director was not happy at all, she did not interpret me good enough
and later I found out that he thought we wanted him to sign a contract, not
an agreement as stated on the letter. The meeting was adjourned, we walked
out side and I asked her how much she was charging me, she stated $10 an
hour, I come unglued, told her that was way to high, Victor also appeared
surprised, she then quickly said $5 would be ok, I gave her the $10 and told
her I would not be needing her any more, she looked surprised and asked me
why, I told her the truth, that she was lousy and I needed one that I could
talk thru, not to.

The next day I went to the Engels Archives, Elisabeth has her own translator
and he did a good job, I had met him a couple of years ago. The meeting went
fine, she let me photograph the depository, and Patrice will probably put
some of those photos on her web page for ya all to see.

Well, we all have Vera to thank for straightening the mess out, many phone
calls from her, a dinner for the Saratov Director, his assistant (a new
German restaurant opened up in the spring, I introduced them to a salmon
steak, they really enjoyed that) and the next day I got a call from him to
visit the archives, he was a totally different man, we had tea and munchies,
exchanged a few stories, we were old buddies again. (Elisabeth, at the
Engels Archives loaned me her translator for the day). He asked me why the
Americans and Germans in Germany want to look up all those that have gone
before us. I told him the best explanation I could give him is that it has
been diagnosed as a disease, there is no cure for it, you will have it till
you die but it will not be the cause of your death. He really laughed on
that one. He said he must have a similar disease, history; he cannot get
enough of it.

He gave me the list of books and cost we requested to be restored, I
communicated daily with Patrice and Vera and came up with a split of the
money to the best of our ability, not an easy task and I do hope you all
understand the difficulty it was for the three of us, a half a world apart
getting this done equitably. It has been fun for me, puts me back when I was
working for a living, days that I enjoyed but not as much as these days.

We went to my ancestral village one Saturday and spent the entire day there,
I have been there twice before but this time Victors sister took us and she
is one of only a few people that know where the first cemetery is located,
this one the Russians did not ever know so it is still in tact, no markers
but at least it was never plowed over, I was very touched by seeing it as I
know my third Great Grandfather is buried there and maybe a couple other
grandfathers, I had to go around and touch every mound I could find, I felt
he knew I was there, made me feel humble but good, I thanked him for all his
deeds to get me into this world and to bestow upon me a great and wonderful
heritage.

We visited our ancestral house, although nobody was home and was told that
the lady of the house had passed away last spring and the man was in the
hospital in Saratov, I asked what his last name was but they are still gun
shy and did not get it, I wanted to visit with him and give him a couple of
photo’s I took last year, but that did not happen.
Victor had previously made a arrangements for us to have lunch with a
Russian family he knew in Kazakstan, he never told me about it, they do not
inform you of the agenda so every turn you are at a surprise. The man of the
house had just rec’d his first pension check, he is 62 and he asked me when
I would go on pension, I told him I have been on it for eight years, he was
amazed that Americans can get a pension so young, when I told him I was 70
his eyes opened wide and asked if all Americans look so young, I said I don’
t know, I look 70 as far as I can tell. Then I told him I retired at the
ripe old age of 52 that really floored him.

We walked the streets, talking to residents, drove some of them, climbed the
hills to get better views of the village and some good pano photos, had a
picnic later in the afternoon at the spring near my house, best water I ever
tasted, took 5 gals back with us, makes good coffee and tea.

We left there at 6 pm and headed back to Saratov with a couple stops for my
photo taking crave. Had dinner outside with the neighbors, listened to the
guitar playing by one neighbor, of course I could not sing along as it was
all in Russian but we had a grand ole time.

I walked German street almost every evening, Victors two daughters would
grab me and go, they just like showing off their “uncle” from America, we
would run into some of their friends every evening, they got a big kick out
of it, of course it may have been the fact we always stopped for ice cream
that made them take that walk, who cares, I enjoyed it too.

Well, I was going to leave on a Friday evening, but was talked into staying
for the oldest daughters graduation from High School, she was a straight “A”
student and boy was she hyper. New hair do, new dress, new shoes, darn she
looked terrific. I videoed it all, including the stumble as she was
approaching the stage, then they party all night, including the parents, I
pooped out by 2 am.

On Sunday evening the neighbors set up tables out side, food was abundant,
ice cream, in fact Sara Lee ice cream cake rolls, singing and dancing the
night away, I don’t know if they were celebrating of getting rid of me or
making sure I remembered what very nice and compassionate people they are,
well it worked, I miss them very much and wish they were next door right
now, what an experience for anybody to go though. The next afternoon would
be a memorable time for me as well. Victor could not go with me to Moscow
and did not want me to go alone so he found a lady at work that had a
daughter that had to go to Moscow in the very near future, so he made
arrangements for her to accompany me, I paid for her round trip, a few extra
Rubles for herself. When we arrived at the station, she and her mother were
there, cameras were going off every minuet, the hugs, kisses, tears were
flowing constantly, some of the neighbors were there, all wishing me a safe
and pleasant trip home and a rapid return to Saratov. I think our group took
up half of the platform.

We arrived at Moscow about 8:30 am and headed for the airport, she stayed
with me until she knew I had a seat on the plane, she also gave me a big hug
and a kiss, a second one for my wife. Oh, I forgot to tell you she was 22
and very good with English, we had many conversations. There were two other
ladies in the compartment also, so I had a grand ole time, they asked a lot
of questions and I was glad I had a good translator.

>From there I flew to Frankfurt, stayed over night at the Sheraton, boy was I
glad to get to that hotel room, oh, I forgot to tell you, in Russia the hot
water is supplied by the city and every year in July they shut it off for
maintenance, the last two years I was there in July, shorter trips but none
the less no hot water. That is why I picked June this year, actually May but
the visa was late arriving. I thought I’d have hot water this time, wrong,
it was broken, Victor’s wife had called them and they said since it was so
close to July 1st they were not going to fix it until shutdown time. Well,
do you know how cold that water is, if you put ice cubes in it, it would
probably warm it up a bit. No showers or baths for a month, now I grew up on
a farm, once a week we got a bath, I also was a submarine sailor, we got to
take a short shower once a week but learned other tricks, the torpedo
alcohol was a source of quick and effective sponge baths. Well none of that
there, a very small sponge about the size my wife has in the kitchen, big
enough to get one finger or one toe at a time. Every morning I went thru
that, when that cold water hits your skin, wow does that send you into a
shock wave. I thought I was keeping pretty clean, I did not smell bad, I
felt pretty good. Let me tell you, I hit that hotel room, got inside far
enough to close the door, dropped my baggage, undressed in record time,
jumped in that shower. I think I soaped down 4 times, shampooed my hair
until the bottle was empty. I must have stepped on the drain because when I
disembarked the tub there was about 6 inches of water in it and some suds, I
could not believe my eyes, the suds were black, after the water drained here
was even dirt on the bottom. I was so embarrassed I scrubbed the tub. Now,
how many people scrub the tub in a hotel room. I got dressed, had dinner,
took another shower, laid in bed watching CNN, could not go to sleep so I
took another shower, that one did it and I fell asleep finally. I got up
very early and caught the first flight to Chicago and was able to get the
first flight to Orange County, was home by 6:30 wed evening, tired, jet
lagged big time, kissed my ice maker, shower, bed, my reclining chair and
then my wife. Went to bed at eleven, got up at one, been doing almost the
same thing every day but sleeping more each day. Will be off to Germany in
about two weeks for a vacation.

End of my story, hope you enjoyed it, I sure did.

Kenny Stugart



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