Nikolay Azarov book excerpt: “I am a Bolshevik, I don’t have the right to live better than others”


February 7, 2015
Nikolay Azarov, prime minister of Ukraine (2010-2014), excerpt from the book “Ukraine at the Crossroads” 
Translated by Kristina Rus

 “In my house on the second floor lived the director of a factory. His name was Ivan Grigorievich (over the years, forgot his name). His family consisted of his wife and unmarried daughter, all suitors of whom were killed in the war. And his wife and daughter worked as teachers. The salaries of all three allowed them to live decently. However, the interior in the apartment was extremely ascetic. Iron beds, simple dining table and chairs – that, perhaps, was the whole interior. After some time, Ivan Grigorievich retired, and the apartment gained a TV, presented to him by the factory.

Ivan Grigoryevich sometimes went out to the courtyard to sit and read newspapers, and we periodically had various discussions. Once I ventured to ask him a very interesting question: how can we explain that even in my family, with our much more modest earnings, there was a sofa, a carpet, and he didn’t have that. Maybe he’s saving up for something? His answer surprised me: “Nick, you can and should allow yourself, but I am a Bolshevik, I can not and do not have the right to live better than others. Have you seen how many people on our street live in basements, barracks in absolute poverty? I could not live with a clear conscience and sleep well, if I will live a rich life.”

He said this not from the podium, just for me. I knew he was telling the truth, because I saw, how his family lives. Such people through the heroic efforts and hardship built the pre-war industrial complex, defeated the Nazis, rebuilt the economy. I’ve seen them quietly passing away, taking the old ideology to their grave. Their graves were marked with simple red stars. But I think some of their colleagues breathed a sigh of relief, for their uncompromising quality, strength and conviction was not welcomed by those who came to replace them, the representatives of the new formation, for which all beliefs of their predecessors seemed a useful screen, with which to cover their new way of life.”

And after some time these transitional figures have been replaced by people without any complexes, for whom Ivan Grigorievich seemed unreal, inanimate character. I had great respect for Ivan Grigoryevich. By that time I already knew that the number of sofas is not a measure of comfort in the family, that you can live with joy and happiness, with iron beds, and judging from the way of thinking of Ivan Grigoryevich, sofas could destroy his harmony of life.

I have thought a lot about those issues that Ivan Grigorievich raised. How to reconcile the desire for a better, more comfortable life with an idea of “equality”? How does “equality” square with the fact that all people are different and the world is very different? We have not found the answers to these questions, and I think that in the fifty years that have passed since the time of our conversations, no one answered them. And what happened in real life – we know. And it is very good that those like Ivan Grigorievich, did not see all this.

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