Culture Moldova

The most unusual birthday present: Lenin

August 8, 2018

When my husband and I started to reorganize the collective farm in 2009, we inherited a large amount of bad debt to sketchy creditors of the old partner. We split the liabilities with a promise to make good on the bad debt and received a portion of the farm “assets” which consisted of 20+ year old farm equipment and some undocumented buildings. Within the territory of the farm was the village bust of Lenin that had stood in the village square for decades during the Soviet Union. To keep it from being destroyed or to just get it out of sight, it had been moved to the collective farm office.

It was almost love at first sight. (picture)

I asked my husband if anyone had plans for the statue, and his response was an inconclusive and uninterested “I dunno.”

After all, who cares about a piece of rock when you have 50 people who are waiting for wages, wheat coming out of the field, equipment in the shop, etc…

While we slowly and painfully moved from planting season to praying for rain season, to harvest and then praying for price season, Lenin stood his ground stoically under the walnut tree.


One summer after we found out that we had beat the Kolhoz record for wheat harvest in a field and the team was in a particularly good mood, I reminded Yuri that my birthday was approaching. He got the hint and asked what I wanted.

I replied, well on one hand it is simple but on the other, it’s complex.

I want Lenin moved to our office.

He didn’t laugh out loud, and actually his reaction was more stoic than Lenin. Bordering on disbelief, he couldn’t understand why. In Moldova the women would ask for a new iphone or a Turkish all inclusive beach vacation. Alas, Kelsey the American wanted Lenin. I told him that I felt that it would be stolen or destroyed if left in the same location, he nodded that it probably would be stolen or destroyed..

He finally responded with a super convincing “Yeah okay.”

Another year passed and without breaking any crop yield records and barely surviving cash flow crunches through a drought, I asked again for Lenin for my birthday. With a very serious, “listen, I don’t want something expensive, I want something that money can’t buy.” I still got an incolclusive, “yeah okay.”

During harvest season, we used to have a lot of seasonal laborers hanging around hoping to pick up a couple hours of work by unloading, sweeping, or cleaning wheat. They require a daily cash payment which is sometimes used to buy vodka. One of these gentlemen drank his weekly wages in one evening and passed out under the same tree as Lenin near the old farm office.

Waking up in a drunken stupor, he got into an argument with the arrogant educated fellow in the jacket (Lenin), the argument turned into an altercation. A fight with bare fists on the granite cheekbones of the Marxist isn’t quite fair, so the drunk guy finally took a large stone to Lenin. Some small granite chips fell from his nose and cheeks.

My husband found out about the story from our trusted farm hands who had witnessed the episode during fits of laughter and had confiscated the stone before any significant damage could be done.

A couple of weeks after we finished wheat harvest, we hired a crane, and moved Lenin to our farm.

Now Lenin keenly keeps watch over our equipment yard from the shade of a walnut tree.

Some of our old school soviet tractor operators make sure that his area is swept and bring flowers to the statue to commemorate his birthday each year.

I don’t want to dig into a political systems analysis, but for businessmen communism kills all incentives. Lenin for us symbolizes the history of the area and signifies the significant number of transitions this area has undergone. As we struggle with the still ingrained concepts of collective society rather than individual property along with the idea of guaranteed employment despite lack of value creation, I see Lenin as a indication of how far we have managed to come. We all need a reminder of where we have been.

Anyway, without going too deep, I still think it was quite a unique gift. I am happy to preserve a little piece of history for my

daughter and her generation.

Perhaps in 10 years she will have the best show and tell topic.

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